Steve Collins, ever the creative thinker for new forms of church, muses about the web and its impact on documents. He speaks of the control that authors once had on their text, a control that the web obliterated as readers break up, interpret, and parse the document in any way that is suitable to their uses. Steve then turns his sights to the church and ponders what might happen if the web impacts the church as much as it has cultures.
What might the church learn from the web? Any modern church leader is trained to maintain control over the whole process of what we know as church, manifesting most specifically in the maintenance of order. Our church authors/producers/leaders are not prepared to release the text/church service/way of life to the readers/consumers/members. None of their training has prepared them for this uncontrolled way of living in community. So much of church training assumes the leader will face a passive audience that will receive their 'text' in its entirety. We are not trained to participate in church as an ongoing dynamic conversation of equals. I know this, because I train these same leaders.
What would it mean for leaders to let go of control, to realize that it is pointless to try and contain the life of faith, just as pointless as it would be to attempt to control the web? What would happen if our authority to act as leaders came from the many unsolicited links one receives rather than the title one bears? What would happen if our members can post 24-7 and are not required to sign in through a single portal, i.e. not seek permission for ministry but are trusted as friends and colleagues to create meaningful God inspired activities?
I'm just posing a few questions, to which I do not have good answers. Stepping back a bit, it has been an elusive task of the church to see the priesthood of believers realized. If we want to imagine what that an egalitarian, spirit-led community might look like, we need look no further than the liberating freedom that many experience within the web community.