Internet Culture, Lone Ranger Christianity, And The Pornification Of Church

Why settle for the ugliness of a local church body when you can have a much more attractive online version instead?

Why gather with and commit to serving with a local bunch of often incredibly immature, confused, messed up, and biblically illiterate yahoos when you can instead bond with a group of awesome people who share your understanding and your passion in the areas that light you up and make you happy?

Why sit on Sundays in a pathetic little church building alongside pathetic little baby Christians who don’t share your wisdom, your spiritual depth, and your general awesomeness when you can bond instead with your people in Facebook forums and threads on your own schedule?

Why listen to some unenlightened simpleton preacher wannabe pitch some lame-o sermon on some subject you “mastered” long ago when you can instead immerse yourself in online sermons, podcasts, and social media conversations that feed your appetites on your terms at your preferred depth, and (this is important to mention again:) on your schedule?

Why seek, serve, and submit to local church bodies that you know are doing ______ and ______ all wrong?

Why bother with those local churches? Why go to the trouble? Why put yourself out?

Why settle down and commit to any of them when you can have what you want on your terms instead?

These are questions that we need to be thinking about.

In a recent episode of the Practical Ecclesiology podcast entitled The Internet & Ecclesiological Idealism, Michael Foster did just that (I highly recommend the podcast, so please use the links here to check it out).

In The Internet & Ecclesiological Idealism, Foster identified and explored many interesting ways in which contemporary approaches to church and church life are formed by the medium through which they’re most effectively promoted. Things really got cookin’ at the 43:00 mark when he hit hard on the idea of ecclesiological idealism. There he made a compelling case for the notion that online ministries (and, I would add, social media-centered approaches to relationships) are, in many cases, having an impact similar to that of pornography. In order to help explain and contextualize this contention, Foster began his elaboration with the following statement: “Pornography is to sex as Internet Christianity is to the local Church.”

The “pornification of Church”, when embraced, predictably produces many dark and destructive consequences, including:

  • An increasingly intense dissatisfaction with reality. The more this counterfeit approach to God’s Church leads its disciples down its seductive path, the more vigorously they will tend toward railing against and hating the local Church as defined biblically.
    .
  • An increasing addiction to instant gratification. This is something I’ve personally witnessed with some of those who most loudly advocate and chase after the Lone Ranger Christianity concept. The self-serving bubble-world ministerial complexes that they often nurture and promote lead them (and others who follow after them) deeper and deeper into the delusion of growth, maturity and depth being best pursued on their terms and on their schedule.
    .
  • An increasingly “ends justify the means” attitude. The more one becomes immersed in this pornification of Church, the more they will find themselves able, willing, and even eager to spin and rationalize any behavior that they deem necessary to justify and advance their cause.
    ..
  • Perpetual immaturity and low character. The combination of extreme comfort in critiquing others into oblivion with an aversion to biblical church structure (which includes biblical church authority) predictably combines to promote both rank immaturity and increasingly flagrant displays of anti-Christ character.

These are some of the church pornification promoted attributes that have spread throughout the culture like a plague by way of our perversion of God’s gifts of technology and the freedom/empowerment made possible through technology. The Internet is not the problem. Online sermons are not the problem. Podcasts, online ministries, and social media are not the problem.

Our abuse of these things is the problem.

Through the pornification of Church, our self-referential, self-serving appetites are whetted. Our ears are tickled. Our lusts are indulged. We are “taught to love a lie and despise reality,” as Foster says.

Now back to the first question: Why settle for the ugliness of a local church body when you can have a much more attractive online (counterfeit) version instead?

I’d like to offer a few potential answers for our consideration together:

Maybe you and I are not the “wise and mature ones” that we think we are.

Maybe we’re the idgits.

Maybe we’re the buffoons.

Maybe our problems are way bigger than the 10,000 ways some local church is “doing communion all wrong”.

Maybe our character is in a far deeper pit than the “lame preacher wannabe” who is faithfully pursuing the Lord on His terms as best he is able?

Maybe our arrogance, ego, and pride is keeping us from seeing how desperately we need the local Church as God has ordered it so that people like us might serve, submit, and grow by His grace for His glory on His terms and on His schedule.

Maybe we are in more desperate need of His Church on His terms than we even know.

Just a thought…and I hope that it’s a helpful one.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these things.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Scott,

    First time here to your site. Glad to see you sharing important challenges.

    I've also had some difficulties finding a church to join, serve, and be fed. In our area there are very few Reformed churches, most of them have doctrines that I find hard swallowing at all. The original church I joined had a pugnacious, domineering, petty pastor who outright censored my family for sharing our convictions in open discussion. He did so with the authority of the elders, before the elders had even had a chance to be alerted to the problems. When the elders did nothing to correct his overreach of authority we quietly left, not causing any commotion. It was a toxic leadership structure.

    I do desire to be joined to and under a biblical church, but that's the real rub isn't it. Finding one that is biblical in our local area. We're not going to find the perfect church, but we have to make hard decision about which we're going to join/covenant with and families have to make the choices that they feel are best for their homes. I'm very guarded about the influences I allow around my wife and children, unfortunately, church is no different.

    I do believe may be legitimate reasons to leave a church or limit its influence, especially if you are surrounded by apostate churches.

    Just my thoughts.

    God Bless.

  2. You are right Scott, unfortunately finding a church where God is actually followed and the Word taught accurately is proving most difficult. We use to attend a church for about 8-10 years and in the middle of that time we lost our pastor and hired a new guy. This pastor came in there determined to do his will no matter what the congrefpgation said. He wanted to build a huge room inside our foyer, I told him I would not support it and would ask my husband also not to support it. He wanted a room for teens to have a "space" for themselves. I told him teens need to be with there parents he told me to keep my opinions to myself. Did I do everything right in that relationship? No because I became very bitter towards him and his wife. They critized me all the time. Finally over a disagreement in verses in the bible I became very bitter with him and yelled at him. Because I would not apoligize right away he told his family and the other decons family to shun us and he tried to turn my husband against me. He was a jerk. We left that church at my husbands insistence. Honestly I feel hatred towards this man and his wife to the point that if I ever see them again it will be to soon. Still working through that. We went to another church and after about a month the pastor decided to resign and they hired a new pastor who said some very strange things about Gods word and when he did that, it made me wonder if he caused great harm to those who were weak in the faith or unsaved who were in attendance so we decided this pastor was not for us. We attend another church but we are very reluctant to become involved because we are tired of the constant criticism. We basically go on Sunday morning for church and Sunday School. I tried to go to a bible study, but the leader told us when a certain woman came, we were not to ask any question because basically the bible study was geared to this woman who came out of Hinduism. We stopped going. We feel homeless. We lost all our friends from the first church after the pastor purged everyone who wouldn't agree with him. Our pastor now is pretty old and soon will either retire or go to be with the Lord. So from the abuse I endured at the hand of the first pastor is why I can see someone going it alone, right or wrong. It's very hard to grow in you faith when your pastor is always criticizing you for everything because you are not just blindly following someone. After reading this you will probably believe that I did all the wrong thing, but beware I haven't told you the entire conflict so please withhold your judgement.

  3. Nice subtle dig at those that have come out from amongst her. The truth remains the same but the answer to your question as to why flee the church is simple. The majority of all Christian churches in America are overrun with doctrines of demons false worship teaching the traditions and commandments of men.
    The idolatry of the church in all its inglorious neo catholic satanic forms should be shunned and fled.
    Get out now while you can.

    • Of course it won't be displayed because you can't defend against the truth I spoke or debate me openly or fairly

      • Dean, comments are filtered for various reasons, including preventing undisciplined, impatient, unhinged people from posting anything they want, which may include all manner of vulgarity and bilge.

        So chill out.

        Both of your posts have been approved.

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