Building me up

The internet has contributed much to the world in which we briefly live. Some is, of course, undesirable to say the least, but there is much good on the internet. For the Christian it is a fantastic resource giving us sermons, articles, blogs, books, and just about anything else we could want to build us up as Christians. Much of it is even free of charge. But is this the way God intends us to be built up in our spiritual lives?

We read nothing of the internet in the Bible, of course, but we read much about the church. We know it is the church which God has ordained to be His vehicle for helping His children grow more like our Saviour Jesus Christ (among other things). It is in a church context that Christians are expected to encourage each other to live holy lives for God

What, I wonder, is the proper place of the internet in Christians growing to be more like Christ? As we are being sanctified before God, how much should we rely on the many wonderful resources afforded to us by it? With so many sermons, blogs and videos available online from mature Christians, it must surely be possible to get more spiritual input in a day than previous generations have had in a month. How much impact such input could possibly have on your life would be quite another matter, of course.

So how much should we listen to online sermons? How many theology articles should be read online? How many Christian blogs should we read? I daresay we can all agree that these would be poor substitutes for hearing our pastor preach on a Sunday, reading theology books and having face to face conversation with mature Christians. But we can have them as well. We should use them as much as possible, for there is no downside to them!

But is that statement true? While it cannot be denied that the use of the internet enables ordinary Christians to access a great variety of teaching and discussion more quickly than has ever been possible before, it could be argued that as quantity has increased, quality has decreased. I am very aware that I really do live in a soundbite generation, feeding off short snippets. Has this propensity of short snappy sayings replaced the time consuming act of Christian meditation, filling the mind with the glory of God for a long period of time? Do we study God’s word in the same depth we used to? I say ‘we’ – I of course have never known a time without the internet, and wouldn’t know how saints acted in years gone by, but this is a serious question. Are Christians such as myself inadvertently reducing our growth in Christ by removing the work of it? It is obvious that we get less out of reading someone else’s analysis of a Bible passage than we do from writing our own – does the same principle hold to more general Christian growth?

The internet has also changed where Christians look for encouragement, edification and rebuke. Once very definitely the preserve of the local church, now that there is free and easy access to all of the above on the internet do we rely on them? I certainly do not think it is a bad thing to grow because of something read, watched, or listened to on the internet, but a more mature believer who knows us can surely do a better job of telling us what we need to hear. It is easy to avoid a rebuke if it is on a stranger’s blog, or a sermon delivered by a pastor you’ve never met. It is easy to reject the advice of someone you don’t know. Is this not one value of a local church member, or pastor, telling you what you need to hear?

Watching Leeds

I’m a Leeds United fan, albeit not a particularly dedicated one, so I was pleased to hear the announcement that Leeds’ first round FA cup match (against Oldham Athletic) would be broadcast live on the internet by the FA, with no charge whatsoever. For me, the biggest obstacle to watching Leeds matches has always been the cost. The only time I’ve ever watched a game at Elland Road was when a friend won a pair of free tickets. Much as I’d love to go regularly, it’s never been financially realistic. The match took place, and sadly I was working through most of it, but I did watch the end of the game. Viewing figures have just been released, and the video of the game was played a massiveĀ  176,000 times!

To put this in perspective, Elland Road seats just over 40,000 people (incidentally this makes it the 240th largest football stadium in the world by seated capacity). The new Wembley stadium seats 90,000. The largest football stadium in the world is the Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, which seats 150,000. Obviously there were not 176,000 separate people watching Leeds vs. Oldham, but it’s an impressive viewing figure nonetheless (and makes it one of the 5 largest free-to-view online sporting broadcasts in the UK so far)!

The next match to be freely streamed is the 2nd round match between Norwich City and either Carlisle United or Morecambe on Saturday 28 November. I’ll be interested to see how many people watch that one.