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Posts tagged ‘virtual church’

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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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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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.

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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.

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Can God interact in a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’?

03 – Can God interact in a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’?

The previous Podcast can be found by clicking here

G’day and welcome to Partake Ministries. We continue our investigation into Virtual Church. I have heard respected Bible teachers say that virtual worship equates with a virtual God. In other words, worship in a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’ is not worship. Certainly, not to the Almighty God of Scripture. So that is the question we face today: “Is it possible for God to interact with people in a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’?

David Clough in his book “Unweaving The Web” questions the idea that Virtual Reality can be considered a sacred space due to its inability to “communicate sacredness” like that of a cathedral. However we know from Scripture, that it is the presence of Christ in people’s hearts that makes the church, and not a building with four walls. Jesus promised that where His followers meet in His name, He would be there (Matthew 18v20). The church therefore is not a building but, according to Miroslav Volf, the “continuation of Christ’s anointing by the Spirit.” God operates within the hearts of people by His Spirit (Galatians 4v6) and not within the four walls of a ‘sacred’ building (Acts 17v24). It is in people’s hearts that His light shines the knowledge of His glory (2 Corinthians 4v6). But what is community? For the Church Father, Augustine, community is a harmonious collection of individuals. This most certainly describes an online community, certainly where a group of Christians are meeting in order to discuss Scripture, worship Almighty God and pray to their God and Saviour in the majestic name of Jesus Christ in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. People interact with other people all the time within a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’. If people can do that, then certainly the God who is outside of time and space, be able to interact. Indeed, God can and does interact within a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’, because He works within the hearts, minds and will of people, and is not restricted by physical barriers.

Now, in the previous Podcast of this series, we discovered that Virtual Reality, according to The New Penguin English Dictionary is “a computer-simulated environment with which a person can interact almost as if it were part of the real world.” But, I would like to suggest that that definition is too narrow. I would like to suggest that there are many more Virtual Reality Environments, than just a computer-simulated environment.

Many people have come to a living faith in Jesus Christ in all forms of ‘Virtual Reality Environment’s. Whether through a computer, a radio or television, a book, a letter or just from reading Scripture itself, all those things are a form of “virtual reality”. For example, reading a book – unless you have the author present in the room, are you not engaging with the author in a “virtual” environment and reading his written thoughts? God has used written literature down through the ages, in order to interact with people. This would of course include the Bible, His written Word. Just as people, even arch-critics of church in ‘Virtual Reality Environment’s would admit, that when listening to a CD of religious songs in the privacy of their own home is worship and that God interacts with them. Yet, is not that musical CD a basic form of ‘Virtual Reality Environment’? Therefore, God has and still does interact within a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’ – even with those who deny that He does. But does that mean that church located in a ‘Virtual Reality Environment’ is still church and moreover, part of the historical church? That is the next topic in this series. Thank you.

The previous Podcast can be found by clicking here

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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

Virtual Church 02 – Virtual Reality

Partake Virtual Church 02 – Virtual Reality

G’day and welcome to Partake Ministries. We continue our investigation into Virtual Church, and this week, briefly introduce Virtual Reality.

1. Virtual Reality

Since the advent of the Internet in 1957 and the subsequent arrival of the home Personal Computer and the World Wide Web (WWW), people have been using these tools for a myriad of reasons including research, education and communication.

With this increase of communication, it was not long until Internet communities were formed. These communities could be broken down into three kinds: subjective (people gathering with similar interests); objective (a gathering of people affected by similar interests); and defining authority (people gathering whose identity was formed by allegiance to a common authority). However, some critics dismiss the concept due to it being by definition, word-based and full of self-interest. Others argue that they can become closed and subjective. However, that is true of any kind of community – virtual or not. Juxtaposed to these concepts is the knowledge that technology is advancing with greater methods of interaction becoming available and global barriers collapsing which make communication and understanding between global citizens possible.

With these virtual communities came the world of ‘Virtual Reality’, to coexist with physical reality (all the properties of fundamental physics).

Virtual Reality, according to The New Penguin English Dictionary is “a computer-simulated environment with which a person can interact almost as if it were part of the real world. This Internet, or Virtual Reality, is a model of social interaction, whereby time, space and body are transcended in which to form relationships. However, these relationships are not limited to the virtual world, but have some links to the world offline, in so far as they cannot be precisely divorced from each other due to the import of offline interest to a Virtual Reality. In doing this, people of similar interests, or enquiring after spiritual matters, are able to bring offline interests to the world of Virtual Reality. It is here that a virtual church can thrive, educate, inform and satisfy.

As the Church continues through the twenty-first century, and as technology marches inexorably onwards, a new kind of church has been birthed. This is a church that does not meet in a specific locale, but gathers in Virtual Reality. So – in our next study, we shall explore if God can interact with humans in a Virtual Reality Environment.

Thank you.

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Virtual Church 01 – Introduction

Partake Virtual Church 01 – Introduction

G’day and welcome to Partake Ministries. In this series, we will be investigating an exciting new kind of church. As the Church enters the twenty-first century, and as technology marches inexorably onwards, a new kind of church has been birthed. This is a church that does not meet in a specific locale, but gathers in what is called “Virtual Reality”.

Questions we will ask in this series are:

  • What is Virtual Reality?
  • Can God really interact within a Virtual Reality Environment?
  • What is a Virtual Church?
  • How does a Virtual Church function?
  • What are the liabilities and virtues of a Virtual Church?
  • Is this type of church part of the historical church?
  • How can this technology be used so that Christians can be discipled in the twenty-first century and beyond?

Virtual Church is only just beginning in real terms and within the 2000 years of Church History. As technologies evolve and their use becomes ever increasingly widespread, the Church of Jesus Christ needs to adapt consistently, in order that it remains ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’ body, constantly engaging in fellowship, worship, mission and bible teaching. By enabling those who are unable to get to traditional forms of church, whether for physical, psychological or geographical reasons, the Church needs to be open to all. Enabling isolated churches, isolated Christian communities and isolated individuals to meet in a Virtual Church, will lead to Jesus Christ who is the head of the church, being glorified. The Virtual Church will not supplant traditional local churches, but will rather harmonize with it. However, if a person can get to a traditional local church, then they probably should attend that church and be involved there as well as a Virtual Church. The Virtual Church is one part of the “one, holy catholic and apostolic church”. An exciting future lies ahead for the Universal Church, to which we continue to cry together “Come Lord Jesus Come”.

In the next of this series, we will look at a brief introduction to Virtual Reality. Thank you.

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