The Herman Trend Alert|
November 11, 2009
Gimme that Online Religion
What is the best place to build a church today? The World Wide Web, of course.
"LifeChurch.tv", an Oklahoma mega-church, founded the first Internet church in 2006. This leading-edge organization had already expanded to include bricks and mortar locations in several cities of the United States, when its pastors launched what they now call their "Church Online".
Now broadcasting more than 25 online services weekly, LifeChurch.tv says its services collectively draw "up to 60,000 unique views weekly" and their broadcasts draw viewers from more than 140 countries. Seeking to attract the not-so-religious, the congregation buys Google ad words "sex" or "naked ladies", so people searching for these words will see an ad inviting them to a worship service instead.
Then there is the Flamingo Road Church. With five physical campuses in Florida, their Internet Campus provides online services for adults on Saturday and Sunday, for youth on Wednesdays, and for kids on Saturday afternoon. The Internet Campus is fully interactive and features a dedicated Internet pastor, live chat in an online "lobby", Bible study, one-on-one prayer through Instant Messenger (IM), and communion. (Viewers use their own bread and wine or water.)
There is no exact count of these interactive online campuses. Studying and supporting innovative churches, The Leadership Network has found at least 40. The churches cited here report they receive calls regularly from other pastors starting their own.
There is even a book, titled "Finding Faith on the Internet". Edited by Lorne L. Dawson and Douglas E. Cowan, this book provides and in-depth introduction to this flourishing new religious reality. From cyber-pilgrimages to neo-pagan chat room communities, the editors address a wide variety of core issues including youth, religion and the Internet, new religious movements, propaganda, and innovation.
Expect more religious institutions of all denominations worldwide to capitalize on the growth and popularity of this technology and appeal to a wider audience on the Internet. This expansion to religious opportunity will result in the exposure of more young people to a wider variety of worship alternatives. Eventually all large (and some smaller) religious organizations will offer online worship options.
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