Will facebook kill the church? Has it already?
This is an interesting question posed at Experimental Theology Richard Beck, who posts this blog offers much to consider. Millenials are leaving the church in droves and Beck thinks it has to do with facebook and other social networking options on the internet. Millenials, like other generations find the church annoying, but have no need of church for socializing because they have twitter, facebook and myspace.
This came up in Adult Sunday School today as we considered John 15.1:‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower.' Particularly the bit about the pruning of the vine. Will the church really die? I don't think so. But it may change radically. If social networking via the web is the preferred way of relating for Millenials and younger generations (?) having a church building, a regular meeting site and time may not be a priority. One could simply twitter a bible study, worship, mission time and place and work with whomever gathers. Is this really relational though. In John 15 Jesus seems to suggest that the intimacy of the community of faith is integral to the working of the Holy Spirit, which is in turn integral to the presence of Christ.
John seems to present a very high ecclesiology especially in chapters 14 and 15. Jesus is one with the Father, and his glorification will enable the Paraklete or Comforter to come to the church. Where disciples gather, the spirit is present and so then is Christ. This is a slightly confusing, but strangely comforting web of relationships that promises the ongoing creative presence of God with the church, but also places a high priority on human relationship in the worshiping community. Does this Christology and Ecclesiology adapt to twitter and facebook relationships?
I am eagerly awaiting 'You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. I'm borrowing it from a friend and from what I've read, Lanier offers an interesting critique of web 2.0 connectivity.
Right now I'm experimenting with twitter, facebook, blogs and a website for the church. But I am not as optimistic as Richard Beck seems to be in his essay about the reality of social networking relationships. Briefly, I find that fewer and fewer people know how to live in community or intimate relationship. Influenced by Hauerwas I'm sure, I'm of the opinion that twitter and facebook are an extension of the consumerization of relationships. We want to feel connected, but post-modern consumers do not seem to really want to be committed to any long-term relationship. We want to be free to buy any product we want, and to change brands if we wish, and I think we see this influencing our ability to socialize and the way in which we socialize. regardless of what Beck says, I'm not convinced that even the very best of friends that I have on facebook or twitter, would be such if we relied on internet social-networking. Facebook is a useful tool, but not legitimate replacement of life together in community, like church.
What do you think? Are Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace and YouTube the future of the church, tools for the church that cannot replace a time and place and community of worship, or a phenomena to be resisted?