• Ryan Panzer

Book Update! "Grace and Gigabytes: Being Church in a Tech-Shaped Culture"

I learned yesterday that my publisher, Fortress Press, delayed the release date of my book due to uncertainty around COVID-19. Instead of releasing the book on September 1st, Fortress anticipates a new publication date of December 2020 - just in time for the holiday rush!


Ultimately, the delay of a book release represents a trivial inconvenience when compared with the drastic disruptions that continue to affect nearly everything the world had planned for 2020. While I am disappointed by the delay, I completely understand the rationale. At least now I'll be able to focus more energy on coaching and watching football this fall (I hope!).


I still anticipate that the book will bring clarity and inspire innovation amidst a time of deep uncertainty: for church leaders, for church-goers, and for anyone curious about the future of religion. The book will likely be available for pre-order in early November.


As I've observed what churches are doing during the pandemic, I've seen ministry leaders validate the book's core ideas. Churches rapidly learned the tactics and the tools for digital-age ministry. Church leaders quickly discovered how to communicate effectively in digital spaces and how to establish and maintain community through social media. Before the pandemic, fewer than half of churches had a website. Fewer than one out of one-hundred churches used live streaming.


While we don't yet have the data on live-streaming or website launches, we know that churches have truly adapted to the pandemic with remarkable agility. Many have started live-streaming worship, conducting Bible studies over Zoom, and connecting with messaging apps. As I hypothesized when I began work on this book, we already had the potential to use digital tools, we just needed the impetus to get started.

But being church in a tech-shaped culture has always been about more than social feeds and Zoom accounts. Once the pandemic ends, ministry will be about more than one-way streaming and well-organized communications.


That's why I am writing a book that takes a good look at our shared digital culture to explore what it means to do ministry in the digital age, a time of free-falling church attendance and increasing skepticism about the future of religion.


The book identifies four shared cultural values of the digital age, the values of questions, connections, collaboration, and creativity. Drawing on experiences in the tech industry, I explain how these values emerged and how they shape our culture. It tells stories of ministries that have engaged these cultural values and invites readers into a conversation about how these values call the church to change.


Throughout this unprecedented time, I've also heard many church leaders asking questions that align with those posed in the book. What would it look like for churches to cultivate a space for candid questions and raw uncertainty, especially during a time such as this? What would it look like for a church to engage its community as co-creators and collaborators, and not merely as content viewers? And would it take for church leaders to engage all of the stories within their community, instead of a few professionalized perspectives?


In the coming months, I'll share more on this site around these questions as we explore what church will look like in the digital age. With this site, I hope to start a conversation that will culminate with the release of Grace and Gigabytes this December.


So while I'll have to wait a little longer to share the book with you, I look forward to the conversations and questions to come, as we all anticipate a return to togetherness.



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@ryanpanzer

Leadership developer for digital culture. Writing a book with Fortress Press, coming in December 2020!

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