UPDATE: Read Kingdom's Grace's take.
Bob Hyatt has some fun with my previous post – a response to his two recent Out of Ur posts – There Is NO Virtual Church 1 & 2.
In his response he points to the Perry Noble video (also discussed @ Out of Ur) where Perry goes off on those leaders who would dare express concern about Video Venues (and, by extension, "Internet Church" one might reasonably suppose.)
Perry's argument is basically, 'I have a big church. You don't. Since size is proof of God's favor, shut up.' Pure power pragmatism – the engine that drives much of the Western Church. (UPDATE: Read my friend Dan's post on Perry's video.)
Bob then decides to add a bit more fuel to the discussion's fire and says,
…here's where I'll go ahead and tick off the other side of the spectrum.
Me and my buddies sitting around the firepit in my backyard is not church either – absent things like praying together, teaching the Word to one another, the sacraments, some sense of accountability and discipline, biblical eldership (and many other things)…
What I'm saying is that it's easy to look at the internet church and call it lacking and silly. Shooting fish in a barrel.
But I think the "de-churched" movement makes the same exact mistakes (albeit in a less technophile way) and just doesn't see it.
What follows is most of my response from the comment section of Bob's post.
As to shooting fish in a barrel, I hate fish but I will comment on the de-churched.
At one level, if one is a believer in Jesus Christ, it is impossible to be de-churched. It is possible, however to be De-Institutionally Churched. (And yes, we will avoid the acronym for that.)
Most of the folk I know who have walked away from the Institutional Church had been leaders therein and were rather badly hurt in their experiences. The "Not EVEN Virtual Church" of their experience left them profoundly gun-shy on one hand, and craving something a little closer to what they saw promised in the New Testament. (Though thankfully, the NT is full of problematic expressions of church as it tells God's story of real people.)
Relationships across fire pits where conversation continues into the wee hours of the morning, speaking of the things of God with wounded brothers and sisters who hunger for a holistic Gospel is a lot closer to a "virtual church" than is the consumer-driven model of much, if not most of the church in the West. (As the graphic says: Virtual = almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition.)
Focus on the Sunday morning service, on the primary importance of the preaching/teaching surrounded by great music, entertaining children's ministry and good coffee for the 30 minutes folk hang around after the service (in deep hunger for actual relationships) has turned the Western church into a deliverer of feel good infotainment built around effective pulpiteers (or at least those attempting to be).
As our friend, Dave Fitch says,
I fully grant that good teaching is necessary and it feeds the soul. (I regularly defend the 9 a.m. communal teaching hour at our church as essential.) Certainly consistent doctrinal exposition of texts is important on an interpersonal dialogical level in a smaller class room type setting. Unfortunately in larger arenas, the retention rate is next to nil from week to week. Good charismatic (entertaining?) preaching soothes the soul as opposed to feeds the soul. It can become a consumer item, even if it is expository preaching. Under these conditions, Christians, who are told to connect to the local church for the sake of their discipleship (as opposed to being part of a politic of mission in the world) – will naturally gravitate towards the most exciting preacher. They will leave the previous church because “I wasn’t getting fed.” For the small community churches of modernity therefore, whose members are graying, who are seeking new and younger members to replenish the dying saints, they must compete for the remainders of Christendom by presenting the Bible in as compelling and entertaining a way as they can muster. To those who can’t compete, they are in a quandary. (emphasis added)
Perry Noble's position on this is simply the logical place to be – based on what he's been taught the Western Church looks like. He's used the Hybels-Warren-Young Jr. model to build a big enterprise with lots of happy-clappy butts in the seats. The fact that the community has not changed dramatically around said enterprise does not even enter into the picture.
It's not about Luke 10 – it's about moving from Good to Great. And Perry would tell you he's done that – and from his perspective, I daresay he has.
The conversation continues here and @ Bob's Blog.