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Will church go the way of the bookstore?

Will church go the way of the bookstore?

…in the Meantime author, David Lose, asks if churches and bookstores are on the same path:

When I read an article by Seth Godin on the woes of book publishers recently, I couldn’t help but think about the similarities between the situation he describes and the challenges facing our congregations.

His summary statement of the problem is striking:

…the challenge the big book publishers are facing is that a perfect industry is being replaced by one filled with chaos and opportunity.

What does he mean by “perfect”? Simply that book publishers – and the stores that depended on them – enjoyed a monopoly on the means of producing and selling books. As he writes,

Limited shelf space plus limited competitors plus well-understood cost of creation and production meant that stability reigned. The industry was polished and understood.

For three hundred years or so, book publishing had nothing in common with technology businesses where the underlying economics of the business were questioned regularly.

Substitute “church” for “book publishers,” make just a few contextual adjustments, and you’re almost there. We, too, operated within a near “perfect” industry in that as long as a significant percentage of people went to church we enjoyed something of a monopoly. While we might have competed with ourselves (Methodist vs. Lutheran vs. Presbyterian, etc.), our culture placed a high value on church attendance – think of the “blue laws” that governed most states. This ensured that we had very little competition on Sunday mornings. For that reason, for about three hundred years or so (at least in this country), we in church leadership also had little reason to question our practices.

Read more here.


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Josh Magda

Ann, I am glad you are having good results on Second Life (seriously) 🙂

My experience is that something happens in Spirit through physical presence that does not happen in virtual contexts. I could give some examples but you can probably think of many. I am unwilling to follow the many suggestions on this thread suggesting physicality is optional to corporate worship, which, along with the rest of our neurotic culture, denies our social primate identity as well as our larger identity as psycho-physio-spiritual beings. I am interested in wholeness, and I don’t think we can reach spiritual wholeness by pretending that we are computers who can choose to interact through a number of “mediums”-physical space being one of the “options.”

As I said, the fact the church spaces are not welcoming is the fault of the Church, not the “medium” of space- and we must honor the wholeness of individuals by inviting their whole selves into sacred space with us.

Ann Fontaine

Josh- my experience tells me you are incorrect in your assumptions. All your “cannot’s’ do not make our experience false. YMMV but please don’t assume universal truth.

Josh Magda

For once, I find myself agreeing (mostly) with Bill. Just as watching a telecast of church is not the same as going to church, an online discussion forum is impoverished human interaction, avatar mediated worship is no substitute for corporate worship.

And why? Because Place cannot be replaced.

We are more than informabots exchanging information- our bodies are incarnations of Spirit- and they require place and presence- both holy gifts, along with the sacraments. The fact that LGBT people and those on the autism spectrum feel unwelcome in church speaks to the failure of churches to practice the radical welcome of the incarnate Christ, and we can and must do better (including new kinds worship spaces).

That being said, online “communities” can and do supplement a life of faith, in the way that phone calls from church friends, bulletins, sacred music cds. The problem is calling it corporate worship, which it is not.

Maria L. Evans

I am in one of Ann’s online EfM groups, and I can vouch that, when someone chooses to, the online presence and the face to face (F2F) presence can certainly create a bond that lasts. I find social networking to be the thing that has increased my very deep and real connections in the larger sphere of the Episcopal Church. It’s simply a short view to only see the online presence as a separate and false presence, and I can’t really explain this to anyone until they also make the choice to let the two spheres intersect like a Venn diagram and live in the center of that intersection.

Jim Naughton

Nothing against Second Life, but I have to ask that those who post here do so using their real names.

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