Pseudo Social Networking

There's no substitution for authentic community

I have serious concerns with online social networks, and even more with Christian online social networks. I'm all for redeeming technology and leveraging its potential to deliver the good news of Jesus—and the ease and excitement of online ministry/community is understandable. But I'm concerned that too much emphasis is being put on building community online as a substitute for building community offline.

If ever there was a buzzword for the past several years that the church—myself included—has been in love with, it would be community. And rightly so: Community is desperately lacking. Today, 1 in every 4 U.S. households has just one person living there. In 1950, it was 1 in 10. So while we may be more connected than ever before, we're also more detached than ever.

What's my beef, then, with online social networks? Perhaps the biggest issue I have with Christian ones is that they're following the exact same path churches have been on for 2,000 years. Instead of churches permeating culture, we've created our own. We've taken the idea of church and made it a place instead of a presence. An ekklesia or "calling out" was never to be a detachment from culture (let's go meet in our own buildings), but rather a response in the midst of culture (let's be the church right here).

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

My point is that "Christian" online social networks are hardly any different from offline clubs like so many of the "Christian" buildings we meet in every weekend. They may be safe, family-friendly and even entertaining, but I've got to think there is more to life—and to God's kingdom—than that.

Moving Too Fast
I have two friends who shared a similar experience with an online matchmaking site. They both found online matches and enjoyed about nine months of dating before both couples broke up. Because of the computer-generated compatibility function, when each couple met for the first time both persons assumed they knew each other—yet they hadn't built community the way we are wired to. When things are moving that fast, someone is bound to throw up a flag and say, "Slow down!"

I'm not against matchmaking sites, but I am concerned that we let the illusion of social connection replace our ability to truly connect. I understand people chat online and swap information, but that's hardly transformation. I'd argue that the people who have a deep connection to others online have been or are in deep offline relationships with those people too.

Building the Real Thing
I'm not starting a campaign to shut down social networking sites; I'm just passionate about seeing real community. One experiment currently underway is at, where the creators are trying to get people online to meet offline. ROOV doesn't have profile pages or picture uploads or status updates. It's simply connecting people with similar interests to get them to meet offline. Rather than fast-forwarding through the fundamentals of community, they're interested in truly building it.

Let's stop building Christian bubbles and artificial community groups. Let's regulate our drooling over technology's capabilities and pray for our hearts to be broken for people who lack community. Let's put down our iPhones, get away from the computer and go build some deep relationships. Life on life. Seems to me a man about 2,000 years ago did that with 12 people ... and the world hasn't been the same since.

BRAD ABARE is director of communications for the Foursquare denomination and founder of the Center for Church Communication.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Dr. Mark Rutland's

National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)

The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!

FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.

Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.

The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.

Charisma Leader — Serving and empowering church leaders