Dave Adamson Is on a Mission to Help Your Church Reach It’s Community Online
“For the first time in human history, we have the technology to literally go into all the world in a day. Why aren’t we leveraging that?”
That’s the question Dave Adamson is posing in his new book MetaChurch: How to Use Digital Ministry to Reach People and Make Disciples. The book is part autobiographical, part biblical exegesis and hugely practical for anyone interested in reaching people online.
We caught up with the Melbourne, Australia, native who is currently the director for Orange in Australia and New Zealand, and formerly North Point’s online and social media pastor. He gave us some great insight on this life, his book and the mission of the church online.
A New Ministry Vision
“I never wanted to be a pastor. I grew up in a unchurched home in the western suburbs of Melbourne. All I wanted to be when I grew up, was a sports reporter,” Adamson says. In high school, a teacher paired him up on a project with a student who happened to be a Christian. They spent way more time talking about faith than schoolwork. Before long, Adamson started attending youth group and gave his life to Christ.
His career goals didn’t change, however. “I went to college, and did a journalism and literature degree. I started working for local newspapers, and later, a national magazine,” Adamson says. “I was freelancing a lot on the side as well and I became the youngest editor of Australia’s highest selling and oldest sports magazine. From there, I went to TV and started working for one of the three major networks in Australia as a sports reporter, and producer.” Little did he know that God was working behind the scenes to mold and educate him in the areas of communication and video production. These would be the essential skills for a career that had not even been invented yet.
In 2007 Adamson was offered a dream job in the United Sates with ESPN. It seemed like the perfect move. Something just wasn’t sitting right in their spirit, so he and his wife spent time in fasting and prayer. “We knew that God told us to turn it down. To turn down this ESPN offer and instead to enter into full-time ministry, I didn’t know what to do.” At the time, he was listening to a podcast from a U.S. pastor, Tim Lucas from Liquid Church in Parsippany, New Jersey, on his daily commute. On a whim, he thought Pastor Lucas might be able to help, so he emailed him.
“He emailed me back and said, ‘Here’s my cell phone [number]. You need to call me as soon as you can.’” Adamson explains that his email was actually an answer to prayer from the American church. The podcast was receiving a lot of listeners in Australia. Lucas challenged Adamson, “Have you ever thought about moving to America to join a full time ministry? Because, if you have, I want to fly you out.”
In May 2008 Adamson joined the staff at Liquid Church. “And back then, it was the Wild West of online. I think we would just be on dial-up internet, and nobody really knew anything that was going on.” They experimented with message boards, chat rooms and Skype calls. They even conducted a baptism with a family in Australia remotely. Five years later, in 2013, a new opportunity came. Adamson was offered the position of Online Pastor for Andy Stanley’s church North Point. The Aussie family relocated from New Jersey to Atlanta.
The title may have been same, but the ministry philosophy and approach was different. “Andy was very adamant that he was essentially a local pastor who wanted to serve Atlanta. I couldn’t quite get my head around that. I felt like we were missing an opportunity. I started to realize and this is where my philosophy of online church began to change.” Adamson began to realize that online technology can be leveraged to really connect with the people who live within driving distance of a church. Ultimately, this can move some people into onsite community, but still effectively reach people globally.
Exploring the MetaChurch
His book MetaChurch was born from the lessons Adamson has learned in a decade and a half of online ministry. I think it’s time for the church to change its model in order to go beyond the Sunday gathering, beyond a building, and beyond the time slot to reach the people in their local community.”
The book is divided into three sections. In the first section Adamson unpacks the reasons why online church makes sense. He says, “Every single day people carry around with them in their pockets, a pulpit, a small group, a worship team, and an offering plate.” He challenges the church to think in terms of using these innovations as tools. “If we can embrace this spirit of innovation that Paul had, I think we’re going to be in a much better position to deal with the post-Christian culture.”
The middle section is full of real-world tips. For example Adamson explains a lot of ways to use the web’s largest video platform, YouTube. “There’s a couple of chapters on YouTube purely because I think that that’s the place where we need to be because that’s the modern marketplace. That’s what I imagined Paul would be preaching. Right?” He explains how to understand the YouTube analytics and use the YouTube Studio to your advantage. There are also sections on polishing your message, podcasting and even using Zoom.
The final section of the book addresses what’s coming and what’s next. Specifically the final chapter of the book has quotes from lots of other leaders, both ministry and online. Adamson says this is his favorite section of the book. He asked what is coming in the future and he gives their responses. “I’ve been able to become friends with some of the leading thinkers in the technological space. Some of these answers are some of the best parts of the book, in my opinion.”
Don’t think that just because Adamson comes from a large church perspective that it isn’t for churches of any size. “That’s some of the pushback I get, ‘It’s good for you to say all these because you’re at North Point. You’ve got tons of resources and staffing and equipment.’ But the reality is, each one of us carries a $1,000 camera in our pockets every single day. And it’s as simple as turning that on and just recording and being authentic. This is the most important thing in the modern world, I believe, authenticity and genuineness.” He gives an example of a pastor with a church of a few hundred members. While walking his dog he went live on Facebook and just asked how he could pray for people. By the end of the walk, he had prayed for dozens and he had thousands of views without any special equipment, marketing or media team.
The book is not just theoretical, there is a lot of great advice that can be put to use in big and small ways. “I’ve never met a pastor, whether it’s a pastor of a church of 50 people or pastor of a church of 50,000 people, who didn’t want to reach more people in their local community.” Adamson says, “The best way for us to do that is to get involved in the local community and what is happening online in the local community.” He says that it’s not about simply posting what we’re doing but becoming a part of those local conversations. This helps us recognize and be recognized by people in our community. It helps us know what people are thinking, but more importantly, what questions they are asking.
Adamson continues, “How many people, do you think, who live within the 30 minute driving distance of you are even aware that your church exists? Our highest guess would be maybe 5%. And I would say this is true of every church, in every setting, in every community. The vast majority people probably don’t even know the church exists.”
The example he gives could mean the world to someone and it starts with a simple, targeted search on any platform. “For example, a hashtag search might be: #IhateMondays. You can search for that in your local community. Somebody posts on that because his car has broken down. Imagine what would happen if the local church said ‘Hey, I’m so sorry that your car broke down. Do you need a ride anyway?’ That would change that person’s perspective of what the church can do. And it would change ours as well. That would put us into a position where we can actually help and serve the local community.”
As a church consultant, Adamson has given this challenge to a number of churches. He says that one church in particular has really run with it. At the beginning of every staff meeting, the pastor has everyone open their phones and jump on social media. “They would then pick a local business or a local school. Let’s say the local high school just won the state championship in football. The pastor says, ‘All of us right now get on your phones and go to that Instagram post and let’s just cheer them on and celebrate them. Let’s let them know that we as Christians and the church are for them.’”
That can make a huge difference in the way the community perceives the church. Adamson points out that often on social media “we just want the community to support us and cheer us on. It’s not supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be the other way around. We’re there to serve the community. The community is not there to serve us.”
The Right Questions
What has Adamson learned since the publishing of the book? What did he leave out? He says, “I’m becoming more and more convinced that if we can add some more questions that people are asking online, not just about faith, but about life, then we’re going to be better positioned to lead people into growing relationship with Jesus.”
The questions people are asking are the key to us connecting with them. He believes that the church is answering questions that no one is actually asking. “The reality is everyday people are going online, and they’re searching for things like how can I be a better parent? How do I get out of financial chaos? How do I find hope in the world? And they’re not asking these questions in church buildings. They’re asking them on YouTube.” That means our post titles and our messages need to be more question-based.
Ultimately, Adamson says that he wrote the book with the next generation—his daughters—in mind. If young people are going to search out questions about life, and they are, he’s hoping they will find real, true and biblical responses. That means we need to be online and on social media to reach them. You can follow Adamson on most of the social media platforms and at DaveAdamson.tv.