Jay Kim has done a service to the modern church with his recent book, Analog Church. Kim is the pastor of teaching and leadership at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California. He also serves on the core leadership team of the ReGeneration Project and cohosts the ReGeneration Podcast, all while he lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and two children.
Analog Church is framed as an invitation to the modern (particularly western) church to “go analog.” The book is a critique of how far we have taken digital capabilities in the church. He’s not arguing for getting rid of technology altogether. Instead, Kim wants us to simply utilize online platforms as a digital means to a greater incarnational end (97). Setting the stage, in the introduction, Kim refocuses our eyes on the purpose of Christian worship: an encounter with transcendence leading to transformation. He points out that, all too often, western church leaders in the digital age are, instead, too easily satisfied with relevance leading to content engagements (5-12). Continuing to lay the framework, Kim argues that the sheer speed of the digital age has made us impatient people, the choices available have made us shallow, and the culture of individualism has made us isolated (16). Therefore, it does not follow that we should use digital platforms to try and fix problems in us that digital spaces have helped create. His solution is that we meaningfully enter into personal, tangible, incarnational spaces where we are transformed by God slowly, deeply, and in community.
Kim methodically critiques seemingly every part of the general church/Christian life in the digital world as he breaks the book into three parts. In the first part, Kim focuses on the topic of worship in general, but music and preaching specifically. Worship is a whole-body activity. God deserves all of our life, and not just an hour and a half on most Sundays. Yet, the church, more broadly, has adopted practices that encourage worship (again, specifically singing and preaching) to be consumed and not participated in. With this section, Kim makes church leaders contemplate whether or not our services are designed to entertain or engage (61)?
Part two takes us into the implications the digital age has had on our lives within community, and how “going analog” provides a better, God-designed way. Despite what people may say, being together in digital spaces is not truly being together–I think we’re learning that the hard way right now! While promising meaningful connectivity with more people than you could have otherwise, the digital spaces tend to enable us to dehumanize one another. Only seeing each other as avatars, usually to be argued with (90), and not people to be lovingly embraced. Only when we are truly together, in flesh and blood, are we able to really carry out the “one another’s” of the New Testament. Kim points out an excellent example of Jesus calling both Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot to be his disciples (110)–two people that would have been predisposed to hate one another given the context. In a world where we can follow, unfollow, block, friend, or mute whoever we want, Jesus wants to call us out of our isolated silos and into the mess of community, and this can only truly be carried out in person.
The third, and final, part of the book focuses on our interaction with God’s word. While we love the bite-sized Bible verses of the day, Kim points out that God’s word was not meant to just be pasted on a greeting card simply for your encouragement or self-help suggestions (142). Here, Kim returns to one of the main takeaways of the book: Christian growth is about faithfulness over time. You’re not going to be able to mature overnight. “The secret ingredient is ‘slow'” (153). He argues that this understanding needs to permeate us individually and corporately.
He concludes this part with a brief chapter regarding communion, and how Jesus left us with a meal to engage in together. Two of the most incarnational, analog, activities in human existence are eating and drinking, and Jesus called us to do it together, as a unified body, in remembrance of him (174).
The debut of this book is a providential paradox. This book needed to be written. I felt overflowing agreement with so many of the critiques Kim makes as I made my way through the pages and I am so grateful for Kim’s labor. I believe it will have a kingdom impact for years to come. It may not change some pastors that are set in their ways, but it may help educate up-and-coming leaders as they navigate our cultural context.
However, for pastors and church leaders like myself–who overwhelmingly agree with the thesis of the book–reading it was almost maddening. Because, right now, we’ve all been thrust headlong into the digital sphere whether we like it or not. Every church I know is doing some sort of live-stream, web-based, video-realized church against our own will. As I read, I constantly found myself thinking, “Yes, Jay, but what do I do now that this is the only way I can do this?” We all hope that this is just a season to be refined in, but I think many of us are also wondering what if this is the new indefinite reality? I agree with the importance of analog, but how do we minister in ways that create transformation from encountering transcendence rather than engagement with content when all we have is digital?
You can read Trevin Wax’s review for The Gospel Coalition here, or a review by John Thomas for Christianity Today here, and you can purchase the book here!
The following is a list of 25 of my favorite quotes from the book. Enjoy!
1. Page 9
The most transformative experiences people were having in our communities, we slowly realized, had nothing to do with the lights, sound, and spectacle. Transformation was happening in much more tactile ways–through personal relationships and the profound simplicity of studying Scripture, praying, and sharing meals together.
2. Page 10
Yes, as a church leader I want to serve and reach as many people as I can with the gospel. This is true of most church leaders I know. But often, 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?”
3. Page 17
We admire the hare’s speed and we mock the tortoise’s slowness, forgetting that in the end, steadiness wins the race.
4. Page 25
The church was never meant to be a derivative of the cultural moment but, rather, a disruption of it.
5. Page 37
In the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible, worship explicitly communicates a whole-body participation in reverent response to God. Worship implies bowing down, falling prostrate, kneeling low with heads to the ground, drawing near and kissing the hand, etc.–all acts of adoration and allegiance, all acts that required participation with one’s entire body.
6. Page 55
We’re too busy trying to keep up with the church and ministry Joneses.
Were too busy seeking the next big thing.
And we end up missing the next right thing.
7. Page 62
Those who wrote songs for the church always wrote with participatory audiences in mind. They wrote songs designed not simply to appeal to the masses but to primarily to involve them.
8. Page 63
Everything we do must invite people to engage and participate and not let them off the hook, to simply sit back and be entertained. This sort of analog reorientation of musical worship gets down into the nuts-and-bolts details.
9. Page 65
Singing and creating music together has a strong positive effect on physical and emotional health, as well as an accelerating impact on relational connections. God made us to sing together.
10. Page 89
Many people want their local church to be customized and crafted to fit their specific needs, desires, and preferences. The concept of “church-shopping” could only exist in a culture like ours.
11. Page 91-92
Real connections within real communities are realized only as we walk together down the path of wisdom, not cleverness. And in the digital age, there is a tremendous wisdom gap. We have all the information we need to be clever. What we don’t have is the commitment to journeying alongside others up the narrow and often difficult path of wisdom.
12. Page 104
Due in part to the centuries-long rise of individualism in society at large, many Christians today have been taught, both implicitly and explicitly, that salvation in Christ is an individual experience.
But the Bible begs to differ.
13. Page 108
Analog communities are based not on preferences but on presence.
14. Page 109
Like getting physically fit or learning a new skill, our discomfort is itself the very sign that we are making progress. And in turn, when our community is comfortable, as is almost always the case when experienced at a digital arm’s length, it is a surefire sign of stagnation.
15. Page 115
The friendships formed when you are exhausted are some of the strongest.
16. Page 121-122
In fact, both the Hebrew (yadah) and greek (exomologeo) words for confession also mean “to praise” and “to give thanks joyfully.” In confession, there is both remorse and rejoicing; there is both conviction and commitment. It is a much richer and more meaningful act than the simple one-sided apologies that have become so absurdly easy via text or email in the digital age.
17. Page 122
Sin is a beast that thrives in the deep seas of isolation and loneliness. Confession brings sin up into the open air, where it cannot breathe and will eventually suffocate and die. And so, confession is the way we ourselves come up for air, out of isolation and into true community.
18. Page 140
Reading the Bible alone in short, bite-sized bits can be a healthy supplemental part of discipleship to Jesus but it must always be paired with an ongoing commitment to engaging Scripture as a whole, diving deeply into its long story, alongside the community of the church.
19. Page 147-148
Going to the Bible for answers is okay, but it’s not what the Bible is primarily for. The Bible is not an IKEA manual with step-by-step instructions on how to build a wonderfully efficient life. It is a library of sixty-six ancient books, written in several languages, all of them foreign to most of us, in times and cultures most of us know very little to nothing about. Any answers we may find in Scripture will not come simply or easily.
20. Page 153
The only way to experience the full depth and complexity of its unfolding story is to give it time. In the digital age, our tendency is to microwave everything. We’ve grown so impatient and we have a hard time waiting. But in order to experience the Bible at a deep level and allow it to do its work in us, we must understand it will take dedication, devotion, and commitment over the long haul.
The secret ingredient is “slow.”
21. Page 157
How we read affects how we communicate, and how we communicate affects how we think, and how we think affects who we become.
22. Page 163-164
Everything we think, say, and do is theological because it’s all built on the foundation of what we think we know or don’t know about God.
23. Page 166
To arrive at simple answers without first wading through complex waters is to find no answers at all. So we must invite our people into the slow and steady waters of theology and exegesis. We must meet them there and journey with them toward rich and robust simplicity on the other side.
24. Page 174
Eating and drinking. Two of the most foundationally analog practices in human experience. This is how Jesus culminates and summarizes his life and work.
25. Page 176
Jesus ate with people he had no business eating with. Or, better put, 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.