Gimme that online religion: Millenials change the face of worship by getting religion online
Internet research by the Dallas Morning News indicated some 5 million hits for the word “Christian,” Cybersociology magazine reported recently. The same report said that churches and denominations globally are establishing web sites for both their members and the unchurched, because of this.
The trend to going online for faith is highlighted among millenials, those aged 18-30, a Fox News report noted. Rebecca Phillips, vice president of Beliefnet.com said, “Young people are defining their own spiritual paths.”
A Lifeway Christian Resources study showed that 72 percent of millennials believe they are more spiritual than religious. Fewer among them attend worship services, pray, or read sacred scriptures.
Cybersociology magazine cited Cyberchurch of the Remnant, which was formed for Christians who are not aligned with a church, or for those who left their denominations and churches because they felt it hindered their walk with Christ. Cyberchurch has chat rooms, devotionals and sermons.
Cybersociology magazine quoted Brenda Brasher, and author of “Give Me That Online Religion,” who noted the evolution of cyber-millenialism among Christian web sites.
Phillips of Beliefnet.com told FOX that young people are defining their own spiritual paths. They are “not necessarily doing the same thing religion-wise that their parents did. They’re developing their own unique brands of spirituality.”
David Kinnaman, president of the research organization The Barna Group said that because young people are exposed to a variety of faith perspectives, they can tailor-make their own religion.
Beliefnet.com found that nearly half of the teens it polled felt they were more religious than their parents’ generation. “Online, what people are doing is seeking out truth,” Phillips says, “and it might not be in the traditional way of a pastor speaking from a pulpit.”
“I think their generation is really turned off by the term religion. They see it as a set of rules or something that represents the past,” Pastor Bobby Gruenewald of LifeChurch.TV told FOX.
LifeChurch.TV has 80,000 congregants through the Web, who log on to hear sermons and chat with other worshippers. Gruenewald told FOX, “…this is a way to reach people that maybe otherwise wouldn’t be reached.”
Cybersociology magazine noted for example that Kate O’Donnell, a health care worker, worships online because her hours often prevent regular visits to churches. She says, “By using online sites, I can read sermons, devotionals, and use chat rooms to fellowship with believers. This helps me on my journey.”
Kevin Neese looks up text and audio formats of “old sermons by preachers I am familiar with, and I enjoy the opportunity of hearing a famous sermon I had not been able to find on tape.”
Basher said the Internet levels the playing field between young people and church authority. It gives millenials a sense of control that previous generations never had, because they can check out different sources when they have questions about some beliefs a certain religion has, or they can look up the history behind a belief.
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources said on their website, “Religion and its practices are …becoming increasingly privatized …our [religious] culture is changing with the maturation of the millennials.”
Basher felt that religious leaders should view this as a challenge. Because young people are changing the future of worship, religious leaders should be so guided and learn how to bring God’s Word to this generation.
Brasher said cyber-evangelism will continue and increase, and religious groups, both traditional and alternative see cyberspace as the place to be active if they want to grow and to survive.