When you think about all the pros and cons of the internet one topic always seems to surface, the fact of community. There are both positive and negative aspects to online community but there is no denying that online communities have formed a spiritual and relational tidal wave that is sweeping our world.
The fact is that the internet allows for community in a unique and powerful way that has never been possible until this millennia. Look at the explosion of sites like MySpace or Facebook. Go to any college or high school in the U.S. and you will find people who are living in community on the internet. Now more than ever even the older generations are utilizing the internet to find communities of like-minded people. This networking is growing every day and is exciting to some and very scary to others.
As Christians we must do more than just realizing the fact that online communities are changing our world. We must actually begin to embrace this change and use it for God’s glory. It is true that the internet’s unique and powerful opportunity for community comes with some negative repercussions. One, the availability of all kinds of sin and temptation at your fingertips. Two, the lack of accountability for what is done within online communities. There are many more, but my focus is not on these negative repercussions. Rather, on the benefit that we as Christians can bring to God’s Kingdom if we will embrace the concept of digital community and use it strategically for His purposes.
I believe God frowns when His people are cynical toward new or progressive concepts such as online communities. I can just hear God saying, “Why not use that for my glory?” So why don’t we? I mean, why not really use it! Why not get involved in such a way that we, as Christ followers, become some of the forerunners in this digital age instead of always the tale sniffers?
When we see something like online communities exploding across the world, most of which seem to be ran by people who could care less about Christ…why as Christians do we not get some unction in our function and start figuring out how to compete? The apostle Paul was a competitor! He competed for lost souls by which he became all things to all men in hopes that he might win some for Christ. (1Cor9:22) He also said he ran this race of life as to win the prize! (1Cor9:24) Sometimes I wonder if we get more excited about our kids little league soccer competitions, Sunday afternoon football, or climbing up the corporate ladder, than we do the competition for lost souls!
Paul was a great winner of souls because he was available. Simply, he was willing to do God’s work in God’s way! (K.P. Yohannan) Paul didn’t limit God’s avenues of reaching the lost, he was on the cutting edge.
It is time as Christians that we make online communities a priority! Very simply, we are losing the race. A whole generation is being impacted in online communities and we are sitting on the sidelines booing! If we are going to bring the transforming love of Christ to all nations and fulfill the Great Commission (Matt28:19) then we must not forget about the new nation of “the World Wide Web”. So far, it is our great omission within the Great Commission…But I believe this is changing…
What must we do to continue the change? First of all, get involved in a Christian online community. Use it as a tool to disciple and edify other like-minded people. For the more experienced and those with bedrock integrity, get involved in a non-Christian community like Myspace or Facebook and let your light shine! Further, make your voice heard. Support the pioneers who are out there trying to make a dent in the internet for Christ! Encourage your local church to put a budget toward online marketing or to partner with an online Christian ministry. Lastly and most importantly, support Christian online community! We need more places on the internet that are safe. Places where you can tell your kids that it’s okay to chat, it’s okay to get advice. Support online communities that you feel are spreading the gospel and if you can’t find one start one! Online community is here to stay. Question is: in the online arena, are you a contender or a spectator? Let the Gospel ring loud in all our communities! Christ in us, the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27)