Church and Social Capital

At URLoved Will posted Why The Church is Loosing Social Capital you should read it, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version, with some comments (I could not find a way to comment onsite).

He begins by explaining:

Social Capital is the ways in which we are able to form connections with each other. For the last two decades this capital has been moving away from traditional institutions and onto the internet.

The second paragraph reads:

Churches, bowling leagues, work; these were the places where social capital was found in the past. Now, many people work remotely, yet still have great social capital because they are constantly connected to the internet for their work. Churches should take note of this paradigm shift.

He concludes:

Next week I’ll talk about ways that churches can regain social capital.

If I have discerned and summarised the argument rightly, it seems to me to be based on an understanding of “church” that is unduly restricted to a physical location. We commonly talk of the building where we meet as “church”, but it’s not. Church is people not buildings.

If I connect with others (even others who do not attend my church) using e-media, what “social capital” has my church lost? If in addition to serving as a member of my church’s leadership team (elders?) and preaching from time to time, I offer teaching accessed by people across the globe, what “social capital has my church lost?

By my reckoning my (local) church has lost nothing. But wait, as the infomercials say, there’s more… the church has gained. Instead of my preaching reaching 80-100 people it reaches many more. My church has lost no social capital, the church has gained.