Doing Church Online

The other day I happened to have a phone conversation with the pastor and author Douglas Estes. When I got off the phone, I knew that I needed to check out his book, titled SimChurch. I finished the book last night, and I have to say that it took me by surprise.

Honestly, when I first came across the book, I thought it was just another debate about whether or not the church can really meet online. I was very wrong.

This book has challenged me in a huge way. He brings up so many important concerns and ideas that hadn’t crossed my mind before.

Here’s one of many quotes that really made a bit impact on me:

…a recent survey of virtual-world citizens found that 50 percent of people surveyed don’t even believe the virtual world has sin in it. Why? Because it’s not real. Here the church is poised to fail big-time – to drop a ball of monumental proportions. Here’s how it will play out. As tens of millions of people flock to virtual worlds, traditional Christians who fear change in the church at large will see alarmist headlines about the virtual world and will dismiss the virtual world as one big sinful fantasy, as being not real. They will turn the virtual world over to its own devices, and tens of millions of people – with no true ethical compass – will embrace greater free agency and then write their own rules on what is right and what is wrong. Before long, sin in the virtual world will start to redefine [people’s perception of] sin in the real world; what’s permissible in the virtual world will start to seem less wrong in the real world. After a generation passes, new church leaders will ask, “How did we get into this mess?”

It’s a well-written book, and it has bolstered my passion for the Faith Promise Internet Campus. I’m very grateful for Douglas Estes’ thoughtful observations, and I’d highly recommend it to any pastoral staff who are interested in making a greater impact online.

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Worshipping Together, Despite the Snow

Less than a year ago, Faith Promise took a new step of faith and started an Internet Campus. This weekend, because of ice and snow, we were forced to cancel our services on our Pellissippi Campus, and all of our weekend services happened exclusively online.

Here’s how it all played out: On Thursday, the weather report predicted massive amounts of ice and snow for the area, and since Pastor Chris already had the message ready to go, we set up cameras in the Worship Center, and he preached to four cameras and an empty room.

After he was done, our video guy, Matt James, edited the video to include the weekend announcements as well as several songs from a recent Wednesday night worship service. All of this was done before the weather got bad – just in case the weather forecast was right.

When the ice made our hill-top campus inaccessible, and we canceled all Pellissippi Campus services, Brad Roberts helped me rewire the iCampus for six worship services.

The services online went very well, and Pastor Chris got to experience the iCampus for the first time. It was really great to see he and his wife take an active role in the chat room over the weekend.

Online numbers are difficult to judge since each video connection likely represents multiple people – especially when people are snowed in at home. From what I can tell, I’d guess that at least one third of our congregation (and possibly over half) connected online over the weekend.

Crazy stuff! Who would have ever guessed that a whole congregation would be worshiping together online?

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