5 Online Trends for the Future of Faith

Thank you for those who attended my Internet Strategy: What does the gospel have to do with Social Media? at CWC/09. In this session we discussed several of the trends that we need to think through with Christian distinction. I appreciated your participation, thanks Tim Challies, Cynthia Ware, Dave Bourgeois, Kevin Ring, Rhett Smith, Paul Watson, DJ Chuang amongst others for your participation!
Here are five trends that as pastors, leaders and Christians you should be aware of and determine how you will speak about these:
onlinebaptism1. Doing the Sacraments Online: Churches will begin to offer communion and baptism over the Internet. This will be done where individuals at home can dunk themselves into a bath tub (see picture) or while watching a screen joining with others to take communion (as suggested by this Cyber-Church website or this one on Receiving Online Internet Holy Communion) “In order to celebrat (sic) the Lord’s Supper you will need some wine or grape juice, and bread or some sort of cracker. If you cannot procure these, using whatever your staple foods are – such as rice and fruit juice, or even simply water, should be fine.” Here you can watch Flamingo Road Church do it’s first Internet baptism.
2. The Rapid Growth of the Internet Church: More people will opt out of showing up to church ‘physically’ and decide to attend online. At the Echo Church Media conference I called this virtual Church but was corrected by an Internet Campus pastor who said ‘virtual’ implied not real so I should call it Internet church. As people blur their sense of presence (with things like mobile apps that constantly tether you to distant places) the idea of having to be somewhere in person for it to be ‘real’ will be lost in a digital generation. Already there are fully packed online services for churches to launch their own Internet campus.
3. Rise of Online Participatory Biblical Hermeneutics: youversion With the rise of Wiki, social media and an increasingly participatory value the Bible will be read more through a communal lens. This will lead to a greater democratization of the interpretation of Scripture as an authoritative process. Often technological advances (such as YouVersion) cannot predict the consequences of these advancements. Further, there will be a deterioration of Biblical memorization and study because people with persistent technological access will be able to ‘Google the answer’ rather than feeling a need to do the hard work of ongoing study of God’s Word.
4. Gospel Inoculation through Online Evangelism Spam: Several leading ministries will become enamored with the ‘conversion successes’ of numbers. Quantity over quality will be too attractive and the message of Jesus will be so watered down that it could end up with a ‘click here’ if you want to go to heaven and not hell. The masses will be exposed to just enough (and particular bent) of Christianity to determine it’s not for them.
beammap5. Increased Persecution of Christians for their Beliefs: For those of us who live in California and experienced the voting and subsequent recourse of Proposition 8 we have only seen just the beginning. Supporters of Prop 8 were identified through their donations and boycotted, persecuted and some even had their life threatened. In the future data centers will be able to scrape the Internet to find any comments or positions you hold, match this to your business, cell phone or other identifiable postings to target you for your beliefs. If you come out in a post for or against something others disagree with, you could find your business added to mobile apps where people will be able to see your stance and boycott your business or restaurant. Your neighbors would be informed and told about your intolerance and bigotry to isolate you from the community and ostracize you for your personal beliefs because they are not in line with the agenda of these activist groups. The future of persecution will be immediate and the loss of anonymity on cultural sensitive topics will scare many to no longer stand-up for their beliefs.