Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Church as Wikipedia

Landon Whisitt is the Vice-Moderator for the Presbyterian Church (USA). He's a 34-year-old pastor from Liberty, MO and in what is common among pastors under the age of say, 45 is totally connected into social media. In a recent blog post, he says that churches have to start being like Wikipedia:

Regardless of the words we’d use, what does that idea mean – “open source church”? Whenever I try to explain “open source church” to someone I find it helpful to compare it to Wikipedia – the most successful open source organization that you have probably heard about. What would “church” look like if it were “wiki-church”?

First, it would mean that we’re clear about what and who we are and what and who we’re not. Wikipedia is very clear that it’s an encyclopedia, nothing more. We have to ask what a “church” is and be that and nothing more.

Second, we welcome everyone. Wikipedia prides itself on its “neutral point of view” which often means you have to represent several points of view. An “open source church” is not a monolithic one, does not pretend to be, nor desires to be one.

Third, anyone can participate. Wikipedia is not an exclusive club. Anyone can edit the encyclopedia, and they should expect that someone else will edit their contributions as well. An “open source church” doesn’t have a lot of hurdles one must jump in order to participate. there are not a lot of “unwritten rules” in an open source church. How about yours?

Fourth, when you disagree, be nice. Wikipedia has an established set of guidelines for dealing with disputes and people are expected to be nice and play fair. If a church can’t behave itself in disagreement then we’re not really a church are we?

Fifth, remember that there are no firm rules. Wikipedians are encouraged to remember that nothing is permanent and should, therefore, not be treated as such. Wikipedia is good because Wikipedians are willing to take risks sometimes – they break rules if it is for the benefit of the overall mission. If a church would commit itself to breaking free from long held traditions imagine the things it could do and be.

Being an “open source church” is not so much about content but attitude.

Whisitt is talking about this from the context of the Presbyterian Church, but it applies to a lot of churches, especially in my own denomination.

Any thoughts?

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