E-Prayer? GodTube, FaithBook Just the Beginning

From the Mega Church to the 'Giga Church'

Much like FaceBook, Tangle lets members create pages of their own and then share videos, comments, photos and other content. But it also includes a Prayer Wall, which receives hundreds of thousands of new messages a day, and a virtual, interactive Bible on which members can comment and discuss.

Ministries can also create their own pages to communicate with members and have even given the offering plate a 21st century makeover.

"The whole concept of taking the plate and passing it around is our parents' generation," Illian said.

And, most importantly, now that people can easily reach and inspire through the Internet, new technology is changing the way influence works in religious communities, he said.

"Christendom is no longer led by a handful of the biggest ministries and the best-financed. It's going to be run by people who can touch other people's hearts in creative, viral and meaningful ways," he continued. "It's a complete paradigm shift. ... It's no longer a mega church. It's now a giga church."

Next-Generation Religious Leaders Adapting to Technology

Most of the leaders in Christendom don't know it's coming and, for them, it's "going to hit like a tsunami," Illian said.

But, he added, many of the next-generation leaders understand that technology is changing how religion gets done and are adapting appropriately.

Lifechurch.tv, for example, is a "multi-site church" that unites each week through a satellite broadcast from one of its pastors. It has 12 locations (or campuses) scattered across the country, but those who don't live near a physical campus can join the Internet Campus. The high-gloss, interactive Web site offers online seminars, member-written blog posts, video podcasts and an ongoing, countdown to the next virtual sermon.

Islamictube, Naseeb.com, Muslimsocial.com Reach Out to Muslim Community

Although other faith groups may not have a networking site as comprehensive as Tangle, they are also starting to adopt the new technology.

Sites like Islamictube, naseeb.com and muslimsocial.com cater to Muslim communities but religious leaders, particularly those who work with younger generations, use Facebook and other mainstream networks to communicate.

"I think that's a good thing," said Edina Lekovic, communications director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "I think that particularly in our community, we experience mosques, in the worst case scenario, that have lost touch. They're trying to do the same old tired Sunday school program."

But, she said, more forward-thinking mosques are creating Facebook pages for youth groups and posting sermons and schedules online.

"In some ways it creates competition in the marketplace," she said. "These days, you don't get off the hook."

Enough Virtual Life Already?

But while religious leaders are using new technology to recruit and reach out to members, some have a few reservations.

"I'm of a couple of minds about it," said Rabbi Howard Goldsmith of New York City's Temple Emanuel. "On one hand, in terms of communicating and teaching, I think they're vital tools. On the other hand, people look to authenticity and groundedness that is often elusive in cyberspace."

For him, Facebook is a great way to find people and let them know about temple activities. He'd even try Twitter if he could fit it in between all the rituals such as weddings, funerals and baby-naming services that call for a live rabbi.

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