By Aaron Earls
The World Wide Web has turned 25. It has undoubtedly changed the way we live, but it has also had an unprecedented change on the local church.
Technology has changed so much so fast. Some have said the church during the time of Abraham Lincoln (1800s) had more in common with the first century church than it does with church today, due to the advances and shifts that have occurred in the last 100 to 200 years.
Here are 25 ways the internet has forever changed the church and how it functions. Some of the changes have been beneficial, others have not, but they all impact the way we view church in the 21st century.
1. Websites are now the “front door” to your church. Most people will visit it before they ever step foot on your campus.
2. Online giving allows members to contribute even if they forget their checkbook on Sunday morning.
3. The congregation can and does fact check statements made by the pastor during the sermon.
4. Blogs allow the pastor to communicate and teach throughout the week.
5. There is no longer any time to let conflict blow over. If something happens in one church, people on the other side of the country hear about it almost immediately.
6. Instead of having their complaints contained, disgruntled church members can now send out a Facebook message or even start a blog to share their feelings with everyone.
7. Church promotion is no longer placing an ad in the local newspaper. It’s targeting ads to specific demographics and locations on Facebook.
8. Video calling using applications like Skype allows churches to remain in contact and have real-time conversations with missionaries around the world.
9. In-depth relationships may be harder to cultivate in real life due to some forming more shallow online relationships.
10. Instead of needing shelves of commentaries, pastors can use Bible study helps like WORDsearch.
11. Churches and individuals can buy and download small group material online.
12. Virtually all of church history is at your finger tips, as a Google search can bring up original documents from Church Fathers, Reformers and Great Awakening evangelists.
13. Worship music is available to stream or download, giving churches access to more variety in the music they choose.
14. Teachers and preachers are forced to deal with a decreased attention span of listeners who are used to the speed of the internet.
15. You can now carry the Bible with you at all times on your smartphone through YouVersion and other Bible apps.
16. Churches have the ability to assess their progress in making disciples by using tools like Transformational Discipleship Assessment.
17. Generations raised with the internet have a broader scope of issues and often are inspired to take on and change global problems.
18. Podcasts enable the teaching ministry of a church to reach more easily into the homes of their members and benefit others around the world.
19. Using resources like Ministry Grid, training of volunteers can happen much more efficiently.
20. Social media has given a larger voice to many individuals who are not pastors or well-known leaders.
21. The phenomenon of online church has challenged pastors and theologians to consider what exactly constitutes a church.
22. Pastors and churches must deal with the permanence of the internet. A sermon from 10 years ago can be accessed and critiqued today.
23. Congregants face the distraction and opportunity of ever-present social media. They can use their phones to check sports scores or tweet a great quote from the sermon.
24. Denominational ties have weakened and other relationships strengthen as churches can find others who more closely resemble their theological convictions.
25. Churches face an additional pressure of constantly updating their website and online presence.
What are some other ways that the internet has changed your church in the last 25 years?
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.