Last weekend I was a part of a set of interviews in which our Jurisdictional Conference delegation was asking questions of the candidates for bishop. When I asked my question, the responses fell into 3 categories.
The question was something like, “Considering the new and always emerging ways that people connect these days - new communication tools, social networking, online relationships, etc. - is the way that people think about ‘church’ being transformed? And will the metrics we use to assess congregational vitality be transformed as a result?”
Category 1 was basically:
Yes. I get it. The world is changing, relationships are changing, the definition of community is changing, and the church needs to recognize and be a part of that change. In fact, here are a few ways that I myself have transformed my own communication …
Category 2 was basically:
Yes. I hear that it is, but I don’t really get it. My kids do it, but I haven’t really gotten into it. I think the church should do some stuff too, but I really don’t know what that might be.
And category 3 was basically:
Yes. And isn’t it a shame. It’s a good thing the church can still be there to offer people a “real” relationship,” considering all the pretend ones they have on their computers and such.
You realize that I am paraphrasing, of course. None of the candidates is quoted, except the phrase “real relationship.” But my paraphrases represent a summary of what I heard in the interviews, and clearly include my bias. You probably also realize that the people who answered in a “category 1” kind of answer are the ones that I would tend to support.
I think some may dismiss the question as just a technology question. It is not. The development of technology vs. the transformation of community is kind of a “chicken and egg” kind of question. Technology changes as community is transformed; community is transformed as technology changes.
And as more and more people redefine community through a whole host of new technologies, the question is not whether the church should change, too. The question is how.