Open internet, open church? New community structures in the global church

Opening Keynote: Open internet, open church? New community structures in the global church - Roger Schmidt, Digital Encounters (Hexagone)

Roger Schmidt took us for a tour de force of the history of the internet.

1.        In the beginning the Internet is used as an Information Superhighway. Information in large scale is retrievable through the Internet.

2.        The next step defines the Internet as the social web. No longer is the Internet a network of information, but of everybody. Everybody are able to connect and share. Everybody can participate.

3.        The present age. Internet of Everything. Everything is connected. We are all having our mobiles connected etc. Connections are no big deal anymore.

The advantages are many, but is the Internet only progress. Roger Schmidt mentioned four areas, where we think we are free, but the freedom can be questioned. (From the book Digital Freedom Traps by Werner Thiede.

1.        Political freedom trap. Are we free or are political systems and major companies retaking the freedom given by the Internet.

2.        Ecological freedom trap. Use of paper can be avoided, but whar about IPhone trash. Damage of radiowaves etc.

3.        Life-practical freedom trap. Freedom from certain places is perhaps also a trap as we have to check Facebook, emails etc. allways.

4.        Spiritual freedom trap. We are trying to give people online pastoral care, but we are losing connections.

From these reflections Roger Schmidt continued to reflect on, what are the conceptual place of the church in the internet age.

The church are defined by what it is doing. This is defined by three theological keywords. 1. Kerygma. 2. Leiturgia. 3. Koinonia. 4. Diakonia. The Church is, what it does.

The first definition of the church of old age is from the apostles creed:

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. There is only one church. To be a member is to join this one church.

In the age of the Reformation the protestant church kept the notion of the church being one, but interpret the one church as the local parish church. The consequence is, that the local church doesn’t need anyone else.

But eventually came a longing for a wider conception of the church. The longing began at the time of the imperialistic age of Europe. Storries where told of heathens, missionaries travelled to preach, and Christian congregations were born. But it was distant. Along the technological revolution the possibility to meet was a reality. And Christian leaders were enthusiastic, as formulated by Jogn R. Mott: “Organising the global church has never been so easy. You can be anywhere in the world in three weeks by steemboat.”

Churches connected. WCC was founded. The local church can connect to the global church.

But still fellowship is limited. How much are communities able to travel? How many members take reel interest? Only rich people can afford to travel.To many Christians the local church remains their only need.

The thesis of Roger Schmidt was that we for that reason need to approach a definition of the church as para-local. The means, that the church is rooted and serving in a particular context butat the same time connected to the universal church. It thinks of itself as  holy church but not as the whole church.

So: How does the para-local church use the internet?

Roger Schmidts approach is his project described on his homepage:

“The Internet is offering new possibilities for churches and Christians around the world to get into closer contact, to learn from each other, to serve jointly and to pray together. Digital Encounters is developing new methodologies with and for the global church to do just that. And you can make it happen wherever you are. Let’s work together.”

For further investigation visit the homepage.