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Is Digital Church Enough? Jay Y. Kim

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
March 1, 2024 5:15 am

Is Digital Church Enough? Jay Y. Kim

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 1, 2024 5:15 am

Love the flexibility of attending digital church services from your sofa? Get skeptical. With Jay Y. Kim, discover why it impacts worship and community.

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Delight in Grace
Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell
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Abidan Shah
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Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell

Being together really, really matters. And it's not that digital is evil. It's not that it's unhelpful. It's actually quite helpful. Sure. But it's just not enough.

Yeah, you know, we need people. This is Family Life Today. Yes. Especially if you have a family, you're kind of like, hey, you're listening, but you're cooking, you're changing diapers.

You're riding a stationary bike. Yes. Yeah. I mean, that's good.

You can do two things at once, but it doesn't work. I remember just crying because it felt like my soul was so hungry for that corporate worship. Well, we've got a pastor in the studio with us. Jay Kim is back, day three, wrote a book called Analog Christian. Now, well, I guess you wrote Analog Church before Analog Christian? That's right. Yeah. So, I mean, as a pastor, I'm sure your church is, oh, I know your church is online because I went and looked. Yeah. I did. And actually, as I was reading through your book, Jay, I thought I have an idea what their church is going to look like, you know, what your Sunday service is. And it was totally different than I expected. Yeah. And I'll explain that in a minute, but welcome back.

So today we're going to talk about the digital world in the church space and especially how families can interact with that. So why did you write this one? Well, I wrote it several years ago. I wrote it before COVID. You did before COVID? Before the pandemic. Oh.

Yeah. Interesting story about Analog Church. It's a book about why we need embodied presence, show up to church. And it came out in March of 2020.

It came out two weeks after. So I released the book, hey, go to church. It's important to go to church and be with people. Also, don't go to church. It's against the law. Don't go to church right now.

Don't go to prison. So like it was a weird month. It was a weird month. The publisher and I had lots of conversations. Do we delay? And long story short, we decided to just release it. And in hindsight, I'm really grateful that we did because if there was anything I would want to remind people of during that season when for better or for worse, we couldn't be together.

This book is what I would have wanted to say. That when we're able, to your point, getting together, being together really, really matters. And it's not that digital is evil. It's not that it's unhelpful.

It's actually quite helpful. Sure. But it's just not enough. Yeah. You know, we need people.

I love the subtitle, why we need real people, places and things in the digital age. Yeah. So you're saying to the many people who are only watching digitally church, you would say, I don't think it's enough. Yeah.

Yeah. Now at the same time, I want to be really sensitive. I didn't do a good job in analog church of addressing particular realities. You know, there's a lot of shut-ins in our church, especially after the pandemic. There are lots of people in our church who are immunocompromised. They have real anxiety about being in large crowds and our church happens to be a large crowd church. There's just a lot of people in the room. So I want to be sensitive to that.

For that, I'm really grateful that we have digital. The other thing I don't address in that book again, because I wrote it a while ago, is every time I meet someone new at our church, literally 100% of the time, they tell me that they've been watching us online for several weeks at minimum and usually for several months. It's the new lobby. It is exactly that. It is exactly that.

So for that reason, I'm grateful. You know, it's giving people access. And what that tells me is those people aren't watching because they're lazy and they don't want to drive to church. They're watching, and I get this, they're watching because they're not sure. Like, are these people normal?

Is this going to be helpful to me? Does my family fit in? Do I see some kids in there? Do they talk about some kids' stuff for our kids and our family? And I think that's a real gift that we have digital.

So yeah, there's a balance there for sure. Well, talk about this, because one of the things that I checked you out online to see what your church is like is you talk, and I agree with everything you say about the church today has smoke, it has lights, it has sometimes a preacher on a screen from a campus 20 miles away. You're talking about my church.

We did some of that. I thought, oh, I'm going to tune into your church, and it's going to be this small little acoustic guitar guy sitting on a stool. Everybody's in a circle, on a carpet, like a house, and yet there was. You have lights in, you know, very contemporary experience of church. So I thought, wow, that's interesting.

So how does that jive together? Yeah. I try really hard, not just with writing, but in my own personal life and in my leadership to not live at the extremes.

I know in the social media age and the news media age, that's where you have to live to be heard. So I am not a baby out with a bathwater sort of guy. And I try to make it clear in the book, what I'm not saying is lights are bad. Right. You know, what I'm not saying is amplified sound is bad.

Just do the coffee shop thing with a 22-year-old worship leader who doesn't wear shoes and just with his acoustic guitar and sings a couple of sing-along songs. That's not what I'm saying. Now, some churches do that, and that's wonderful if that's what you're called to do. Yeah. For us, I think what it's about is distraction.

So is there a way, and I still think we have a long ways to go. I'm not saying that our church has perfected this, but far from it actually. But lights, for example, if the lights are helpful in pointing our people to the right things, right? God, Jesus, is the center of our worship gathering, one another as the people of God, then by all means, use lights.

If amplified sound is helpful to point people and to gather people in the right way, then by all means, do that. You know, one thing you will notice about our church in terms of the video teaching, our church is a multi-site church. When the church went multi-site, initially about 10 years ago, about nine years ago now, we just adopted the classic video venue, broadcast venue model where all of our campuses got a video of the teacher. So that component we don't do anymore.

We have live teaching at all of our locations. And a part of that is my own theology and ecclesiology, how I think about what the sermon is and isn't. But it's a push and a pull, and we live kind of in the middle. So no, we didn't get rid of all the lights. We still use microphones, and we have electricity at our church, and that kind of matters. Well, it's interesting. I mean, we did the live as well at eight campuses, and it was always live.

I mean, every once in a while when there's a really important vision moment, we might do one video. But I play in the band, and it's been interesting. Two of my sons are in ministry.

My youngest is leading a smaller church now. He grew up in this sort of mega, big, slick, very well-produced weekend service. And when I play bass in his band, I'd love to hear your comments. It's like, there's freedom. It's not a scripted song. I mean, they know there's going to be a verse, chorus, bridge. They're going to follow the structure. But there's some freedom to say, not completely spontaneous, but we could go back to the bridge. We got in ears.

The leader will tell us. In my church, it was like, you're going to do the song exactly like this because you've got to be done at 28 minutes, and we've got to get the parking lot and that kind of thing. And so there could become this. And I think because you grew up in that, I think there's a resistance. That feels digital. I want to be analog.

I want to be more organic. This was organized. Have you experienced that a little bit? Because we're talking to families who are walking into different types of churches. Is there a freedom in the spirit to be organic and to go where God's leading us, even as a family sitting there, as compared to, no, this is the script. This is what we're going to do today.

It doesn't matter what happens. We're not leaving that. Is that a digital analog comparison? Yeah. I mean, I think churches that are heavily digital can still do that. Churches that are heavily analog can still be really, really precisely programmed. So I don't think the paradigm is digital analog necessarily. But I think at a broader level, what I'm hearing you say, Dave, is digital feels very curated, presentation-based. You know, here's the 72 minutes of our service. It's perfect and precise.

Whereas analog is much more, hey, we're in the room and we're just going to talk and go and see where it leads. So as a sort of posture, yeah, at our church at least, we try. Now we are programmed.

We have like a cue sheet that tells everybody, hey, at this time we'll do this. But our worship leaders know they've got the freedom. You know, if there's a moment in the service and people are just really leaning in or maybe this song is just breaking something open in people, then we adjust. We've got, at our church, we've got three services on a Sunday, at least at the location that has the most services. We've got three services. And almost every Sunday after the first service, there's a conversation with myself and the team like, hey, let's move this or let's switch this or we need more breathing room here.

And the team is great about that. And we also try to hold it very loosely that God may do something else in the second service that he didn't do in the first service. So let's just be open to what God wants to do. And for me, I would really grieve if we lost that posture because it's one of the things I enjoy most about gathering as the people of God, is that we're not presenting you a program that we scripted. We are inviting you to participate in an experience of God together as a community. So Jay, let's say you have a Gen Z kid who's like, I don't want to go. Is it okay for me to just watch digitally, mom and dad? You guys go, but I'm just going to watch digitally because there's a pastor in another part of the country that I like and I'm just going to watch that.

As a parent, how would you respond to those questions? That's a great question. And I think I would say watching digitally, oh, you like that pastor, the way he teaches is really, really helpful for you by all means, because the content matters. Information matters.

Inspiration, which is possible digitally. All of those things really matter. This conversation right now is a part of that. People aren't all in the room with us, but the masses will be listening to this digitally, with headphones on or on their screen, whatever it might be.

That really matters. So I think I would encourage the good. I'm so happy you're hungry to learn more and to hear more and to receive the word of God and all those things. But I think I would also make really clear, hey, there's more for you.

When you're ready, we'd love for you to join us. Or maybe there's another church community in town that just really resonates, because at a certain point, the information is a part of the journey, but it is not the end of the journey. The information needs to get us to a place where we feel real belonging amongst a community of people, you know, the people of God. So I think accentuating the good.

I'm so happy you're hungry for this. But also when you're ready, I'll do whatever I can to help you find your people, you know, and hopefully it's at the same church. But if it's not, you know, the priority is that they find their people, you know, the people of God that they can journey with. So I think that's how I would respond. I mean, talk about maybe the house church journey, the next generation sometimes, maybe I've seen a little bit of this reacting against mega.

I'm not just talking big, but, you know, produced and slick and a guy standing on a stage and everybody listening. I know Francis Chan, you know, wrote letters to the church and sort of talked about his journey. He was sort of in your area of the world with a mega church and said, man, we've created a place where people become consumers and they come and they listen to me preach and then they go do nothing rather than let's get on the streets, you know, which is sort of the journey he took. I know a lot of the next generation seeing that and like that, that's what the church should be. How do you respond to that? I'm really grateful that there are lots of churches and lots of different types of churches. You know, I think it's pretty tempting to pit one model against the other.

It's like, oh, how dare you. The church where I serve is a large church. It's a large multi-site church.

So there's pros and cons to that. And there are pros and cons to the house church. And it may very well be that somebody meets Jesus for the first time at our church because nothing was asked of them and it was just a place to heal. And maybe they started coming because the music was good or their kids.

This is a real story. A few months ago, a young family in our neighborhood, they're marginally Muslim. They grew up Muslim, but they're not practicing.

They're certainly not Christian. We had the thing that megachurches do and totally get criticized. We did like the big fall family festival thing. And of course, and I've been there too. Young, you know, sort of angsty 22-year-old ministry guys like, oh, that's so corporate or whatever.

But we did it. We did a big fall festival and it was thousands of people, whatever. This family comes. Their daughter is like, dad, mom, this is right across the street from our house.

This is awesome. I want to come back. So the dad and mom ask one of our staff, is there anything for kids on Sundays? We're not Christian, but they're like, yes, we'd love to have your family. So that family comes back that Sunday. Their daughter loves our kids' ministry. Well, long story short, several months later, they've given their lives to Jesus.

Now, I'm not telling that story to say, you see, the megachurch is the answer to the world's problems. Because if that couple journeys with us for several years. Now, I think at our church, we try to emphasize the discipleship pathway.

So we're not the traditional come and see the big show kind of approach. So I hope they're with us for a long time and are formed into Christ-likeness. But they very well may get to a place when their young daughter is 15 where they realize, you know, we've sort of reached the limit of how much we can grow in terms of depth here. There's this house church down the road and they're like really digging in.

That's going to be best for our daughter and for us. And I would say if that's really true, I bless you as you go. I'm so grateful our church got to play a part in that journey. Because on the flip side, and this is just, you know, my own sort of two cents, you know, one of the weaknesses of the house churches that I know, they're so great at forming community and digging depth. I don't necessarily in my part of the world see a whole lot of, hey, I was in darkness. Now through this house church, I found the light of Jesus.

I don't see a lot of that there, but they're incredible for forging real deep Christian community. So why pit us against one another? Why not dance together and say, hey, our goal is all the same.

It's the kingdom of God and people far from God coming to know God and then be formed into Christ-likeness. So let's do this together. That's good. Talk to the mom or dad that has a teenager that says, I don't want to go. I just want to watch. I don't even know if I want to watch, but I definitely don't want to go. I don't want to sit in a building with a bunch of people.

I don't want to do analog. You've sort of hit it before, but coach up, like, how does it, I mean, you're a pastor. I'm a pastor.

So our kids were growing up in a pastor's home in a church. But, you know, what do you say to that parent that really wants to do the analog? I want incarnation. I don't want, I was thinking, you know, analog to incarnation and digital's in titanium because of whatever.

But you know what I'm saying? I want analog. I want to be in a room like Ann said earlier, and I want to sing with people flesh around me. There's an experience that's so dynamic about that, but my kids don't want to. How do I do? First thought that comes to mind is we can't want something for someone ever.

It's just not possible. My wife's a high school teacher. She teaches special ed and loves her students and wants the best for them.

I watch her pour herself out, and this is something she's taught me. It's, man, I want it so bad for them, but I cannot want it for them. Yeah.

So that's the first thing. It's so hard, isn't it, as parents? It's so hard, especially as parents.

I mean, you would give your life for them, but you can't want it for them, you know? And that's what's really hard, the limits of our own abilities. That's the first thought that comes to mind. The second thought I would say, maybe this is a little bit more practical. You don't have to go to experience analog. We can be proactive and bring analog to our kids, and I know that's a big ask.

What's that look like? It looks like calling your youth pastor and saying, hey, my kid doesn't want to go. I'm not going to force him.

Is there anything happening that's a neutral space? Or is there any sort of way my kid likes X, Y, and Z? And maybe it's a big church and the youth pastor isn't accessible. If it is a big church and it's a healthy youth ministry, that means there are lots of leaders who are focused on your teenager's age group, you know, and to be proactive. I think we default to if I can just get my kid through that door, all the professional Christians in that room will solve the problem.

Yes. And that's just not true. It is partnership, so there's a way to partner. You know, and this is not to say every church in America you call them and their youth pastor's going to show up at your door.

You know, they're very busy and whatnot, but healthy ministries, they will at least care, and they will work with you. Like, okay, what can we do? What can we figure out? What is he into?

Here's some events coming up. Do you think he'd come to this? Maybe I'll call him directly and do a personal invite. Or maybe it's just he's not comfortable yet, and I'll, yeah, I'll take him to coffee.

Grab lunch and just hear his story. That's very analog, and it's not in the building. We can bring analog to our kids. That's good.

And I think we've got to be creative about those things. I mean, what do you say to the parents that are, you know, we've talked about this quite a bit on family life today, where our kids were in the youth group at whatever size church, thriving, seemed like really vibrant faith. They go away to college or they leave the home after 17, 18, 19 years old, and there's an epidemic of them walking away. They were once part of a vital church ministry.

Now they're just walking away. You're a pastor. You think about these things all the time, and you're a dad. So how do you address that whole situation? You know, there's been so much good work done along these lines. I think about, you know, Barna Group has a lot of data, a lot of research, lots of people doing lots of great work. I think to sort of summarize much of the work, a couple of things come to mind. Maybe the most important thing, are you guys familiar with, like, Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

Sure. I know you guys are obviously familiar with that. It was out way before you were born.

Way before, long before me. So, you know, toward the end of his life, Abraham Maslow added something at the peak of the pyramid called transcendence, which is like a desire for God. And for those listening who aren't familiar, the Maslow pyramid or the hierarchy of needs is just basically a way to think about how humans prioritize needs.

So at the very bottom of the pyramid would be like food and water. Meaning, you know, if we're having a conversation and we're talking about the meaning of life, but I'm starving to death. I'm not interested in seeking the meaning of life.

I just need a bite to eat and some water to drink. But once we get those needs, yeah, the meaning of life really matters. That's how the, what's interesting to me is belonging, the need to belong comes before the need for identity and meaning in life. And I think in the church, one of the things that we have not done well, especially in youth groups, is we've accidentally sort of reversed those two things on the pyramid. So we think that if we can teach kids to believe the right things, you know, like know everything there is to know about the Bible and the resurrection of Jesus and all those things, which are of utmost importance, that that will lead them to a long lasting faith. But what we're discovering is that the passionate kid and youth group that was all gung ho about Jesus, they turn 18, they go away to college, they're in a brand new environment. And the entire infrastructure of their youth ministry, friends and leaders who love them and knew them, belonging, that's been removed and then faith just deconstructs.

Because all the information about who you are in Christ and what's true about Jesus and your life, those things come after you have the safety of I'm known and I'm loved. So that's the first thought that comes to mind. I think we have to do a better job of helping teenagers as they gain independence in college or they begin their working life or whatever. The church, the local church and campus ministries and on and on, we have to be really intentional. We've got to create accessible, safe, large sort of on ramps for them to belong, for them to find a community that can know them and they can know and be seen and known and loved. I mean, is that possible with digital churches that need to be quite often analog? I mean, they got to be around people, not just in a digital space, but in a real physical space. Absolutely agree. I think digital can be a wonderful on ramp to it.

You said earlier, digital is the new lobby. That's true for teenagers, too. So especially for teenagers, you know, every time we have high school graduates in our church graduate and our youth ministry will find out where they're going to college and then we'll put together a little packet for them. Here are all the campus ministries and all of the churches that we vouch for in that area and then we'll do our best to connect them directly to a leader.

That's all digital. So what these kids do is they go online and they check all these churches and ministries, Instagrams, what are these folks like? That's the on ramp, but it inevitably hopefully leads to a coffee conversation with a leader or one of the pastors and that becomes an analog experience.

So, yeah, I think they have to play together, digital and analog. Is there something to a family sitting together in a worship space talking analog? Yeah. You know, as a pastor, we had all the different age groups. Kids went here. Middle school went here.

High school went here. And it was rare, at least in our situation, that they sat together. Maybe at Christmas.

Single mom, single dad, yeah, yeah. In a pew, we didn't have pews, but in seats, is there something to that environment? I mean, we can do it in a home, but even in a church situation.

I think so. I think it really matters, but you said the home. Just my two cents, I actually think it matters more in the home. Yeah, I think it matters more in the home. What do you mean, doing what?

Worshiping together in the home. Yeah. My mom used to make me sit down with her and read the Bible and pray the Lord's Prayer every night growing up.

Really? And I hated it. I hated it. I dreaded it.

It just felt like the biggest waste of time, but it formed something in me. And now I make my kids do it. We read their little kid's Bible. We don't pray the Lord's Prayer. In our home, we actually do, there's this ancient 16th century practice called the daily examine, the prayer of examine. It's a Jesuit sort of practice, St. Ignatius of Loyola. It's just a way to reflect on your day, and we do this with our kids, including our five-year-old. And he's super fidgety, and he tries to rush through the prayer, but I'm watching him over time get a sense for, oh, we're creating a certain type of space.

This is a particular type of rhythm for our family. And then what they experience at church becomes simply an extension of what we do at home. So both are really important. Oh, Jay, I love that we're ending with that because worshiping together at a church is really important, but you're right. It begins in the home. That piece is really critical. It bonds you as a family. Spiritually, I think our kids are watching us, and they're thinking, this really matters to mom and dad. Well, I mean, you mentioned quite a bit in your book about transcendence that we're made for that. And you just explained you're bringing that into your home for an eight and a five-year-old who may not understand exactly what's happening. I like that you said you hated it growing up, too.

Yeah, I totally did. Yeah, and they may say that 20 years from now, but I bet you they're going to keep it going. It's going to be the Kim heritage legacy, which is going to be awesome. That's a great step of practicality for families. Like, what could that look like for our family to worship together or do something together?

Yeah. It's really formative in what they're learning. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to David Ann Wilson with Jay Kim on Family Life Today. Jay's written a book called Analog Church, why we need real people, places, and things in the digital age. And I think all of us can understand and relate with that, why we need real people, places, and things in the digital age. And I think all of us can understand and relate with that, why we need real people, places, and things in the digital age. And I think all of us can understand and relate with that, why we need real people, places, and things in the digital age.

Because so much now is living in the digital world. And this book really helps us to explore that kind of intersection between technology and the real-lifeness of church. So you can go online to, or you can find the book in the show notes section at the bottom of the page.

You can give us a call at 800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today to get a copy. And earlier this week, we got to hear from the amazing Elizabeth Woodson, who wrote a book called Embrace Your Life. The subtitle of that book is How to Find Joy When the Life You Have is Not the Life You Hoped For. I think anybody would hear that subtitle and go, yeah, that's me.

At least to a certain degree, that's you. Well, she helped us find contentment in that gap between where we want our lives to be and where our life actually is. And this book addresses finding joy and hope in that gap during those present moments. And this book by Elizabeth Woodson is going to be our gift to you when you give today. So you can get your copy of her book now with any donation. Just go online to and click on the Donate Now button at the top of the page. Or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. And feel free to drop us something in the mail if you'd like to.

Our address is Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. It's Friday, so I want to ask you to pray for all the Weekend to Remember marriage events that are happening this weekend in specifically Minneapolis, Montgomery, Omaha, and Rochester. Now, with over 40 events across the country, they're still happening all this spring, and there's still time to find a location near you.

So you can go to to find a date and a location that works for you and your spouse. Coming up next week, I had a conversation with Dave and Ann Wilson talking about what young people are dealing with today in terms of dating, relationships, sex, and communication. It is going to be an incredible conversation. I loved hanging out with the Wilsons and talking about all this. Me, I, Shelby Abbott will be on next week on Family Life Today. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-01 06:19:30 / 2024-03-01 06:32:11 / 13

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