With the forthcoming launch of the online campus for Granger Community Church in Indiana, I am seeing much more secular coverage of Internet-based churches. This is an important movement that needs careful attention. We need to understand more the theological nature of what we are doing and how it will grow disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
For instance, Flamingo Road Church in Cooper City, Fla., conducts communion and baptism over the internet. In my United Methodist understanding of these as sacraments, I do not see this practice as theologically sound nor as the most effective way to build up persons as fully devoted followers of Christ. However, this is not to say that web ministry cannot enhance the work of the church.
“This Holy Mystery,” the official statement of the United Methodist Church on Holy Communion, describes the sacrament as sharing the “real presence” of Christ. How can this real presence be conveyed over the internet? Instead of encouraging the virtual, the United Methodist Church suggests that people take the elements from the table out into the membership who cannot be present.
What would it be like for an online United Methodist Church to have a communion service where those who participate online soon have local church members knocking on their door with the elements brought from a church nearby. The United Methodist Church is already in nearly every county of the United States. If we connect the churches behind the scenes of the online campus, we could have circuit riders make house calls all over this nation.
You may then ask about those in other countries. Well, while the church representatives may take longer to arrive, it would still be a benefit for the church to reach out in person. The physical connections between persons of faith can be enhanced by digital means, but in order to transform the world one must physically engage with it.