MegaChange: 10 Trends Reshaping the American Megachurch

10. The Shifting Shape of the Virtual Church

LifeChurch.tv has long been noted for its innovative use of technology. The YouVersion Bible app it created has surpassed 100 million downloads. And you can join the LifeChurch.tv worship experience anywhere via laptop or desktop computer, tablet or mobile phone. Instead of the church you go to, it’s the church that comes to you.

Today LifeChurch.tv literally has thousands of churches in many different languages doing church online, and some 4,000 churches have signed up to use its free Church Online Platform (ChurchOnlinePlatform.com) to host their services. Pastor and Innovation Leader Bobby Gruenewald of LifeChurch.tv notes the growth in the connected church: “Things have definitely changed from when we started. We continue to be passionate about doing ministry in this context and have hundreds of volunteers who invest themselves each week in making it possible. It is a vibrant ministry that is reaching many people who may not have otherwise heard the gospel or been able to connect with a physical church. We see online church as very much a part of our future and believe it is a continuing trend in the global church.”

Also passionate about online ministry, Northland was the first local church to do international concurrent worship in the 1990s via video, at that time connecting Orlando and the Republic of Namibia, in Africa. The church continues to engage worship internationally and concurrently every weekend. However, according to Hunter, “We are seeing now that unless we can plant actual churches in all these sites, the worship we do together will be merely a common experience and not a missional advancement.” Hunter goes on to explain that such “building” is not about physical structures but small groups of people who care for each other spiritually and serve their communities together.

One momentous event in Northland’s concurrent worship model occurred the weekend after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. At that time, one of the churches worshipping with Northland via video was located in Cairo, Egypt. Hunter recalls, “I will never forget the bond created by their [real time] prayers and from our hearing directly from their pastor that our Middle Eastern family was with us in spirit and heart.”

 

 

Robert Crosby
Robert Crosbywww.twitter.com/RCCrosby

Robert Crosby is the co-founder of Teaming Life Conferences and Resources. He trains and consults pastors in creating teaming cultures. Crosby pastored churches in Upstate New York and Boston and conducts Teaming Church and Teaming Family conferences. He is the author of The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press) and is a professor of practical theology at Southeastern University (Lakeland, Fla.). His next book, The One Jesus Loves, releases in March 2014 (Nelson Books). Contact him at Robert.TeamingLife@gmail.com
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