A tuneup for the NewSpring Web Service
It doesn’t feel like 8 months since NewSpring launched Sunday worship services on the Web, and it’s hard to believe how much they have become a part of NewSpring life for nearly 800 people week after week who otherwise wouldn’t be able to be part of the NewSpring family.
Everyone knew online services are a major opportunity to expand NewSpring’s mission to spread the word about Jesus and see people far from Christ come to know him as Lord and Savior.
But we also knew that it was the kind of experiment that would lead us into territory whose theology and methodology was far from clear, and for which we would beg desperately for God’s grace and leading.
No one felt that dangerous tension more than me, as NewSpring’s first “web pastor” — and a non-ministry, non-religious professional at that.
Anyone who’s followed this blog can trace the “arc” of my thinking.
From the early excitement about how Web services could pioneer a new frontier in church growth, offering a response to a post-Christian world where “going to church” is not the first or natural place one thinks to encounter a life-giving spiritual message.
To a prophetic recognition that our use of the Web will radically and inevitably reshape the way we minister to one another and worship.
To a sobering view of the practical challenges of ministering in an online environment where the motivations, learnings, and behaviors of attenders are hard to fathom and even more difficult to guide.
And finally — now — to a theological “peace” about the fact that worship on the Web is just another tool in realizing and actualizing the “visible church.” As messy, flawed, inspiring, and incomplete as any gathering of believers in a sanctuary in Anytown, USA.
The last month of silence on this blog has coincided with a refining of the vision of the NewSpring Web Service that focuses the vision, resources and efforts of everyone on our team toward maxing out our opportunity for evangelism.
There’s a lot we don’t know about how to “do church” online. And we want to be humble as we seek to shepherd people online. We certainly don’t want to — inadvertently, naively — lower the bar for what it means to belong to and “be” the church.
But what we do know is that the Web gives us an opportunity — just like the printing press, radio and television before it — to spread the message of God in a new world without boundaries — geographic, temporal or cultural.
I came to know Jesus because NewSpring did everything in its power to remove barriers to hearing, believing and living the Gospel of Jesus.
As long as there are people who are intimidated to step foot in church …
As long as there are people who have never heard the good news of Jesus …
As long as there are people who do not live near a church where Jesus is lifted up …
The NewSpring Web Service will be valued, needed and used.
We figure that when people are connecting and engaging and surrendering to Jesus, that’s when we have the true opportunity to disciple people into local, physical, grace-filled and grace-giving communities of faith that are God’s plan A for glorifying himself through his son Jesus Christ.
Perhaps we don’t need to reinvent the church online? Perhaps the wisest thing to do is work with other Christ-centered churches and courageous church planters to help seed communities of faith?
Our strategy is to be OK in taking this journey one faith step at a time.
if you’re active in web ministry and web evangelism, where are you on this learning curve?