Virtual Church, Real Relationship: Christ Fellowship

A Texas church recently helped lead a 60-year-old woman from rural California and a 61-year-old woman on Canada’s eastern seaboard to baptism—through its online “campus.”

In St. John, New Brunswick, Charlaine Hitchcock found Christ Fellowship Online in April 2012 after seeing the McKinney, Texas, church’s senior pastor, Bruce Miller, interviewed on CNN. Never having gone to church before, she began “attending” services streamed online and joined an online women’s Bible study and prayer group.

“Some of the ladies and gents at the service chatted with me during some of the services, prayed with me and mentored me,” Hitchcock says.

Eventually she went to Grand Bay Baptist Church in her area, where she was baptized in June 2013.

“I am 61 years young and am totally in love with the Lord,” says Hitchcock, who is a volunteer for Christ Fellowship’s online ministry.

In Kelseyville, Calif., (population. 3,353), 57-year-old Dawn Laier was unable to find a suitable church and was depressed and angry at God over other issues. Through a friend who got her into a Facebook game, she met a woman in Texas who told her about Christ Fellowship Online in 2009.

“I was amazed by the realness of the people online and felt immediately welcomed,” Laier says. “The messages from Pastor Bruce and others were a gentle but firm tug on my heart that drew me ever closer back to my relationship with Christ.”

The two women met and visited each other in person in their respective states. After Laier and her husband Michael became friends with others from the church (its average weekly online attendance is 400), they moved to McKinney in January 2013. Soon after, her husband was baptized.

“Some who cannot or will not ever step into a brick-and-mortar church have found a home with deep connections to those they meet in this virtual church world,” says Jan Touchberry, the church’s online director. “However, our philosophy at Christ Fellowship is that physical presence and community is always better than virtual presence and community when at all possible. One of the hardest things a church online servant can experience is meeting a hurting person on the other end of the keyboard, and we are not able to reach out and give them a hug or wipe a tear.” 

Senior Pastor: Bruce Miller
Founded: 1997
Affiliation: Nondenominational
Locations: 2
Attendance: 3,000

Jeff Sellers
Jeff Sellers

A former associate editor at Christianity Today magazine, Jeff M. Sellers is a freelance writer, editor and founder of Morning Star News, an independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians.