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.