Churches involved in online ministries, or completely online with little physical presence, are showing continued expansion and experimentation with new technology, reports the evangelical magazine Ministries Today (November/December). Although the article does not provide a count of online churches, two of the pioneers of these ministries, Bobby Gruenewald of Life.Church, and Nathan Clark of Northland, A Church Distributed, provide some idea of the changes taking place in this field. Gruenewald writes that churches today have more technology options with software built specifically for online ministry. The other big change is that various devices, such as Roku and Amazon TV, are connecting people beyond a desktop-only experience, allowing services to be streamed into televisions. But, because most online ministries base their services along the lines of worship, music, and sermon interspersed with chat and interactive prayer, streaming services can serve to override this participatory element. To increase interactivity, a recent innovation has been for these churches to create online groups apart from worship (similar to the small groups in megachurhes). An idea of the flow and types of people drawn to these services is provided by Jason Morris, “innovation and technology pastor” at Westside Family Church in Kansas. A recent week saw 8,687 unique visitors across its 162 online services, of which only 16.8 percent had visited previously.
The Internet Campus of Lake Pointe Church in Texas averages 3,500 people from 42 states and 35 countries each weekend. Each weekend, 63 percent of attendees have attended before, while 37 percent are attending for the first time. With low overhead costs, these churches are now more likely to working around the clock and maximizing the services they offer. For instance, San Antonio’s Bible Church offers 498 opportunities weekly through six live services and 492 simulated live services across three online venues. Life.Church reports a global presence, with an average of 110,000-130,000 unique visitors across their 69 services, with the top five countries being Pakistan, US, Bangladesh and Kenya. Meanwhile, Northland, which has had more than 100,000 worshippers from 120 countries in the last year, has strengthened international partnerships, even missionizingtheir online approach, creating centers in Haiti, Cuba, and South Africa, and planning more for Egypt, Sri Lanka, and Uganda.
(Ministry Today, http://ministrytodaymag.com/)