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PODCAST 016: Anthony Coppedge & What exactly is Online Church Membership?


So if we’re doing Church Online, does that mean we should be doing Church Membership Online? This begs the question “what is church membership overall?”

In a heartfelt conversation, Jeff, Rey, and Anthony Coppedge do a deep dive on what Church Membership is today, and what the goal should be for Church of tomorrow.


Guest: Anthony Coppedge
Twitter // Facebook // LinkedIn

Host: Jeff Reed
Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // LinkedIn

Co-Host: Rey DeArmas
Christ Fellowship Miami Online
Twitter // Facebook // Instagram



Subscribe for free to THECHURCH.DIGITAL PODCAST and join the conversation as we collective wrestle with this idea of Church Online.

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We know these conversations are out there are hard. Even the best of churches haven't figured out... If this podcast is helping you and your church work through what Church Online is, then help us impact other churches! Take a moment and leave us a brief review!
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Love you all! Praying for your Churches and your Ministry Online.
Jeff Reed


Jeff Reed: 00:00 Hey listeners, this is Jeff Reed with TheChurch.Digital Podcast. I'm excited about this episode coming up. This is going to be a really, really fun conversation. So on the podcast today, we've got Anthony Coppedge. Now this guy goes way back. I'm going to be honest, this man was an influence to me back in the 90s and 2000s, an early voice in church and back in a time where as a Production Director is a guy who was involved in church doing church communications, even with the dawn of social media and a lot of that stuff, there weren't a lot of influences back there, back in the day. Anthony Coppedge has been and continues to be one of those voices. And so I ran into Anthony, not in the physical realm, but more in the virtual realm and in a Facebook group. There was a question that was asked recently in an online digital and church leader Facebook group.

Jeff Reed: 00:51 By the way, we'll include a link to that if you guys want to get involved in this group if you're in the digital ministry and you're not connected to this Facebook group. It's a group great group to be in. But Andy Mage, who's a new, Online Pastor with Bay Hope Church asked a question, "how do you handle church membership in context of Church Online? And so a bunch of people started saying some things. I said some things. Anthony Coppedge comes in and says some things and all of a sudden Anthony and I throw Andy in the mix and some others, really ended up getting into a deep conversation of what exactly church membership is. And somewhere in this conversation I realized, wait, we don't need to just do this in Facebook. We need to have this conversation for real, get this recorded and share this with others.

Jeff Reed: 01:39 And so that's what today's podcast is going to be, ladies and gentlemen. We are literally going to be talking about what exactly is church membership and how can it work online. We've got Anthony Coppedge on the show. We've got Rey DeArmas, of course, Online Pastor at Christ Fellowship in Miami, diving into the conversation of church membership in context of church online. Here you go. What if you said church membership to the average church? Rey, you answered this question, Rey's in the online realm or as online pastor, former campus pastor at Christ Fellowship Miami and don't make this about CF Miami, but like how is church membership defined today?

Rey DeArmas: 02:23 Yeah, when I talked to different pastors about church membership in their mind and some of the things that come out as, hey, I am responsible for this individual spiritually, I'm responsible for their spiritual development and further growth directly. Like I'm identifying like the people that I am directly responsible for and that we are entering into a covenant agreement that they're entering underneath my care and underneath my stewardship and their responsibility is, you know, in some cases, like in Southern Baptist cases, you know, they vote, they have a say in church matters. That can vary from church to church. That can even vary in style of church in the sense of strategy, whether it's multisite or whether it's, hey, we have church online and some of these folks can or can't have a say in terms of what happens here. And so that's where some of that becomes problematic. But generally, it has to do with, hey, so now you get a say in the family and I'm now recognizing that you're an official member of the family, that you're not just somebody who comes in, that you're kind of, you know, for lack of a better metaphor that we've adopted you into our care. And so that's kind of what I've seen when I've talked to different pastors and ministers of churches that have membership.

Jeff Reed: 03:37 So like, what's at Christ fellowship? Let's drill into this, just curious, what's the process to go from like a visitor to somebody that's a member? What does that process look like for any given church?

Rey DeArmas: 03:53 Absolutely. Sure. For us it's been, they take, you know, membership class, which we termed CF 101. Churches have different forms of this. This isn't that far fetched from like, you know, we talked with Jay Kranda on the podcast before, you know, Saddleback kind of directed, the whole 101, 201, 301, 401 process for their membership. For us, we have 101 in which we explained the lay of the land, which is similar in strategy in that we expect people to attend worship. We expect them to connect to a small group. We expect them to join a ministry team, join a serving team. And then finally we expect them to tell others about Christ or to go on mission, whether it's locally or globally. And so, you know, that's the strategy. And so what we expect them to do is to enact all parts of the strategy.

Rey DeArmas: 04:34 Of course, we're still good Southern Baptist church and so they've got to be baptized by immersion, you know, or joined by letter from another church. I see Anthony laughing over there. I know that strikes a chord with you. And so this is kind of what it is to be a member, you know, and so they enter into a covenant by signing off on a document and now they're a member of our church. That's essentially what it is. They're enacting the four parts of the strategy. We as such, we keep up with them as members and when we go through our voting process, like basically around once a year, they get to take part in that, which for us, and this is kind of the struggle even then ecclesiological it's still happens like during a service hour in which yes, some people who aren't members also possibly raised their hand and vote. That's just with some transparency there, that's something that happens. So there you go.

Jeff Reed: 05:25 With the wrestle and in context of Andy's question when he was wrestling with, when he was asking this is, hey, I've got people who are experiencing our services online. If you have a well developed discipleship process involving small groups and a strong vision towards online, you could have people who are engaged in your church virtually, maybe even at the same as someone is at the physical realm.

Anthony Coppedge: 05:59 Or more.

Jeff Reed: 06:00 That's interesting. I can think of a personal story, as an online pastor, I had someone who was in another state, had someone who was regularly giving, a very high amount, not that size matters, but was regularly giving and tithing as would be appreciated and expected at a church, was leading a small group with serving as a small group leader. You know, and if you're checking off your first base, second base, third base, the boxes. Thank you, Rick Warren. If you're checking that off, this person is fully engaged into creating this disciple of Christ, at least how the church had deemed it. But this person's in another state, in another time zone. And as a result of that, they're not able to, at least in context of the church I was at, they're not able to be held to that same standard of membership even though they are as dedicated, if not more dedicated than someone else. And so that's some of the standard issues that we see in context of church online membership. Anthony, in your experience kind of walking into this and what you've seen over your years of ministry, what does membership look like or mean to you? When you look at the challenge of an online member that may be as dedicated or more, you know, obviously you're feeling something like, okay, the online person needs to be permitted to own, a piece of the vision, but what does that look like in today's age?

Anthony Coppedge: 08:01 I disagree with that statement. They don't need permission to do anything because the way it works to become a member, basically it's applied to choose to be under the governance of, the Bible says elders, right? So you're under authority. That's a willful choice. So the choice to join is not the organization's choice, it's the person's choice, right? So I would flip what you said. It's the church that gets to say, hey, these are the things we would really like. How do you feel about that? Because that's inclusive versus when you say this is what it takes to play here and if you want to be a part of it, sign on this contract or covenant or whatever you want to call it. And then they go, well, isn't that exclusive? But those are our roles. Now, no one has it, I don't think no one, can't say no one, I know there are some Pastors I've met them that are this way. But what I would like to say, most pastors are not thinking that manipulatively, they're just trying to have some sort of conclusion around it. Right. So I understand the thinking there, but what ends up happening is the way we articulate and frame it becomes about you come be a part of our faith by our terms and we'll do things that benefit you.

Rey DeArmas: 09:19 Hmm, good point. And that's been the struggle with that term, right? With membership.

Anthony Coppedge: 09:26 Because I can be a member of a gym or a Costco or a church or a group. That's my choice as a person, I get to choose to be a part of that. Now the group may have rules. If you want to be a part of this group, you got to do these things. I get that they can choose to accept or reject that. But ultimately if we're trying to have open arms and say, we just, we love you, we're all about people or whatever your thing is then you're going to say will you join with us? Can we serve you? It is both ways, right? It's not, are you just willing to come be a part of our thing, that's exclusivity. It's, how do we serve you that's inclusive and that's a distinction that I think should be made that is not, and it also leads to the discussion of well then should an online church have the same vision as the nature of who's sponsoring it or running it or should that functionally because it's operating differently, have a different set of mission statements maybe aligned to a vision or should it operate exactly the same. That's where the polity of church becomes difficult at that point because now we have gray areas that we don't know how to address for the most part. I have ideas, but yeah.

Jeff Reed: 10:40 Let's park on that. Cause, and this is actually DJ Soto, VR church was on a couple of episodes ago. Episode, I think it was 14 if you're keeping score at home. He was talking about how, and it was a new concept to me, he's like physical church has a different set of rules than what he defined as digital church, church online, which his term cause he's doing in VR. He's like, VR is a completely set of different rules than digital. But what you're saying is that digital church, online church, may have a different scope, a different set. Anthony as you're wrestling with that, how do you see it being different?

Anthony Coppedge: 11:23 Are you familiar with Andy Grove? Andy Grove was the CEO for Intel, one thing he talked about was leadership and management. And what he said was that just like tennis, you have to have a good forehand and a good backhand, right? So you have to be able to lead and manage. Leadership is inspiring people to go where they've never been and give trust to some extent to bind to that. Whereas management is the execution of this by them and in this way. And a really, really good manager is someone who just puts junk out of the way and let people get their stuff done, right? So if you think about that model than what we're saying is Kennedy inspired people to follow the same vision? Maybe. Can we manage them the same to accomplish something the same as in physical versus virtual? No, probably not. You're probably going to have to do that differently. Your forehand going to have to be solid, but then your backend has to be solid. One of the things I've said is that, if you follow Andy's advice, then you must become comfortable with specific encouragement and helpful criticism because you're taking on both roles, you've got to say, it's got to be best like that. It's more like this, and you've got to be the kind of person who embodies that, so you take the advice of the board, the leadership management, which would apply at both levels, physical church, online, digital or whatever. But then you also change the rules of the game because the game is physically different in the virtual or online space. So the same rules are different. What is out of bounds in tennis on a physical court is very different than what it is when it's pixels. Right? So now I've got to figure out can I even have the rules be the same or do I need to change it? Why are we limited to a two dimensional court or even a three dimensional court, like could we have court that's all four dimensions of x and y axis? Like literally it's possible to think about it so differently that it doesn't even begin to resemble your original thing therefore it shouldn't or couldn't have the same vision because it's operating fundamentally different.

Jeff Reed: 13:26 Right. I love this but let's put a little more practical angle on it. Both you guys, either one. Like practical execution of that. We're talking 2D, 3D, 4D, I know those are analogies towards things cause somebody out there is thinking 4D, what do we have to like figure out how to make our church service smell? We're not talking literal in that context. What are some examples of where a pixel church, I like that, is different than a physical church? Rey, you're an online pastor, you deal with this all day long. Give me some examples.

Rey DeArmas: 13:59 Well, so there's, there's some similarities in that. You know, the funny thing about that is the similarities that I've seen are, you know, when I come to a physical church service and when I come to a digital church service, I'm basically receiving a lot of content. I'm being, you know, sung at, I'm being preached at. And so I'm basically downloading a whole lot of content at once. We quoted this before from Ed Stetzer in terms of we construct our churches. You know, where one person uses the majority of time uses his gift and everybody else just kind of sits around and watches from that perspective. And in that way, physical locations and digital locations are exactly the same. Now in a digital environment, from what I've seen, conversation can take place a lot more naturally within the service and you don't get your hands slapped for talking during the message. Remember when you were a kid and it's like at least, you know, my parents bribed me with McDonald's if I kept my mouth shut during church. I'll just keep quiet and then happy meal afterwards. It's all cool. You know with digital church, you know the carrots on the stick the other way. No, we want you to engage. We want you to talk, we want you to give to us.

Anthony Coppedge: 15:01 You draft rules for a different game.

New Speaker: 15:03 Yeah, we want you to interact with what it is that we're talking about now. We want you to have real time conversation, not even in small group does this take place. You know, as a small group video is happening right in real time we're telling everybody to be quiet and then afterwards we have the discussion. In realtime in a digital environment, the content is just going and we're encouraging as much interaction between one another as possible. And so that's where to me, where the digital environment is amazing because we're encouraging the conversation. We're not trying to slap the hand to keep it quiet. We're like, no, please talk during church, talk during church. We want that.

Anthony Coppedge: 15:39 And beyond that, Rey, I think that's spot on. That's a good example of how the pixels different from the physical, right. Here's another difference, that's a continuous stream of consciousness live on Sunday or weekend or whatever you are going to call it, but it doesn't have to be continuous stream of consciousness when we have digital. Now if your faciliting a livestream, sure, but what if you're doing small group or what if the way you're presenting it is so different that you actually hit pause and you have discussion and then you hit play and it's video on demand or content. It doesn't have to be an uninterrupted stream where you talk over it like, oh, we're missing. You can hit pause and they will sit there and wait because that's normal. Right. So again, rules changed. So you are flexing muscles that you don't even have in the other space and you have to change the rules to play that way.

Anthony Coppedge: 16:28 I think what we're getting to those that you're asking Jeff, it's a good question. What are the differences? What's the same? There is one focus. There is one focus. Therefore go and make disciples. It wasn't the great suggestion. Right? So if that's the thing we're doing is the common denominator than we have to figure out is why do church people and church leaders got to stop confusing style or format with bogus. It's we're hung up on the technology or the medium or the time shifting, we can't seem to get past the thing that says this is how we've always done it. And yet the very people saying the ones who complained about the church that came before them are always saying "that's the way we want it" and go like you're irrelevant already. Hey guys, check the mirror in 2019, you might be relevant too, you just have a hip version of the relevancy, right? So instead of the constructive discussion, we should be intentionally focusing away from programmatic attendance generators or styles of service to extend time, effort, and resources on deliberately emphasizing the personal journey, absurdly leading others. Period. How you play that out has lots of options.

Jeff Reed: 17:44 I've talked about this and blogged about this, we'll put it in the show notes, is this idea of church online decentralizes your ministry. If I'm a one campus, I'm paying professionals to do ministry.

Anthony Coppedge: 18:07 No you're not. You're paying professionals to facilitate the doing of ministry.

Jeff Reed: 18:12 You hope.

Anthony Coppedge: 18:13 No, that's what you should doing, right?

Jeff Reed: 18:16 Okay. You hope you are, in reality, you may or may not be. But at the end of the day, and so. Confession, I may be a little jaded on this but when you look at a physical campus, you're gonna see a lot more of the hero of the story. The hero of ministry is oftentimes that lead pastor on the stage. It's going to be the staff person who's doing ministry out there to the tens or the hundreds or the thousands depending upon the ministry side. When I look at Church Online, I actually see that as an opportunity for the lead pastor, the lead communicator on stage, whoever it is like that doesn't, that power doesn't necessarily convey in another time zone in another state. The hero of the story is the individual who you empower and say, Hey, you know what? You're in another time zone from this church. We want to disciple you and empower you to create a biblical community where you are, right? You're in another time zone. Let's create a little piece of this church in your state and all of a sudden if we're working this discipleship model, the church online isn't the abandonment, which a lot of times people think it's not the abandonment of physical community.

Jeff Reed: 19:44 It's the starting of new physical communities all over the place as where discipling and empowering people to develop these communities where they are. Christ Fellowship Miami, this is a great example, Christ Fellowship Miami, right now has a physical small group that meets in San Antonio, Texas. It's led by a person that my mother who's 72 years old, discipled and grew to the place where she's now leading a physical small group in San Antonio. It's another time zone, it's a 20 hour drive away.

Anthony Coppedge: 20:18 Culture too.

New Speaker: 20:19 Oh yeah. Oh, a bible belt verses, completely. But like that person in San Antonio standing on her own, creating this community with her coworkers and friends, that person is my hero. Like I would rather tell her story and the stories like that all day long, but because we've gone from, the staff and I used to, I used the term earlier, professional Christians and I even like, I don't really mean that, but it's gone from a, Hey, I'm going to do the work too. I'm going to empower others to do the work and I'm not looking for this because I'm trying to celebrate myself as much as now I want to empower others and my joy comes from watching other ministry happen.

Rey DeArmas: 21:05 That's right. We're actually getting ready to have another one in California, which is awesome. You know, it's one of those things where, exactly what you're talking about, Anthony, our role as pastors in Ephesians, right? It says that we're supposed to empower others to do the work of the ministry. You know, like that's what the shepherd is supposed to do. We're not supposed to be the doers of the minister. We're supposed to be the empowerers supposed to set them free, unleash them to do ministry. The great thing about Church Online that you're getting at, Jeff, that I love is that it decentralizes in that it's not limited to time and space. Once upon a time we had to worry about spaces or about Sunday school spaces or a certain times where content could get distributed like leadership training or you know even theological training or different stuff. Now, because we can record something or we can live stream or we can put it on demand. We don't have to worry as much about people showing up at a specific time. We can get it to them where they're at and they can go back and reenergize with that same content. They can go back and share that content with others and we can encourage them and empower them to do so. That's really one of the big wins that I see in this pixel, in this digital environment is content doesn't have to die because you weren't there and you missed it. No, no, no, no. Instead, here's the content, you take it and run with it and you go reach other people for Christ with it because you got it in the palm of your hand.

Anthony Coppedge: 22:23 There's a parallel in the business world one of the things we're seeing is companies will do more remote work. When you're saying, it's better for a lot of our employees to not physically be here, even in the same time zone and we can distribute the work not just outside of campus, but outside of time zone to another country and it's very common to do that, but it just takes a different set of skills. And so what you have to go from is synchronous communication to asynchronous communication from synchronous activity alignment to asynchronous results oriented alignment, right? So instead of saying, I need you to be in this meeting so that you can take the notes and we can get this PowerPoint built or whatever, we're going to get these things delivered. No, you have a group of people that you entrust and you delegate that information and the resources out, your process to manage to get them from a to z and you have check ins along the way, but you don't ever have to physically be with any of them. I just wrote an article on that says. I can look it up. But basically it's that you as a remote manager, I value performance over presence. Right. And so it's very results oriented. Well, if I think about the discipleship thing, we were just talking about, it's great in that same discussion because what we're saying is that you're interested in seeing you get what you need to go and do whatever you can wherever you are with whatever you have. We want to resource and facilitate that as it makes sense to you at your time and place not as we have an offering on the weekends deliberate too. That's a significant shift when it's hard for I think the American church model, which is based around that pop up something on the weekend and build everything towards the weekend and then try to make it sustain throughout the week and then that repeats every seven days.

Anthony Coppedge: 24:18 That model doesn't even begin to apply in the digital world. And I think we have to be able to say it's okay that it's different that we need to empower and release those to being something that grows and does what it can with what it has and not beholden to the synchronous work of a physical church. It's asynchronous on purpose and by the way with greater value to that community. It doesn't have the same value in it has to be synchronous. This is why I looked at the, hey, we stream these times, why? Not that that's wrong, but couldn't you just say it's on demand and here are the times we facilitate group discussions and they could Tuesday nights in this time zone and Monday afternoons in that time zone. If you are really trying to take this and grow it I think you have to get past that weekend model is to support anchor for the whole thing. So for example, when I talked to senior pastors, it's been awhile since I ask this question, but I'm sure the numbers were similar. I would ask what percent of what you share is remembered on Tuesday morning by your congregation and the answer is usually between 20 and 30% which I think is high. Right. So instead of saying we're put this massive amount of effort into creating this awesome thing, IE a weekend service. That message then has to try to be applied during the weekend, well what better way to do that than asynchronously. There's a genius to the "and" rather than the competition of the "or".

Rey DeArmas: 25:47 I agree with that completely. Now I want to take some of that and kind of point it back to the membership and kind of just ask the question, Anthony, in terms of, all right, so we've got this content, we got people interacting with it and hey that's cool, you know, but they're no, here in person. How much of a say should they really have around here? If that's the case, should they be able to like help elect the senior pastor, should they be able to help elect like some of the people that are making decisions around here? Like, cause that's where I hear a lot of churches get confused.

Anthony Coppedge: 26:15 Church polity. Here's an unpopular the answer. Does it matter? Because ultimately if they're doing ministry in San Antonio and they're having great growth in people coming to Jesus or they're learning together and they're serving their community in unique and meaningful ways, does it matter what? Not unless you care about propping up the organization ahead of the mission and the vision, and I think that's the problem right there. So we want to honor leadership, want to honor or do these things to be a part of a process. But I think the whole church polity is where it breaks down. And it's also why if you go back from the reformation and the sins that have happened on the timeline of church history since then, because someone's always trying to figure out, yeah, but what about this? And so they always want to have their piece of the pie, what if he just doesn't matter.

Anthony Coppedge: 27:06 Well, I think that's where a lot of people are not just the nuns or the unchurched. I think that's what are the church people are. They just don't care as much about that, my neighborhood's needs help or you know, I lost my job, we could really use some help. I need some training. We could really use a little bit of cash, whatever that looks like. There are ways we can practically help that has nothing to do with church polity. So if you take that discussion and dethrone it from the place of prominence that I did a lot of denominational have and you just got back down and you loved people and make disciples and help people where they are. Church polity will have very, very, very little to say.

Jeff Reed: 27:47 You know, Romans 13, no leadership is in place that God has instituted. And so, you know, some of that I feel like we just try to over orchestrate things that we really shouldn't be worrying about to Anthony's point of just making disciples and what we've done here, and I don't know that I intentionally meant to do it this way, but we kind of did, like, we're setting this picture that church online has more of a discipleship structure, potential for discipleship structure by decentralizing away from leadership and empowering the people to be the heroes. Even this idea of, well in a pixel church we can have, you know, a much more integration of chatting and talking and be able to engage people in a virtual environment, but we don't have it in the physical.

Jeff Reed: 28:48 Honestly, like I sat in a conference, and I hear the speaker say, Clay Scroggins, he's like the church business model that we operate on today needs to be destroyed. It wasn't his exact words. I think he actually said blow up. But the point of where we're operating up to this point over the past 2000 years has worked, but culture is shifting away from the traditional business model where they're not engaging with it. 66% of the people are not wanting to come into your building. 80% of people will have a conversation about their faith with their friends not coming in to see, to hear, you know, a lecture from this stage. At what point do we look at the, and this is a loaded question and I don't know that we're going to solve this problem today, but at what point do we look at the physical church and okay, hey, there's some lessons we need to learn in general because the things that we're doing may or may not be effective today.

Anthony Coppedge: 29:50 Now, see, Rey, Jeff, just took out his eleventh pole. That's the pole that you use when you don't touch things with your ten foot pole. That's the big one. You're poking the big thing now. And you're right that, that's a big thing.

Rey DeArmas: 30:03 Well, you know, the struggle that I have with that is the argument that it's always worked, you know, we have to go back and we have to take a look at how we've adapted over time too, you know, and point out our inconsistencies in terms of strategy. Like I remember in seminary, you know, we had a great discussion over where and when Sunday night services became a thing and why some people still did them. And what we started to unearth was it was it was a structured way to reach farmers at one point and then it just became tradition as opposed to, oh, this is new testament mandated or something along those lines. And it made a lot of folks uncomfortable as far as how a lot of that went down.

Anthony Coppedge: 30:40 You said something, Rey, that I just want to challenge. You said, well we do it because it works. Let me just ask the big question if it works so well, why does 66% of people are not going to show up and 80% will have that discussion. The stats would tell you it's not working. That means for most churches it's working well enough to maintain the status quo and they're comfortable. You know whether they have a hard heart about that or not or they just are ignorant. I don't know. I'm not judging. I'm just saying that's the truth because the reason that happens, the scorecard of the Western church typically believes it's easily understandable and obviously measurable attendance, giving, volunteerism, observed by visible, quantifiable, so they easily become the low hanging fruit of determining that success. Right. It's working of a ministry organization. But left uncheck, we all speak on the measure of pure success with church leaders. How big is your church? When you see two pastors at any conference I've ever been you, they'll walk up, so what are you guys running? What do you guys do? Always. It just kills me. The easy three metrics are often generally quantified into some alliterated version of faith, family and finance. Right? So how do you promote a volunteer? Well, faith, family and finance. How do you validate those three? We check their finances if they're giving. So really it's not faith, family, finances, it's finances. How about their faith and family? Um, well it's really hard to know that you're right. It is, but they'll say faith, family, finance so in the digital world, what makes a really good number?

Anthony Coppedge: 32:21 What makes them a good deacon or usher or parking lot greeter, right? Do you see the warm body or do you actually want someone who's living something out and how do we validate that? The only way is through relationship and people don't scale. Systems and processes scale, but people don't scale. So what you're talking is having enough people with enough touch points, what I would call a span of care, that you have enough spans of cares that you are touching all the people and it does go up, but you don't have control. There's the big thing because I can't do that because then I wouldn't be the one making the decisions here. Well here's the thing, when pressed you get to this place where you said you're only trying to capture on one factor.

Anthony Coppedge: 33:08 So what makes a member, somebody who gives. There was one time, and I'm old enough to say this, that one of the churches in Dallas, Fort Worth was listed as the largest church in America and I went there on a weekend and they were nowhere near the largest church in America kind of numbers. And when I found out on their membership roles, it was 30,000 people way back in the day. It was like that was the number one church and I'm like, but that's not who showing up, right? Maybe they're all giving, and that's your determination of size, but man, you've really just got the metrics back. We let the lagging indicators, wag the tail of the dog, right? The tail of lagging indicators has wagged the dog of the church. And when we got to get into the leading indicators, leading indicators are a lot harder, right? There's the things like, Hey, what is the ratio of our volunteers to new members or new salvations?

Anthony Coppedge: 34:01 What is the number of people who said they would sign up for something versus they show up? What is the number of new volunteers in our current pipeline that you had that have been sitting there for more than 90 days? And they still not plugged in because we haven't properly vetted them, right? Those leading indicators tell you way more about the church thoughts than they do about the growth of something. And that to me is where we've got to stop looking at this as a numerical thing. There is quantitative data, but there's anecdotal insights and that's relational. That's always going to be relational. And you cannot ever tell me that you need to know that number. Look, a thermometer will tell you what the temperature is outside, if you need to know that, that's useful. How many people went to this thing? 90. Awesome. Okay.

Anthony Coppedge: 34:43 Here's the better question. How many people were supposed to go to that they were going to sign up but didn't show up? 474 well that's a pretty poor ratio? So what happened to the rest of them? We don't know. Follow up? No. Well that would probably be more interesting and more viable for actual ministry then than just doing another event and having a similar poor ratio because that's just the percentage and people that, well, our open rates are low, our clickthrough rates are low. It just is what it is, but we know it's reaching people, no, it's not actually. So are you willing to go back and do retargeting? Are you willing to go back and figure out where the mislead was? The opportunity? Are you putting systems in place not to measure, but to understand it? Are you willing to move away from the thermometer into a barometer, which is how you predict the weather not quite, right, but there is a number of a barometer. It will tell you the air pressure, but what's important, the key is not the number. Where is that number in relation to where it was an hour ago, what is the rate and direction of change that is more like this, less like that. We need to be comfortable in that really great area. You're looking for more like this, less like that. And we look for that over time again and again and again in ways that aren't easy to measure because we actually what to make an impact and make sure discipleship is happening so that the effort we're expending, the money that people are entrusting us to pour into this is actually becoming a verifiable ROM - return on ministry.

Jeff Reed: 36:09 Is that a thing, ROM? I think that's the first time I've heard that.

Anthony Coppedge: 36:13 Well that was from like 1998 when I taught it at a conference, so it's old.

Rey DeArmas: 36:17 Let's bring it back.

Jeff Reed: 36:19 1998. I think I was like in college, so congratulations. That's good stuff. I may have been at that conference, I'm not sure. Here's the problem of where we are. We've just spent a good chunk of time having a theoretical conversation that I think was good, but like the guy sitting at his church and he's like, okay, I'm trying to create this discipleship strategy. I understand the power of online to do this. Like, but leadership doesn't, they don't see it. They don't agree. We really can't do two separate things. It needs to be one. I want to end on some sort of practical things, application, something that's like, okay, we just fired this guy up. He realizes he needs to do all this stuff and he's like four totem poles down from the top. And what can he do? What's are good baby steps for somebody that's at this level to try to move in the right direction? Either of you guys want to breathe on that?

Rey DeArmas: 37:22 I think Anthony did a great job of pointing out that you don't have to get so caught up in the tag of membership or the tag of the polity side to begin discipling somebody right where they're at. So if you've already got a discipleship strategy at your church that's working and you've got people that are meeting together digitally, start where you're at and start discipling them. And don't worry about getting caught up in the tag of whether or not they're a member, you know, start where you're at right now and don't allow that to be your focus or driver. Just your role and responsibility. And I think we can all agree on this is not really to make members, is to make disciples, right? So, as you do that, start where you're at. Start discipling them and started unleashing them to do the work of the ministry. And then as your leadership is asking questions, let them know, hey listen, these folks are out here doing the work of the ministry man. Like whether or not they have a say in our church or or the polity side or whatever else, it's really in consequential compared to the amount of ministry that they're doing. Anthony, do you want to weigh in on that?

Anthony Coppedge: 38:22 So here's what I would say to that person who's feeling very conflicted. Like, well I don't have the authority to do anything that these guys have talked about today. Here's the thing. The local church is at a crossroads and has the opportunity to do either facility, organize and empower life change or settle for systemic entropy. To settle is to be a part of the problem. To accept the challenge of transformational change is the narrow path. The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it's informative. Even a dead fish goes with the flow. So if that scares you, then you probably are not at a place where it's ever going to change or you're going to have to be the catalyst of change and you have to have the basic discernment to understand that because I would not waste my life and my energies trying to go with the flow that's dead. I would leave the stream and go do something else somewhere else if it really meant I either have to conform because we're not willing to change.

Anthony Coppedge: 39:22 We're not going to say, what do we add the most value to people online? Is what's the difference between a pixel model and a physical model? If we can't ask those questions? If you can't deconstruct that in a healthy way and it is confrontational. It just doesn't have to be mean. Confrontation is not bad. It's healthy it says, why and why not, what if? And here's a model. Here's what understanding, this would be far more valuable, have a far greater impact on the way we resource people and be on a much better return on ministry investment than anything else we're doing in the physical church. We see this as imperative. Do you see that and can I help you get there? And if the answer is no, you have to ask God if your time there is done.

Jeff Reed: 40:11 Wow. Even a dead fish goes with the flow. I love that. Oh yeah. I'm going to adopt that. I'll totally give you credit, Anthony, whenever I say it. But I have a running joke of whether a quotes tattoo worthy or not. Like would I tattoo that on my body, that's on the list of tattoo worthy? My wife's not going to let it happen, so it will never happen. I'll never tattoo your name on my body, Anthony. I just want to let you know, uh, but I, I would actually consider it cause that's a really good quote. Hey church person out there. and, and we've talked about this in the past, but while you're creating disciples, while your disciples are creating disciples, celebrate that. Share that story. Share the story of how you're empowering people to do ministry.

Jeff Reed: 41:02 Not that you did the ministry. Don't claim the glory for yourself, but how you've been able to reproduce and share the gospel in a way that others have picked it up and run with it as well. There's some scary things coming down the road biblically. If we look at the Bible in context of what Church online can be a solution for. And the more that we move towards creating disciples, the more that we move away from this idea of having these mega buildings that cost a ton of money in context of tax, property tax, maintenance, and things like that on the road that we're on. If we look at the Bible and what revelation says, we're not going to be able to have these landmarks in place across our country and the more that we're able to not depend on these things to impact lives and to create disciples and to make disciples and to make disciples that make disciples like we need to change our business model, what we're doing is not gonna work longterm. And so celebrate these stories, share these things, share how it's happening, encourage others, one person, at at a time and help your leadership see that it's not a quick battle. It's not something that's going to happen overnight, but it does happen. And there are churches that are successful doing that.

Anthony Coppedge: 42:28 So pastors will often say, but healthy things grow. Here's the thing, yes. Healthy things grow, cancer grow too. So up into the right lagging indicator metrics are not a sufficient reason to claim success. High attendance is not a reason to claim success. Healthy is discipleship because it's sustainable by everyone plus it's a natural mandate. Not nice to have, but have you seen our numbers? Go and make disciples is a directive for growth, not growth as a success metric.

Jeff Reed: 43:05 Rey, questions, thoughts? Anthony, thank you for that. Rey, anything as we're landing?

Rey DeArmas: 43:09 Yeah. For those of you who are still struggling like through whether or not your church should do membership and stuff and whether or not like how the biblical stuff and all that work about it. I encourage you to take a gander at what Anthony was talking about. Are you really more concerned about polity or you're really concerned about, well, what are we unleashing on the world in terms of disciples? Take a look at that. Do some hardcore wrestling with it, prayerfully, like with your pastoral team, and really have some hard, honest conversations around that because churches today are still struggling through that. You're not alone in that struggle.

Jeff Reed: 43:40 Hey, thanks Rey for that. Anthony. 20, 30 seconds, landing the plane. What do you got?

Anthony Coppedge: 43:46 Mathematician and statistician George box has a phrase that fits you. All models are wrong, but some are useful. So go make disciples. And if that means members, great, but don't make it a requirement.

Jeff Reed: 43:59 Wow, that's good church. That was so good. Church, last I checked. Membership's not listed in the Bible. I don't think it talks about membership but it does talk about making disciples. And so church online, people focusing in that realm, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the commands I have given you. I'm pretty sure that's verbatim, maybe that's NIV 1984, but it's close. Hey, so thank you for that. Anthony, appreciate you coming in and jumping on. This has been a great podcast. Rey, once again, love having you on. My name is Jeff, this has been TheChurch.Digital Podcast. Appreciate you, listening audience, out there and looking forward to letting you hear us next time here on TheChurch.Digital Podcast. Y'all have a good day.



PODCAST 015: Rey DeArmas & How to Impact the Workplace
PODCAST 017: Stories from Church Anywhere

About Author

Jeff Reed
Jeff Reed

With about 20 years experience serving the church in the digital/technological realm, Jeff loves working with churches. As passionate about Discipleship as he is Technology, Jeff uses his passion to help Churches develop technology systems to bring people far from God closer to him. Oh, and he loves Digital Church & Church Online.

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