Lately, I’ve been reading several things on the flattening of the world and the technological revolution that has taken place over the last few years. The two I’ve read most recently are The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman and Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Dan Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. All of this has me thinking about possibilities for the Church. How can we faithfully use the latest techno-cultural developments to help make disciples of Jesus Christ?
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, because there are some really smart folks who have discussed these issues (eg. Tall Skinny Kiwi’s post on Church 2.0). There are several others within this link that have some good thoughts as well.
So, how could this work for we United Methodists? What about Wesley’s small group accountability systems? Could we use technology to form groups of like-minded clergy and laity into accountability groups via the web? Privacy might be the biggest issue here, but it would allow methodists from all over the world who take discipleship seriously to take part in a group.
What about communication? Could districts communicate more effectively through blogging? A recent communication through my district has made me think about this. Our district superintendent recently sent out an email on an important social issue (torture, to be more specific) with some of his thoughts on a resolution that was voted on at Annual Conference. Some people have carried on an ongoing debate by replying to all of the people on the email list. If this communication took place via blog, it would probably encourage more effective debate and interactivity on all things communicated through our district office. In a rural geographically spread out district like ours, this could be an excellent source of community as well.
What else can we think of? On this note, I know our youth are far more cutting edge than we are with their involvement in interactive relational networks, something Gavin Richardson has spoke about in the past.
OK, what about our conferences? How should our communications departments be handling Web 2.0? What about web visionaries for each conference who could lead the way for our congregations?
Let’s think about this – where can we be on the edge of technology instead of catching up?
4 thoughts on “Wesley 2.0”
Matt – Thanks for raising these questions. I think that this is an important issue for the UMC and other denominations moving forward. I like your idea of a district blog. You are right, “reply all” discussions are not the most effective means of continued conversation. Part of the issue is that there needs to be a good deal of participation for it to be effective and there is a degree of familiarity that is needed for good participation. Sometimes I think that it is a Catch 22 situation – if a new technology is to be proved or disproved to be effective it needs to be tested. However, there may be hesitation to try new things that have not yet been proven effective.
I think that there is value in leading up or from the side as opposed to top down in this and other issues.
I agree with Andrew’s comments about district blogs. I think that is probably one of the areas that you lifted up that has the most potential for making a relatively immediate impact.
One of the problems with technology is that people are coming at it from so many different places. I am a very young pastor, but I still had no experience with blogs until a few months ago. I could see that it might be very difficult and unsettlig for some of the older clergy members of the conference to be forced to use a blog as a means of getting important district information. (At the same time, I want to be clear that there are many older folks that are far more tech-savy than I am…)
On the accountability piece. I think there is some potential to create communities of support and encouragement for growing in faith. But I also feel like online relationships have their limits. I have been able to stay in touch with a brother in Christ from my seminary days and we do continue to hold each other accountable. But, I think that works primarily because we had three years of time where we were interacting on a nearly daily basis.
I guess I have to say that I don’t know what the limits are. They are probably much less than I think they are. But, for me, the question that comes up is what role does the incarnation play in our thinking about the uses and limitations of technology. I.e. Jesus didn’t appear on a youtube video, but he walked and talked and lived among us. I’m not trying to be flippant, obviously the world has changed a lot. But my guess is that he would still appear in a specific place among a specific people.
I bet he might blog too… but I think he would still primarily minister with people that he is physically with.
You guys bring up several great points. Kevin, I knew you’d have some thoughts on the “e-accountability” issue, and I was hoping you’d share them.
Incarnational thinking is going to be really important in this discussion. Is incarnation only embedded in physical presence and proximity? My initial thoughts affirm this, but there might be something deeper to think about. That being said, I think I agree with your specificity comments about Jesus.
The age and techno-savvy that you two mention is important. Do we minister using the lowest common denominator? Maybe. That might be another expression of reaching out to the least, the last, and the lost. Perhaps blogging, technology, etc. are exclusive technologies that neglect those who cannot afford to participate in these communities (i.e. many around our world and nation).
Thanks for the stimulating thoughts!