Is the Virtual Church a REAL Church?

Douglas Estes, one of the participants of yesterday’s Cyberchurch Symposium, and who managed to get lost in London twice during our walk [must be a curious fellow] is releasing a book on the Cyberchurch in a few months. He interviewed me for the book and a few questions I just dug up from an old email might be worth blogging here, whether they make it into his book or not. And if even I change my mind down the road.

Douglas: Is the virtual church a real/genuine church?

Andrew: Absolutely not. But neither is a physical gathering in a church building on a Sunday morning. The body of Christ is a spiritual aggregation of believers whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. That body finds itself aggregated, or called out into assembly with each other, in both physical and virtual gatherings. There are seeking non-believers in both physical and virtual aggregations so neither expression can claim to be fully church. And also, there are believers in physical churches who connect with each other online during the week and there are believers from cyber-churches and online faith communities who intentionally seek out physical meetings when possible. The dividing line between the two is therefore more artificial than actual.

Douglas: Is it possible for a virtual church to be missional, and more importantly, is it possible for a virtual church (due to its nature) to be more truly missional than a real world church?

Andrew: The church needs to be missional in both physical and virtual worlds. That means allowing the form of church to be shaped by the context, and on the internet that means the missional church will take native forms and seek to find its place inside them. Being missional in the virtual world means recapitulation over representation. It is not translating your Sunday service into a Second Life experience but rather transcoding from the ground-up inside platforms.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


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