This then is the one thing everyone needs to know about online church: It’s not the technology. It’s the relationships.
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Today, we tend to think of a building as church. Likewise, people tend to think the online platform is church but neither of these are church. Church is a localized assembly of the people of God, dwelling, with a task.
I was so concerned about this that I listed all of the ways people would confuse technology with online church (i.e., the building for the body). [In SimChurch] I wrote:
It is critical that we do not confuse an online church with, say, a website of a real-world church. An online church is not a website (building or place), a podcast (ritualized institution), or a blog (fellowship or activity). An online church is a place where people professing to have faith in Jesus Christ gather regularly to be in meaningful community appointed to build up the kingdom—or more specifically, an online church is the confessing people gathering in a synthetic world.
When my pastor called to speak to me about online church, this was the advice I offered: Don’t worry about the technology right now (yes, it has to work, and be decent, but most people will understand if it’s not perfect), focus on building connections between people. Focus on making sure people can respond to worship, and respond to each other.
– Douglas Estes, writing for The Center for Pastor Theologians, “The One Things that Makes or Breaks Online Church“
The reason that I think my online Sunday school and online teaching experiences have been moderately successful thus far is due to the relationships that were already established prior to the outbreak. The creative challenge before church leaders, I think, is to consider how online technology can deepen existing connections while, secondarily, opening avenues for connection with those who are a new to a particular, localized expression of the body of Christ.