Last weekend’s Christian Web Conference put flesh on the disembodied personas of several well-known online Christians. While internet technologies continue to help people form increasingly complex relationships online, nothing has yet replaced the richly unique dynamic of face-to-face meetings – that’s why conferences like CWC are so useful.
This year’s conference, an expanded version of GodBlogCon, added to the previous years’ conversations about faith and blogging while successfully expanding the discussion to include other online presences like facebook and twitter. Conference speaker Mark Roberts commented,
I was impressed by the maturing of Web-based ministries. When we first got together at GodBlogCon, most of us were just beginning to explore the power of the Internet. Now, many of the participants and leaders at the CWC are wise and sophisticated users of the Internet. The original euphoria about the power of blogging and the Web is mostly gone, replaced by a more grown up perspective on its benefits and detriments.
The line-up of speakers was as impressive and diverse as the topics they spoke on. Attendees learned, for example, how to “Tweet the Truth in Love” from Tim Challies, how satire can change the way we talk about faith online from Stuff Christians Like author Jon Acuff, how best to collaborate and connect with people on twitter from Rhett Smith, and how to choose the best medium for your message from our own Joe Carter. Mel McGowan, Visioneering Studios President and former Disney architect, spoke about theology of place and the marriage of the old archetypes of the garden and the city in his eye-opening walking tour of Downtown Disney.
The conference culminated in a rousing discussion of the topic that underpinned conversations the entire weekend; namely, what is the proper place of the church online? Can real communion with the Body of Christ be had via the internet? There were opinions and experiences from all sides of the issue, resulting in several thought-provoking conversations both offline and online – see, for example, Charles T. Lee’s post arguing that one may be really present without being physically present. Unfortunately, Andrew Jones was unable to attend the scheduled debate about online church; however, our own Matt Anderson did a great job explaining some of the pros and cons of the practice, arguing that advocates of church online utilize a problematic theology of place – at least in America.
It’s not too early to start planning to attend next year’s Christian Web Conference; while it’s all well and good for us to interact with you online through the Evangelical Outpost, we’d rather sit down with you face-to-face and have a conversation. ‘