Saturday, August 18, 2007

counting worship attendance

Tomorrow as part of our morning congregation, we dedicate Grace Ngaire Russell. Her immediate family moved from the UK to NZ two years ago and as we were planning the dedication a few weeks ago, they were telling me about their use of the webcam to keep in touch.

“Oh,” I said, “The church is on broadband. Why can’t your family in UK watch the dedication live through the internet?”

A few tech experts, and a few technical trials over the last 2 Sundays, means that in a few hours, DV and TV (God and technology willing), UK-based Russell family members will be clustered around their computers watching worship at Opawa Baptist Church.

Which only leaves the question: How do we count church attendance as we move into a cyber future?

Posted by steve at 06:32 PM


  1. I know you are being facetious but it’s a sad reality that this is still the modus operandi of much of western church culture. as usual we have our score cards all wrong. we care about butts in the seats and cash in the bank more than touched lives and creative interaction.

    the answer to the question is, “who cares?”

    Comment by scott williams — August 20, 2007 @ 4:12 am

  2. … Church ‘attendance’ ? I agree, who cares ! I think it’s important to acknowledge that we do have cyber communication both typed, verbal and visual which leads to a form of ‘community’; though community-‘lite’ I might add.

    attendance vs. authentic community. We have a saying in my Maori culture : “Kanohi ki te Kanohi” – face to face: so that you can see the whites of each others eyes and allow intuition and other senses a voice. We also have another practice – hongi: the pressing together of noses symbolizing the sharing of breath ( spirit ) – ” my spirit to your spirit, you are safe with me “. The operative word is ‘intimacy’. I don’t believe cyber communities can achieve this sort of intimacy no matter how techo advanced it becomes. I believe proximity in relationships is vital in the pursuit of intimacy where all our senses can be engaged – more holistic.

    Steve, even though you live in the city of my birth and upbringing, even though I interact with you through your blog from time to time, we aren’t forming community in the intimate sense, in the sense that really counts. I may be able to watch your church services in real time in the future, that would be great, but I would be an ‘attender’ at best. If I came down to ChCh for a while, had a beer with you, struggled with scripture with you, shared a cigar, took you eelling with me, prayed together, shared breath, broke bread, ate veges etc. We would form community. But I, and others only know you through this computer screen. I cannot see the ‘whites of your eyes’.

    Attendance through a cyber future.. It’s nice, but in the greater schema – who cares, it’s not that important. Encouraging intimate, tribal-like communities where you are is more important…Anything else is gravy.

    Naku na,


    Ps – I think it’s great that this family can see this dedication from the UK.

    Comment by Tangira — August 20, 2007 @ 7:10 am

  3. Scott, you ask “who cares”? didn’t Jesus? the parable of the lost sheep? counted 99, realised one was missing, went looking?

    “who cares”? us at Opawa, who put in hours of work to try and make it possible for people half-way around the world to be part of the dedication.


    Comment by steve — August 20, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

  4. Tangira, our cyberrelationship is certainly different from a relationship in real life. but don’t minimise it. i have learnt from you. you have challenged and enriched me even though we have never met.


    Comment by steve — August 20, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

  5. … Thank you for saying so Steve, Maybe one day I’ll be down and we could hang if you’re around.

    I don’t mean to minimize, and could certainly pay you a similar compliment. But it does have a limit, and I would not want people to think that a cybercommunity could replace real time, sharing real space, old fashioned community. It’s all good ! I suppose… But I think the latter is best…Vital actually.

    Tena koe,


    Comment by Tangira — August 20, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

  6. Tangira, it is this dynamic that lay behind my post.

    Many churches seize on technology, and use it in old ways ie here is a sermon preached, now here is the podcast, here is the dedication, here is the online video of the service.

    But in my post I was wondering : by the act of going on-line – whether by website, blog or streaming video – what pastoral capacities and interactive community should be asked, and expected, of online interaction? What might be involved in “counting” in terms of allowing community on-line?

    steve taylor

    Comment by steve — August 21, 2007 @ 1:08 pm

  7. I think what we and others are doing is great Steve. Especially when we consider that we are thousands of miles apart. But what we are doing can never replace or equal the local community of friends, bro’s, sis’s that I hope you have at Opawa.

    … “what pastoral capacities and interactive community should be asked, and expected, of online interaction “? Well Steve, you are already a pastor at Opawa, so surely you don’t mean pastoring them online, as you see them on a daily – weekly basis in the flesh. Why pastor your people through the computer ? They might feel jipped if you tried that.

    Now, if you’re talking about people like me that you haven’t met or maybe you have, but they don’t live in ChCh. Do you think that you are pastoring us ? Or do you think we are pastoring you ? Can true discipleship or mentoring occur by this medium – I have my doubts. There maybe unusual circumstances from time to time, but I would hope that those circumstances would be temporary – nothing beats sharing committed, transparent, hands on, real space; and that should be sort as a priority.

    … ” What might be involved in “counting” in terms of allowing community on-line “? Why count ?…Are you talking about ‘accountability ‘ ?.. I don’t like the word personally as it has to much of a ‘corporate’, economic, top down, tinge to it. I prefer the word ‘transparency’… Anyway, I’m not sure really what you motive is in asking that, do you want to plant a online church ?

    I guess the other thing that bothers me about the promotion of cyberchurch communities etc. is that it would probably atleast take time resources away from people who could be seeking local community where they live. I would hate to think that this pursuit of cybercommunity would take away missional responsibilities in peoples own locals – would it not be another extension of insular church clubs ?

    ” What might be involved in “counting” in terms of allowing community on-line “?… I say, acknowledge that there are online communities but don’t promote it. Encourage local communities first and from there maybe reach out globally, even to the virtual… But, how do we eat his flesh and drink his blood in cyber space ?

    That’s what comes to mind so far …


    Comment by Tangira — August 21, 2007 @ 5:21 pm

  8. Interesting comments. Thank you Steve and Tangira. I like the idea that face to face allows us to be intimate, to see the whites of each others eyes, as you put it Tangira. I believe that there is truth in that, and that the best way to know a person, to understand them and to be intimate with them is in person.
    Speaking from experience, too often doing things in a cyber way can lead to misinterpretation and miscommunication. The best way to avoid that is face to face.
    However, I have been challenged by the discussions that you have facilitated on your blog Steve. I would see them as fellow believers sharpening each other. For me it will not replace intimacy – that is for the guys that I meet with for a thing we call SEA (Support Encouragement & Accountability). Tangira, I know that you don’t like the word accountability but in my experience when it is a mutual thing between brothers in Christ it is a beautiful thing.
    One thought that I had had, which you might have been thinking about when you wrote this post Steve is the idea of virtual worlds and as I have seen recently virtual congregations in those virtual worlds. Could it be possible that those virtual worlds allow people who physically live in different parts of the world to interact and have intimacy in a virtual world????

    Comment by wokboy — August 21, 2007 @ 11:09 pm

  9. And how do we do sacraments as we move into a cyber future?


    Comment by Bosco Peters — August 22, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  10. being a baptist bosco, remind me again what a ‘sacrament’ is? 🙂

    that’s like the opening guitar chords of a U2 concert, or the last glass of a great red with good friends, or the smell of a new born baby, right?


    Comment by — August 23, 2007 @ 2:08 pm

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