By Jean Chung, a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
The content of the book
In The Digital Cathedral, Anderson articulates how pastors should access people, whether they are Christians or not, and evangelize them in the world where the view on the relationship has changed, from one in the physical world to one on the internet. Ministry not only is done physically in and out of church buildings as it used to before but also can be done on the internet now. One of its reasons is that people are likely to think highly of the relationship and communication made in the virtual world. Anderson explains how the ministry in the virtual world is like, what advantage it can give to people, and shows how it can be realized in the real world. In chapter 3, he also points out that the ministry leadership should have three features for the digital ministry: network, relational, and incarnation. In the age of digital, all the congregational relationship is likely to and should change from systematic organizations to networked relationship just like the world has been changing. So, ministry in the congregation should focus on the relationship between Nones and churches as well as on the relationship among church members. Concerning the incarnational ministry, Anderson articulates that the relationship with people on the internet, the virtual world, should be developed to the relationship in the physical world, which is the essential process to make the ministry healthier and stronger. In chapter 6, he points out that engaging theology with people’s daily life is critical in the digital ministry, which especially very much appeals to Nones. Getting a theological insight in daily life makes people get more related to God. In chapter 11, he articulates that helping people belong to a faith community may be more meaningful and important than the increase of church membership because now belonging to a faith community can be more influential on them.
My evaluation of the book
The word “A transitional Cathedral” (219) in the conclusion of this is the word that best describes the current ministry. It is certain that we are changing rapidly in culture but we do not have enough knowledge of our ultimate destination. However, at least it is clear that meetings in the physical space, in the conventional context, are not regarded as important as before. People are putting more and more importance on the meetings on the internet rather than the meetings in church buildings. Accordingly, pastors are expected to do their ministry, keeping up with the the change of this age. The Digital Cathedral helps me have clearer ideas on digital ministry by giving the detail explanation and plenty of examples on the changes in the meanings of relationship and their reasons in the transitional period of digital ministry. This book describes why pastors should do digital ministry very well. Especially the idea suggested in this book to relate theology to everyday life for evangelism gave me an insight to the necessity of digital ministry. Also, this book suggests we should lead the meetings in the virtual world into the relationship in the real world. This suggestion helps me understand what the digital ministry is like. I often witnessed several digital ministries which had been done lively for a moment disappeared quickly with no results. This caused me not to be actively involved in any digital ministry even though I knew its necessity. Thanks to Anderson’s insistences that digital ministry should induce the relationship in the real world and should be the means, not the main goal, I can get a clear understanding of how to do digital ministry.
On the other hand, I got an idea that pastors’ life could be more tiring. Approaching the daily life is very helpful and necessary for digital ministry but, at the same time, it blurs the boundary between the pastors’ ministry and their private life. It is necessary to have an idea on how to deal with the tiresome and stress of pastors from digital ministry. My other idea is that for the evangelism suggested in the book, it is much more effective if those with regular jobs in the secular world, rather than the ordained pastors, share the religious experiences and their story about God with neighborhood and coworkers in daily life. First, financial problem. Full time ordained pastors need to get paid for their wage. Second, it would be more effective if lay people, rather than pastors with professional knowledge of theology, share the stories of their relationship and experience with God with their neighborhood because their neighbors already trust the lay people.
The book’s influence on my future practice of ministry
One of the reasons I did not like digital ministry is that the relationship is not likely to necessarily accompany credibility or responsibility among the members. Also, there is the fragility of the digital world. Even though the prompt response is one of the strong points of the digital world, the relationship in the virtual world may disappear promptly. However, this book has convinced me of the necessity of digital ministry. Digital ministry is an inevitable alternative to approach people, who live in the age of the networked individualism. When I do my own ministry, I will accept digital ministry whenever necessary.
In addition, I got the knowledge of how important the access to people in every day life. Also the relationship among the people is networked, not a hierarchy any more. It impacts me to think of the ministry from a new perspective. I think I will focus more on the “daily life ministry” even if it may disturb my personal life.