By Jean Chung, a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
The main theme of Seth Godin’s Tribes is “Everyone is a leader.” We all can be a member of any tribe and sometimes should lead a tribe. When we are the leader of the tribe, we should make sure that all the members can have a shared interest and a tool to communicate with any other member for the members’ strong motivation and experience of fun, leading to their active engagement and creative ideas.
I think it is important that leaders should be correctly aware of what they and their tribes are pursuing because the leaders have the responsibility for the vision of the tribes. Directing and balancing their tribes will be the leaders’ critical role when the tribe members are strongly motivated to follow the tribe’s vision. I agree what Godin insists current leaders should be like in the internet world business. But I am not sure if it can be completely applicable to the church ministry. Surely, churches should be active in communicating because of decreased church members. But if pastors cannot stick to the core of the Bible, we may be in danger of having a ministry which has little difference from the secular business. I think the reason why we have to increase church members or evangelize people is for their salvation, not to make a living for ourselves.
I am from Korea. Honestly, I do not have a deep and complete understanding of the current situation of American Christianity. I can point out two differences between Christian churches in the US and in Korea concerning the prosperity of Christian population and the Internet. First, currently, Christianity in Korea prospers much better than in US, though not as much as it used to be. Therefore, generally, the problem of decreasing church members is likely to be attributed to the individual church itself rather than a nationwide problem of Christianity. However, Korean churches have started to seriously regard no increase of Christian population in Korea as a nationwide important issue of Korean Christianity. One of its assumed reasons is that Korean churches did not satisfy what Koreans expected them to be. Or any experiences related to disappointment with the Korean churches or no more sublime expectation to the Korean churches are thought to make Christians decide to leave the church or arouse the antipathy against Christianity. (Yes. The rapid increase of antipathy against Christianity is another big issue in Korea.)
Another difference is that even though I know US has a very good network system of Internet, thanks to the government’s investment to IT industry, Korea has internet network with almost the world’s first class nationwide. I think it may be impossible to live a social life with no knowledge of Internet in Korea. Even the eldery in their 60’s and 70’s search the information they need and are actively involved in social networking. Most Koreans with a smart phone have several versions of communication apps such as Facebook, twitter, and Kakao talk, which is the most popular SNS in Korea. It is almost the same as in Korean churches. Such internet techniques have made the worshipping time more visually attractive and pastors and church members intimately communicate each other day and night. For example, in youth ministry in my church in Korea, the pastor and the students have shared today’s passage of the Bible, their reflections on the passage, their ideas on how they can apply it to their daily life, and their prayer requests on the Facebook everyday. In their own chatting space of SNS, the members communicate, plan, discuss, and share the ideas on their presentation during the worship service or on their own interests. All in all, this has made the relationship between the pastor and the students in youth group very intimate quickly.
On the other hand, I witnessed the disadvantages of SNS very often. SNS gives people more chances to communicate each other and intimate relationship, but also arouses the feeling of being alienated to many people. If they are not a member of their desired group, a sense of alienation and the anxiety that they may be left out of the mainstream have increased. The same things happen in churches. The people who are actively involved in SNS become intimate each other, but those who are not engaged in any SNS have a fewer chances to participate in the church meetings and activities and a higher possibility of alienation. Also, the general reciprocal credibility even in the same SNS group tends to get lowered because of another disadvantage of SNS, “I will just show others what I want to show them only. I do not need to show people as it is.”
In short, the SNS is a very handy tool in the church ministry because it can increase the sense of closeness and encourage communicating each other. But in my opinion, to fulfill the people’s expectation to Christianity in Korea is the field only the church’s traditionally genuine role can deal with. To do so, transparency is the most important as Godin says. In addition, when the church members become a group, pastors should already have a deep knowledge, insight, and a blueprint on the group and how to direct them. Therefore, pastors first should have a clear idea on their faith and relationship with God.