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The church is not a community organizer. “People who go to church,” stated Zuckerberg, “are more likely to volunteer and give to charity—not just because they're religious, but because they're part of a community.”

Many institutions of public good, including public education, hospitals, and orphan care, not to mention many of the hallowed Ivy League schools that pepper the Eastern seaboard, were founded out of a specifically Christian desire for social reform. These reforms were carried out by the Christian community, but the motivations for these reforms were born out of the ethical considerations of the teachings of Jesus.

The church is not dying. No one knows, for sure, what the rise of the nones will mean. At best, our quantitative studies are mere snapshots of the moving picture of history. Perhaps, among other factors, the church is paying a heavy toll for its human shortcomings (incidents of abuse, hypocrisy, and fallen leadership, now more publicized than ever before); perhaps many are now more willing, in an increasingly secular society, to throw off labels that never truly applied to them in the first place.

But whatever the rise of the nones mean, it does not mean that the church can be replaced, no matter how ubiquitous and connective a social network proves to be.

The essence of the church is too far beyond us for any algorithm or business to recreate; it lies in the Holy Spirit, which resides in all those who believe in Jesus Christ.

As theologian Karl Barth said, “The mortal church cannot die … the gates of hell cannot swallow it up. It stands or falls with him. But he does not fall, so the church cannot fall. It can only stand. It can and must and will rise again even though it falls.”

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