A space is a place which is visible, tangible and feel-able. It is right in front of us and we can keep seeing it to assure ourselves of its existence. We can make physical corrections to it and even sell it. Correct? Not anymore! The new spaces can’t be touched (though they can be felt), can be seen in miniature (although it is really much bigger than that), could disappear if something goes wrong, and reproduction of the space is possible across space and time. Space will have a prefix to it and become virtual space. As the word itself suggests, it is virtually close to reality.
More and more people have already replaced part of their real lives with virtual lives and the time spent in the virtual world is increasing by the day. The feeling of real world seclusion and limited opportunities of interaction with people of a common wave length have forced human minds to look elsewhere. The real world in this scenario will be a world influenced by the virtual world in various aspects.
As the church thinks about how to do mission in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious context, a new category emerges quietly but strongly. This is the multi-space context. Modern mission in the church is not complete without taking this context seriously. Some of the characteristics of this virtual space involve the people we seek out. These include 1. Ghost believers- those who may not spell out their identity and belief but may still like to learn more about the church or be associated with it in a very virtual but unofficial way. This is over and against anonymous Christians. 2. Finger/thumb believers- life in the virtual space may not be ultimately decided by the heart but by the finger or the thumb. Church mission will thus be confronted by changing singular sense reciprocity as against set multi sense worship patterns. 3. Multi choice/space believers- the inhabitants of the virtual space will have the luxury of choosing what they like from the security of their chair. They will be able to choose from a variety of spaces and faiths, even when touring from one said place.
Mission in this context is going to be challenging because we may have to look at new models of doing mission. Mission itself may have to be qualified into virtual mission. But then what happens to the trinity and to God? Will mission in the market place be replaced by mission in the virtual space? Will we have to read more into the Nicene Creed proclamation of ‘we believe in one God, maker of all things visible and invisible'? Can Jesus’ death on the cross be broken down to virtual consent and application? Will pain and suffering cease to become physical?
One has to say that Christian mission is not prepared to take this plunge into (virtual) space. Tweets and like buttons are going to challenge mission and blogs will construct virtual opinion on modern mission. Isn’t it then the time for us to make sense of space and the people in it? Shouldn’t we analyse the virtual to find missing pieces of the real and maybe even vice versa? Virtually speaking, Christian mission is going to experience a totally different level of paradigm or page shift!