(Read part 1)
Calvin's definition of "church" is where the Word is preached, the sacraments are received, and church discipline practiced. That's a good summary of the defining characteristics of the New Testament ecclesia and a good summary of the main problems with internet church.
Is the word preached "at" an internet campus? Absolutely. In fact, the Word preached becomes the centerpiece. Church is boiled down to singing a few songs and hearing a message.
And while internet campuses provide a great sermon delivery vehicle, and even allow you to virtually raise your hand in response, what they don't do is allow you to be known and missed. You can't stand at the end of the gathering and ask for help moving. You can't help tear things down and clean up afterwards. You can't look after someone's kids while they pray with someone else. You can't take a visitor out to lunch. How can our community be a sign and foretaste of the kingdom when our method of gathering keeps us from ever physically serving, loving, or being present to one another? I know how participating in a congregation begins to make me more like Jesus. I'm unsure how that happens with an internet campus.
I know that "virtual" baptisms are practiced online. I know too that every week thousands in virtual communities practice virtual communion, if not together, then at least simultaneously. And I have to wonder, Why can't they see that's not enough? That simultaneous is not the same as together, and that taking communion in this way completely misses the whole point?
As for discipline and accountability, some say that online churches encourage more transparency in the chat rooms and virtual lobbies of internet campuses. But how is the pastoral care of prayer and ...