And just like that, the global church was thrust into the biggest house church experiment ever seen in human history. Not quite the same as previous house church movements, most of our new aggregations of media-connected believers came about suddenly due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the necessity of isolation.
But we find ourselves at a moment of pivot into a new way of thinking about church and the media we choose to communicate with to each other and the world. Two things come to mind:
- To find ourselves meeting as extended households (“oikos” in the New Testament) causes us to ponder the meaning of church itself. Questions of closeness and distance, physical and virtual, real and symbolic, outreach and seclusion.
- To find ourselves employing new digital media to carry our most precious thoughts and responses to a wider ecclesia causes us to examine the nature and behavior of new media, how we shape it and how we are shaped by it. Transcoding church rather than simply transmitting a Sunday service.
This is the beginning of a series of posts to ignite discussion on these topics, to retrieve the conversations from some years ago when those of us shaping the early internet were diving into the theory behind new media and reexamining the response of church to new online forms of fellowship, worship and witness, and also to ask the right questions about this strange moment, as temporary as it may be, as it bleeds into a new era of church life. I am calling it Transcoding Church.
A little intro about me. In 1996 I was leading a house church in San Francisco. That same year I was also active on the world’s first chat room The Well. By 1997 I had started my first blog (Andrew’s Tea Salon) to explore the relation between new organic forms of church and their interaction with new digital technologies. That conversation has fascinated me ever since and I have traveled the world to meet with key leaders and practitioners, as well as teaching on the subject. Now in 2020, these two worlds collide in a way we could never have imagined.
It looks like we are all settling in and getting cosy for the month of April. Maybe this could be a great learning moment for us all. I invite you join in and offer your thoughts, your links to helpful articles and posts, your questions and struggles.
See you tomorrow.
This. Is. Awesome.!
You’ve not merely tracked new media movements and their implications for the Church, Andrew, but I’ve seen you be a pioneer participant in them. Hoping people will follow your series for what are sure to be poignant insights into the times we now find ourselves, and what we as disciples and churches might do …
Praying that the gift you are offering will be received by the wider church.
Well it’s good to see your fingers dancing again my friend. I agree with Brad S- you did pioneering in uncharted territory. I’ve followed since 1999 and now feeling a bit ancient; when I hosted an intentional community back then. Looking forward to the convo.
Looking forward to your perspectives and the conversation Andrew. Currently most of what I’ve seen of transcoding church in the current environment consists of unimaginative social media-using of talking head and band music. Ie finding ways to broadcast what we’ve always done. I think we need to go back to first principles and ask what church and corporate worship exist to do then figure out the best ways to achieve that in our contexts. (I believe we should have been doing that years ago as well)
I’m excited for this conversation and I look forward to new voices that at this time will bring new insights. Three years ago when I moved to my new neighborhood I invited all 10 other home owners in our lane to a little party. All came and that was the last time we were together. In the last two weeks I have spoken to 5 of them (at a distance) and something special is happening.
Awesomeness 😍… taking me back to Voices of the Virtual World, which I shall dig out and look through again, while waiting for the next post.
I’m currently working with a new church plant in my neighborhood and trying to help move it this direction.
I think for any serious observer and student of the visible church, it’s mixture with money has always been a troubling and frequently destabilizing, delegitimizing force.
For reasons not hard to explain, the role of “pastors and teachers” have been primary and most visible and popular.
Everything has changed.
The length of that change and it’s ongoing effects remain to be seen but there is such a sense of anticipation, movement and transition in the air it is almost breathtaking.
I’m so thankful Brad shared a link to your blog!
Even so come!
A compelling topic that merits clear thinking, deliberate conversation, and receptive spirits. I can think of no one with whom I would rather engage than you, my friend. The recent passages of your journey will doubtless enhance the empathy afforded the dialogue. God’s goodness as you facilitate and guide. A tip of the hat to you sir..