I remember when I was first getting into the ministry and received the advice that “no one cares about your event.”
This eye-catching and caustic phrase was a piece of reverse psychology to encourage the event coordinator side of the ministry to become more cohesive with the heart-to-heart pastoral ministry.
The lesson: Your first goal should be to give your demographic a reason to care about your event.
When it comes to digital church planting, I’ve discovered that the mindset is actually a bit harsher in the current zeitgeist of the Church universal.
The digital church doesn’t just bring about apathy, it brings about animosity.
In this article, I want to seek out the better question we can ask ourselves in the face of the nay-sayers against the digital church.
Case Study: Asbury Revival
Case in point: consider the Asbury Revival that’s trending ad nauseum.
In Christianity Today’s piece on what we might learn from the movement, the second talking point is that this Revival proves digital ministry is incapable of such things.
“Asbury is thus a coup for embodied spirituality and against disembodied mediatization. Don’t think that YouTube, Facebook, or TikTok will give you the same experience.”
Why was the digital church even mentioned?
Easy - because it has become a common scapegoat.
Thus the true workload of digital ministry is twofold:
Building the digital church
Defending the digital church
What is most problematic about this is the source of the rumblings against the digital church: the Church herself.
That means half of our productive time is going to waste on people that we aren’t even called to serve.
I would encourage those inside church walls that judge too quickly the digital church to consider other times when the Church has eaten her own. After all, it was Judas Iscariot the Zealot who was unsatisfied when Jesus didn’t live up to the quid pro quo expectations of ministry.
Perhaps the digital church owes the Body of Christ nothing; it’s just another body part. Surely we wouldn’t cast off an arm because it is not an eye?
Asking the Right Questions
But that’s neither here nor there - this isn’t an argument about how to get the established Church to like your digital church.
It’s actually about asking if that’s even something you should want.
Consider again the caustic truism above: “no one cares about your event.”
If we move from that apathetic response to the animus one about the digital church, then that phrase might become our title: “no one likes your digital church.”
Other than being a trite phrase, what should this actually do for us?
If the former phrase should bring about a resilience in us that reminds us to make things that would make our demographic care about our event, then the latter should do the same, right?
I’m not convinced.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
The difference here is that you likely aren’t called to convince the Church about the digital church. Your demographic - I hope - is those outside of the church.
I’m not certain that it matters whether or not those inside the church like the digital church or not.
Simply because no one cares about your event doesn’t make your event not an event.
In the same way, simply because no one likes your digital church doesn’t make your church not church.
The point of this practice isn’t to change minds, it’s to bring awareness.
Once we understand that we aren’t liked, we don’t change who we are to fit the status quo.
Instead, we prove our worth.
We prove that our event should be cared about.
We prove that our digital church should be liked.
This is easier said than done. But it’s a vital foundation mindset.
Over the course of the past three years, my worst days of ministry have been ones where I dwell on the nay-sayers from within the Church rather than doing effective ministry.
Ideally, these messages of random detriments, like a pointless cheap shot from an established and reputable news organization like Christianity Today that should know better, should slide off like butter. Even better - they should be used as kindling to fuel the fire of our work.
Better Questions Lead to a Better Future
No one likes your digital church.
Prove to them that the digital church is needed by doing vital and effective ministry.
I challenge you to worry less about defending the digital church and focus more on the life-changing work being done.
With that out of the way, hopefully our future conversations in this space can be focused on responding to the first phrase of reaching our intended demographic with purposeful intent.
But we won’t have the time or energy to do that if we keep arguing about the worth of the thing that we’re doing.
Welcome to a community of do-ers, not defenders.
World 1-3 Complete
You might be thinking - isn’t this post itself kind of a defense of the digital church?
Yeah, that’s fair. I’m only human, after all.
But my hope is that this will be the only time I need to post this perspective on Pixel & Pulpit. It won’t be the last time someone assaults the digital church haphazardly, but hopefully, this will serve as a place to point toward.
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To close, here are some engagement questions:
How do you maintain focus on the work of the digital church?
What perspective helps you to overcome the toxic members of the church?
Any questions you have for me or Pixel & Pulpit?
Thanks, Nate. As always, this is an excellent word.