Written by Bill Miller
One of my favorite things to do when I read the Bible, is to try and place myself in the moment. I imagine staring out over the Red Sea as Moses raised his arms or sitting next to a rocky path as Jesus stopped to teach a crowd or heal the sick. I frequently find new insights and truth as I ponder how those moments or the words spoke by Jesus must have impacted those present.
I am also struck by the places and situations where these incredible events happened. In my mind the synagogues, markets, wells, and even ancient houses come to life. But most of all, I wonder what the setting would be today. I can only imagine Jesus sharing a pizza with his disciples instead of bread, gathering in a local coffee shop, or teaching thousands about His Father in heaven on Facebook Live.
Yes, I said it. Jesus would be on social media.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whichever platform you favor is filled with anger, dissention, and conflict. Images inappropriate for our kids pop up without warning and our very faith is frequently ridiculed. And I imagine this type of conflict is no different than the scene across ancient Jerusalem as Greeks, Romans, Jews, and others came together with varied ideas about morality and truth. And Jesus wandered right into it, interacted with some of the least faithful people present, and preached a new message of truth and love in the middle of the chaos.
Even the synagogue itself where Jews worshipped and Jesus taught in has found a new home online. Every week, millions across the world tune into live broadcasts of churches, or preachers. Even at Allison Park Church, we frequently have over 1,000 people watch some or all of the weekend services online. This doesn’t even count the number of people who watch (or rewatch) the recording afterward
I am by no means suggesting that a “virtual church” will fully replace the brick and mortar house of worship. But, the outreach footprint of a church must now include the digital world.
But is this “real” church?
Recently, we began hosting online Life Groups as an experimental addition to Allison Park Church’s list of available groups. And many of the people who indicated an interest came directly from those who watch us online every week. One of those people in my 7 a.m. Thursday online group, is Felicia.
As I learned about her, I realized that she was exactly the person that online church was built to serve. She is a busy wife and mom raising kids that stretch in age from 19 to 9. She runs her local rotary, works from home, and even coaches middle school football. While she lives close to one of our campuses, she needed a church family that she could connect with beyond the normal weekend or even Wednesday evening times.
And when her online church offered a way for her to do this, she jumped (digitally) at the chance to log-in and get connected. Now she has a greater connection to our church. She has a regular touch point with other Christians and a pastor. And she has gone from being an unknown name on Facebook to a part of our church family.
Will this result in Felicia attending her local Allison Park Church campus? Will her kids join the youth group? Will she begin to serve in some way? Perhaps. But if those are the only goals, then we are missing the point of church. Ultimately, are we able to use this new digital community to help Felicia become closer to Christ, become a better mother and wife, and fulfill the plan that God has for her life? That is the goal. And that is the challenge of the new online church.
So the next time you log-on, tweet, or post, imagine yourself in ancient Jerusalem. You are standing at a crossroads where people of different beliefs and backgrounds are traveling, trading, and in many cases arguing. Then think of yourself as a disciple of the risen Christ and pray how you can impact, minister to, or reach the next person who passes you by, or in the case of social media, the next person that posts on your wall.
Bill Miller recently joined the staff at Allison Park Church. You can find him most Saturday nights and Sunday mornings running the church’s online service. If you are interested in his online Thursday AM small group – drop him a line at BillM@AllisonParkchurch.com.