Before COVID-19, the notion of digital church was taking off and the reality of “church online.” Pastor Jay Kim speaks into that in his latest, Analog Church: Why We Need Real People And Things In The Digital Age, which basically critiques the view that church can be replaced with a screen. Kim wrote this book prior to COVID-19 and IVP published this in May of 2020–around the time when the public was becoming more aware of the seriousness of the virus. The basic gist of the book is to pushback against the way people are thinking and talking about church, and the way we value efficiency while devaluing people.
Why Does It Matter?
Kim argues that our growth as Christians is actually at stake. Something simple like Bible reading is at stake since our results-driven age prizes efficiency over patience and patient growth. Many of us “speed read” the Bible like we would the latest news post on our iPhones, or a new blog article. We need to actually prepare our minds and souls when stepping into the world of the Bible; God’s Word wasn’t meant to be approached in great haste.
Regardless of our geographical location and the time period we find ourselves in, true discipleship is always a real challenge. That said, we find ourselves in a rather unique cultural moment in which individualism and technological consumption seem to be at an all-time high. We’re losing touch with what it means to be human, which has a lot to do with connecting with other humans—something that screens can never replace.
Pursuing Relevance at All Costs?
Kim is not against things like dimming the lights during worship services. He finds that such things can be done tastefully. But what about the extremes? He notes that in recent years we find many worship services which resemble television studios, rock concerts, and/or nightclubs. “This unabashed pursuit of bigger and brighter is a chasing after relevance…” (p. 45). And yet ironically, many seekers are turned off by the very things our churches try to utilize to “hook” them.
The major strength of Analog Church is its Christ-centered focus. Kim urges the Church to continue to keep Christ front and center and to constantly ask: how did Jesus approach ministry and discipleship? Our age is results-driven but we are called to patience and to trust God more than our abilities and more than technology. We would do well to avoid viewing people as cattle or reducing them to mere consumers; this is how we do fast-food but should not be how we do church. Business models strip people of their humanity. Jesus, on the other hand, remained personal throughout his ministry. Rather than seeking all things bigger and brighter, Jesus made eye contact with people, entering their lives and homes and changing many in this process.
It is clear that we are more immersed in the world of business-mindedness than we are in the world of Jesus. While ours is becoming an increasingly impersonal age, Christ’s Church is called to be different, and called to take cues from Jesus, not American innovative models.
“…discipleship requires patience, depth, and community—the very things that stand in contradiction to the values of the digital age” (p. 26).
(For an interview with Kim about Analog Church and about pastoring during COVID, see here.)