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Always On

Practicing Faith in a New Media Landscape

series: Theology for the Life of the World

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Many of us are "always on"--scrolling through social media, checking email, or searching the web. New media spaces can be sites and instruments of God's unconditional love, but they can also nurture harmful conditions and become sources of anxiety, jealousy, and despondency. How can we discern, articulate, and embody ways new media (including social media) can nurture healing Christian community?

Always On provides useful tools for helping students and congregants understand the world of social media and engage it faithfully. It traces the impact of social media on the Christian life and enables Christian communities to address its use in constructive, pastoral ways. The book examines how new media use shapes a person's theology and how it can communicate and embody visions of the good life. Discussion questions and sample exercises for each chapter are included.

About the Series
The Theology for the Life of the World series discerns, articulates, and commends visions of flourishing life in light of God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is God come to dwell among humans, to be, speak, and act "for the life of the world" (John 6:51). The diverse and multifaceted books in this series contribute to the task of discerning and pursuing the flourishing of all in God's creation. They share the conviction that theology is vital to exploring the character of true life in diverse settings and orienting us toward it.

1. Interested Conversation
2. Traversing the New Media Terrain
3. Shaping Stories
4. Online Jesus
5. The Convergence
6. Glorious Possibilities


"This book couldn't be more timely. More and more our lives and identities are being worked out in digital spaces that are always on. So we are asked to be always on, performing and reforming our identities, seeking likes and retweets to confirm our being. What does this mean for formation into the life and death of Jesus Christ? What does it mean for the pastoral task of building community? Angela Gorrell takes up the challenge in Always On. This is an exciting, deep, and well-written project that promises to get you thinking. Dive in!"

Andrew Root, Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry, Luther Seminary; author of The Pastor in a Secular Age

"Always On is a timely and important call to focus on who and what matters even amid the distractions that vie for our attention. Rather than merely asking us to turn off our devices, Angela Williams Gorrell invites us to turn on the possibilities of 'hybrid faithful living' and of caring for others across the digital divide. Highly recommended."

Craig Detweiler, president, The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology; author of Selfies: Searching for the Image of God in a Digital Age

"Our increasingly digitized lives provide both profound brokenness and opportunities for our shared humanity to be diminished. However, they also provide glorious possibilities to be more present with those who suffer from the ills and injustices of the world. In this inspiring new work, Angela Gorrell offers a compelling Christian vision of the good life within the landscape of new media. Incisively attentive to malformed visions of the good life offered by various kinds of new media, Gorrell contrasts those visions with the life and ministry of Jesus in ways that equip and empower Christians to engage in intentional practices that align with Christ's transformative and healing vision for a new social order. Gorrell demonstrates that the new media landscape is neither simply life-negating nor simply life-affirming and that it's possible to nurture a Christian hybrid existence that reflects God's nonviolent and compassionate love for creation today and into the future."

Deanna Thompson, author of The Virtual Body of Christ in a Suffering World

"In Always On, Angela Gorrell takes us straight into the new media abyss that we all face every day. Using her background as a pastor, theologian, and new media researcher, Gorrell invites us to consider how new media affects every aspect of our lives and how easily we can find ourselves lost in the process. She doesn't give in to the temptation to blame social media but rather helps us recognize how little attention we give to the ways we allow it to consume us. This is a helpful, practical book on one of the most pressing and real-life struggles we experience today."

Chap Clark, author of Hurt 2.0 and Adoptive Church; pastor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, California

"Always On considers how technology and social media impact identity and community formation. Exhibiting theological reflection for our sound-bite culture, Gorrell perceptively explains new media's ability to malign and abet both hope and harm. More than a simple description of the new landscape, this book examines the narratives that shape us in a way that both acknowledges harmful assumptions and invites interested conversations with those in the widest sphere of influence--virtual and visible conversation partners. Critical of how easily we yield to deficient interactions through new media, Gorrell argues for practices of righteousness, peace, and joy that exist online and in person. Fresh, contemporary, and practical: the language of this book is twenty-first century; the Christian call is first century; the promise of recovering humanity's capacity to bear the image of God in the world is eternal."

Joy J. Moore, ecclesial storyteller and lead pastor, Bethel United Methodist Church, Flint, Michigan

The Author

  1. Angela Williams Gorrell

    Angela Williams Gorrell

    Angela Williams Gorrell (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is assistant professor of practical theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, in Waco, Texas. She previously served as associate research scholar at the Yale Center for...

    Continue reading about Angela Williams Gorrell


2020 Book of the Year Award, Academy of Parish Clergy

"In this inspired debut, Gorrell . . . offers research and timely tips on how to live a faithful life that glorifies God online and off. . . . Academic in its argumentation, but welcoming in tone, the book is peppered with personal stories and easily implemented tips. . . . To help leaders spark productive discussions in their faith communities, Gorrell provides questions, for example, 'When and how will I rest from using new media?' and 'What will we do when we encounter suffering online?' With both a call-to-action and personal reflection, Gorrell presents valuable tools for Christian users of social media."

Publishers Weekly