"While the world looks at the digital disruption as an opportunity, the church looks at it as an obstacle." - Clay Scroggins, 2019 Pushpay Summit, Dallas TX.
Ever wonder why the church sees Church Online as an obstacle? Like seriously, why are pastors so hesitant to embrace the idea of online/digital in context of church? To change culture in a church, truthfully, you have to understand why the Pastor or Leadership Team is the way they are. In a recent episode of The Church Digital Podcast, Eric Geiger (Lead Pastor Mariners Church) laid out some of the issues that Church Leaders face when wrestling with church online.
Issue 1: Theological
Perceived Problem: There is a perceived "theological" issue surrounding the "Ekklesia" of church online. Ekklesia is a common phrase in the New Testament, often describing the "gathering" of believers in a public location, but at times also describing the "called out ones". Traditionally, Ekklesia defines the "church community", those gathered Sunday morning in individual churches across the country and around the world. Within the past decade, the term has reached some perceived limitations, though, as online technology has redefined community. At the extreme, people with this concern are not okay with the multisite movement (Ekklesia should only be one physical location). These same people often also don't approve of multiple service hours on the same Sunday, as they define Ekklesia as a "gathering", not "multiple gatherings".
While the Bible does speak of Ekklesia at locations, it also references Ekklesia even when the church community was spread across multiple cities due to persecution. While I don't agree with the interpretation of Ekklesia at a single physical location, I have respect for people who believe what they believe. That being said, someone who is pro-multisite or pro-multiple services is already being inconsistent with their interpretation when looking at the conservative view of Ekklesia.
Solution: The theological concern is not an easy one to overcome. It is not solved by quoting business stats. Business stats, even stories, will put someone with a Theological issue on edge as you are inadvertently saying that the business stat is more important than the Bible. It's a Biblical issue, and should be handled as such... with scripture.
Issue 2: Practical
Perceived Problem: There is often a practical concern as well. The practical concerns are often grounded in misconceptions and misperceptions.
- It's not possible to have true Biblical Community online.
- Church Online services are secondary to what happens in the physical space.
- People watch content passively, and are often disengaged within the service.
- The online audience isn't bought into the church's mission and vision.
- If we do Church Online then no one will come to church.
- If we do Church Online then no one will give.
Understand that these misperceptions are often based on an individual's personal experience. So, the misperception that you can't do Biblical Community online could be based on an individual's personal bad experience with an online community like Facebook. As much as the Theological concern is biblical, Practical concerns are more humanistic, opinionated. These are still difficult to overcome, but utilize a completely different approach.
Solution: Practical concerns are overcome experientially. Let the leaders with the concerns experience what they're concerned about. Share stats and data. Share stories of success. Give examples of other churches who are doing it the way you have in mind. The more that you educate the person with Practical concerns, the less likely their argument will stand.
Before you have any of these concerns, take the time to listen and understand the concerns at hand. Understanding what your leadership believes will help you understand how to talk with them, and how to shape your conversation.