On Saturday I spoke at conference in London about what the future of the church might look like. I focused on the themes of social media, the digital explosion and how huge a sociological change it all really is. My goal was to show the links between technology and spirituality.
The main challenge I brought to the room was that we need to move from what I’d call “Church 1.0″ to “Church 2.0″.
“Web 1.0″ refers to the era of the internet where sites and information were mainly passive and static. You went online to read information then walked away to do something with it. Web 1.0 used to be revolutionary but now it just feels boring and lacking in participation.
Web 2.0 refers to the way the ‘net is today – active and participatory. You go on Amazon.com and they suggest books you’ll like based on what you’ve previously ordered. You search using Google and it knows where you live and what you’ve searched for before, so it feeds back intelligent results tailored for you. This is normal now, but wasn’t before. This is Web 2.0.
In 2.0 we get to SHAPE our digital environment, rather than just passively OBSERVING it. If we buy the book Amazon suggests to us, we can then leave a comment about whether it was good or bad. On social networks we get to shape the platforms with our own content. As a result we are no longer used to being PASSIVE. We no longer just sit and receive broadcasted information (like listening to radio, or watching non-interactive TV); we have a voice, power, a platform and it’s become the norm.
So what’s that got to do with Church? Well, think about your church. Is it 1.0 or 2.0? A 1.o Church would look something like this: a few people up the front ‘doing things to’ the people in the seats. Broadcasting pre-written material to people while they sit and watch. Standing up the front with a guitar and pre-chosen set list, singing them with your eyes clamped shut and no knowledge of how the room are responding. This, from the many people I’ve chatted with, is how their average Sunday looks. It feels very 1.0 and is increasingly alien for a young generation who have been brought up with Web 2.0 as their everyday culture.
So what would “Church 2.0″ be like? I believe it would be a participatory experience. No one would be a passive bystander. Those in the room would SHAPE the content and the flow as it takes place. No one could be bored as all would be involved and engaged. The service would reflect who was in the room. If different people attended, then the content would be different as the room are SHAPING it. No one would wield all the power; it would be COMMUNAL. It would be hard to tell who’s actually leading the service as everyone would be such a vital part.
I feel this is what is missing in our churches and what is causing many young people and 20s/30s to leave. Culturally we are used to 2.0 culture and when we don’t find it in Church, it’s likely that leaving will be the response. Practically speaking, it’s tough to figure out what Church 2.0 would look like. For example, how would a sermon look that was crowdsourced and crowd engaging? Isn’t one person broadcasting from the front for 30 minutes the epitome of 1.0 culture? Or is the concept of oratory still valid today? Do we need TED style talks of 18 minutes, then a free for all where a wireless mic gets passed around for anyone to comment?
How would sung worship in a 2.0 model look? Would we crowdsource the choice of songs and hymns via Twitter or a Survey Monkey poll? Would we cease having a band/organist and just start songs spontaneously?
Does Church 2.0 need a building at all? In Acts we see Jesus-followers meeting in home and doing life together. Is the money we spend on huge buildings and their upkeep something needed, or are they just adding to the static, non participatory sit-and-watch culture of 1.0?