:: Saturday, May 18, 2002 ::

It's Miller time! As in Dennis Miller (ranter/commentator/former Monday Night Football misfit) time. I'm going to go off on a bit of a rant here about the "e-tools" panel I was on at Search Party 2002. Joining me were Leonard Sweet, the guru of all things PoMo; Spencer Burke of TheOoze; and a guy from Global Pastors Network named Randy. As I mentioned in last night's post, I came away from that experience, based mainly on the questions we fielded from the participants, with a sense that many of us still aren't getting it as far as the Internet is concerned. We in Christendom -- even those of us trying to figure out this postmodernity we find ourselves in -- are still asking questions like "How can I make my website cool?" and debating whether or not people can develop true, authentic relationships and true, authentic community on the Net. I thought that perhaps we had moved beyond those questions and come to the point where we could talk about how the Internet is radically reshaping lives, perceptions of reality, communication, community, relationships and culture. I liked something Spencer Burke said about the Net when the issue of online relationships was raised; the questioner mentioned the "throw out the baby with the bathwater" cliche, and part of Spencer's reply was, "I'm not sure the question was even about bathing."

We've been asking the wrong questions about the Net. And we're still asking the wrong questions. Even those of us who think we get it.

What are the right questions? I don't know if I know what the right questions are. But I know some different questions we could be asking.

Instead of asking, "How can I make my page cool?" or "How can I get more hits on our church website?" or "How can I establish community with our church website?" why don't we try asking, "How can we engage Internet culture by joining in on the conversations that are happening all over the Net?" or "How can we be a part of the community that already exists online"?

Instead of talking about static billboards (websites), why don't we talk about the dynamic conversations springing up all over the Net -- on blogs, in chat rooms, over IM, on many and sundry forums, via Usenet?

Instead of debating among ourselves whether authentic community can exist over the Net, why don't we go out into all the world of cyberspace and be part of the community that does indeed exist on the Net? Who knows? Maybe the church can add some authenticity to what's there? (Assuming we have the market on authenticity.)

Instead of trying to lure people to our websites, why not go out where the people are? I got a lot out of Andrew Jones' comments about Jesus going to the parties at Matthew's house, at Zaccheus' house, etc. And sending his disciples out among the lost sheep of Israel. That seems to be a model of missional and mission-focused ministry that would work on the Internet.

Why is the discussion about e-tools in the first place? Is the Internet just a tool, something we can use to manipulate and alter our surroundings, to carve out another niche in the world? No, it's space. It's more organic than mechanical. It's a place in which relationships can occur. It's at least that, if not more.

And another thing: What's up with all of us Christian bloggers hanging out almost exclusively with our own kind online? Check out my links on the left-hand side of this site. You'll find nary a link to to non-Christian blogs or sites. How sad of me. I mean, if I have this message to get out to the world, as I claim I do, then why am I talking exclusively to the folks who know the message? I ought to be talking with these folks every once in a while, and linking to their site and their commentary. Or perhaps I should link to commentaries like these, or perhaps even post some of their thought-provoking comments. Stuff like:

Your typical churchgoing neighbor seems like a fine upstanding guy who isn’t about to stretch you out on the rack until you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, particularly when contrasted with the maniacs tossing rubber fetuses at women outside the offices of Planned Parenthood, and he probably is. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe a lot of crazy shit, and just because he doesn’t personally smear any fags does not mean he isn’t giving aid and comfort to those who would like to see your options limited.

Maybe Dr. Mike and I could have some interesting conversations.

There may be some changes occurring in this blog as my journey continues. God help me if there is no change. I'm experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance right now. But it's time once again to check the sump pump. (I'm considering a new blog just on the topic of sump pumps. Perhaps that's an outreach opportunity.)

The poor. Was glad to be able to meet Malcolm of dtour and to hear of the good work/God work going on in Sydney -- especially the work among the poor. That's the gospel, brothah. :-)

:: Andrew 13:10 + ::

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