People and churches wouldn't be advocating internet church if they didn't think it could somehow be reconciled. David Pullinger argues (in Information Technology and Cyberspace: Extra-connected Living?) that online communities can be as meaningful as non-online communities. However, his only example is a forum for a rock band, whose members regularly meet - outside the internet - in order to attend concerts. For that reason the example holds no water, now if the band held it's concerts over the internet that would be different.
He then shows that workplaces that use the internet for communication often find it more productive then face to face meetings. There are major exceptions however, such as: judging or resolving conflicts of opinion, reaching a consensus or even when objects need to be discussed! The internet is shown to be unproductive in all these areas as many of the visual and audio cues that are needed for most people to be able to make a decision are simply absent, therefore these discussions are best done face to face.
Of course, as mentioned in the earlier blog, a big part of being the church is overcoming conflict, giving opinions and reaching a consensus. These things are essential not only to the church but also basic to community! There is no community, and no church, without these elements coming into play.
It isn't just technology that drives the idea of internet church, consumerism and individualism do as well! These aspects can be seen throughout some of the mega-church movements. In Willowcreek’s Reveal, they advocate that the church doesn't drive long term spiritual growth, but a person’s private religious habits do, such as: prayer, fasting, solitude, and journaling. These habits, supposedly, “are the building-blocks for Christ-centered life.” With such (small) thinking about the role of the church in people’s lives it is no wonder why internet church is seen as a viable alternative, as the interpersonal relationships and community that is advocated within the New Testament is completely missed by these churches.
Internet church also supports a very gnostic type of worldview. The mind, spirit or soul and not the physical presence becomes the most important thing. A disembodied community where anyone can be anything is starting to be seen as just as viable and important a community as an embodied one. The incarnation should speak clearly to this as Jesus did not come as spirit or mind in pre-and-post resurrection, but as skin, bones and blood. One of the important things to the disciples was not just what they saw and heard, but also what they touched concerning the Word of Life!
Internet church then is flawed on a fundamental level. Not only is the church infinitely more than worship songs and a message, the sacraments of the church are impossible to perform over the internet and proper community without bodily presence is pseudo-community that cannot even preform the basic functions of a healthy community, it is not only unsustainable but also dangerously gnostic and individualistic.
What this amounts to is that even the idea that internet church as a plausible substitute for the church denies the vital importance of real community where real people share in life, ministry, dialogue, sacrament, and reconciliation.