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Archive for February, 2009

Benefits of a Virtual Church

Virtual Church 07 – Benefits of Virtual Church

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In the previous Podcast we looked at two of the major liabilities and criticisms of the Virtual Church, and how they can be overcome. Today we are going to look at the benefits a Virtual Church offers.

Virtual Church can provide a spiritual avenue for people not currently able to attend a traditional geographical church in order to participate in the function of mission, worship, fellowship and bible teaching. It is a major benefit can be seen in giving to the isolated and detached of society with what Jürgen Moltmann called a “creative passion for the impossible” (God for a Secular Society, London: SPCK, 1999, p.159). That is a task for a Virtual Church community to grasp and go ahead with..

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Benefits of a Virtual Church

Partake Virtual Church 07 – Benefits of Virtual Church

Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

In the previous Podcast we looked at two of the major liabilities and criticisms of the Virtual Church, and how they can be overcome. Today we are going to look at the benefits a Virtual Church offers.

Virtual Church can provide a spiritual avenue for people not currently able to attend a traditional geographical church in order to participate in the function of mission, worship, fellowship and bible teaching. It is a major benefit can be seen in giving to the isolated and detached of society with what Jürgen Moltmann called a “creative passion for the impossible” (God for a Secular Society, London: SPCK, 1999, p.159). That is a task for a Virtual Church community to grasp and go ahead with..

Assisting Housebound & disabled people

One of the ways in which a virtual church is effective is in the area of helping housebound and disabled people. Housebound people, including those with physical, emotional and psychological problems, may only venture from their domicile on rare occasions. Access to a traditional geographical based church is not always catered for, as well as people being too shy to attend traditional church. Indeed, I know a lady, who because she has a low self-esteem, she felt more at ease communicating in a Virtual Reality environment, particularly in a Virtual Church. If the local geographically based churches do not have transport for housebound and disabled people, then a Virtual Church could well be the means to allow these people to participate in the life of the church.

One way to enable people is through technology. As technology consistently evolves, items such as the Dream-racer Cap could be configured to control computers http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6625145.stm. The cap works by head movement, however the underlying technology could also be used in a glove or shoe and therefore enable a semblance of ‘normal’ movement to the user. For more seriously disabled people with severely restricted movement, there are available eye-controlled communication devices (http://www.tobii.com/default.asp?sid=553).

By using these technologies, housebound and disabled people would be able to participate a great deal within a Virtual Church environment, including fellowship and worship. There is also the possibility of extending their participation to serving the Virtual Church in some capacity such as moderator, administrator or helping to lead worship, bible teaching and prayer times. This inevitably leads to confidence dealing with people offline, and more in a God they desire to serve using their Spiritual gifts that may currently be lying dormant and unused. In doing this, people will develop confidence in themselves. Instead of feeling neglected, isolated and alone, they may feel wanted, and more importantly, loved by others.

One major foreseeable problem with this proposal is that financially, it may be prohibitively expensive to arrange and operate these schemes. There is also the requirement of sourcing technical support in the case of hardware and software malfunction. Training issues could be another issue. However, with God, if He is in the planning, nothing is impossible. Local church groups, Christian organizations and denominations could pool financial and personnel resources, so they could be achieved. It would signify visually that churches have unity, even without uniformity. It would also give rise to the opportunity for traditional churches to work along with Virtual churches to the glory of God. Charities and Government help is also widely available to help subside costs or donate technology (http://www.cftd.co.uk/cftd.htm). In helping the housebound, the Virtual Church will have extended the Gospel’s reach and be seen “loving their neighbour” Matthew 22v39).

Assisting the Geographically Isolated & Persecuted Christians

A Virtual Church would enable isolated church communities, such as those ministered to be Bush Church Aid Society of Australia (http://www.bushchurchaid.com.au). This method would enable such organizations to fulfil their vision.

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Bush Church Aid Society of Australia

Similar links could be created with isolated Christian communities and churches in Great Britain or the USA. This would be similar to the way New Testament churches linked. The New Testament communities linked for the following reasons: prayer support, encouragement, imitation and theological reflection. Today, isolated churches can also gather together for fellowship, worship, evangelism and teaching in a Virtual church.

Another benefit is for Christians in persecuted countries to meet with Christians in the west. This of course may give additional problems, given the Internet censorship policy of such countries.

Virtual Church enables the capability for Christians to communicate and worship together from a vast geographical area, where there may not be many churches, is self-evident given the scope and range of the Internet.

So the enabling of housebound, disabled and geographically isolated people to engage with other Christians is a major benefit of a Virtual Church. Without Virtual Church, a lot of people and their spiritual gifting would go missing from church life. Virtual Church is but one visible identifier to the invisible world-wide Church. Thank you.

Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

Paypal Donate If you find these resources helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation. You can support via PayPal, the universal and most secure way to donate money online. You do not need to be a member of Paypal to use their facilities. It does cost me money to produce these resources, mainly the storage facility and the bandwidth. I have very little other means of support. Thank you

Liabilities of a Virtual Church

Virtual Church 06 – Virtual Church Liabilities

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In the previous Podcast of this series looking at Virtual Church, we looked at together, how a Virtual Church functions. Today, we look at three of the perceived weaknesses of Virtual Church and ways in which a Virtual Church can help overcome them. These three liabilities are internet addiction, anonymity and arguments that insist Virtual Communities are not genuine communities.

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Liabilities of a Virtual Church

Virtual Church 06 – Virtual Church Liabilities

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In the previous Podcast of this series looking at Virtual Church, we looked at together, how a Virtual Church functions. Today, we look at three of the perceived weaknesses of Virtual Church and ways in which a Virtual Church can help overcome them. These three liabilities are internet addiction, anonymity and arguments that insist Virtual Communities are not genuine communities.

Virtual World/Internet Addiction

For some people, there may well be a level of Internet addiction. This could become a problem within a Virtual Church environment. One reason for Internet addiction is escapism from real life problems. Other signs of internet addiction could be the person growing moody and irritable when they are unable to go online. It could also be that they are addiction to an alter-ego in a Virtual Reality Environment that acts and behaves different from offline life.

When discovered, the person would need to be encouraged to seek some form of counselling or be given pastoral care. A cure is possible but a need to recognize the problem is the first step. Other steps to overcome this addiction, would include waiting for the plea to help, rationing, supervision and disposal. Virtual Church operators may need to monitor people’s time spent online. The addicted individual may need to consider the spiritual discipline of fasting from Internet access, in order to regain power over their addiction. If they are unable to do this, then traditional church may well be a better model for them to attend if possible.

Anonymity is a bad thing.

Anonymity of the person on the internet provides the opportunity to escape from emotional difficulties such as depression, stress, anxiety, or a relationship problem. Anonymity can be used for deceitful practices and to prey on the weak and vulnerable. Whilst this is true, at least in part, anonymity is not necessarily a bad thing. Anonymity, within a Virtual Reality Environment, including Virtual Churches, can help people overcome shyness, social awkwardness and instil confidence and be encouraging. Additionally, anonymity does not preclude dishonesty but rather some people are more honest about themselves and more open and honest with others that they interact and have fellowship with in a Virtual Church Community. Anonymity also did not prevent people seeking help, advice and sharing problems. Particularly young people still developing and growing as people, being able to ask awkward questions about life anonymously.

Virtual Community is not real community

Some critics of Virtual Reality Communities insist that all online interaction is purely about the transmission of information. However, when information is being transferred or communicated, this usually has some from of psychological effect and can affect emotions and psyche, in both a negative and positive sense. So to say that it is solely about information transference is endemically wrong. Critics also categorically deny the legitimacy of Virtual Reality Environment communities, because there is a distinct lack of obligation and accountability between people. Within a Virtual Church Community, there should will be terms and conditions for a person to read and agree with prior to registration. Therefore, the person is will be entering into a covenant with fellow users and are therefore accountable to them. Any misdemeanours in Virtual Church communities, should be looked at, and dealt with swiftly.

Real community used to be seen as geographically centred. However, with the advent of the Virtual Reality Environment community, this is no longer the case and etymologically, community has returned to its original concept based on “social grouping and quality of relationship”. All Virtual churches probably will have a wide geographical spread due to its very nature being on the World Wide Web or Internet. This does not preclude however that giving and receiving help and assistance ceases. So Virtual community is far more than information transference, as some may insist, but rather it consists of, amongst other things, mutual giving and receiving of care and assistance.

In our next Podcast, we shall look at the benefits of a Virtual Church. Thank you.

Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

Paypal Donate If you find these resources helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation. You can support via PayPal, the universal and most secure way to donate money online. You do not need to be a member of Paypal to use their facilities. It does cost me money to produce these resources, mainly the storage facility and the bandwidth. I have very little other means of support. Thank you

Function of a Virtual Church

Virtual Church 05 – Function of a Virtual Church

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In the last Podcast of this series, we discovered what is a Virtual Church. Now we discuss, what functions does a Virtual Church fulfil.

Some church leaders suggest that virtual church membership will continue to increase and that by the year 2020 “nearly all churches will be virtual churches” in the sense that physical attendance will become secondary and most contact will be via Virtual Reality (Andy Peck, ‘2020 Vision’, Christianity, September 2006, 14). Another survey suggested that by 2010, 10% to 20% of US adults and teenagers will use the Internet as their primary spiritual input. These figures suggest the growing importance of a virtual church in the life of people. But how does a Virtual church function?

The phrase ‘one holy, catholic and apostolic’ probably remains the best means of identifying whether a church is truly part of the historical church or not. The Church at its inception was “a practice of shared faith”, epitomized by these four dynamic marks. Although definitions may vary, these four hallmarks traverse the broad spectrum of Christendom in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. The term ‘one holy, catholic and apostolic church’ is a verbal confession, denoting the four visible dimensions of the invisible church and being a community springing forth from its first century founding. Furthermore, it evolves from generation to generation, but without losing the core beliefs. Catholic here, in case anyone requires clarification, means universal and not the denomination.

Jesus when praying in John 17v17-21 stipulates these four hallmarks of His church: one (John 17v21), holy (John 17v17, 19), catholic (John 17v21b) and apostolic (John 17v18).

By engaging in fellowship, worship, mission and bible teaching, a church thereby reflects the historical and biblical universal church which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. One in that the church exhibits fellowship between the individual believer and God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; as well as fellowship between believers. A church is holy in that the church encourages worship of Almighty God. Catholic, in that, the church is engaged in the continuous mission of evangelisation. Finally, the church is apostolic in that it teaches from the Bible.

While these four hallmarks are statements of faith, they also must lead to declarations of function, because the Church must be actively visible. These four derived functions of the church are: fellowship, worship, mission and bible interaction. They are mutually interdependent and as Jürgen Moltmann in his book “The Church in the Power of the Spirit” states, “they are the invisible church’s visible manifestations.”

How does a Virtual Church engage in Fellowship?

Fellowship is a mutual sharing together. Through the sharing of stories and interacting with each other, Christians in a Virtual church engage in acts of fellowship. Sharing a common purpose of seeking Jesus, worshipping and praying together, playing games, engaging in stimulating dialogues and lending support when required, are all facets of Virtual church fellowship. The Virtual Church can also engage in regular offline meetings, to help engage each other more.

How does a Virtual Church engage in worship?

Worship in a Virtual Church has a variety of methods in which God’s glorification is sought. Global worship includes singing, responsive prayers and liturgy. Each individual member having his or her own bread and wine can engage in the Eucharist, similar to traditional church. A problem may well arise with baptism, which is by necessity a physical action. This problem can be overcome by negotiating with a traditional Church to baptize the person wanting baptism.

How does a Virtual Church engage in mission?

Virtual Church evangelism is primarily based on a friendship evangelism model with building relationships at the core. It is talking to people online, interacting through blogs, writing of testimonies, engaging in discussion threads and venturing into other online forums and communities. In a Virtual Church, where people are judged more on the ability to be persuasive rather than appearance, Scripture is powerful. Evangelism is therefore not instantaneous (although it can be) but rather a process of journey.

How does a Virtual Church engage in bible teaching?

In a Virtual Church, bible teaching continues to be central. Sermons are preached and interactive discussions are engaged in afterwards. Topical teaching threads and blog threads can teach Scripture and commented upon. Audio files can be streamed or downloaded from the Church and played on iPods and other devices, for use in personal time. Particularly relevant is the narrative style when online “holographic stimulation” will facilitate emotional attachment.

In the next Podcast, we will look at the perceived liabilities of a Virtual Church, before heading into to the main benefits.

Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

Paypal Donate If you find these resources helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation. You can support via PayPal, the universal and most secure way to donate money online. You do not need to be a member of Paypal to use their facilities. It does cost me money to produce these resources, mainly the storage facility and the bandwidth. I have very little other means of support. Thank you

Function of a Virtual Church

Virtual Church 05 – Function of a Virtual Church

Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

In the last Podcast of this series, we discovered what is a Virtual Church. Now we discuss, what functions does a Virtual Church fulfil.

Some church leaders suggest that virtual church membership will continue to increase and that by the year 2020 “nearly all churches will be virtual churches” in the sense that physical attendance will become secondary and most contact will be via Virtual Reality (Andy Peck, ‘2020 Vision’, Christianity, September 2006, 14). Another survey suggested that by 2010, 10% to 20% of US adults and teenagers will use the Internet as their primary spiritual input. These figures suggest the growing importance of a virtual church in the life of people. But how does a Virtual church function?

The phrase ‘one holy, catholic and apostolic’ probably remains the best means of identifying whether a church is truly part of the historical church or not. The Church at its inception was “a practice of shared faith”, epitomized by these four dynamic marks. Although definitions may vary, these four hallmarks traverse the broad spectrum of Christendom in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. The term ‘one holy, catholic and apostolic church’ is a verbal confession, denoting the four visible dimensions of the invisible church and being a community springing forth from its first century founding. Furthermore, it evolves from generation to generation, but without losing the core beliefs. Catholic here, in case anyone requires clarification, means universal and not the denomination.

Jesus when praying in John 17v17-21 stipulates these four hallmarks of His church: one (John 17v21), holy (John 17v17, 19), catholic (John 17v21b) and apostolic (John 17v18).

By engaging in fellowship, worship, mission and bible teaching, a church thereby reflects the historical and biblical universal church which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. One in that the church exhibits fellowship between the individual believer and God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; as well as fellowship between believers. A church is holy in that the church encourages worship of Almighty God. Catholic, in that, the church is engaged in the continuous mission of evangelisation. Finally, the church is apostolic in that it teaches from the Bible.

While these four hallmarks are statements of faith, they also must lead to declarations of function, because the Church must be actively visible. These four derived functions of the church are: fellowship, worship, mission and bible interaction. They are mutually interdependent and as Jürgen Moltmann in his book “The Church in the Power of the Spirit” states, “they are the invisible church’s visible manifestations.”

How does a Virtual Church engage in Fellowship?

Fellowship is a mutual sharing together. Through the sharing of stories and interacting with each other, Christians in a Virtual church engage in acts of fellowship. Sharing a common purpose of seeking Jesus, worshipping and praying together, playing games, engaging in stimulating dialogues and lending support when required, are all facets of Virtual church fellowship. The Virtual Church can also engage in regular offline meetings, to help engage each other more.

How does a Virtual Church engage in worship?

Worship in a Virtual Church has a variety of methods in which God’s glorification is sought. Global worship includes singing, responsive prayers and liturgy. Each individual member having his or her own bread and wine can engage in the Eucharist, similar to traditional church. A problem may well arise with baptism, which is by necessity a physical action. This problem can be overcome by negotiating with a traditional Church to baptize the person wanting baptism.

How does a Virtual Church engage in mission?

Virtual Church evangelism is primarily based on a friendship evangelism model with building relationships at the core. It is talking to people online, interacting through blogs, writing of testimonies, engaging in discussion threads and venturing into other online forums and communities. In a Virtual Church, where people are judged more on the ability to be persuasive rather than appearance, Scripture is powerful. Evangelism is therefore not instantaneous (although it can be) but rather a process of journey.

How does a Virtual Church engage in bible teaching?

In a Virtual Church, bible teaching continues to be central. Sermons are preached and interactive discussions are engaged in afterwards. Topical teaching threads and blog threads can teach Scripture and commented upon. Audio files can be streamed or downloaded from the Church and played on iPods and other devices, for use in personal time. Particularly relevant is the narrative style when online “holographic stimulation” will facilitate emotional attachment.

In the next Podcast, we will look at the perceived liabilities of a Virtual Church, before heading into to the main benefits.

Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

Paypal Donate If you find these resources helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation. You can support via PayPal, the universal and most secure way to donate money online. You do not need to be a member of Paypal to use their facilities. It does cost me money to produce these resources, mainly the storage facility and the bandwidth. I have very little other means of support. Thank you

Partake Virtual Church 04 – What is a virtual Church

Partake Virtual Church 04 – What is a Virtual Church?

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The writer to Hebrews in Hebrews 10v24-25 says “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Therefore, how do housebound or, geographically isolated people, assemble with others as the writer to Hebrews commands? This is particularly pertinent if the geographically centred local churches do not have the resources to collect these people for worship services and other meetings. So what can be done to ensure that these groups of people are not isolated further from an active Church life.

Computer based communities are ‘Virtual Reality Environments’, whereby the community members interact with each other. The best way is through a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’, as established in an online church, where Jesus Christ is glorified, preached and worshipped. This is a Virtual Church. If you can get to a normal geographically based local church, then I would say go to that church, as well as a virtual church. But if for some reason you are unable to attend a geographically located church, then Virtual Church is where you can have fellowship with other Christians for encouragement, growing in grace and maturity together and for rejoicing together in the fellowship of believers. A fellowship of believers, meeting together online in a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’, with a common purpose (Psalm 133v1-3), common belief (Acts 2v42), common hope (Hebrews 11v39-40) and sharing needs (2 Corinthians 8vv1-15). Just as Christians have fellowship with the Father (1 John 1v3), Jesus (1 Corinthians 1v9) and the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2v1), so they also have with each other (1 John 1v7). This fellowship is with each other, regardless of their individual geographical location, in a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’.

A virtual church is an Internet website, where people, quite possibly geographically dispersed, gather together for fellowship, teaching, mission & worship, similarly to the way people have congregated since Pentecost. This is distinct from a church website only contains information about itself, the Gospel and/or its own particular denominational dogma.

Currently, at least to my knowledge, there are three main types of virtual church, all with some form of audio-visual capability and community interaction. Firstly those that are primarily text based. Secondly, there are churches with a two-dimensional graphical interface, text and some sound for use in worship and prayers. Thirdly, churches with a fully three-dimensional graphical viewing interface, with full sound and interactivity. While these three examples usually require registration in order to show commitment to the ethos and core values, guest passes are available. These guest passes allow countless others to watch the virtual church service and participate in discussion afterwards.

In the next Podcast we will look at how a Virtual Church functions, in regards to fellowship, mission, bible teaching and worship. For by doing those 4 things, any church, whether located geographically or within a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’, can lay claim to be a part of the historical one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Thank you.

Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

Paypal Donate If you find these resources helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation. You can support via PayPal, the universal and most secure way to donate money online. You do not need to be a member of Paypal to use their facilities. It does cost me money to produce these resources, mainly the storage facility and the bandwidth. I have very little other means of support. Thank you

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