Analog Church

Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age

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Pub Date 31 Mar 2020 | Archive Date 15 May 2020

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Outreach Resource of the Year The Gospel Coalition Book Award What does it mean to be an analog church in a digital age? In recent decades the digital world has taken over our society at nearly every level, and the church has increasingly followed suit—often in ways we're not fully aware of. But as even the culture at large begins to reckon with the limits of a digital world, it's time for the church to take stock. Are online churches, video venues, and brighter lights truly the future? What about the digital age's effect on discipleship, community, and the Bible? As a pastor in Silicon Valley, Jay Kim has experienced the digital church in all its splendor. In Analog Church, he grapples with the ramifications of a digital church, from our worship and experience of Christian community to the way we engage Scripture and sacrament. Could it be that in our efforts to stay relevant in our digital age, we've begun to give away the very thing that our age most desperately needs: transcendence? Could it be that the best way to reach new generations is in fact found in a more timeless path? Could it be that at its heart, the church has really been analog all along?

Outreach Resource of the Year The Gospel Coalition Book Award What does it mean to be an analog church in a digital age? In recent decades the digital world has taken over our society at...

Advance Praise

"Just as loving parents thoughtfully research the usage of technology and the impact it has on their children, church leaders must do the same for those Jesus entrusts us with. Too often we jump on the latest trends and whatever seems most attractive on the surface, without much thoughtful discernment. Analog Church is a wake-up call and asks us some tough, much-needed questions—whether our rush into the use of whatever new technology is available is helping or hurting people's understanding of God, worship, church, and themselves. In a digitally saturated world, where new generations are bombarded and immersed in the digital, we need to press into analog all the more. Analog Church shows us how." Dan Kimball, director of the ReGeneration Project, author of They Like Jesus but Not the Church
"Sometimes the best books about the future involve the ones that start with a look backward. In this very important work, Jay reminds us of God's vision for the church as the plumb line for how we view and leverage technology. In making digital the servant of analog we are moving in the right direction. Reversing the two leads us to something fundamentally different than the deep journey God has called all of us to. The church was always meant to be waiting for us when everything else failed to live up to our deep longing for transcendence. This book is the map to that." Nancy Ortberg, CEO of Transforming the Bay with Christ, author of Looking for God
"Jay Kim is a theological wizard. His writing is sharp without being cutting, pastoral while also prophetic, disruptive but not divisive. In other words, Analog Church doesn't just make for good content; it makes for good humans who are ready to trade relevancy for transformation. I can already think of a handful of leaders I want to pass it along to in holy passive aggressiveness or, better yet, love. On my list of things to do after reading it: 'To gather when the world scatters. To slow down when the world speeds up. To commune when the world critiques.'" Erin S. Lane, author of Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe
"Pastors and church planters today face a bewildering variety of options and opinions about how to 'do church' in our contemporary, digital age. It's an age-old dilemma: When do our efforts to 'adapt' to a new cultural setting end up compromising what the Jesus movement has to offer the world? In this book Jay Kim offers a timely and poignant set of reflections that no ministry leader can afford to ignore." Tim Mackie, cofounder of The Bible Project
"We are clearly sitting within a technological and digital revolution—but a revolution against what? And to where? In this book, my friend Jay Kim serves us as a true pastor, showing us that this revolution is unparalleled in its spiritual implications. After reading this book, I have a much clearer understanding of how technology has shaped the church and how we can change. With an impressive bibliography, thoughtful exegesis of Scripture, and terrific prose, Kim shows us how the digital revolution requires an analog response—and why God's church is the essential respondent." Chris Nye, pastor and author of Less of More: Pursuing Spiritual Abundance in a World of Never Enough
"We're at a point in history where churches are investing considerable amounts of time and money into the digital age. Jay carefully critiques this booming movement with eyes set on a direction far less attractive and all too necessary—detaching more from digital technology and stepping back into patient communion with God and one another. Analog Church is not another call to gather the masses and burn it all down but a compelling and, I believe, prophetic invitation to reorient our values to reflect the spiritually enriching practices of generations past. Jay paints us a wonderful picture of life ahead, if we are willing to adjust, where we are faithfully connected to the digital age without being controlled by it." Zach Bolen, songwriter, producer, and frontman of Citizens
"At a time when so many are despairing over the declining attendance and lack of engagement in our local churches, I cannot wait to give this book to usher in some hope! Jay Y. Kim describes how we can lean into what the church is uniquely poised to provide—transformation, community, and shared moments of wonder and awe. I closed the book grateful for a sense that, with God's help, we can do this!" Nancy Beach, leadership coach with the Slingshot Group, author of Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
"In Analog Church, Jay Kim rings a bell. He sounds an alarm warning us of the potential dangers inherent in our increasingly disengaged digital age. But he also sounds an invitation—like a distantly familiar dinner bell—calling us back to the transcendent presence of God and the warmth of deeply rich communal life in the Kingdom. I resonate deeply with both these sentiments, and I believe you will too." Manuel Luz, author of Honest Worship and Imagine That
"It's a grave miscalculation for the church today to think relevance depends on the ability to keep up with the pace, gloss, and hype of our technological world. Our frenetic, fidgety age does not need a frenetic, fidgety church. Our Insta-perfect, polished age does not need a photoshopped, inauthentic church. Our tech-weary world does not need a tech-obsessed church. Jay Kim's Analog Church understands this, presenting a compelling case for the church's most radical act in today's world: not to be a trendy, shape-shifting, chameleonic copycat, but to be a transcendent Christ-centered community whose difference from the world is why it makes a difference." Brett McCracken, senior editor at The Gospel Coalition and author of Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community
"In his book Analog Church, Jay raises important questions and addresses crucial issues for the church in a digital age. Instead of continuing to adapt and acquiesce, he calls us to come out of hiding from behind our digital walls, to bridge digital divides, and to be human with one another in real time, real space, and real ways. He invites us to move beyond relevance to transcendence. And it is a welcome invitation!" Ruth Haley Barton, founder of the Transforming Center, author of Life Together in Christ
"How do you keep real people and genuine fellowship in a virtual world? Jay Kim wrestles brilliantly with the issues and realities of the march to utilize digital technologies both inside and outside the building. Analog Church is an essential resource for churches seeking to use digital technologies without falling prey to the disastrous distortions that come to thoughtless adopters." Gerry Breshears, professor of theology at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon
"In our media-saturated age, what we need more than ever is not relevance so much as transcendence. In Analog Church, Jay Kim asks the right questions about our use of technology as churches, regardless of whether one lands with every conclusion, that can help us move from the digital emphasis on information to the biblical emphasis on transformation, from our preferences to others' presence, and from mere communication to the majesty of communion—together as the flesh-and-blood people of God." Joshua Ryan Butler, pastor of teaching and direction at Redemption Church, Tempe, author of The Skeletons in God's Closet
"With wisdom and grace, Jay Kim urges the church to consider the ramifications of the digital age. Without noticing it, we quickly become content with efficiency over intimacy, convenience over transcendence, and results over transformation. Analog Church invites us to slow down, to breathe deeply of the human connectedness that we were designed to experience in our communal search for God. This book isn't an invitation to join a sectarian group forsaking all things modern or digital but instead illuminates a relevant, ancient pathway into the profound beauty and mystery of God. I highly recommend this book!" Kurt Willems, pastor, author, and podcaster at
"Perhaps now more than ever, the church can offer a radical alternative to a digital world. In Analog Church, Jay Kim calls us to a greater sense of self-awareness and reminds the bride that she is drastically different, beautiful, and real. Jay opens our imaginations to see a unique, gritty, personal, and embodied path—the path toward transcendence, not relevance." Tara Beth Leach, senior pastor of PazNaz, Pasadena, California, and author of Emboldened

"Just as loving parents thoughtfully research the usage of technology and the impact it has on their children, church leaders must do the same for those Jesus entrusts us with. Too often we jump on...

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Analog Church by Pastor Jay Kim is a wake-up call to the Church as it tries to market itself as a commodity. Instead, Jay reminds us that this was never what Christianity was meant to be in the first place. So many aspects of Church are impossible to do digitally. The nature of the Church is to do life together, growing as disciples, radically reordering our lives around the one who has called us to follow him. Looking specifically at how we worship, how we build community, and how we practice scripture, Jay gives us clear reasons for doing Church the old-school, analog way. He also states a myriad of examples, providing practical ways for us to lead others back to the roots of our faith together. I highly recommend this book to pastors and ministry leaders seeking to plant new churches, revitalize old ones, and follow Christ in making disciples. I received a free ARC copy of this book from NetGalley, and have reviewed it willingly.

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Scott McKnight in the foreward writes: "There’s a theology behind what Jay Kim very helpfully calls Analog Church, and it’s the incarnation. God became one of us." There are three parts to this book, worship, community, and Scripture. Through out this work Jay Y. Kim establishes the need for the Church to be incarnational in all three areas. He points out that in our digital world the Church has frequently "adapted and acquiesced to the prevailing culture." In our rush to relevance we have have lost sight of the need to be steadfast and have unquestionably brought the technology of Silicon Valley into the Church without considering the consequences of such. Jay writes: "Our unchecked pursuit of relevance isn’t only affecting the way we gather to worship. It’s also changing our understanding of what it means to be a community. As more and more churches push headlong into online spaces, people are being asked not only to communicate but also to commune on digital platforms. The Bible, too, is being affected by the digital age, as we turn the grand narrative of Scripture into a series of easily digestible, bite-sized tidbits for personal encouragement and self-help– style motivation. We’re changing the church experience from an extended meal at a dining table into a truncated series of tweets, and we’re losing our aptitude for nuance, generosity, and engagement." The responsiblity of the Church is engage and witness and digital technology may assist us in that, but it cannot take the place of human contact. We as the Church have been most effective when has lived and presented the counter culture of the gospel message and when we point to transcedence. Christianity overtook the Roman Empire in what Jay Kim refers to as the Analog Church. In its transcendent message it was relevant and challenged the dominant culture. It is to this we must return as Christianity's message is relevant to the needs and longings of humanity. In the last chapter Jay Kim writes about the Meal at the center of history, ". . . Jesus ate with people who had no business eating with him. And in doing so, even before his final meal, he redefined what it means to be the people of God around himself. He made a way for everyone— Jews and Gentiles— to belong. This is why eating and drinking this meal still matters: because in doing so, we are eating and drinking our way back into an awareness of our place at God’s table. Slowly but surely, we recognize that we are feasting with family, dining among a people to whom we eternally belong. I don’t mean that this meal is some sort of golden ticket for salvation. But I also do not mean that it’s just an optional, helpful practice. It’s not. It’s an undeniable and irresistible invitation to all those who belong to the body of Christ." This is a book that needed to be written, and I highly recommend it.. My prayer is that it will read by many in the Church.

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How to be an Analog Church in a Digital Time? Review of Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age by Jay Kim There’s something unsatisfying about the forced digital moment we occupy: Zoom calls, Facetime, livestreams, virtual happy hours…if we are honest with ourselves, we have to say that none of these, try as they might, scratch our universal itch for human connection. If you are a churchgoer, then this is perhaps even more true. Worship is a whole-body experience: you pass the peace with a hug or a handshake; you rise up for the doxology; in some traditions you kneel for confession; you breathe in and exhale together a song of praise; you move up the aisles, hands open, to receive some bread, to dip it in the cup, to ingest the mysterious sacramental reality of Jesus. Mind, body, spirit, community. All together, mysteriously, doing the thing we call worship. If you are anything like me, the digital necessity of our current moment is revealing that worship just is not fully worship if bodies are not involved. I read a book this week called Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age. Jay Kim wrote it before the coronavirus, but it speaks helpfully to what many of us are missing in our online worship experience. He comes from the perspective of one who has worked at large churches doing their best to engage and reach out to the unchurched, by using all the best technology and design to be as “relevant” as they can. He names that all of this is done, for the most part, with the best intentions: to reach people for Christ. Multi-site churches livestream one pastor’s sermon to multiple campuses; worship reflects the set design and lighting of rock concerts; churches move their worship to online campuses. And all this is done to reach the people the church was missing, to serve and reach as many as possible. Kim questions not the intentions of these churches, but the effects of their methods. Kim writes that in practice “the desire to ‘serve and reach as many as we can’ in the digital age devolves into methods that essentially equate to, ‘what’s the fastest, most efficient way for us to get bigger?’” Kim shows in his book that the values of Silicon Valley (speed, choice, and individualism) have in turn made us impatient, shallow, and isolated. He helpfully questions churches that unthinkingly compare their organizations to Uber and Amazon, as organizations offering a product or a service. His book is a great reminder that the church is NOT that! Instead it’s a gathering of people who have been transformed by Jesus, who sing, pray, worship, work, eat, cry, and laugh together. Real people, in a real place. Analog, not digital. I found this book really helpful in the current moment, as I struggle with understanding to what extent technology is helpful to building up a meaningful community and to what extent it is a hindrance to that community. Kim covers topics such as the purpose and effect of online campuses of churches, using sermons on video, how to encourage corporate singing, the purpose of communal prayer, reading scripture together, and the sharing of communion. And throughout, he asks: what are we implicitly teaching the church through the form and medium of our worship? I particularly liked his chapters on the sermon as an act of transformation, for the speaker and the hearers. He writes that “when a sermon is delivered via video, no matter how dynamic and gifted the communicator may be, the sermon is inherently a watching experience, not a witnessing one. And when it comes to preaching, the difference between watching and witnessing is everything.” For me this spoke to how inadequate the experience of preaching to an empty room is: I am missing the powerful, visceral response of the congregation, transforming the spoken word by their very witness. I had several other aha moments that I've only begun to realize during this forced digital experience of worship during the quarantine. The only critique I have of the book was its brief ending section on communion. I could have used a deeper engagement for how communion, as the foundation and center of Christian worship, teaches us that a digital space or form can only ever be a second-best experience of worship. But, that being said, I heartily recommend this book for any clergy or layperson attempting to wade into the difficult waters ahead. Kim has helped me begin to ask the right questions about my use of technology in church. He helps us ask, are we looking for communication or communion? For information, digital works great. But if you want transformation, you need communion, with God and with others. Kim writes, “To communicate is primarily about the exchange of information. To commune is primarily about the exchange of presence.” And it turns out, the exchange of presence requires…you guessed it…being present. Fully there, in mind, body, and spirit. I think this is a time where everyone in the church world is doing their best to figure out how to have church when you can’t have church. How to be together when you can’t be together. Kim’s book has been helpful to me because it reminded me that no matter hard we try, we can’t replicate presence if we are not present. Our job during the coronavirus is not to do the impossible, it is to do our best through digital spaces. Kim’s helpful point is that no matter how hard we try, these will always be inferior to analog, real spaces, because we are humans, created by God for (real) community. I am praying for all of our communities, for mine and for yours, as we begin asking the tough questions together. Peace, Cambron

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This is a strange time to be reading this book. With much of the world locked down due to the coronavirus crisis, many churches are forced to conduct services digitally. They meet via virtual rooms. They see each other's faces (when the cameras are turned on), as well as the physical environment they are in. More often than not, they put on their best looks when online. In a digital environment, things are made to look more like zeros and ones, metaphorically. As the world becomes more digitized and virtualized, we have a challenge of trying to make human connections as authentic as possible. Knowing the limitations of technology is one thing. Making extra effort to bridge the gaps is another. In this increasingly hybrid community, we don't really have a choice. Digital Church is convenient but not necessarily practical; fast but not necessarily effective; comfortable but not necessarily authentic. Author Jay Kim takes a closer look at the differences between analog and digital communities and points out why digital connections can only go so far and are ultimately inadequate for true connections. He cautions readers against adopting a sense of what CS Lewis calls "chronological snobbery," which is another way of preferring new things over the new. True enjoyment and happiness comes not with the latest and greatest gizmos but the down to earth relational activities we do, especially those face-to-face. Otherwise, we reduce human relationships to convenience, efficiency, and even status updates. The latter especially is merely a tip of the understanding the iceberg of a person. One can post an emotional status now and a minute later feels totally opposite of what was posted. Trouble is, what is updated online does not necessarily stays the same all the time. Things change. People change, but the online updates are only as accurate as the latest update. For all updates are but snapshots in time. Moreover, electronic mediums can only capture a figment of one's personality. Kim makes several good observations when comparing and contrasting digital vs analog. He notes that the main connection digitally is the camera, rather than the persons involved. For with the camera comes the temptation to be relevant at all costs, even if it means playacting. Taking a leaf from Marshall McLuhan's thesis about the medium being the message, he points out that the key to spirituality is transcendence rather than relevance. What he means is that kingdom matters are often contrary to worldly concerns. He turns against the fallacies of digital communications and points out at least three major negative influences. He critiques the relentless speed that forces us to keep pace beyond our ordinary rhythms. He notes the wide array of choices that render us confused and trapped amid the lack of knowledge of what is most appropriate. He warns us against the rise of individualism that digital technologies promote outwardly and cultivates inwardly. Worse, the triple promises of speed, choices, and individualism are presented as positive and productive values when they actually are contrary to true relationships. For speed makes us impatient; choices make us shallow; and individualism leads to isolation. I can identify with these, especially the metaphor of the front door, the kitchen, and the living room. Digital mediums are great when it comes to introducing and welcoming people at the front door. However, when it comes to the living room and the kitchen where most interactions and deeper communications are made, we need analog. Kim summarizes the call of the Church in three ways: To gather when the world scatters. To slow down when the world speeds up. To commune when the world critiques. The author covers three broad themes of worship, community, and scripture. On worship, beginning with a story of how one non-believer stopped coming to his church because she finds church like another "rock concert atmosphere." We are reminded that worship isn't limited to singing. It is whole body participation. For those of us with a nostalgic memory, we would remember the shift from repetitive singing to hymn books; from hymnals to projectors; and from overhead projectors to PowerPoint; and from PowerPoint to YouTube. All of these instruments of worship are leading our eyes in the name of relevance to wherever the technology is taking us. There is that subtle shift from harmonizing to individualizing; from congregational singing to performance watching. Kim covers a wide repertoire of modern worship elements that range from watching sermons at home to expectation of their pastors trying to emulate the star preachers. Sadly, this raises a new generation of copycats rather than creative preachers. Worship needs to be transformative and not mindless repetitive or reproduction of the latest and greatest ideas. Witnessing for Christ is the call of the Church; not watching performances of stars. The book gets better as Kim makes many insights on community and scripture, both crucial to the meaning of worship. He compares the ancient building of the tower of Babel to the modern technological Babel where man seeks to control and circumvent everything that God had intended for. Technology has become a way for self-accomplishment and selfishness. He laments the new generation's ability to think deeper in an environment of quick thinking and shallowness. Interestingly, he observes how we tend to lower our expectations of others through the nature of digital babbling. This requires some explanation. This lowering of expectations is more about "superficial caricatures of others" rather than their abilities. Instead of assuming and drawing out the best of others, we superficially attach what we want on others and dumb our own ideas down on them. This damages community in more ways than one. Kim also distinguishes between "online church" and "Church online" preferring the latter over the former. This parallels Sherry Turkle's observation of the former being "alone together." A Church online is one where people gather and participate regardless of medium. One disturbing discovery is the way many digital applications are designed with slot machine mentality. Kim cites a certain Tristan Harris who basically critiques these technological applications for their tendency to realign people to the organizational interests rather than to humanity's best interests. Subtly, the app creators aim to make people refresh the page frequently in the hope of seeing something they want to see, just like slot machines that tempt people to keep pulling the lever in the hope of landing the big prize. This is worth reflecting upon more thoughtfully instead of uncritical use. On Scripture, I appreciate the reminder that Christianity is a "bookish" faith, written to be heard and read, not downloaded and kept in our digital devices. Do read till the end of the book for the author to explain why the subtitle of the book is a bit of a "misnomer." My Thoughts ============== This is one of the most thoughtful books on technology and faith that I have read. Let me offer three thoughts. First, technology is making us put on individualistic weight. The other day, I was thinking about the reasons for binge watching. I grow up in an era of watching TV serials where episodes are released once a week. Before each new episode, we would gather together as a family after dinner and sit in the living room sofas waiting for the next exciting continuing episode. This became a routine we enjoy every week in front of the family TV. Nowadays, we have Netflix and all kinds of streaming services that allow us to stream many TV serials without having to wait. We watch it anytime instead of the weekly scheduled time. We watch it anywhere in our own rooms. We watch it on any devices convenient to us, even away from home. No longer do we bother to wait for the episodes to arrive. We simply wait until the entire series could be streamed and we can then watch at our individual convenience instead of using it as a time for family togetherness. Second, Kim makes an important point about the decrease in qualitative value because of technology. In looking at the comparison between analog and digital, I note that there is also the difference in terms of quality. Jay Millar says it well when contrasting between modern MP3s and vinyl records, that "digitization is the peak of convenience, but vinyl is the peak of experience." This reminds me of the camera zoom lens. Digital zoom can magnify many times more compared to optical zoom. However, when it comes to quality, optical zoom beats out digital hands down. I cannot help but feel that a digitized generation have compromised quality for convenience. In doing so, they miss out on the true experience that only analog can provide. Third, this book could be misconstrued as a technological Luddite. Perhaps, the author has been overly critical of technology that the book appears lobsided toward the negatives of technology in the Church. Probably, the book is geared more toward those who have blindly accepted technology as a good thing and uncritical about the way they use their digital devices. I understand where Kim is coming from. Some people may quote the Bible's teaching about the distinction of money vs the "love of money" as the root of evil, and apply that to technology, to say something like technology like money is neutral. I remember one of my theological professors assert that technology and money are never neutral. They are principalities of the world used by evil forces in this world. In an increasingly sinful and greedy world of commerce, there is no such thing as a win-win scenario on the use of technology. We need to be watchful and to be careful in how we use them. Thanks to Jay Kim, we have a book to remind us to do just that. Rating: 4.75 stars of 5. conrade This book has been provided courtesy of Inter-Varsity Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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This is an interesting book to read during the Covid-19 crisis. I found it a helpful reminder that as a people and as church we were made for the face to face, the analog, rather than only digital. This books appeals to us to consider the great benefits of being analog, looking at the history of how technology has changed the way we do church, both its positive & negative sides. During Covid-19, there is a distinct lack of the analog and an increase in the digital, but what about when its over? What happens next? Do we continue with online church or do we introduce more ways to be face to face? This book will help and challenge you as you face those questions. One thing I know from reading this book, it made me yearn to see others, gather around the dinner table, go for walks and sing alongside my brothers and sisters. Looking forward to those days.

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As a result of COVID-19, I have been thinking quite a bit about what, if anything, we lose as a church by not meeting in person. Our church livestreams a service on Sunday mornings that is highly polished, and thanks to Zoom our small groups continue to meet weekly as well, and there’s something about a screen that allows people to speak even more freely than they might in person. We have used Slack to improve communication between church staff and small group leaders, turning one-way email blasts into two-way conversations. We have raised and given away tens of thousands of dollars, meeting the needs of non-profit organizations, families, and individuals across Denver, all without meeting in person even once. The neighbors around the church haven’t had to complain about traffic congestion on Sundays even once in the last 10 weeks because nobody is driving anywhere. On the other hand, when I sing during the service, I don’t hear the swell of voices behind and around me. When I read the confession, I don’t hear a whole community of voices confessing with me. When the pastor presents communion, people all over the city are not coming together to remember the body and the blood, but are eating and drinking alone in their own homes, in an ironic reversal of 1 Corinthians 11. When the service is over and I close my laptop lid, the music abruptly cuts off. There is no hum of happy conversation, there is nobody to catch up with, nobody to give a friendly handshake or hug. There is no unforeseen, whimsical, fortuitous conversations that take me by surprise and transport me into someone else’s worries and wonders. I send a wave emoji through the chat and then go cook yet another box of mac and cheese for my children before putting them down for naps. Technology is definitely a blessing in this cultural moment, but it is no panacea. Going Analog So what should we say? Fast forward a few years when we’re (hopefully) past this Coronavirus. In the context of normal life, how should the church appropriate technology for its aims? May we adapt to a technological future for the church? Should we? These are the questions pastor and author Jay Kim seeks to answer in his new book, Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age. Drawing upon history, theology, and biblical studies, Kim makes the argument that while digital technology certainly does offer intriguing possibilities for the life of the church, we have been too uncritical in our adoption of these technologies into our churches. He wants the church to think not only of the possibilities, but also the drawbacks technology has upon our personal and communal formation. In short, he wants the church to return to its "analog" roots rather than simply assuming we can make the jump to digital without losing our integrity. It’s worth noting that digital technology is hardly the first kind of technology that the church has ever had to wrestle with, and Kim examines ways in which things like church buildings, printed Bibles and hymnals, and more have shaped the life and practice of Christians through the centuries. While we tend to think of something like the printing press as an unequivocal win for the church, the reality is much more complicated. Printing songs of worship in a hymnal allows the church to sing a greater variety of songs, but it also turns our heads down toward a book rather than up to see the people singing around us. Then the overhead projector solves that problem, but opens up its own set of issues. Kim’s point is that no technology is wholly good: as pastors and elders shepherd their churches into new developments and unforeseen technological revolutions, they need to do so reflectively, thoughtfully, and with due care. Another challenge people are wrestling through in this time of Coronavirus is that if we’re all just sitting at home watching sermons online anyway, what’s the difference between me tuning into my own church’s livestream and that of a more famous preacher? If I’m going to watch a video of a sermon, why not just watch the best preachers with the best streaming equipment? Of course, this question has been around a lot longer than Coronavirus, having gained prevalence years ago when people started putting videos and podcasts of their sermons up online free of charge. Now, however, nobody is going to know whether I "tuned in" to my church or not, so why does it even matter? Surely I won’t be missed, right? Kim argues that this is one of the primary downsides of digital technology, because the church is more than communication, more than content: it is also communion. We gather together with the community of Christ precisely because each person does matter and should be missed. Discipleship is not merely a matter of knowing the right things or even of doing the right things, but of learning and doing and growing together with the church. We are not individually the body of Christ; we compose the body of Christ together. When a pastor preaches a sermon, it should not be the same regardless of who is in the audience; a sermon is a contextual thing that changes depending upon who it is preached to and what those particular people need to hear from the Lord. So yes, it does matter which livestream you tune into during this pandemic, and yes it also matters that your pastor makes an effort to know the people of the congregation. Pastors may need to lean heavily upon digital communication platforms to gain that knowledge, but it is necessary work in any season. Kim also urges Christians to consider how digital technology shapes us on a habitual and practical level. There is an inescapable slowness to spiritual growth, just as good food takes time to cook. Yet digital technology trains our expectations and habits in the opposite direction, training our brains, thumbs, and hearts to expect speed and easy consumption. The amount of time it takes you to "get" a tweet or a ‘gram is generally no longer than the amount of time it takes to read it or look at it. That is to say, digital media does not require reflection, and in fact it actively pushes against it. He also draws the fascinating correlation between the psychology of a slot machine and that of apps where you constantly pull to refresh or scroll forever looking for an interesting little thing. The goal of the pseudo-random slot machine is to keep you going indefinitely, giving you just enough hope that you’ll win big without ever actually following through on that promise. We have all seen interesting things on our timelines, but have we ever really "won big"? Does the value that the timeline provides justify the time investment of filling every empty moment with a flick flick of the thumb? To put it even more bluntly, it is doubtful that any of us would retire to the nearest casino to find rest for our souls or seek communion with God. Is it all that different to pull that environment into our homes and churches through our phones? Concerns There is a lot to commend about Analog Church, but it is not without its concerns. Though this is a blanket statement, the book as a whole seems to lean more heavily upon fears about technology and guilt about our improper uses of it than any sort of robust theological reflection on embodiment. To be fair, Kim does talk about how the incarnation implies the goodness of in-person churchly endeavors. He does do word studies on the New Testament’s use of sarx and the implications of our fleshly bodies. But I couldn’t help shake the feeling that even as sympathetic as I am toward his argument, I wasn’t all that convinced. At one point, Kim suggests that the "one another" commands of the NT are "difficult at best, and impossible at worst, to do online." For a quick refresher, the New Testament commands us to Serve one another. Bear with one another in love. Speak and sing the words of God together. Make music together. Teach and challenge one another. Keep one another accountable. Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Do not give up meeting together. Be hospitable to one another. Experience fellowship together. Confess to one another. Pray for one another. Eat and drink together. But which of these are actually impossible to do online? I agree that some of them are awkward when mediated digitally, but the truth is that we have done these things during this pandemic, and we have done them over digital media. We have "had dinner" with folks by setting up a laptop with Zoom at the end of the dinner table. We have had worship nights over Zoom. We have faithfully texted one another encouragement and challenge. We have talked about hard topics and read entire books over Zoom. We pray and confess and even just hang out. I don’t debate that all these things are very different than they would be in person, but Kim goes on to argue that since these things are "difficult" or "impossible" to do online, that therefore "These practices of the church… require physical presence," which is just flatly not true. Kim’s argument would have been strengthened by acknowledging where technological media of communication are sufficient or even uniquely valuable in these "one another" commands even while arguing that in-person communion is irreplaceable. I also deeply appreciate Kim’s critique of consumeristic mindsets when we approach the church. He does a good job of articulating why the church is starkly different than our curated online "communities" of people who are exactly like us. Nevertheless, he himself leans upon consumerism when encouraging pastors to reconsider his analog vision of the church: Younger generations, having grown up in an over-digitized world, feel this on an intrinsic level and are seeking out experiences they can see, hear, feel, and touch. They realize that ordering a book online and walking through a bookstore are two palpably different things. They’re longing for analog. And this offers the church a never-before-seen missional opportunity, to provide these sorts of transcendent spaces that are so few and far between in the digital age. And also: We’re beginning to see this turn toward analog worship surfacing in surprising places. New Life Church in Colorado, an evangelical, multisite megachurch of more than ten thousand people, concludes their Sunday gatherings at their large downtown campus by singing the Doxology in acapella every week. Other large, influential churches like Willow Creek in Illinois, Mars Hill in Michigan, and the Village Church in Texas are incorporating more participatory liturgy into the regular rhythms of their weekend gatherings. These communities, sometimes categorized from the outside as "seeker-sensitive" or "attractional" churches, are recognizing the need for a more participatory and engaging worship environment, and are making necessary changes. I’m not here to dispute whether "younger generations" as a bloc are wanting more tactile worship experiences or not. What I take umbrage with is that this is essentially a market argument: the market is demanding more participatory, analog experiences, so therefore let’s provide that. People very well could be hungering for that vision of church, but this fact by itself does not establish that the church must therefore move in that direction. This rhetorical move also works to undermine the overall argument of the book, because that sword cuts both ways: if the even younger next generation tires of formal liturgies, candles, and "analog worship experiences," should we conclude that the church has an obligation to deliver a digitally mediated worship service instead simply because that’s what they say they hunger for? Conclusion I am a software engineer and I have seen the digital product development cycle from the inside for many years now in many different contexts. The attention economy is a real thing, and it concerns me deeply. I find many developments in the industry to be concerning at best as regards our humanity and our awareness of our own embodiment. We are more than our avatars and our streams of consciousness piped into our twitter feeds. Though his case could’ve been stronger, I quite appreciate the work Jay Kim is doing in Analog Church and I think it would be beneficial for the average pastor to pick up a copy and think carefully through what he says. He didn’t write this in the context of COVID-19, but as we find ourselves in a digital-only church right now it would be wise of us to consider our practices and the technologies we make use of when we return IRL. DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a fair, unbiased review.

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I am sure that when Jay Kim began writing Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age, that he never imagined that most people would be prohibited from attending church in person, meeting in person, and going to the store without a mask when the book came out. Analog Church is a delightful reflection on the importance of real physical, people and things in order for Christian community and spiritual transformation to thrive. Kim divides this book into three main sections: Worship, Community, and Scripture. In each of these sections, Kim’s insights into the pitfalls of the digital age’s tendency to put everything online are sobering to say the least. While most today do whatever possible to make things quick, convenient, and unobtrusive, Kim makes the case that the Church should not be this way. There is a problem when a church service feels like a “nightclub” or “rock concert.” There is an even greater problem when there is no church service at all, but rather an “online congregation.” The paradox is striking, and Kim pulls no punches in exposing the dangers of “church online.” It was fascinating for me to read this during quarantine, when my church is doing whatever possible to make church online feel as close as possible to analog church. However, as we can all realize, there is no substitute for in-person fellowship and corporate worship. Digital church will never be able to compete with analog church, and Kim’s book is a great starting point for anyone who has found themselves struggling with online church during quarantine. After reading this book, I am all the more eager for local congregations to be able to gather again, uninhibited by COVID-19. In order for Christian community to flourish and for disciples to be made, real, analog people, places, and things, are indispensable. Thank you Jay, for this reflection on the importance of analog church. It is a reminder that is necessary for all, especially as we come out of quarantine. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from IVP via NetGalley for the purpose of this review. Ironically, it is an electronic copy. This is an honest review of Analog Church. I genuinely love this book, and I pray that you will too.

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