New Media

Mission in Digital Frontiers: Learning Day in Adelaide

Next week I am doing a learning day at Uniting College, Adelaide, South Australia. Thanks to Dr Steve Taylor, Director of Missiology, for inviting me over. You might remember Steve for his EmergentKiwi blog or his excellent book The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change.

Best intro to what we are doing next week is found on Steve's blog:

MISSION IN DIGITAL FRONTEIRS: a learning day with Andrew Jones

Thursday 28 April 1:30pm – 3:00pm Pioneering lessons

Pioneering is hard work and Andrew Jones has been doing it, and seeing it, for over 20 years. This session offers some wisdom on sustainability, dealing with difficulty and building creative partnerships.  It is by invite only, by simply asking for the pioneer password. The aim is to encourage folk with a pioneering heart and is jointly hosted by Mission Resourcing Network and Uniting College.

3:45 – 5:15 pm Social media as fresh expression of mission

The digital world is a fast moving frontier. This session with explore the potential of blogs, Facebook, Twitter for congregations and communities in mission. The content will cover getting started, strategies for effective network and the shape of mission theology for a digital world. The aim of this session is to both upskill and encourage local churches to think about their use of the internet.

7-8:30 pm Social media and justice-making in God’s mission

This session will explore the relationship between social media and justice-making. Can the use of social media be an outworking of “Your Kingdom Come”? If so, how? The session will share stories from around the globe mixed with theological reflection. The aim is to explore the potential and pitfalls that face those surfing the digital frontier.

Registration Form: low res here, high res here

New Media Easter: Present and Past

It's Good Friday again [comes every year, doesnt it?] and there are plenty of Easter downloads from sites like The Work of the People [some of them free] and other Easter media available online. In the UK, people are talking about Si Smith's Easter creation and bloggers Ben Edson and Tractor Girl are rebelling against people downloading Delirious songs as part of an Easter Facebook strategy to help them reach Amazon Number 1.

Ahhhhh . . . Happy New Media Easter 2010

Now, for the fun of it, lets go back a decade, before Twitter, before Facebook, before broadband allowed us to download big files.

Lets go back to Easter 2000

In 2000, our family arrived in UK in time for Easter. It was our first visit to UK and the alternative worship movement had spurned some incredible new media worship resources. I was traveling around the country over Easter. These were some of the highlights.

1. At Springharvest, where I was invited to speak about the postmodern church in USA, I saw Jonny Baker lead a multi-media communion service using 5 different videos at the same time. BLEW ME AWAY! Seriously. I had never seen that many projectors in one room. I was hooked. Jonny later started a blog series of worship tricks.

article3_01-1.jpg2. In London, I attended Vaux for their Easter service. Incredible media, thanks to the video geeks at that church, but the highlight for me was a slow animation [flash?] of a rotating crown of thorns with poetry. The video I took at that service was some of the first alt. worship footage that most Americans had ever seen. I think the file was less than 2 Megs, which back in 2000 took a really long time to download.

3. While at Vaux, I met Steve Collins and heard the story of the multi-media labyrinth they had designed for St Paul's Cathedral. Amazing! The following year I flew Steve to Austin, Texas for our Epicenter event and he brought the labyrinth with him. By then, it was renamed "Prayer Path" and came packaged in a box. A flash experience of the labyrinth was created a few years later.

labyrinth at st pauls

4. Also in 2000, perhaps the greatest alt. worship book ever, called "The Prodigal Project: Journey into the Emerging Church" came out in time for Easter. The interactive CD in the book gave us a look at what the Kiwi's and Aussies had been doing at Easter through the 90's - highly inspirational.


If I get some free time over Easter, I might threw up some of those videos and images here on this post. Until then, I wish you a wonderful Easter weekend.

The Virtual Church: Keeping it Real

Today is Mass Blogging Day which has nothing at all to do with a virtual Roman Catholic eucharist but rather is about a number of bloggers writing today about the Web, and in particular its relation to church and mission. Many of us are meeting in LA in September at the Christian Web Conference. Actually, one of the highlights of the conference is a debate on the on-line church between myself and Matthew Anderson of the excellent blog Mere Orthodoxy. Matt will be taking the more conservative approach to new media and I will be arguing the positive.

Heres my little blog entry on the topic of virtual church. Its called The Virtual Church: Keeping it Real.

Some people have asked if the online virtual church can be a real church. The common misconception is that the invisible is less real than the visible. As if the physical and touchable is the standard of reality and the virtual its poorer shadow. Can the virtual ever be as real as the non-virtual?

This raises many questions regarding the ministry of the church:

Did that global-based web-community experience "real" fellowship or should they all fly to the same city to do it right? Did the pastor's phone call count as "real" counseling or do we demand a return to the neglected practise of pastoral home visitation? Did those Christian soldiers in WWII experience "real" church as they sat around the radio broadcasts, or just a shadow of the real? Did those paypal money transfers to missionaries constitute "real" giving and therefore "real" worship? Can the church, in its web-based forms, utilizes on-line tools to achieve real and legitimate forms of spiritual expression?


16.jpgFirst of all, a confession. I also like touchable stuff. I recently bought an old vinyl record and thoroughly enjoyed the ritual of gently slipping the album out, sniffing the musty smell of the paper sleeve, reading the words on the cover as I placed this gorgeous shiny black object on my record player. It was a product that I could touch and feel. More than music, it was a sensual experience and far more memorable than my last music purchase on Amazon.

Amazon, for me, was not nearly as satisfying. I sent them some virtual money and they sent me a virtual electronic letter containing a virtual password so I could download a virtual record. I bought the "album", I guess, but it wasn't nearly as satisfying as buying an old smelly vinyl record.

Did the sum of those numbers I downloaded amount to a "real" album? Did they send me a "real" product? Is Amazon a "real" shop?

Actually, I dont think the employees at sit around asking themselves if they are a real shop. They are more concerned with connecting products to consumers. They want to succeed in business more than they want to satisfy their philosophical yearnings to appreciate their identity as a virtual, online shop and the metaphysical differences between them and their brick and mortar equivalents. A shop sells books. Amazon sells books. It is probably a shop, but most people dont care if is a shop at all. They just want to get their dang music and enjoy it.

Same with church. Why ask if an online community is really a church when we can ask "how can we as the church use the tools of the internet to fulfill the church's mission"?

Obviously there are some functions of church that are done better off-line than on-line, especially when I consider how the church functioned in the book of Acts. Breaking bread, for example, has no online substitute. Experiencing the awe of God together needs a physical expression. Getting persecuted or martyred is not the same online, although it is little less messy. I would add evangelism and missions to that list. The moment we substitute actually going and entering peoples homes to eat with them (Luke 10) with some form of distance-based mediated communication strategy, or replace missions with just sending a cheque and not going ourselves, is the moment we as the church stop running on all cylinders. But the church in both its off-line and on-line expressions often fail in this regard. In fact, I have been to off-line churches that promised a "service" and neglected to serve the communion meal. The worship service had teaching, singing and praying, but they didnt serve any food. There was no love feast, no breaking of bread. How can it be "church" when there is no breaking of bread? Shouldn't we do this in remembrance of Jesus every time we meet or am I reading the wrong Bible? Maybe the off-line church needs to get "real" as well as the on-line church.

I could digress here, and probably already have, but lets get back to on-line church. How can a church be a real church when there are no buildings, no touchable rituals, no material evidence? Can can the virtual be real?

Maybe we should think about "virtual" in a new way. "Virtual", according to Pierre Levy in his book Cyberculture, does not mean "not real" but rather it means "not yet fully actualized". "In a philosophical sense", Levy argues, "the virtual is that which exists potentially rather than actually. . . The virtual stands in opposition not to the real but to the actual, virtuality and actuality being nothing more than two different modes of reality. . . Although we are unable to assign it any spatial or temporal coordinates, the virtual is nonetheless real." (Cyberculture, page 29-30).

Could the church, then, as an eschatological promise of God's holy city the New Jerusalem, be considered virtual in its current form, as opposed to actual, but still real? I think so.

There was once a new community of believers that was having difficulty coming to grips with their virtuality. They missed the tangible nature of their previous worship, the regularity of ritual, the permanence of their building. They had to be reminded that their new worship was real, their expression was legitimate, and even though it might be invisible, it was actually a better way. Thus, we have the letter to the Hebrews in our Bible.

The writer encourages this community of "holy brothers and sisters" (Hebrews 3:1) with these words. "For you have not come to something that can be touched . . . . But you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myraids of angels, to the assembly and congregation of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous, who have been made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than Abel's does." (12: 18-24)

Their worship was real, even though it was invisible, and not because it was a virtual copy of the Hebrew sacrifical system. The writer makes it clear that even the old temple system with its buildings and animal sacrifices, laws and ritual meals was only a "sketch and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary" (8:5) something built by man after the pattern given to Moses of the true tabernacle designed by God. "By faith, we understand that the worlds were set in order at God's command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible." (11:3)

I like that. The visible is both preceded and legitimized by the invisible, not the other way around. Now thats gotta mess with your head, ay?

Legitimacy for both the touchable and non-touchable, the visible and the invisible, the tangible and the immaterial, lies in its correspondence with the heavenly pattern that originates with God - and it is something we cannot touch or see but believe by faith that it is very real.

The Hebrews writer reminds them that they are"partners in a heavenly calling" (3:1) they belong to God's house (3:6) they are aspiring to a better land (11:16), have a better hope (7:19), are receiving an unshakable kingdom (12:28) and following a better priest under a better covenant (7:22). Therefore, they are told to confidently approach the throne of grace to find mercy and grace (4:16), to exhort each other daily (3:13), share their possessions, to do good works (13:16, 10:24), not forsake their assembling together (10:25) or neglect hospitality (13:2), and continually offer a sacrifice of praise that is based on personal communication (13:16).

When I read through the letter to the Hebrews, I am reminded that we, the church of God, are essentially the invisible, virtual, spiritual, mystical body of Christ operating in the world in ways that are tangible and lasting and transforming, although not always visible. There is no defining boundary that divides the on-line church that meets in cyberspace with the off-line church that meets in buildings. We are a spiritual, invisible, community that represents the firstfruts of an unshakeable Kingdom that will last forever. We are a virtual church that finds tangible ways to live out our calling in the world, whether the forms we chose are touchable or not. Reality is not found in bricks and mortar. Reality is found in the ways in which our worship and service correspond to the God's invisible Kingdom reality and purposes.

Pierre Levy's description of"virtual as being "not yet actualized" has profound impliciations for the body of Christ as the eschatological promise of something already begun but not fully downloaded. He also says that "the virtual doesn't replace the real; it simply increases the opportunities to actualize it." (Cyberculture, page 70). The virtual online church happens every day as believers in Christ aggregate on the web around missional tasks, fulfil their obligation to each other to share all things and exhort each other daily, as they publish glad tidings daily in electronic forms that will outlast paper books, as they meet globally in ways that could never be achieved in the physical realm.

Can some expressions of church online be considered real? I say yes they can . . . if and when they mirror God's heavenly design and fulfil his Kingdom mission through his people in the world. God's Kingdom is coming, on earth as it is in heaven, and the virtual church is making it visible both offline and online. Lets keep it real!

Related on Tallskinnykiwi: Church 2.0, EmergAnt and New Media Fluency, Virtual Church in the 1940's, Is the Virtual Church a Real Church?

TSK on Relevant Mag "Linking to Cyberchurch"

Mega-Churches in Cyberspace?

Wanna help? I am writing an article on missions and post-modernities, in particular the idea of transcoding mission in a world of new media communications. It will be published [unless they think it unworthy] close to the Edinburgh 2010 events. It would be a help to me if you could read an old blog post of mine regarding scale-free networks, strategic centres and whether they will be mega-cyberchurches or not. Appreciate the response and comments.

"So will we have strategic centres in cyberspace?

Yes – we already have them. And they are increasing in size and influence. I believe we will see on the one hand, a continued de-centralisation of power away from traditional hierarchies but we will also see new centralizations around key words, online gatherings, relevant conversations, timely projects, and social communities that choose to express themselves on the internet.

I believe there will be new strategic centres that will blossom out of proportion, not necessarily formed around organizational power or geographical location, but around issues of justice, common needs and interests, commerce, recreation, and education. We will also have mega-cyberchurches, relational networks with millions of subscribers, religious blogs and sites that act as global hubs of information and connectivity. We have not yet seen how big these communities will become."

Andrew Jones, (2005) Will We Have Mega-Cyberchurches?

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Quechup Social Networking Site: Warning

There is a red flag waving in the blogosphere about Quechup, a new social networking site, and I just eliminated my account. The accusation is that Quechua is using an "underhanded" approach to request new members through mining the email accounts of subscribers, resulting in an email frenzy that is causing embarrassment and fear. That was enough to scare me out of the Quechup system, at least until things settle down and the ripples stop flowing everywhere.

I only joined yesterday at the request of friend. [Did he know he was asking me???] I noticed when i signed up that they wanted my email details and password which was a little unsettling but normal for some systems. I pretty much join all the social networking sites when i get an invite. I like to road test them and people ask me for my opinion so I need to be in the know. But this one freaked me out so I cancelled my subscription. Luckily, no invitations have issued from my account except for a friend request to the guy who invited me. WHEEEOOOWWWW!!!!

My advise is to JUMP SHIP if you are a member, until Quechua get their act together - assuming they turn this thing around. Two things you can do:
First is to make yourself "unsearchable" in your account profile.
Second is to go to "Account" and cancel your subscription.
I did both.

For the record, I have watched the progress of social networking sites, going back to The Well in 1996 when i lived in San Francisco,
which I found quite intriguing,
to Orkut in 2004
which I found too artificial,
to various Christian based sites like Xianz
which i found too insular
to sites for the very young like Bebo
which I found too juvenile,
And of course Facebook
which I find too invasive


I have to admit, Facebook has turned out to be the best and the only one worthy of my attention., I joined Facebook last year when it was a student based site because I was giving a talk to University students and wanted to be found by them. I have recently bumped up my commitment to FaceBook, am trying on a few games for size, and have gotten over my previous prejudices. It really is a great site and I might give thought to developing some apps. for it.

As for virtual relationships in general, I am a big fan of connecting on line but you still cant beat face to face. Nobody wants a virtual Christmas dinner.

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The Ugly Blogger - Wikiklesia


Despite my chapter called "The Ugly Blogger", positive endorsements for the first Wikiklesia e-book, released a few days ago, are coming in.
"The hive-mind of Christianity speaks! It brings news of the future. Uttered like a prayer retrieved from the year 2030, spoken in a new tongue, a new form. Listen!" Kevin Kelly, co-founder, Wired Magazine / Long Now Foundation.

If you have read my chapter and want to discuss it, then leave some comments below. If not, buy the book and lets talk.

Related: Wikiklesia: World's first self-perpetuating nomadic business model?

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Global Christian Internet Alliance: Day Three

tony whittakerTony Whittaker is talking now on Internet Evangelism Day which started in 2005. I remember it, actually. I think I was involved. Tony is talking about misunderstandings about the web and confusion with old media methods. GOOD! No one has really said this well at the conference until now and its necessary to talk about it. A website is not a tract. He also mentioned the Gray Matrix and tackled the 99% problem - that 99% of Christian media is written for Christians. Hhhhhhhmmmmmmm . . ..

I arrived a little late this morning at the GCIA because I had to talk to my wife. My family leave today for Freakstock Festival in Gotha, Germany. I will stay behind for my meetings here in Berlin.

Back at the conference: Eric has an amazing web portal in France called TopChretien. He has been talking this morning about how the site was developed, how partners were added, business models etc. Many people click on the site to register their interest in following Jesus and I think he is using Google earth to locate them near a church. Something like that. Its also good to see healthy approaches to business and income generation which will help these portals become self-sustaining and help other countries get going.

Thanks to Zondervan for their email newsletter yesterday that not only promoted an e-book that is not theirs (Wikiklesia) but also pointed their readers to this blog to read about the Global Christian Internet Alliance. For those just tuning in, you may want to start at Day One. Blogging From the GCIA: Day One, Day Two, Day Three

Dave Hackett talking about some really cool stuff.

Oh yeah. Last night we went out to Lukas Gemeinde and my friend Axiel gave us the skinny on Berlin. We prayed for the city and had a good time of worship. Heres a picture of us last night. Keith Stonehocker, in the foreground, is one of the main culprits behind pulling this conference together. He My wife had a great chat with Keith's wife Carolyn last night and really likes her.


This and other photos by Rolf are here.

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