Special thanks to Life.Church Online Pastor Alan George for sharing this post.
I’m often asked by other church pastors about the difference between a traditional brick-and-mortar church and an online church. Prior to stepping into my current role at Life.Church as Church Online pastor, I was a pastor at one of our physical Life.Church locations—so I’m in the unique position of having been a part of both worlds. While I initially expected a lot of differences, I was surprised by what I learned: the only thing that changes is the shape of the lobby.
That’s right. The lobby just looks different. No matter where people gather, in church buildings or online, the same opportunities for ministry still exist. People still need relational connection. They still need prayer. They still need someone to support them through difficult seasons, encourage them through seasons of growth, and celebrate with them at the mountaintop moments. A Life.Church Online, we create an online space where people feel welcome. We have greeters, we have people available for one-on-one prayer, and we offer community to those looking for a place to belong. Even though the method might be different, our calling is still the same.
Jesus tells us, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” He tells us “what” to do, but much of the “how” is up to us. I think of the good shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go after the one that’s lost. Technology is such a big part of our everyday lives—even more so during the current crisis—that it’s easier and easier to use it to chase after the one. We don’t have to wait for the lost to come to us. We can meet them exactly where they are.
It’s not a question of whether we as the global Church can reach people with technology; we can. The question is whether we can get past our preconceived notions, concerns, or fears and embrace technology to reach people.
At Life.Church, we believe God has called us to use the technology available to us today to spread the gospel to as many people as we can. There are more than seven billion people on this earth, and as long as there is one hurting person who doesn’t know Christ, we know our job isn’t done.
I believe online church is a ministry opportunity worth exploring—now and in the future.
8 Reasons to Consider Church Online
1. The internet does not limit God.
Just because we’re not meeting in a physical building doesn’t mean people can’t experience God together. We’ve designed our Church Online experience as an online environment where people can interact with one another and take next steps, not just consume content. Several times a week, people come together to worship, pray, serve, give, and find community online, and their experience is just as powerful because our God is bigger than any limitation we might try to put on him.
2. We can shine a light into the darkest corners of the internet.
In this world, people are constantly told they’re not enough. That message only seems to get louder online through bullying, unrealistic body images, and negativity of all varieties. The body of Christ has the opportunity to step into that same space with a counter-culture message and offer people the grace, hope, peace, and love they’re craving. We can be a source of encouragement and light the digital world desperately needs.
3. Problems don’t wait for the weekend.
People are broken and hurting around the world, every day of the week. Church Online creates the opportunity to bridge the gap between weekends so that if someone wants to turn to the church for help, they have a place to go. Our team also uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email to minister throughout the week. Using the technology available to us, we can pray with someone halfway around the world who is battling with their depression and needs to talk to someone who cares. We can meet people online to support them in their greatest moment of need.
Recently, we received a prayer request from Raniella. She’s a new believer who was struggling to understand the depth of God’s grace and how to truly surrender her life to Jesus. A member of our Church Online prayer team was ready to respond. When Raniella received a warm, thoughtful, and quick response in the middle of the week, she was overwhelmed. She didn’t expect a personal reply to her prayer request and was so grateful to have genuine support at that moment.
4. Anonymity breaks down walls.
Critics of online ministry often say accountability is missing in an environment where people can hide behind anonymity. But we’ve found that oftentimes people will share more openly online than they might in face-to-face conversations. Church Online attendees tell us all the time that they were too hesitant to attend a traditional church setting, worried about what people might say or think. But they felt comfortable enough to try Church Online, and when they did, they found a place to belong before they believed.
We had a guest from Nigeria that didn’t know what Church Online was the first time he attended. Throughout the service, we could feel his stance go from curious to encouraged as he asked more questions about our church. At the end of the message when we give attendees the chance to give their lives to Christ, he surrendered his life to Jesus. Through our Live Prayer feature, we had the chance to pray with him and provide several resources to help him grow in his new faith.
5. Genuine relationships can form online.
A common misconception about online relationships is that they aren’t as powerful or real as the relationships we form in person. But think of how many marriages today start as online relationships. Think of children who regularly connect with their grandparents through FaceTime. Clearly, technology can be a powerful tool for bringing people together.
We’ve always approached Church Online as a ministry that helps connect people to each other because we believe spiritual growth best happens in the context of relationships. We encourage our Church Online community to deepen relationships, both within the service and outside the service. Right now, we have online forums where people around the world can connect outside the service with others in their geographical region. Soon, we’ll be using Facebook Groups to help people connect within a smaller, trusted group of friends.
6. We can go into countries where we can’t travel.
Not everyone can go on a mission trip, but you don’t have to travel to minister to people around the world. We reach into every country in the world and impact thousands of people every week, all from Oklahoma. For those who won’t step foot into a church, whether they’re uncomfortable going to the one down the street from them or it’s unsafe in their country to gather as a church, Church Online gives them a place to use their spiritual gifts for the kingdom.
A few months ago, we received an email from Muhammad in Pakistan asking how he could become a Christian. We lead him through the salvation prayer over email. When he emailed back, he expressed concern about his safety. Being a Christian in his country is dangerous, and he knows if people find out, they will kill him. But he also said that being a fully devoted follower of Christ was more important to him than being safe. Because Muhammad encountered Church Online, he was able to give his life to Christ and attend services weekly without the fear of persecution.
7. Church online gives us unique outreach opportunities.
We’re able to leverage different outreach strategies with Church Online than we could with a physical location. One thing we’ve seen work for us is Google Adwords. When people are struggling and hurting, they can go online to find all kinds of negative ways to instantly and temporarily dull their pain. In a search for online gambling or pornography, what if someone saw an ad for Church Online and chose to attend a church service in that moment instead? Our most successful ad campaigns include phrases like, “Are you struggling with XXX or porn? Try Church Online instead.” It can be a powerful catalyst for change in someone’s life.
8. Your leaders will grow.
At Life.Church, we’re not recruiting volunteers, we’re releasing leaders. Every person in the church has a unique calling on their life, and we believe it’s our responsibility to help them discover what that is so they can grow in that area. Church Online not only gives people a safe place to connect online, but also it gives leaders a chance to grow in their leadership. Many of our service leaders are working with people who live in a different country as the have the opportunity to learn what it takes to manage a global team.
Getting Started with Church Online.
Learn more about getting started with online ministry using the Church Online Platform. It’s free to download and use, and we even offer training and support through Life.Church Open Network to help you learn how to implement your online strategy.
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