October 26, 2009

Church Experiment #43: Virtual Church

I have been trying to follow God’s lead during this experiment. This week, a handful of coincidences led me to Virtual Church (www.virtualchurch.com).

First, Jim Henderson (from Off the Map) commented about Virtual Church on his Facebook page. Next, my friend Aaron emailed me about the church. Then, I had a conversation with my friends, Jason and Bradley, about spiritual miracles and wonders (healings, God giving people gold teeth, jewels falling from the sky, people being covered in gold dust, etc.).

So, I decided God might have a message for me at Virtual Church. Because a strange path led me to their virtual doors, I expected my experience to directly address our “miracles and wonders” conversation from Saturday.

Before we get there, I’ll pause to explain Virtual Church.

There is a church in Atlanta, Georgia, called The Ark of Salvation. That church has created a website where people can experience “virtual church.” Basically, you go to the site and pray, “God, please send me exactly what I need,” click on a Start Service button, and sit back to enjoy approximately forty minutes of a church buffet.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.


samarahuel said...

Yeah, I'd say the disconnectedness of Virtual Church is a turnoff. The way they put it together randomly sounds downright silly to me, honestly. You didn't mention anything about the fellowship (or lack thereof). Did you have any thoughts on that? My thoughts are that we can (and should) be fellowshipping with God each day, all the time, and setting aside some special time to purposefully open up his Word and spend time with him (Hypocrisy Alert: I admit I don't currently do this). I like to listen to sermon podcasts sometimes, but Virtual Church might be another tool one might use to stay connected with God. But we are also commanded to "not give up meeting together" regularly (be it on Sunday mornings or another time). I always thought church was supposed to be about CORPORATE worship, coming together with other believers to acknowledge God's glory, to learn how to better love and serve him, to encourage and challenge one another to do just that, and to keep one another accountable when we don't. Where does that fit in to Virtual Church? After spending a long time searching for a place that did have such fellowship, I find it hard to appreciate the Virtual Church thing. Like you said, it might be good for a week when you can't make it to your regular church (like me yesterday), but I'd be wary of making it a regular practice. A better choice might be to listen to your home church's sermon online (if your church offers that. Many do these days, and I think it's great for this very reason) so you can still be connected with your church family and held accountable by them. If your church does expositional, verse-by-verse preaching like mine, it would help you to keep up with what's coming up the next week. Another thought I had about getting into a habit of logging on for church every week: there are believers in countries who risk their lives to meet and worship together. Doesn't that say something about the value of corporate worship that we so take for granted? The early church used to meet together every day. Not that we need to do that, but it just shows how much they too valued corporate worship and the fellowship of other believers. There are just some things the internet cannot replace/improve, even with the wonders of the blogging community and such. Ok, one final thing: I'm not very familiar with this, but I've heard little snippets of the "9 Marks of a Healthy Church" philosophy (http://www.9marks.org/CC_Content_Page/0,,PTID314526|CHID616736|CIID,00.html) and it came to my mind while reading this post. According to these guidelines, the Virtual Church doesn't seem to get a clean bill of health. I'm just interested in what you and other commenters might have to say about that.

Ruby Red Slippers said...

Interesting church, this virtual church...I know someone who works the night shift, and this could be something for him, or those unable to leave their homes-

You also asked for some church ideas that do healing, and miracles-I know of one, but have not been there (but there is quite a buzz about it, around here-)
It is in Ann Arbor, Michigan
and it is called Shikina (not sure on the spelling)
It is a church that regularly practices healing, miracles,offers classes on that kind of stuff- From what I understand-the minister is a female, and the "Shikina" name comes from the female "part" of God's spirit. (A bit "out there" for me-but maybe something you want more info. about.)
If you can't find it, email me, and I am sure some of my hubby's relatives can get me more info.-they have gone, and think its really neat...

Lydia said...

Hey Steve,

What an interesting service you had -- I may check out the virtual service. I don't know, I get a little impatient having to just listen....

As far as healing ministries -- I have seen many miracles at our church, but they are not necessarily every week and they are certainly according to the flow of God. Also, we are out in Iowa, so it's a bit of a drive. sorry.

I would suggest that if you would like to know more about healing ministries, you could check out Joan Hunter Ministries. She was in our area, and many people that I know personally were healed, we did not know her personally, so it was not some staged thing. Her parents had a ministry that was prevalent for many years as well.

I would mention that some of the people I know were not healed when they were there. I don't know why, I'm just saying what I saw.

She travels all over the place, so it maybe you would have the opportunity to see a healing service.

Ruby Red Slippers said...

Here is the link-I just found it:
You want something different, radical-this could be it! And maybe UofM is playing at home, and you can make a weekend of it-I Know how you Ohio people just LOVE the University of Michigan!! ;)

Anonymous said...

Have you considered visiting the Cincinnati House of Prayer? They have an 'end times' focus, but if you needed prayer for physical healing - I believe they could do that for you.

Great blog posts! Thank you for sharing your expeiences with us!

As for the virtual church. I think if you sit down and pray "please God talk to me through this sites random pairings," it makes you the focus and not God, and it kind of takes away from the intimacy aspect of our relationship with Him. But if that's the only option someone has...

and there is the whole 'Acts church' issue. How can you build community - eat, sleep, minister together over the computer...?

Anonymous said...

I too was going to suggest the Cincinnati house of prayer. It not really a church but definitly a place you could exxperience the more supernatural aspects of the holy spirit in a sfae place.


ylmurph said...

sadly it's the wave of the future - less about community, more about the show. Church is now the place you go on Sundays, not the community you live in...so someone can just turn on the computer and get the same meeting.
tv church is upon us...

I thought it was funny that his talk was about 1. planning & 2. prep...and he ran out of time.

bshawise said...

sean, i wonder if it's really the wave of the future or just the new way of church being a weekly event. i don't think it's a new trend that Christians aren't finding real community on the weekends. seems like it's the problem church folks have been trying to solve for years. virtual church on sunday combined with a wednesday bowling league seems no better or worse than the current system.

ylmurph said...

you're probably right - I just wonder if pandering to the easy crowd, or lowering the bar, is really what people are looking for. I wonder if the sterile American church that largely just sort of shows up, online or otherwise, isn't more of a turnoff than a life changing movement that changes lives and nations?
There are lots of ways to build crowds - I'm just not sure that's the point.

Daniel Kalbach said...

Church in a Snuggie?

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for a Cincy church with healing, you might try Truth & Destiny Covenant Ministries. It's a mostly black, mostly LGBT Baptist/Pentecostal-style church in Northside, although they mix spiritual healing with admonitions to live a healthy life and see a doctor as needed. Because of the demographics it really wouldn't be appropriate to take pictures/video etc.

Christine said...

The UM/OSU game should be the last one of the season, but I don't know if it's in Ann Arbor this year...

Jen in Japan said...

First time commenting but I've been reading since week 12 or so. I've really enjoyed reading and this week's was particularly interesting. I don't currently live in an area where I can easily go to church (Japan!) and I've often considered going the virtual route but I've always balked because for me church was more than just a sermon and a few songs. I can experience God outside of a church building, but it's the community of people that make it worth it for me. Of course my alternative is to not go or try and go and not understand anything. Maybe I'll go ahead and give this a try to see how I like it though.

Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.

And sorry, one nit picky thing. I'm not saying you got it wrong but the pastor did. This is an Eleanor Roosevelt quote.

Be Thou My Vision said...

Great post! Nice comments from people-- I learned a lot. Thank you for sharing this to everyone!

Solmead Fairdale said...

I went to a church for 10+ years called "The Gathering Place" on dixie hwy south (http://thegatheringplacechurch.com)
This is a church where a least once or twice a month they instead of a normal sermon have prayer services. (And you never know when walking in if you were getting a sermon or what this week, they claim to be following the holy spirit in this)
1) I'd be interested in your take of the place.
2) If your looking for a place that does active prayer, and healings, with falling out in the spirit, etc. This might definitely be a church to try.

One warning it is a small church of about 150 people, so you will definitely stand out. But they tend to be very friendly people.

inthedesert said...

Steve, thank you for sharing your journey. I just stumbled upon the blog and read the 43 experiments in a couple days. The most striking is your identification to the Elder Brother of the Prodigal Son story. I do think there is a "third" unnamed brother in this story. I mostly relate to him (or a sister, as I am female) and maybe you might as well? The younger brother- we eventually relate to him because we realize we all need to come home, having strayed. And the elder brother- well after we have truly come home, we look upon any younger brothers as our Father does and we "high-five" Him with joy that another brother has come home. But what I find now (my current walk in the desert) is that I am the third brother-- the one who holds great resentment toward the Elder brother! I get so angry at the way he thinks he is so 'good' and I hate his self-righteous ways and his attitudes. THAT is what you speak of! It actually gets so annoying and so unpleasant that we stay away from the King's home. It is not that we don't come home because we fear our Father's rath. No, we KNOW our Father loves us unconditionally. That is why it is so sad for us. We stay away because we cannot stand our elder brother with is platitudes and certainty and answers to all things God. I decided I have an unforgiving heart toward the Elder Brother! I have to forgive him. I realize that Jesus had the most difficulty with the religious and the Pharisees. I too, have the most difficulty with them. Perhaps as we get closer to knowing Jesus, this is our realization. But what did Jesus do? He did rebuke them and he did try to educate them. But in the end he forgave them..."Father forgive them they know not what they do" And that is where I am - not necessarily ready and able to forgive, but realizing I must.
Thank you for the blog on the Prodigal Son/Elder Son....it really allowed me to analyze which one I am-- and now I think I am the 'third' son.

Amanda Carmen Bower said...

Interesting concept ... I don't think I could do virtual church on a regular basis.

Also, you STILL have not visited an Episcopal Church!!!!!!! You just can't get a feel for the whole spectrum of American churches if you leave out the Anglicans! Where else are you going to find a choir where nearly 1/2 of the singers are paid?! Well, anyway, if you have time on a Sunday morning, I wish you would come to Christ Church and see what a traditional Episcopal service at a Cathedral is like!

Check out the website for more info:

p.s. The services are really beautiful at Christmas time! (we sing lots of Christmas carols too!)

Amanda B.

Blackbeauty said...

Greetings everyone : )

Nice piece Steve. Thank you for posting the 7 steps on here. I’ll probably give the Virtual Church a try, however I would much rather be viewing a video than listening to an audio recording. When you said “Virtual Church”, I automatically started imagining images popping up on my computer screen; similar to those on virtual computer games. Anyway, as you said, I’m sure many could benefit from such a service.

~~~ In spirit we press on ~~~