Part 1: Building the Virtual City Church

Ok, lets get started with the Second Reformation by drawing the blueprints for the church of the 21st Century. And what is really exciting is that all the tech advances of the last 20 years now make this very possible.

Years ago my brother Johan and I were brainstorming the future of where we think the church needs to be going and we came up with an acronym "APROCOT" which stood for "African Prototype Communities of Tomorrow". This was a new approach to church planting in Africa in that the need in Africa was not just a church building but church as a community that created jobs, had a clinic, schooling, sanitation etc and our centrepiece to economic sustainability for the community was agri-processing, taking simple farm produce like cassava and convert it into ethanol for renewable fuel to be traded with the big cities for goods and services.

The APROCOT idea actually came from visits to Disneyworld's Epcot centre. This was Walt Disney's idea of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. And this was Disney's dream of designing people friendly cities where people work, live, shop and create community in one liveable space specially designed for human interaction.

I remember in the 1980's when I did a lot international travel for business I would often fly to Orlando, Fla. just for a weekend and sit in Disneyworld and just marvel at the place and wonder Is it possible to live like this? Can we design the cities of tomorrow like this? No cars, spotlessly clean, hundreds of thousands of people moving around a huge city effortlessly, safe, stunning landscapes, and truly as they say in their ads, "The happiest place on earth".

My first idea of special separate communities never materialized for too many reasons to enumerate here.  Although let me be honest as the world system brakes down sometime in the future I believe that is going to come. But not now. Now we need something that will work today.

Something that will work? What do I mean?

The Virtue of a City

Throughout scripture we are pointed to the vision of the city. The city on earth is actually an analogue of that which is in heaven...the city of God.  When Cain left Eden he built a city. Abraham looked for a city not built with hands. The Bible ends with a vision of the future...the city of God on earth healing the nations.

The concept of the city is the idea of people coming together for creative interaction, fellowship, trade, culture, education, protection...

And it is the vision of the city that I see the church of the 21st century headed. For so many reasons. By the way for those of you that want to study this further I can recommend two outstanding books. Edward Glaeser's "The Triumph of the City" which has a subtitle "How our greatest invention makes us richer smarter, greener, healthier and happier". (and that about says it all) and Leo Hollis's book "Cities are Good For You: The genius of the Metropolis".

The trend worldwide in the church is towards the phenomenon of the "mega-church".  Why? Actually it is an interesting phenomenon. It is not about great preaching although that has something to do to start it. But in reality after a certain number of people as a threshold is reached then "a crowd draws a crowd". People love to socialize.  When large numbers of people come together then a large number of activities can take place. Parents want their children to develop friends with other Christian children. Schools can be organized. Special classes and outreach groups can be organized.  You can organize your family and social life around church activities.

When you bring people together you bring resources together. When you have people interacting then creative things start happening. This is the genius of the city.

The Foundation for the City of God is Finished

As great as the "mega-church" phenomenon has been its time to move on.  And that is especially true of the multitude of small church denominational structures in every city of the world. Let me explain....

Ephesians 2:20 says we are built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles with Jesus being the chief cornerstone.  Go to any Sunday morning service and invariably the sermons are what I call "prophets and apostle stuff".  Foundation stuff. The same messages that we have heard a thousand times. Don't get me wrong that is crucial teaching.  But when do we get beyond the foundation and start doing the building of the City of God?

Eph. 4:11 says God gave us the five-fold ministry for the perfecting of the saints "unto the work of the ministry"...the saints need to get on with the ministry of building the Kingdom of God!  Frankly a lot us are just plain bored and we come to church because it is wonderful to praise the Lord with other saints but when it comes sermon time...well I basically sit and meditate on my own thoughts.

The Next Great Move of God....Building the City Church

The answer for the church of the 21st century church is not more mega-churches with one man "pulpiteering" and more religious entertainment to draw the crowds.

I don't need more sermons and more entertainment. I need to be interacting with other believers so that I can work with others on the creative projects that the Lord wants to launch in the world for the healing of the nations.

I need a new kind of church platform that brings the people of God together for creative work.  We have an unemployment crisis in the church. In its present structure the church functions for the work of pastors, apostles, evangelists etc. What about the rest of us? Are we just to be the audience for other people's ministries?  W have church meetings by the hundreds in our cities but we don't know who is a fellow believer, we don't know what giftings and resources are in our city, we don't know who has vision for what because we are divided up in small audiences for someone's ministry.

Creating the Virtual City Church.

So here is my answer to building the city church, bringing the people together of all churches in a region for the purpose that cities are bring people together for creative work.

God has given us the exciting new technologies for today to bring together the people of God in a region. You don't need to be physically in a building holding a meeting.

I saw the kernel of the virtual city in an article in Wired magazine about the nation of Estonia. A small Baltic state of about 1,2 million people.  The article by Ben Hammersley was entitled "Why I am now an e-resident of Estonia. And you should be too."  The first paragraph was this:

"The most advanced digital society in the world is a former Soviet Republic on the edge of the Baltic sea. By handing over 50 Euros and a photograph, allowing my fingerprints to be taken and waiting for a few weeks while my credentials were verified I have been issued with an identity card, a cryptographic key and a pin code to access its national systems. I am now an official e-resident of the Republic of Estonia..."

What the country of Estonia has done is remarkable.  The entire national operations have been placed online and all citizens plugged into the digital world of Estonia. All voting, legislation, records, banking, interaction with government, taxes, education etc ...all created into a virtual world. Estonia can be invaded but cannot be destroyed because the entire national system has been downloaded into multiple storage sites....offshore.

Now imagine this:

Elders in a city verify who in their group are truly born again Christians and adhere to the basics of evangelical belief: Salvation through faith alone in Christ, inerrancy of scripture, etc.

Believers are issued with a similar e-identity card as in Estonia that can be plugged into a computer (special card reading attachment) and then they are part of the city fellowship.

What can be done through such a closed Christian social network?

Well lets just imagine some things already being done out in the web....

Special closed groups can be formed who want do Bible study on special topics.
Video capability means home cell groups can link up with other cell groups for spcialized studies. Youtube teachings can be created by the best of Christian teachers and groups can take Bible studies on line.

People who have specialized ministry to homeless or runaways or drug issues can recruit those who also have this vision and work together.

News sites can advertise what is happening around the city in special meetings or outreaches.

Business possibilities are endless....

The entire new trend on the web is the idea that you don't need to own so many things when you can share when you need it.

Uber became the biggest taxi company in the world without owning a single taxi.
Airbnb became the biggest provider of hotel rooms without owning a building.
Amazon is delivering a multitude of products direct from manufacturer to customer without owning a store.
What about a specialized Christian Facebook social network?
What about in our local communities sharing things that people need without them having to buy it?  Do we all need a lawnmower, drills, welders etc?
How about knowing who in our community are plumbers, electricians, builders?

Can you see yourself travelling to another city and you are looking for accommodation, why pay for a hotel when you can pay Christians to stay in their home?  Or be picked up in a Christian version of Uber at the airport?

You see where I am heading with this idea? We Christians, if we can only connect with each other in a meaningful way are able to create a virtual alternate parallel society, economy and social justice system.

We can use the technologies of the blockchain and Bitcoin to create a virtual currency and trading system and banking system.

We can use the Youtube system to create our own virtual schools and universities.

We can link up with other Christians nationally and internationally to create a new world order.

This is Part 1. I am just laying out a broad vision here. I want to go deeper into some creative ideas in further blogs on how we can practically make this vision happen and all the fascinating possibilities for all of us to live out our gifts and callings from God.

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