Every Sunday morning, Facebook Live explodes with churches broadcasting their services online. Honestly, Facebook makes broadcasting services online so inexpensive, so easy to do... there's really no reason not to do this. Yes, there are churches that will be more aggressive with their video production, but at the end of the day Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Church Online Platform... these are great ways for people to have the "church experience online".
Lana Turner recently published an OpEd piece for the New York Times, under the title "Internet Church isn't really Church" and shockingly, I agree with her. Your Online Church Service is not the definition of Church Online.
Let's back up. There are three types of people who watch our church services online. We call them Front Door people, Side Door people, and Digital Door people. Remember that, while the Front Door and Side Door people will eventually make it to a physical location for discipleship, Digital Door people rarely ever make it to your physical location for discipleship. But they're looking to your church for discipleship. They want spiritual guidance. What do you do?
Your physical church location is more than just weekend, right? You likely have some sort of Bible Study, Small Group, Sunday School thing happening... but do you have a solution in place for people who watch your services Online? Chat Hosts during a service is a nice first step... but that can't be the endgame of biblical community, can it? There has to be more.
Meet Rob and his wife Maggie. I feel like I've known Rob for three years, but we've only been face to face once... this past weekend. Rob lives is Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. Even though he's been on another continent Rob attends Christ Fellowship Miami's Church Online regularly, Rob grew to an active participant in Online Small Groups, and quickly found himself leading a small group online (ironically with people he's never met) spread across the world. And while a digital biblical community cannot replace a physical community, the digital community can give us the boldness to interact, to share, to disciple us while we disciple those around us. Our online relationships empower us with the ability to impact the offline world.
Rob takes it a step further, as he believes so much into the vision of Christ Fellowship Miami's Church Online he's created a Virtual Reality (VR) experience for Christ Fellowship Miami's Church... all from his house north of London, England, literally hosting a VR Church from another continent.
Church, would Rob have had this experience if Christ Fellowship Miami just broadcasted their services online? Would Rob know what it is to be discipled, or turn and disciple others? What about those that have been in Rob's groups. How would they have been impacted if Christ Fellowship Miami ignored the biblical mandate to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). I don't know how the Holy Spirit moves, but I'm glad CFMiami was obedient to God's direction.
Simple truth. Churches that broadcast services and don't create discipleship opportunities through digital spaces are creating an environment of consumerism of spiritual goods online. Yep. By only broadcasting our services online we are creating consumers. Not disciples.
I admit: there are many questions on Church Online. But without a doubt I can tell you one question that isn't. Those of you broadcasting services online... don't stop there. Don't create consumers. Create disciples.