Worship Online?

Is it possible to worship online?

It’s a question churches have been asking since the World Wide Web began to gain popularity in the 90s, and it’s now a question more and more churches are taking seriously – including ours. I’d like to share with you a couple of brief thoughts on the idea.

Worship is often defined as ascribing worth to God. It is the glorification, the magnification of our Creator. Can we do this online? I think the answer is easily, “Yes.”

Glorifying God: This is an easy one! Anything you post online can be used to glorify God. Photos, artwork, blogs, music, videos – if they are created at God’s leading to bring glory to Him, then that’s what they’ll do! And of course, putting them online allows for the possibility of other people being able to experience them, which hopefully means that God will get glory from those people as well.

Encouraging community: You can worship God on your own, and it’s easy to see how the web could facilitate that. However, the Bible over and over impresses upon us the importance of community. Hebrews 10:25 tells us specifically not to “give up meeting together,” and this has been the argument of many against online worship.

So let’s get this straight: An online community is not the same as a real-world community. Therefore, an online worship gathering can never take the place of a real-world worship gathering.

Take, for example, a social networking site like Myspace or Facebook. In those virtual places, you can be an idealized version of yourself – or someone else entirely. Even if you choose to be honest about yourself online, your Facebook friends don’t physically interact with you on a daily basis. They don’t hear how you speak or see your gestures or facial expressions. They don’t really experience your family dynamic. They don’t experience all the little second-nature (or even first-nature)things you don’t post on your profile. They don’t really know you.

But people who know you in the real world can really know you if you allow it. And if those people are your online friends, they get to see your silly cell phone self portraits and the pictures of your kids that you post online. They get to read it when you update your status with something you thought was funny or profound. When you the post the video of the kid who got blasted on laughing gas at the dentist’s office, they might even watch that. (They’re more likely to watch this.) When you forget that Myspace is not private and post a blog about how your life is over because your boyfriend dumped you – with all the associated gory details – they’ll see it.

My point is, you can get to know some things about your online friends (if they’re honest), and you can get to know a lot more things about your real life friends. If you can have both in one relationship, it simply gives you another level of interaction.

So, what can happen online is the strengthening of existing relationships – and thereby the strengthening of existing communities. We can’t give up getting together – that’s where real, deep relationship happens – but when you’ve had a busy week and you only have five minutes to check your e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook, you can have some little idea of what your friends are up to. That keeps the connection open.

I believe we can use this to expand and enhance worship in our churches! We can post our creations, write our thoughts, e-mail a prayer, and others can partake! We can post a worship event on Facebook and invite our friends!

It’s a wide open world, so – as a worship leader – I decided to perform an experiment. I created a Facebook group for my worship team and anyone else who wants to join. We’re going to work together to discover how God wants to use this incredible tool – the internet – to bring glory to Himself.

How do you think we can use the internet to enhance and expand worship? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Review | From Eternity to Here

From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God by Frank Viola

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Frank Viola’s latest book, From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God is not an easy one for me to shove into a loved-it or hated-it slot on the shelf of books I’ve read. I was outraged, inspired, impassioned, incredulous, and challenged by this book.

From Eternity to Here tells of “the ageless purpose of God” in three parts, weaving what the author hopes is a compelling story that – as the subtitle suggests – dates from before time began.

I found two problems early on – one disappointing from an intellectual perspective, one spiritually disturbing.

First, I was a little disappointed to find a rehash of ideas popularized, though not originally conceived, by John Eldredge, an author whose works (Wild at Heart, Epic) have touched my life in pretty profound ways. Viola seems to borrow from Eldredge and others the idea that we are all born into the story that God is telling, though in his mind it’s a romance rather than an epic. To my relief, the book doesn’t take quite the straight line from this point that it appears to be on.

However, much more disturbing is the whole premise of part one – that God’s ultimate passion is His bride. Some reading this review may find nothing wrong with that statement, but based on my reading of Scripture I have to disagree with it. God’s ultimate passion is His glory. Everything that God does or commands serves the ultimate purpose of bringing Him glory.

Move on to part two, and we find that God is homeless and longs for a place to dwell. The God of the universe who is perfect and complete is homeless?

By this point, I just can’t believe the ridiculous statements I’m reading, and I’m finding ludicrous even much more mundane statements. Then, I read the statement that is very nearly the final straw for me – and would have been if I hadn’t promised to review the book! Viola writes that the house God is building or has built, which he has equated at one time or another to both Christ and the church, “becomes indistinguishable from the Builder.” Add to this the statement later that “the church is Christ,” and the most serious error of this book is obvious: Viola is putting God on our level.

The author has a lot of ideas here that I love. He speaks of the church not just as a group of people but – in turns – as a community, a colony, a family, a new species, even a single organism. These ideas are engaging, intelligent, and biblical. He writes, “The body of Christ exists to express God in the earth” and that “the conversion of lost souls is the means toward that end,” not a goal in itself.

One of my favorite statements from this book is this: “…one of the highest revelations you and I will ever receive is to see the church as Christ in corporate human expression.” Beautiful and true! The church is not an institution or a building or an event. It is us, and we are – in a very real way – the body of Christ, His physical expression in the world.

He also writes, “One of the greatest problems in the Christian faith today, I believe, is that Christians are taught to be salt and light in the world as individuals[emphasis mine:],” and, “…the great need of the hour is for Christians to begin learning how to gather together and embody Christ in a shared-life community where they live.”

These statements can be mind-blowing. Viola insists that the pictures of the church as the bride and dwelling place and body of Christ are not just metaphors but concrete truths. He sees and expresses the need for all its members to hold a much higher view of the church.
The problem is definitely not his high view of the church but his low view of God. The church is the body of Christ, but the church is not Christ. We are not to be equated with Him.

Christ embodies us – the church – but we cannot contain His limitless nature.

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The following bloggers are posting a review or Q & A with Frank Viola on his bestselling book FROM ETERNITY TO HERE today, Tuesday, July 21st. You may order the book at a discount at http://www.FromEternitytoHere.org – it’s also on audio book. Free discussion guide, sample chapters, interviews, and a free audio of the first chapter are available on that site also. Here are the bloggers who are participating:

Jay Becker – www.jaybecker.org
Mark D – http://deadmanstravelog.blogspot.com
Igniting Hearts – Kimber Britner – http://www.ignitinghearts.blogspot.com/
Karyn – http://tiger-kar.blogspot.com
Barefoot Preacher – http://thebarefootpreacher.blogspot.com
Every Day Angels – www.WeAreEverydayAngels.com
FaithEngineer – http://www.faithengineer.com
Kristen Schiffman – http://dancinginthemargins.typepad.com/
CrossPointe: The Church at Bevo – http://churchatbevo.blogspot.com/
Crazy Love for God – crazyloveforgod.blogspot.com
Amazima Ministries – oatsvallteam.blogspot.com
Down to Write Honest – http://downwritehonest.com
A Beautiful Mess – http://blnorth1105.blogspot.com/
The Blakes on a Mission – www.theblakesthailand.blogspot.com
Eric Jaffe – http://www.ericjaffe.org
Reconnect with God – www.Reconnectwithgod.org
2nd Cup of Coffee – http://www.2nd-cup-of-coffee.blogspot.com
Nolan Bobbitt Website – www.nolanbobbitt.com
Klappyanne – www.xanga.com/klappyanne
Daveingland – http://www.daveingland.com
Randi Jo Rooks – http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com
Ephesians Five – http://ephesiansonefive.blogspot.com
Michael Bayne – http://www.michaelbayne.net
Encounter Church Helena Blog – encounterhelena.org
Thoughts B4 Conviction N2 Action – tsharrison.blogspot.com
Edevotion – http://www.e-devotion.blogspot.com
Seeking After – http://seekingafter.blogspot.com
Eric Powell – www.encounterhelena.org
Borrowed Light – http://fbcnewlondon.blogspot.com