Introduction: The phenomenon of online church
The topic this essay will consider is the phenomenon of online church. In this new age of online networking and communication, some Christians have begun to regularly meet online in various ways and call it ‘church’. For example, St Pixels is a text-based ‘church’ meeting facility. There are different areas in the church you can go to: the sanctuary, the lobby, the prayer room and even a bar. Once there, you can see little cartoon faces depicting other real people who are online in that room with you, and whatever you say can be read by anyone in that area. They have two regular services every week, with Bible readings, sermons, songs, prayers. I had a conversation with one of the ladies there who told me that this was her ‘church’. She hasn’t been to a real-life church for a few years, and loves the openness and fellowship at St Pixels.
Bethany House, Ada, 2004, 224pp.
You may not recognize her name (or have a clue how to pronounce it) and you may not know her face (or her distinctive retro chic outfits). But, like presidents and popes, you will have almost certainly sung one of her songs. She is Darlene Zschech, the woman who wrote the song ‘Shout to the Lord’. And chances are, it is not simply her melodies and poetry that have influenced you, for not only is she an accomplished songwriter, Zschech has been the head of the Worship and Creative Arts Department at Hillsong Church in Australia since 1996. (more…)
When Christians disagree, often it is helpful to sort the important from the unimportant, the essential from the indifferent. But what criteria should we use to do this? Mark Thompson investigates.
Are Christians these days too critical of each other, too ready to oppose and too ready to be negative? You could certainly find plenty of evidence to support this claim. Then again, are Christians these days so polite, inoffensive and unwilling to stand for the truth, they end up being nicer than Jesus? A fair-sized dossier could be assembled in support of this contention as well. So which is it be, nasty or nice?
I’ve never really been comfortable with the evangelical emphasis on preaching sermons, and never quite understood why we make so much more of this form rather than of other forms of teaching. It seems to me that the emphasis on preaching (that is, ‘preaching’ understood as ‘pulpiteering’, as opposed to private and personal ministry through, for example, conversation or Bible study groups) is hard to sustain from the New Testament. (more…)
As a linguistic pedant, I’ve grown to love the precision of Kel Richards and his WordWatch column. As a Bible-believing evangelical, I can see the merit in calling myself a ‘fundamentalist’ in the more literal sense of the word. So imagine my horror when Kel Richards took such a term to task some time ago (Briefing #301, 2003). But he was right that “words don’t stand still… in the ever-flowing river that is the English language”. Hence I have reluctantly relinquished the label—at least for now. (more…)