Book Review: MetaChurch Provides a Path for Churches to Embrace Technology
Technology is nothing new, yet it represents nearly everything new in our society. It isn’t easy to fully engage with other people without bumping into things like video chat, live streaming, or cryptocurrency. Like it or not, this digital landscape is the new normal for everyone, everywhere. When it comes to digital technology, there are ultimately two choices we can make: you can learn to embrace this changing landscape, or you can fight against it and find yourself outside of the conversation.
That’s the central premise of Dave Adamson’s new book MetaChurch, which Orange Books released in early 2022. Churches have a variety of reactions to digital technology—some embrace innovation, some fear it, and the majority lie somewhere in the middle. Regardless, most churches haven’t fully leveraged these tools to fulfill our God-given mission.
The point of Adamson’s book is to encourage ministry leaders to embrace technology and digital platforms. When we’re able to adapt to the changing world around us, the church can impact the people in that world more.
Digital ministry isn’t only for big churches
In the book, Adamson frequently cites his ministry experience, especially his service as the online pastor at North Point Community Church in Atlanta. He quotes from pastors at other well-known churches like Saddleback Church in California and Life Church in Oklahoma. Maybe you’ve heard of these churches because they’re among the biggest megachurches in the US.
Thankfully, Dave distinguishes that succeeding in online ministry is not limited to massive congregations. He contrasts the term meta church with the concept of megachurch. Even small churches with limited budgets can utilize online platforms for discipleship in their community.
Certainly, megachurches benefit from more resources, staff, and larger budgets. Larger churches can crank out more content and build a more extensive social media following, but the purpose is not bigger numbers. The goal of digital ministry is to form deeper relationships and enhance what your church is already doing.
Even better, churches of any size or location can learn from the larger congregations and implement some of the lessons they’ve learned. Weshouldn’t seek to copy their output, but their practices can (and should!) spark ideas and inspiration. That’s what MetaChurch provides—a peek behind the curtain of some successful digital ministries and a path to applying their lessons.
Digital is an enhancement, not a replacement
Many church leaders’ argument against online ministry is that in-person worship is better. It’s what God intended, right? Besides, in-person worship is all most church leaders know. Adamson addresses all of these concerns by pointing out the false dichotomy. Modern worship isn’t an either/or conversation but a both/and approach. We need to embrace both digital and in-person church.
He acknowledges that digital ministry, like live streams and Zoom Bible studies, should never replace in-person worship. Meeting at the church is still important. It’s hard to fully recreate a live worship experience online. However, digital components help to enhance ministries and open new opportunities to reach more people.
In his great commissioning, Jesus invites us into God’s work—to reach all nations and make disciples. When appropriately used, the internet allows us to fulfill this mission better than ever before. People are more distracted, but they’re also still in need of the gospel. Therefore, church leaders are responsible to fully embrace these tools to live out their callings.
That’s not to say adapting to these new platforms won’t be hard.MetaChurch readily admits as much—thankfully, Adamson also provides a multitude of practical advice and examples to get started. That advice includes optimizing an online stream, upgrading your YouTube videos, and creating an effective church podcast.
Ignore digital at your own risk
The book provides countless data-backed reasons why churches can’t ignore digital ministry. Many reputable research studies prove that more people are seeking help and answers online. If the church isn’t filling this new ministry field, we’re ceding this potential influence. The internet needs the hope and love that God’s word provides.
That’s not to say that there aren’t criticisms of online platforms like social media. I’d argue that MetaChurch doesn’t address these shortcomings directly enough (perhaps Adamson didn’t want to give some pastors even more reason to doubt). Regardless, the fact is that we don’t have to like these platforms or agree with their every action to use them to spread the gospel.
It’s tempting to drift into a doom-and-gloom tone when talking about the internet (or salvation, for that matter). We’re overwhelmed by the different ways the world is going to end. Thankfully, Adamson opts instead for a brighter and more hopeful tone. Reading the book feels like encouragement from an expert.
Maybe you’ve heard this before
Perhaps some of this information isn’t new if you’ve worked in church communications for a while. Maybe you’ve heard this message before. There are still tips or new methods you can learn from MetaChurch. But perhaps you already understand the importance of being online. You agree with Adamson’s points—you’re a member of the proverbial choir to whom he’s preaching.
I’m with you—I’ve personally known Dave Adamson for about the past seven years. He’s been passionately sharing this message even before then. I’ve heard him speak on this same topic at conferences and on podcasts. But I don’t get tired of hearing it for two reasons.
First, the reminder never hurts. Adamson has filled this book with reminders of why we do what we do. In the hustle of ministry, it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose behind your work. MetaChurch isn’t just a practical guide, but an inspirational manifesto. The book is a shot of inspiration that you can keep on your shelf for those times when you need a boost of encouragement.
Second, this information might be new for someone else. Plenty of pastors don’t quite grasp the vital point of digital ministry. Maybe they’re vehemently against it, or they’re simply indifferent. Either way, MetaChurch is an excellent introduction to the topic. They’re likely not going to pick up the book themselves, but they might read it if they had it recommended by someone they trust—someone like you.