The Horizontal Church

Chris Justice, Pastor Lee Park Church

The future of Christianity will include communities of believers meeting online in what I call the Horizontal Church, meaning that the connection of these people is sideways instead of top-down. On Sunday, I participated in what may have been a first, the taking of communion via an online connection with Lee Park Church in Monroe, North Carolina. The church is pastored by my old co-worker Chris Justice, and I “attend” services there via Facebook live streaming. This isn’t what I imagine fully as horizontal, because the event originated at Chris’s pulpit and spread out to many, but it was still a noteworthy exercise.

I participated in the parking lot of a neighborhood Kroger store via my Android phone. Can you imagine? I took communion using the same waver and grape juice kit that parishioners inside the church used. I prepared my heart, ate the bread, and drank the cup just as scripture teaches, in my car in jeans and a t-shirt, out in the middle of the world. The church had mailed me the elements ahead of time, as it did others who chose to participate remotely. The only thing I didn’t do was leave an offering, but that’s easily fixable.

If Lee Park Church continues as I think it will, it could easily become a super church via online participation. They have everything necessary: a preacher who used to be a TV News anchor and who delivers sermons with a homespun humor that is quite magnetic, a world class band and choir with excellent leadership, and now viewers can actually participate in one of the most important sacraments of the church. This is only the beginning. The technology exists to do weddings, baptisms, funerals, and just about anything else we can imagine.

Remember that what the web does best is connect people, and that connection is sideways. The web redefines the word “community,” both to the betterment and detriment of geographical communities. Who needs class reunions anymore when high school friends stay connected regardless of geography? The web will bring the world together, no matter how many bumps and potholes we discover on the road from here to there. Just look at what young people were able to accomplish this weekend using social media to organize marches to protest the inaction of our government regarding mass killings at places where young people gather, including our schools.

There’s no doubt that America is divided right now and that the world is a very dangerous place. I remain optimistic, because I feel that we have to get through this as a people, or we’ll never reach our full potential. When life senses that something is wrong, it will force us to deal with it over and over until we get it right. The church’s role here could be unique in driving people together, but we must first get over ourselves and a gospel that only divides. A church that represents the haves and doesn’t place a premium on the care of the poor and the afflicted is, in fact, a big part of the problem. This is reflected in the eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup, and it was for such that Christ paid the price of the cross.

Again, welcome to the dawn of the postmodern age.

Comments

  1. Ahh the horizontal church! Great concept and well reasoned. Makes a lot of sense. Optimistic!. But can such para social interaction take the place of a group of believers worshipping together with singing and praying and studying the Word and bearing one another’s burdens? Perhaps for many it’s an option. Thank God! Personally I still need the hand shakes and back slaps and even the hugs and tears of old and new brothers and sisters in the local assembly of believers. Nor does a pastor on a large video screen suffice for me. I need to touch and be touched. To be handed by the Word and the music and fellow believers. I need to hear their needs and sorrows and see their tears. And I need for them to see my tears and for them to hear my burdens. So para doesn’social doesn’t work for me. But maybe my four grandkids. The world is changing and God uses technology as he will!

  2. Hello Terry.
    “Online eucharist” is a very contentious issue and my remarks could be met with misunderstandings here that could unnecessarily impugn the reputations. I’d like very much to discuss this matter in a phone conversation with you, as I’ve done quite a lot of research that is relevant to this topic, and spent many hours writing on it and discussing it.
    Kind regards,
    James

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