Can spiritual formation take place on the web?

In the New Testament, at least three aspects of church are seen: local, universal, and eschatological.  Of these three, local receives the most discussion.  In Paul, for example, local church seems to refer both to all the Christians in a city (see the first verses of nearly every letter) and to a body of Christians meeting in a particular house (see Col. 4:15).

In both cases–the city and the house–there is high probability for embodied interaction.  In such settings, learning, training, and spiritual formation can take place in ordinary life.

But what happens when we gather outside of ordinary life (on the web, for example)?  It seems to me that dialogue, sharing stories and knowledge, can lead to true learning, but outside of ordinary life together, can we work together in ways that train us with the skills to walk God’s ways and carry out his mission?  Can we get a sufficient sense of one anothers’ character to provide the sorts of exhortation and encouragement that facilitate spiritual formation?

What do you think?

Further Reading
Open Letter to the Sanctify! Dreaming Team
What makes us fully devoted followers of Christ?

About Laura

My name is Laura and I am on a journey, pondering the implications of God's glorious design of humanity and integrating every aspects of this design into a description of whole life health.
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4 Responses to Can spiritual formation take place on the web?

  1. Alan Knox says:

    If I were to answer your question, I would say, “Yes, spiritual formation can take place on the web.” I would have to add a “however” though. “However, that spiritual formation would be stilted.”

    Why? Because I think spiritual formation is best accomplished when the church interacts together (Eph 4:16, along with all the ‘one anothers’ of Scripture). However, we can grow from our own individual study, and we can grow from listening to a stranger. But, growth happens best in the context of other believers with whom we share our lives (words and actions).

    -Alan

  2. Laura says:

    Alan,

    I think you’ve pegged it: balanced spiritual formation requires that we involve our whole selves, not only body, mind, and emotions, but also our embodied relationships with other persons.

    As I continued pondering this issue, I could not help wondering if reliance on programs might result in an imbalance similar to that of formation-via-web. In fact, this may be part of what Willowcreek discovered in Reveal. [Sidenote: It is humors and saddens me that they responded with a program, however informative and inspiring it may be.

  3. Alan Knox says:

    Yes, reliance on programs, or reliance on the the study and teaching of a person that we don’t really know, or reliance on books… anything that doesn’t include us and others intimately in the process… will result in spiritual formation imbalance, or stunted growth.

    -Alan

  4. Laura says:

    Given this, I find the web-opposition of some sit-and-listen-to-the-sermon folks to be sadly amusing.

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