Meditations (Web)Church

A year (and a bit) in the life of NewSpring's first Web pastor

A tuneup for the NewSpring Web Service

with 5 comments

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?

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Written by NickCharalambous

August 27, 2009 at 10:19 am

Posted in ruminations

5 Responses

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  1. Two things come to mind as I read your new post.

    1. Refining the Web Service so that it better aligns with your vision and high Biblical standards for worship and shepherding is definitely a good thing. Not an easy process, I’d imagine. So you have our prayerful encouragement.

    2. Digital Missions represents a new frontier of ministry. I’m no expert, but like opening any foreign field, it probably takes time to become familiar with the territory; understand the culture; and know how to best relate to and minister to the people. Your post implies this.

    As a pioneer in Digital Missions, whatever form that takes, NewSpring is showing the watching Church what is possible; what principles to apply; what works; what doesn’t; what roads to take and what paths to avoid.

    As a result, I’m quite certain that many are learning how to become more effective in their use of technology to reach the world for Christ.

    And they will be deeply grateful, I’m sure.

    It will be exciting to see how God leads you next.

    Gordon Marcy

    August 27, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    • It looks like you drew the conclusions i was hoping for. With so many engaged or beginning to gauge in this area of ministry, we certainly don’t want anyone to think that we’re pointing to a wrong way and a right way … we just want to walk humbly.

      ipiphanist

      August 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm

  2. some things that have stood out to me over the past 8 months of seeing the web campus take off and just over the past few weeks since i’ve been working for the web campus here at newspring:

    1. ministry is ministry. people from all over are going to criticize your ministry if they don’t agree with the methods you’re using. as long as your scripture is not being compromised and no sin is being committed, keep strong in your ministry. you answer to God not to men. we have a saying here at newspring that says we’ll do just about anything short of sin to reach people for Christ. if testing new forms of media in the form of a web campus will allow us to better reach people who cannot physically attend one of our campuses, praise Him for the internet and all the potential it holds for the mission front.

    2. any ministry is going to come under attack. like nick has said and maybe mentioned before, there have been times when our web campus has come under satanic attack, where people enter for the sole purpose of distracting others. this is an area that obviously is tough to deal with. yet at the same time, these people need Jesus as much as the rest of us. so in a way, yes, it’s stressful that these people show up only to disrupt, but it’s also amazing that they for whatever reason found newspring and are able to be exposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. we’ll never fully know how the Word impacts these people, but personally, i’ll take the stressful times dealing with these individuals to see them be ministered to. this might’ve been their only encounter with Christ, so it’s my job to make sure that they have a place they can come to. (this obviously extends to every member of the web campus, not just the people who come to disrupt). it is our job as a team to set them up to be in a place where they can meet Jesus.

    3. it’s a new frontier. any time a new type of media is experimented with, there will be people who divide up into groups: people will either be cautious, critical, or they’ll be the ones who realize: it’s not about us. we are expanding to reach the world for Christ.

    let me address the cautious: these people like things the way they are. that’s fine and all, but how often did you see Jesus get comfortable? (just as a reminder, Christ washed the dung off his disciples’ feet, hung out with the socially ‘unreachable’ and, oh yeah, was CRUCIFIED ON A CROSS.) Jesus was comfortable, yes. but He was comfortable, with being uncomfortable. that’s how we should be. when we are uncomfortable and our backs are pressed against a wall, it makes us DESPERATE for God and it makes us turn to Him first.

    addressing the critical: criticism is great in it’s rightful time and place. but to criticize how a church is reaching people when 1. no sin is being committed and 2. lives are being radically changed is a gross injustice to Christ. when people’s lives are being changed, that’s what matters. get with the program, or get out, as our senior pastor perry noble has said. for the people even on our own physical campuses–dive in to the journey God has called us to be in, or get out of the church, because we can use your seat to serve someone who WANTS to do God’s work.

    to the ones who are on-board: i personally thank you for all the help, time and hard work you’ve put into the web campus. (not just at newspring, but web campuses worldwide.) it’s you all who are being the hands and feet of our Savior and it’s you all who are helping reach people for Christ. a warning though: don’t give up. it’s easy to listen to the criticism of others and think that what you’re doing by serving on a web campus is somehow wrong, or ineffective or whatever. i’ll drop this word of encouragement on you–

    all through the OT and the rest of the Bible, God promises that he’s able to be trusted, that He’ll see you through whatever is going on, and i think that should hold true for web campuses worldwide. some examples:

    “trust in the lord forever….” (Isaiah 26:4)
    “surely God is my salvation…” (Isaiah 12:2)
    “Blessed are those who make the Lord their trust…” (Psalm 40:4)

    it’s really not rocket science. while exploring the ins and outs of web campus ministry, there’s one thing we most certainly have to do: TRUST IN THE LORD, OUR GOD.

    if He sees that something isn’t working, He’ll reveal it to us. we pray daily for ways to make web campuses better and more like what God wants them to be. that’s what it’s all about: 1. staying true to God’s plan and 2. reaching people for Christ and presenting them with the Gospel.

    i look forward to seeing the evolution of web campus ministry. it’s already grown by leaps and bounds in the past eight months all because of the blessings God has given us.. i can’t even wait to see how He’s going to continue moving through this form of ministry.

    mbrettlong

    August 27, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    • Amen, brother. I can’t wait to see where the Lord leads us as we prayerfully yield to his will. This is about God’s plan for his church, not about our ministry success (or at least being seen as a success.)

      ipiphanist

      August 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm

  3. I really enjoyed your post. I’m in a small church in WA state, and i work with a ministry that has 2 sites…one here and one in CA. I do the web side…it’s been difficult to gauge where we are and if there is response. i’ve been reading a lot of Chris Brogan’s blog about listening outposts here is the link: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/a-simple-presence-framework/

    Jim

    August 27, 2009 at 11:43 pm


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