Relationship In a Virtual World

Dr. Stephanie Bennett is the Professor of Communication and Media Ecology at Palm Beach Atlanta University and has done extensive research into how technology is shaping human relationships. She's also a long-time friend of Wayne's and a fellow-traveler outside the walls of religious institutions seeking more authentic expressions of church life. Wayne had a chance to talk to Stephanie about her family's journey on the release of her newest book, Breaking the Silence, which is her second in the Within the Walls Trilogy. There her academic and spiritual worlds collide as she deals with the oppressive side of technology and the loss of real relationships in a virtual world. In their conversation you'll hear about what it is to let God unfold life before us instead of finding a strategy to follow, as well as virtual church and the power of real community.

Podcast Links:
Email Stephanie
Wayne's review of Breaking the Silence and Within the Walls
Order Stephanie's e-book from
Order Stephanies printed book from Wildflower Press
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  1. I hear a great deal about how we were made for real face to face relationships and I agree. But, there are many of us who seem to need much more than others. I have always been a private person and enjoy my few friends. I consider my friends to be very close friends. I have never been one to accumulate a lot of friends. In my experience growing up in the Methodist Church and even now is that the institutionalized church assumes that everyone in the congregation should be open and transparent with others in the congregation because of we belong to the same physical congregation and are all brothers and sisters in Christ. I find that approach to be personally overwhelming, especially with larger congregations that are large. I personally feel that God will lead me to associate with those who He wants me to associate with and have the close friends (many or few) that he wants me to have and based on the way I am ‘bent’, it will be be a good fit. I feel that the institutionalized church’s cookie cutter approach to fellowship leads to a lot of false friendships, as folks try to perform as they are expected to perform instead of who God made them to be. So, in conclusion, although I agree that face to face relationships are necessary, that balance, based on God’s design for what balance is for that person, is going to look different from one person to the next. Only one or only another is not balanced.

  2. Scott,I thought one face to face is OK.I didn’t think she was suggesting a whole crowd. I wouldn’t mind one. I felt a bit depressed after listening then listened to something else that talked about what we learn in the desert. I don’t want to live in the desert but that seems to be where Jesus wants me.

  3. Thanks Scott! You put into words what I was thinking. I have really been thinking also about “strategizing”. I like the analogy of his quandary about book publishing and Stepanie’s answer. So often we ‘strategize’ God right out of the picture! Putting it all together, it maybe fellowship within an institution might be strategized friendships at times. With God all things are possible and God could bring someone up along side anywhere: be it virtually, organically, in a home or even in a stained-glass brick building.

  4. Hi Eve-Loraine. Your words resonated with me. I also felt very sad after the podcast; the discussion itself was good. Where my feelings of sadness came in was the thought of how broken and pained this whole relating thing has become. I’m learning that although I also “am in the desert”…someday all of my/our tears will be wiped away. It seems that right now Jesus is inviting me to rest more deeply in Him through this difficult “curriculum” He’s inviting me into. If He is the resource itself (as well as the supplier of all our needs) then there are riches in Him that are available no where else. I pray that He bless you richly with His best.

  5. Wayne, thanks for interviewing Steph. She’s a wonderful person who delights in sharing herself.

    Face to face community usually comes to a place and time when our interactions/relationship with each other can be very difficult. That may be inevitable and necessary for us to really learn the meaning of love–when we have to go out of ourselves and make our best attempt to see through the eyes of the Other.

  6. I haven’t been able to listen to the interview yet but the comments by Scott and others strikes chord in me. I also am a private person. I tried a visit to my erstwhile Congregational Church but was put off by the ‘ passing the peace’ at the end. That’s just not me.

  7. Hi Scott,

    False friendship is a problem, yes. And that forced feeling you so aptly described comes from (I think) a desire to see the Body function more like a real body instead of an organization. Our long-distanced connections to others in the Body is marvelous. I’ve enjoyed them immensely, as well. Thanks for your comment. Bless you!

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