John Piper pipes in regarding online church

There has been some interesting buzz this week surrounding John Piper’s take on internet church. I tend to respect a lot of John Piper’s takes on culture even though we disagree on a lot of theology, so I took notice of what he had to say about online church:

God made us with bodies. He made us to give holy kisses to one another—embraces, handshakes, eyeball-to-eyeball conversation. He made husband and wife not to have imaginary video sex through Skype. He made them to go to bed together in the same bed. He made them to raise children in the same house, with hands-on hugs and spanks on the bottom and love. And he made churches to get together to hear each other sing, and to look at each other and talk to teach other, and minister to each other and help each other die well.

Some other bloggers have chimed in on the topic too. I can’t say that I disagree with Piper’s take and I will never criticize someone for what they didn’t say, so I will simply add these thoughts:

  1. We have to try. The Church has to try and explore every avenue to expand the Kingdom and pass the Gospel to the next generation, this includes the internet.
  2. The internet has become a real community. I know several married couples who met online and now have beautiful relationships and families. So, although the internet experience is not the vehicle for the deepest of relationships, we have to go as far as we can with it in order to impact more people.
  3. Its all so new. Its true that the internet has been around longer, but its only in the last 10 years that its truly become part of global society. I think we have barely scratched the surface of where we can go.

I agree with Piper on the fact that relationships are far too complex and mysterious to be fully realized over electronic media…but let’s do what we can and love each other and see how far that takes us.

12 thoughts on “John Piper pipes in regarding online church

  1. I'm glad you tackled this and did it with maturity as well.

    There are extremists on each side, some say we need to have whole campuses online while others think there should be no online presence. As with most things the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. I think that sermon videos and such are fine but you just can't replace the community that comes with a live body of believers interacting together.

    How would accountability or discipleship work? I know when I am online it is a very elusive environment, one in which I can remain anonymous but still get what I think I need. Part of growing in Christ though is that we are known by others and God and we get to know others and God. Can we do that online? Sure, but only to an extent.

    On the other hand, we shouldn't discount the affect the internet has had on spreading the good news of the gospel. Throughout history roads, the printing press, broadcast, digital/online have been tools to advance God's Kingdom. We just need to discern how best to employ them in a way that makes true disciples of Jesus.

    July 2, 2009 at 3:05 am
  2. People look at the internet like its some magical land and when you step into this land you somehow lose your humanity. The fact is that there would be no internet without human beings using it and all those Facebook pages and chatter represent real human beings with real souls. The internet is a place where you can be completely anonymous and detach yourself from your current reality but in the end the internet is really only one thing: A tool.

    It is an information tool. If you have access to this great tool, why not use it? God uses a book as a tool to communicate his love to us. Its not the only tool but its one He has at His disposal. Yes it is true that He made us to give holy kisses to one another—embraces, handshakes, eyeball-to-eyeball conversation. But if we held ourselves to that, what about a phone call? How much healing and loving conversations have happened over the phone? Do we shun the phone?

    But we do have to realize it is a tool and understand that the power of the internet and its many complexities lend us to get lost in its perceived reality. It should only be used as a tool to facilitate true community. Otherwise, it would be like buying a hammer to build a house and living in the hammer.

    July 2, 2009 at 3:10 am
  3. my thoughts on John Piper and his take on ‘Online Church’ – http://is.gd/1lwgx

    July 2, 2009 at 9:39 am
  4. Piper is weird. (so much for the maturity in these posts)

    Seriously though I like what Danny said. I think it's more of how you're using the internet. And is that use fostering a community?

    I think of the places where there is no church, yet a group of people can go online to a website and together listen to a sermon. No they aren't in a 'church building' but there is a group of them living life together. Receiving and giving encouragement from that community that wouldn't be there without the internet.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I guess a lot of this is how you define community and maybe how you define church.

    July 2, 2009 at 10:28 am
  5. John Piper and Online Church – http://is.gd/1lRcz \ my take

    July 2, 2009 at 5:57 pm
  6. And can you please point me in the direction of my kids online Sunday school class??

    July 3, 2009 at 1:43 am
  7. @Jason hahaha. nice.

    I wonder what kids did in church 100 years ago?

    July 3, 2009 at 2:19 am
  8. Manda

    I keep reading about this issue, and I don't know exactly where I stand. At first, I agree with Piper. An online community is not a substitute for an in-person community. But, that doesn't mean we can't have an online church community or that we can't use the internet for church purposes. Just because we are using the internet doesn't mean that we are saying that it's as important as an in-person community.

    As far as what kids did in church 100 years ago, the answer probably depends on the church. But, I bet most kids attended church with their parents.

    July 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm
  9. I love your take on it, Vince. There’s people on the internet, let’s love ‘em.

    July 8, 2009 at 3:45 pm
  10. Worldview Matters

    Seriously, how do we serve locally? Paul planted churches, technology works and is good. Should it replace the authority and missional opportunities in a local community – seems like an easy way to slide in and out of regular fellowship.

    Let's work to bring real dialouge, discussion and leadership to studying, worshiping and preparing the saints.

    Please note bloggers would tend to support the internet type church; already regularly reading stuff. Do not abandon the need for deep study and commitment to God and his people.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:03 am
  11. Just to pose a question:

    "…deep study and commitment to God and his people."

    Are you saying these can't be accomplish on the we?

    and

    What do you mean by 'deep study'

    July 13, 2009 at 6:06 am
  12. I used to think the same as Piper. I was somewhat of an opponent to our own iCampus when I was asked to help build it. While somewhat skeptical, I agreed and along with some other talented folks, developed an online campus for our church (http://faithpromise.org/icampus). Since we launched a few years ago, we've seen a lot of miracles. Soldiers attending church with their families while overseas. New moms attending while in the hospital. People on the other side of the globe worshiping with us online. Salvations and even baptisms have been a result of our iCampus. Last winter, we had a snow storm and church was canceled. Our pastor prerecorded the message, and hundreds of people met online that weekend.

    I still agree with Piper, and understand where he's coming from. An online experience cannot substitute for tangible relationships or corporate worship. However, after launching our Internet Campus our attendance didn't drop, it increased. It didn't become a substitute, but a tool for us to share and extend our community. Ironically, I wouldn't know of John Piper if not for the Internet. I was introduced to him through his online ministry of podcasts, articles, and tweets.

    Our Communications Pastor, Kyle Gilbert, said something a few years ago that helped me come around. He said, "When the telephone was invented, some people thought it would destroy relationships, because we'll no longer see or touch one another." Good point. Maybe we'll look back on the Internet and say the same thing.

    July 19, 2010 at 8:51 am

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