What’s a sideways hug? You know, it’s that sort of hug that’s not fully engaging but still make you spill your coffee. It’s a “hug” where one displays of affection to another by putting one arm around their shoulders, rather than both arms around them. Now, if it’s to avoid temptation, sending mixed signals, or causing discomfort, then it may well be justified. But, we’re not here to talk about the pitfalls of physical content amongst Christians. We are here to discuss whether or not Christianity is side hugging others socially. By socially, I mean via social media. In a few posts regarding online church, virtual discipleship, and internet ministry, some have suggested that church cannot happen online, community cannot happen online, and real ministry cannot happen online. If that’s true, then Christianity cannot happen online even through the ever increasing influence of social media.
Those who object claim it’s a sideways hug. It’s impossible to wrap your arms around someone in a virtual world, even if I do type (((((HUGS))))). Further, since there is always an out, “I never got your message,” “The server went down,” “Facebook must be changing things again,” and the like, there’s never any real commitment. Detachment from a difficult ministry situation is only an off button away.
Someone recently told me that a “real” church, as defined by the Bible, is Hands on, covenanted, baptized believers doing God’s work God’s way at place like Jerusalem, etc. Depending on how you interpret that, it could completely disassemble any notion that real church can happen online or via social media. Let’s consider that definition:
Hands on – Church requires physical contact or “hands on.”
Covenanted – Some sort of more than a sideways hug commitment to one another.
Baptized – Real Water in which to be immersed.
Doing God’s work God’s Way – The regulative principle of the Missio Dei?
At a Place – Church needs a physical place.
Of these elements, which are necessary for church?
Would you add any?
Which of these, if any, can be checked off as “possible” online?
Does that do it?
Is that definition the Christian Social Media Church Killer?
Can online church ever be more than a sideways hug?
For a related post see: Is Internet Church More Real Than Real Church?