More people are using the internet to enable and empower communities. These online communities form cultures, learned beliefs, and values that guide behaviors.
For those seeking spiritual connection, ministry leaders play a significant role in the leadership of communities and even robust online congregations. With the emergence of cyber theology and ministry, ministry leaders are focusing on virtual church, mission, discipleship and the use of social media and academic sources online. But these ministry leaders need to understand the nature of virtual church worship and explore its potential and pitfalls critically and constructively.
Evangelism and discipleship are also conducted online. A question that every ministry leader must ask themselves is “How should Christians represent themselves online?” Finally, a ministry leader must think about major issues and their relationship to theology and cyber technology. The focus now is on the best way to use the internet and social media to spread the gospel and develop internet intelligence that integrates with faith.
What Is Cyber Theology?
Cyber theology focuses on virtual church, mission, discipleship and the use of social media and academic sources online. It explores how our thoughts and actions affect Christianity and its theology and then looks at how technology can strengthen them. Cyber theology seeks to redefine the way we transact, connect and communicate. Most importantly, it seeks to have a positive influence on the way we perceive reality and God.
Since the internet helps us control information by collecting, storing, retrieving, organizing and transmitting it, today’s ministry leaders must learn to be savvy users. They must understand strategies for protecting information, applying principles for greater reach, and meaningfully connecting with people, above data.
Proper Use of the Internet
The internet is a forum for healthy communication and the exchange of an individual’s spiritual experience. Cyber theology focuses on bridging the gaps between geography, language, and culture. A ministry can reach audiences located anywhere, from a big city to a rural town. There is no longer a geographical barrier for worship and hearing God’s Word.
However, ministry leaders must also understand the addictive nature of the internet and how urgent the need is for the Church to make its online community aware of the benefits of face-to-face connection and the dangers of technology overuse. To shed light on the difference between use and abuse, the Church must, itself, engage in proper use of the internet to promote Christian values and be mindful of human development and opportunities for personal connection.
Social Media and the Virtual Church
Almost three billion people use Facebook, and this presents an important opportunity for ministry leaders to keep up on local congregants and to engage those who have never stepped foot in the church.
Social media is how many people interact and communicate with one another, without geographical limitations. They are already predisposed to accept the communication they receive on social media. This makes room for ministry leaders to reach out creatively with the word of God. Social media also allows individuals to communicate about God and faith with one another. Building a Christian community with social media can give disciples connectivity and a sense that they are part of a congregation.
What is Theological Netnography?
In this era of the internet, research must be conducted to understand how information is digested and how the internet influences the communication of information. Theological netnography provides the methodology for collecting and analyzing data online. From this research, ministry leaders can adapt their technology and online presence to promote healthier social interactions.
What is the Value of Virtual Church?
For military service members, the elderly, shut-ins, those with limited transportation or access to a healthy local church, and a few other categories, virtual church provides a beneficial alternative. Congregants can completely immerse with the music, message, and even online chat feature. Virtual church can be viewed in real time or on a person’s own schedule.
Virtual church may also be a starting point for those who are looking for space and privacy to grow in their faith and to make sense of their spiritual curiosity.
For all of these reason, today’s church leaders must recognize the power of cyber theology and access tools to help others connect with God in this nontraditional arm of the Church.
Did learning about Cyber Theology interest you? Are you ready to take your ministry beyond the traditional to have a global impact? Regent University’s Master of Divinity Cyber Theology will prepare you for full-time ministry while you learn to teach and share the gospel online. You’ll learn how to use websites, social networking, blogs, video, podcasts, and more to engage others and create an accessible and interactive ministry in the digital age.
Regent University’s admissions counselors are ready to answer questions and help you work through financial aid so you can move ahead in this promising field. Whether you’re ready to take the leap, or simply want some more information, you can reach them at 800.373.5504.