Blinded By What We Know

Church buildings are still the headquarters of discipleship. More than half of U.S. Christians being discipled say church is the primary place where discipleship happens, emphasizing a need for church spaces that promote such engagement.

Christians overwhelmingly favor in-person over online interactions. While not completely opposed to a hybrid approach to church, Christians also feel activities like children’s ministry, meeting people’s physical needs, welcoming visitors, providing emotional support and ministry to the elderly are most meaningful in person.

Making Space for Community, Barna

There is a problem here, and I’m not sure how to make it make sense. Barna is the expert (more than me) in polls and such, but I see a problem in the above.

First, there is an implication of bias, as it seems the primary sponsor is the Aspen Group, whose business is to reimplement church spaces. For the record, I’ve talked with them, and do respect what they do, and wish that the church I was then at would have been more interested.

What bothers me is the “more than half” part, and even the “overwhelmingly favor” parts in the quote. Not that I think the statistics are wrong. However, there is an underlying issue…when physical space is all we’ve known…of course we’ll prioritize. That’s what we’re comfortable with.

I can see people pointing at these conclusions, saying, “See‽ They don’t want digital or AR or VR or XR. They want physical!” Yep, and the majority of their experiences are in the physical. It is self-reinforcing.

I co-lead (with my wife) a physical church. Our online is not good. Yes, we stream to Facebook (only). Our sound isn’t great. Our video isn’t great. You’ve got me singing, so I know the sound isn’t great. We’re doing our best.

If I had that one more person? Yes, I could probably improve everything (even without a church bank breaking investment). That’s not our reality, at the moment.

So, our focus is physical. All of my people prefer in person. All of them. As such, I cannot and do not diminish in person.

I question the generalizations made by Barna and others about preferences. Again, if something is all you’re used to, then that is what you will prefer.

I remember we invited friends to dinner. We went all out. We made special food. Spent a little extra money. The response? Next time, we’ll bring plain (emphasis on plain) potatoes and meat. Why? Because that was what they were used to.

There is nothing wrong with meat and potatoes. That wasn’t the issue. Everything was evaluated against comfort and used to. You know the old adage, “That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It!”

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