Yesterday, our faculty listened to a presentation by Lance Ford, founder and director of www.shapevine.com. This organization provides opportunities to study and dialog with a number of missional authors (e.g., Reggie McNeal, Ed Stetzer, Leonard Sweet, Alan Hirsch, Sally Morganthaler, etc.) in small groups. Using flash technology and webcams, they have created a site where one can read and/or watch authors discuss their material and then engage in threaded discussion and live video conferencing. They haven’t quite gone public but have been in beta-testing for the last 6 months and are ready to go in just a few weeks.
Lance started us off with a Dallas Willard quote: The failure to make disciples is the elephant in the church. (or something like that) He noted that church leaders sometimes want to build the church, and then make disciples. He thinks this is backwards. If you make disciples, they will evolve into a church. But if you do it in reverse, you create consumers who do not look much different than non-Christians. Transformation may not take place.
Further, preaching doesn’t make disciples. Rather, we need 1:1, or close to it if we are going to build disciples ready to make more disciples.
I can see the value of this sort of site for those isolated and unable to find local connections. Imagine using this technology to connect overworked church planters, missionaries, and lay folk around the world.