This past week, Judah Smith, pastor of Churchome (formerly ‘City Church’) announced via Twitter that the church’s latest “site” would be through an app on your smart phone. You can read an article about it here: “Judah Smith Launches Church ‘in the palm of your hand.'” This move, listed as on of the locations on the church’s web-site, is dubbed “Churchome Global.”
I have some sympathy with Smith’s move here in that, as a pastor, in many ways I want to help as many people as possible encounter Christ and, in finding community with God through Christ, also find a community of belonging in a local church fellowship. If we have the greatest treasure, some would say, we need to share that treasure with the most people possible. However, it is worth considering whether the way we share the treasure not only devalues what it is, but changes the very nature of what we are offering.
Smith’s move is utterly unsurprising to me, as it is merely the latest iteration of something churches have been doing since the power of technology has dramatically increased our reach of people and the rise of the mega-church seeker movement has altered our thinking about what church and ministry really are. The endeavor Smith is pursuing here seems like the next logical move beyond online small groups or campuses resulting from a radically dis-incarnate, gnostic theology within the North American evangelical church that has made the ultimate goal “connection” and “reaching people” at any cost.
Once again, this faddish push fails to realize that the “ends” do not justify the “means,” particularly when those means violate the essential incarnational communion of an enfleshed Savior. Neither does it grapple seriously with studies that show online “connection,” whether through social media or other means, contributes toward increased levels of loneliness, stress, and depression.
It is one thing to share information or resources online, but it is another thing to promise church (sanctorum communio) online.