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April 2021

How the web changes the church

How the web changes the church

Online and participatory church

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A digital priesthood of all believers
The rise of the Internet is without doubt the most revolutionary development of the last 25 years. It has radically changed our lives and also influenced the way we think about the church.
The internet has given ordinary people (the ‘laity’) considerably more influence: everyone who wishes to do so has the opportunity online to nurture and shape their own spirituality, to become a creator or influencer, and to connect with others in communities and on platforms, completely outside the scope of their own church. To faith communities and church leaders, the internet provides an infrastructure and tools to make church fully interactive and participatory, and to extend its missionary reach far beyond the physical sphere of the church building.
This is revolutionary. For the church today, the internet can be what the printing press was for the church in the Reformation – a game changer. The internet helps us to see the church as a network, a movement and a co-creative project. It encourages us to embrace a ‘digital priesthood of all believers’.

The rise of the Internet is without doubt the most revolutionary development of the last 25 years. It has radically changed our lives. But has the internet also influenced the Church?

Recently Heidi Campbell, professor of digital religion at Texas A&M University, came up with a new book: ‘Digital Creatives and the Rethinking of Religious Authority’. It’s about how the rise of the internet is also changing the way we think about the church – the ecclesiology – and how missionary internet pioneers see and shape this.

I’ve known Heidi Campbell from the early years of the internet, so when she approached me in 2013 for an interview to give my perspective on this as a ‘religious digital creative’, it led to a contribution to the book. I’m making this available in a pdf.

The internet has given ordinary people (the ‘laity’) considerably more influence.

In other words: the internet has empowered people. It touches many areas of our lives, but I now limit myself to the impact on faith and the church:
  • Everyone who wishes to do so has the opportunity online to nurture and shape their own spirituality, to become a creator or influencer, and to connect with others in communities and on platforms, completely outside the scope of their own church.
  • To faith communities and church leaders, the internet provides an infrastructure and tools to make church fully interactive and participatory, and to extend its missionary reach far beyond the physical sphere of the church building.

This is fundamentally revolutionary. For the Church today, the Internet can be what the printing press was for the Church in the Reformation. A game-changer.

The internet encourages the church to function as a relational network. To start thinking decentrally (‘bottom-up’) about the church instead of centrally (‘top-down’), as polyculture instead of monoculture.
The internet helps us to see the church as a network, a decentralized movement and a co-creative project.
I have expressed this idea in my seminars on missionary innovation as follows:
“Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has done more for the mission of the Church than the entire Church growth movement put together. Because we are now rediscovering the power of decentralized movements”.
The simple church movement, which states that you can be the Body of Christ in all sorts of places, in all kinds of forms, in the middle of everyday life, and that these groups best develop ‘organically’, is an example of this.
At a time when I blogged a lot about ’emerging church’ (2002-2007) there was another digital pioneer, Tim Bednar, who published a paper with the somewhat provocative title ‘We Know More Than Our Pastors. Why Bloggers Are the Vanguard of the Participatory Church’. Although blogging has been partly overtaken by vlogs, podcasts and social media, I consider this work to be a classic if you want to understand how the internet influences ecclesiology. You can simply extend the lines of thought.
A generation that grew up with the internet makes different demands on the church.
Bednar expresses this as follows:
“We expect a co-creative church in which we can not only participate fully, but which we can help to shape in all aspects”.
Say a digital priesthood of all believers.
There’s still a lot to be said about this, but I promised to keep my mails short and concise. To deepen your understanding, I invite you to read the two publications I have linked to.
If you want to discuss in-depth what this means for your congregation or organization, book an innovation consultation.

See also:  The 10 Domains

Coronavirus brings Unprecedented Openness to the Gospel

Pandemic brings churches back to life

An amazing story from 9/11


As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.

from Ruchit Patel, May 28, 2015 


Here is an amazing story from a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15, written following 9-11 (this was forwarded to me by a friend):

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic .

All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain. As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”

No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, New Foundland, in Canada.

He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately — no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.

We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander , New Foundland, to have it checked out.

We promised to give more information after landing in Gander .. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM …. that’s 11:00 AM EST.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the US.

After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason.”

Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the US. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put.

The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane.

In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were US commercial jets.


Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.

People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada . Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm.

We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.

We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning.

Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.

Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing.

And they were true to their word.

Fortunately we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander!




We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the US airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the “plane people.” We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.

What we found out was incredible…..

Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers.

Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.

ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.”

Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged.

Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day. During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests.

Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.

In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.

Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully.

It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling.

Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.

And then a very unusual thing happened.

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days. He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers.

He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte.

He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!

The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.

I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them.

“It reminds me how much good there is in the world.”

In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward.

*This is one of those stories that need to be shared. Please do so…*

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Your Smartphone as a Spiritual Resource

shopping10 Ways to Make Your Smart Phone a Spiritual Resource

Covenant people in covenant with our covenant God

We live in a technologically rich (and distracting) culture.  Most of us have smartphones, tablets, laptops, and all the accessories to go along with them.  We can check email, send a text, upload a photo, or update our status almost anywhere and anytime.  This is a great resource, but it can also be very distracting and time-consuming. Despite all our modern conveniences many of us struggle to fit everything in that we’re required to do for our job and family much less spend quality time with God regularly.

You can share Good News in emails and on social media (eg Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest), eg., see my Facebook.

So here are ten ways you can use your smartphone or tablet to bring you closer to God and to pray more often.

1. Take five minutes to be inspired by a devotional/Bible reading app

Only got a few minutes? Download an app for daily bible verses, quotes, and prayers. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, open the app and see how today’s bite-size bits of inspiration relate to your life.  Make the prayer your own and share your own thoughts with God after reading.

See BibleGateway.com – many translations. Try one verse and see 50 versions of it.

2. Capture God moments with your camera

God is on the move and speaking in so many ways we may not expect. Set yourself the challenge to be on the lookout for things, sounds, places and people that help you think about or talk to God today. Take a photo or video and keep a digital journal of what God is saying and how you’re connecting.

3. Don’t go it alone – Share your prayer requests

Got something you really need God to help with? Why not get your friends to pray with you. Find two people to whom you can send and receive private messages. When a need arises send a photo/text of what you need prayer for instantly through an app like Snapchat. Make sure you pray for God’s help as you press send and add your amen to their requests in return. (Don’t have Snapchat? There are other means of sending private messages too – you could DM on Twitter, message on Facebook or just text)

4. Playlists that plug you in

Got a regular walk or commute? Create a playlist to plug you in to God. Download theworship tunes that stir you and connect you to Jesus and what he cares about. You could even create different playlists for chilled, meditative moods and wake-me-up-now worship journeys.

5. Use social media to help you pray for others

Fancy shaking up whom you pray for? Why not open up a social media app or site and pray for the first person in your home feed. Ask Jesus to give you an encouraging comment to leave them after you’ve prayed.

6. Use a news application to pray for the world

Ever find praying for the world daunting? Download a news app and choose one news story with your first tea/coffee/smoothie of the day. If you find it hard to start praying imagine what the best possible outcome of the situation could be and ask Jesus to intervene. Keep it simple, specific and pray,“your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

7. Take the plunge – turn off your phone!

Silence can be scary but there’s nothing like silence and space to help you relax, clear your mind and connect with God. If you find it hard try finding a quiet place and turning off your phone as a sign that you’re switching off from the world and switching on to God for just two minutes a day. As those two minutes get easier (and start to feel quicker!) try increasing the amount of time you give your attention to God. You may even want to fast from those distracting apps on your phone for a time.

8. Use the alarm to remind you to pray

Your phone’s alarm doesn’t have to be exclusively used for waking you in the morning.  Try setting it to go off at certain times of the day to remind you to take the time to pray. You may have different ways that you pray throughout the day.  In the morning you might pray out of thanksgiving and adoration.  In the evening it might be confession and repentance. It is always great to have a reminder to do what’s most important in the midst of the busyness of life.

9. Download an encouraging book

This idea may be best used on a tablet, but if your eyesight is still strong you can read an ebook on your smart phone.  Download a Christian book that will challenge and encourage you. Read a chapter while riding the train into work or just before you go to bed at night.

10. Use your phone to call someone

I know this may be a novel idea, but your phone actually works quite well as a….well, phone.  Stop texting, Facebooking, or Tweeting and actually TALK to someone.  I know it is controversial, but not long ago that was our main means of communication!  Take five minutes to call someone you know just to say “I love you and I’m thinking about you”.  Ask them if there is anything that you can pray for them about and pray for them over the phone.  Personal and direct human to human communication can be powerful.

Edited from Kenmore Baptist Church: KBC Life, June 2014

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