We are the first technologically savvy generation that cannot imagine what life was like before the internet. We grew up, and still are growing, in a digital age dominated by social media and the web. Most of us even have a second identity via the internet. It’s quite amazing how quickly life has been constantly evolving, so much that sometimes we even find ourselves having trouble keeping up. As more technological innovations get thrown out to consumers, people learn to adapt and bounce off those innovations to create even more new ideas; as this continues, we experience life growing exponentially. Because our lives seem to move at a ridiculous pace, it is inevitable that people, thoughts, and ideas start to get thrown behind. It is survival of the fittest. Except, instead of it being the strongest that survive, it is the ones that learn how to adapt and keep up with everyone else that stay alive. So my big question is, how has Christianity been keeping up with the times? We see that the modern church has evolved from its predecessors, but how has Christianity made a presence on the internet? How has the internet affected Christianity at all?
Especially early on, Christian authority was prevalent among the state and the church was the central source of judgment and decision making. Traditionally, the central unit and commonplace of Christian life has been the church. We can see that the internet has impacted Christianity in more ways than one. For one, Christianity has garnered a wide range of sentiments online. As a result, many online communities and forums have risen that debate about the fundamentals of Christianity. As an open space, the internet has encourage freedom of speech and expression of ideas, no matter what they are. Because of the lack of regulations over what can and cannot be posted, as well as the ability to remain anonymous, the content on the internet has grown to contain the whole spectrum of possible opinions. Especially for kids who has grown up with the internet, the line between factual information and inaccurate information has blurred. Not only that, but with the abundance of information that both favors and refutes Christianity on the internet, it is much harder for kids to be solidified in their faith without being affected by online opinion.
Although this is how the culture of the internet has evolved, that does not necessarily mean that Christianity does not have a strong presence. Especially in the 70s and 90s, Christianity has enjoyed a growing presence through published books, radio talks, concerts, etc, despite the rise of counterculture. Billy Graham, the American evangelist, gained enormous popularity in the mid 1900s. He even became the spiritual advisor to several Presidents during the time. Today, websites that promote Christian faith and thought have grown immensely in the digital age, such as relevantmagazine.com. In my own church, our websites have become more interactive and appealing and have been effective in inviting people out to our events.
So has Christian presence been growing on the internet? It most certainly has. But like most things, Christianity has picked up on the latest trends and has made its marked on the “digital kingdom.” Although too much social media can overshadow and complicate the simplicity of the gospel, there is a necessity to continue to grow our presence in the online community. The internet is an enormous and transformative entity. Jesus has called us to make “disciples of all nations.”[i] Without exposing ourselves to the communities that largely resides in the internet, we would fall behind in terms of outreach and presence. No matter where you go, there are always opportunities to share the good news.
[i] Matthew 28:19
Photo courtesy of Winston Kim.