|An Interview: Andrew Careaga
Questions presented by Fred Peatross on Thursday, June 20, 2002
"...A gentleman was speaking at an educational conference about the power of the internet. He had a great quote. He said, "We're in the middle of a revolution, and in revolutions, kings lose their heads. We need to think like a peasant."
And I think the church really needs to think like a peasant instead of like a king and in a lot of ways, that's much different than what we've done...."
Andrew Careaga is a writer and youth minister with a keen interest in using the Internet as a ministry tool. He is the author of eMinistry: Connecting With The Net Generation and E-vangelism: Sharing the Gospel in Cyberspace. His articles have appeared in Charisma, Christian Computing Magazine, Church Business, FirstPriority, Group Magazine, Ministries Today, Next Wave, and On Mission. His most recent article is titled "Church-Internet (Dis)connection" and can be found on Next Wave Magazine. Andrew's next book, Hooked on the Net, will be released in August 2002, also by Kregel Publications.
You can write Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his Web site, e-vangelism.com
1) I have spent some time reading a number of the articles you've written and I feel comfortable in saying you just might be the most wired minister in the mid-west. So with that said let me ask; how can Christians effectively engage the 3 million people who surf the Net daily?
I'm not sure what you mean by "most wired" minister in the mid-west." I do drink quite a bit of coffee and am trying to cut back. But, thanks for the compliment. Now on to your question.
In my opinion, Christians could more effectively engage the Net population by interacting with people. The Internet fosters interaction. It allows for easy, and often immediate, two-way communication. But too often we in the church see the Internet as a channel for publishing our doctrines, our views, our thoughts, in a very non-interactive fashion. We create websites that do not encourage interaction. In many cases, we would be better off spending our time carrying on conversations with others in the online "marketplaces" -- the chat rooms and message boards where people are congregating to discuss issues, talk about their hobbies, and even search for spiritual significance. Too often, we ignore those virtual venues. I think we've been conditioned to avoid certain portions of the Internet because
1.) for some reason we tend to believe that we should "stick together" as Christians, in our own little Christian subculture, and...
2.) we've heard so much about the negative aspects of the Internet and we're afraid that we might stumble into some cybersex chat room or be confronted with pornography.
My response is, "Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world." Yes, we are going to confront sinful elements in cyberspace. The Internet is part of the fallen world. But it also is part of God's unfolding creation. We have the power within us to be salt and light in the dark reaches of the Internet. But too often, we remain passive -- creating websites and expecting people to come to us, rather than reaching out and actively becoming part of the online culture we claim we wish to reach.
By the way, that 3 million daily number pertains only to those who are searching for spiritual information on the Net. More than 3 million are online daily.
2) Maybe I am wrong but it appears as if many churches have simply thrown up a church web site and left it to run on its own. What are your thoughts on these web sites? Do you see web sites, the good ones and the bad, as simply a waste or is there such a thing as an effective web site? If so, what makes the difference?
I agree with you. Many churches have created "cobweb" sites -- non-interactive, out of date, and not very appealing. If a church is strapped for resources or the technological savvy to create a decent website, then that church should simply create a very basic site -- one that contains information about the church, location, hours of service, an e-mail link, phone number, etc., and not try to do anything fancy.
On the Internet, information can become dated quite quickly. If a church website still has the text of it's minister's "Memorial Day Weekend" sermon as the main link, then the information is often perceived as out of date. (Even if the sermon is a good one.) It's better to create a timeless element to a church site--by linking sermons or other information that are not tied to specific times, dates or seasons.
Web sites are not necessarily a waste of time, as long as they provide some information that can benefit someone. Even a basic website that provides times and dates of services, a phone number or e-mail link (just be sure someone's checking the e-mail frequently), the church's location, etc., can be of value to someone searching for a house of worship in your community. But that site must be properly linked to sites that will help those searchers find your church site. Too often, once a website is created, it is not properly listed in relevant search engines and directories.
3) I wonder if you could tell the readers a little about blogging and some of the other ways Christians can communicate with the "already" on-line community?
Blogging is one way of using the web in an interactive fashion. Blogging -- creating and updating weblogs --allows Internet users to express their ideas and opinions on anything and everything and share them with the world. It's amazing how many Christians are using weblogs to communicate and comment about current events, theology, hobbies, etc. The best way to use a weblog to communicate with others is to find weblogs of similar interests, and reading those blogs and commenting on what you read. In this way, you connect with the author, and establish a relationship that can grow over time.
4) In your most recent article on Next-Wave you describe the Internet as more organic then mechanical. Would you expand this thought?
I call the Internet "organic" in nature because it has grown chaotically, unpredictably, and will continue to do so. No one is in control of the Internet. A mechanical system, on the other hand, is predictable and controllable. Think also of the difference between an "organism" (a living thing) and an "organization" (a structure). The organism grows naturally; the organization is structured and controlled. Which is the church: an organism or an organization? Paul called the church the Body of Christ, which connotes more organism than organization. But we try to impose structure and format on churches; we try to do the same thing with the Internet.
Vist Andrew Careaga's weblog--Bloggedy Blog
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