social networking and church hopping

I read an article today that has me thinking about the connection between social networking and church hopping. The concept is not that new, it has always existed.  It seems there has always been a certain nomadic Christian who bounces from one community of believers to the next.  But as of late it seems to be a little out of control – or greater than I have ever experienced anyway.

Here’s a quote from the article –

“We now live in an automagical world.  A world that is composed of not one future, but multiple futures. A world of self-chosen communities or tribes that are nodes in large, complex networks of such groups. A world in which hierarchical pyramids of control are crumbling and the Taylorism world of precise affluence has become a Web 2.0 world of mystical influence and social networks.”  Randy Elrod, The Death of the Alpha Leader

I do believe that social networks and technology are influencing people unlike ever before. This is due in large part to technology and its ability to connect people instantly and over a large geographic area.

I am able to watch a worship service (music and message) from many great churches all over the country thanks to streaming media over the Internet. I am influenced by phenomenal pastors and leaders (in essence sit under their yoke) by subscribing to their blogs. I even know what some of them had for dinner last night thanks to Twitter.  

As a participant I find this all very exciting and fascinating if not a bit voyeuristic. What could be better than having access to some of the greatest teaching and leadership on the planet? And, what does this have to do with church hopping?

Here’s my theory: Because of this access to other great churches and leaders, people are becoming increasingly hypercritical of their own local church and leadership. As a pastor, I find myself playing the comparison game as well. “That church (in another state) is really being blessed. I can’t believe how quick they’ve grown in such a short amount of time.” Or, “I wonder why we don’t seem to be as creative as them?”

The problem with this thinking is that technology creates a false sense of community and fellowship. Truth is, I have lots of friends and churches I attend via the Internet, but how many of them do I really know? With how many am I really able to do life with?

So, church goers are increasingly being influenced by guys who live in other places like Grand Rapids, Nashville, Seattle, or Dallas making it more difficult to be influenced by their own local pastor and community. And, because it’s unrealistic to move to one of these other cities, many are choosing to leave their current church in search of greener pastures which I believe they will never find. I don’t believe that technology will be able to replace true human connectivity. If we can’t sit down and share a meal together, then we are not in community.

The rest of the article delves more into the leadership implications of this New World. If you’d like to read it, just click HERE.

Do you agree? If you do, how do we adapt?

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6 responses

  1. Alex,

    I agree. I do see many problems that stem from church hopping via social networking and technology. I too find myself playing the dangerous and discouraging comparison game (its really a tool of satan!).

    But, at the same time, part of me says if people are being reached then do it.

    I guess I’m a little torn.

    We don’t seem to have the hypercritical problem yet. We usually chase those types off pretty fast.

    🙂

    Zak

  2. Well spoken my friend, as always. I completely agree. I have sensed it for some time, but never was able to put it into words as you have. I think there are many followers of Christ in the technical generation who are “church hoppers”. The vast majority that I know are dissatisfied with their current church and wish it could be like ____ _______’s church.
    We need to be challenged as leaders to get outside of our church bubble and to glean from what God is doing through the rest of the body of Christ. We must also protect at all costs the unity of the faith in our local congregations. The answer isn’t necessarily to tell people to stop listening to other voices. Perhaps the answer begins with our willingness as leaders to have open and honest dialogues with those whom we lead about this matter, particularly those whom we know are among the “church surfers”. Then we must gently (and forcefully if necessary) urge the hoppers towards maturity in this area.

  3. I was first exposed to Web 2.0 about two years ago while reading a magazine for educators. Since then, I have set up numerous blogs for students, teachers, and myself. I have become a member of MySpace, Ning, and Facebook. I have forgotten more 2.0 tools than I have used on a regular basis. I have used wikis and web pages. I have Twittered and Skyped. I have watched students via video conferencing. I have delved into Technorati, del.icio.us, and Diigo. My use of those networks have not been longstanding, but the social tools that I use with people I see face to face on a regular basis are going strong. It is imperative that we continue to encourage folks to build face to face relationships and let the social networking be a tool to foster those relationships. Church hopping is a symptom of a larger problem. Hoppers will find another excuse to avoid commitment to a local church if all of their computers were abducted by aliens.

  4. Great Information blog ! Thank you for keeping up the good work. I look forward to returning to your blog, and learning more from you !

  5. Usher: When will churches start looking at their own problems before they blame the parishioners?

    Deacon: What is your point Usher – the church doesn’t seem to be at fault.

    Usher: They are when they don’t see any reason to self-examine theirselves and ask themselves why people move around

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