Meditations (Web)Church

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

Archive for January 2009

The web church is the new reformation

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It was one of the remarks on Twitter from my boss Tony Morgan that was deceptively easy to glance over.

“Multi-site changes everything. Campuses on the Web changes everything else.”

It resonated with me, because from the first day I felt God calling me to explore how to be the church in the digital age, I was confident that the web church will herald a new reformation.

Those are big words. Weighty words, for sure. Maybe a tad hyperbole. But I’m serious.

In the first reformation, the technology of the printing press made it possible for any believer who could read to match up what Christ said about access to God with what the Catholic Church said about it. The “priesthood of all believers” was the result.

In the new reformation, the technology of the web has made it possible for people to be the church without “the church.” Now anyone who is part of the priesthood of all believers could, if they were very intentional, create their own, or join a pre-existing, fully Christ-centered community.

This is not about 20th-century, lone-ranger Christianity, where “private faith” is what’s important, accountability is non-existent and commitment is quaint.

I’m suggesting that we now have the tools and the conditions that could allow for a faithful believer to join himself to a self-organized community of fellow believers who intentionally devote themselves to sound teaching, perhaps through, share their lives and work with common purpose, guided by the Holy Spirit, to bring the love of Jesus to the world.

Is that not theologically legitimate church? Could you not have a physical campus-less church and still be the church as Christ intended it?

What I think about often is how inefficient the current structure of the church today really is if it is supposed to be all about making disciples of Jesus.

Think about how much money is locked up in land and buildings. Think about how much money relatively small congregations spend on supporting pastors and administrative staff when they simply cannot — and don’t have to — compete with the incredible teaching resources now available online or in your corner Christian bookstore. Wouldn’t the leadership of mature believers be sufficient to provide solid pastoral guidance?

Think about how few smaller congregations are contagious about their love of Jesus.

Is the disciple-making machinery of church the worship service or the community the worship service creates?

If the technology is here, or coming soon, where sophisticated worship services can be experienced in all their intensity anywhere in HD, the real work ahead for the church is learning how to guide and manage community, the kind of authentic community that, in Acts, added to its number daily and changed the history of the world.

I think a lot is going to boil down to questions about what’s the role of the weekly service in daily worship? And how important will it be to have a weekly physical gathering spot that belongs uniquely to a specific community of believers?

Those are the kinds of weighty issues the Web Church is field-testing. Nothing less.



Written by NickCharalambous

January 30, 2009 at 12:04 am

We need a lot more spiritual pit-stops to run the race

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This week, God has been reminding me I’ve never been very good at life balance.

Actually, I suck at it.

When I look at my life over the years, all I see are periods of intense hyper-focus followed by burnout. Sound familiar?

As a new pastor, I know I’m at the start of a very, very long journey, and I’ve got to be training for the marathon it will be.

God is clear that endurance is the critical thing if you really want to glorify God. And flame-out doesn’t say much about the rest and the peace that God is supposed to give you when he lives inside of you. Would you agree?

Endurance builds character and gives us hope (Rom. 15:3-4). It is also how we commend God (2 Cor. 6:4). Jesus mentions endurance three times in Revelation (3:10, 13:10 and 14:2)

So all week, I’ve been working on structuring my work, pastoral and personal calendars so that I can pace myself realistically.

What struck me immediately was how little margin I have given myself in my schedule, and I haven’t even started pastoring yet, officially. It freaked me out.

Then I felt God speak to me about the fact that “margin” requires time but it isn’t about time. It’s about filling in the spirit. Pretty obvious, I know.

We treat personal, daily devotional time as the “healthy Christian” requirement, and then we fall right back into thinking that, once we’ve done that, any extra drain we feel can be restored by relaxing (i.e. doing nothing.)

I know I need more than anything to learn to fill-up and top-up spiritually multiple times a day and multiple times a week, in short and long stretches of time.

Now I want my “adventure” to be letting Jesus teach me all the strange and wonderful ways that can happen.

Got any ideas?

Written by NickCharalambous

January 29, 2009 at 11:05 am

Posted in ruminations

Reflections on an amazing beta test of the NewSpring Web Campus

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NewSpring has a history of launching things before they are ready. I guess that’s our way of making sure that we’re desperately depending on God.

Joshua hit the wall

Joshua hit the wall

At 2 a.m. Sunday, NewSpring’s creative director/web strategist/sometime front-end coder, Joshua Blankenship, had admitted defeat.

The all-important chatroom on the NewSpring Web Campus wasn’t functional. Joshua told me later he wasn’t expecting that we could move forward with our beta test at all. Next week’s launch was looking iffy, too.

God had other plans.

Today’s web campus “private” beta was successful beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.

What started out as a closed test broke-out across Twitter world in an unplanned way after someone in Overland Park, Kan., twittered about it.

We decided to embrace our “public” beta, and we ended up with nearly 250 visitors in our two services. We saw only a few minor issues, most of them user-interface related, and most of them known beforehand.

It was tremendously encouraging to receive so many positive reviews from our techno-evangelist friends in the “Big C” church.

But from the campus pastor’s point of view, I was even more amazed — and humbled — at how brilliantly our video production and web staff and 20-strong volunteer team performed today under considerable pressure, without much practice, with a total unity of purpose.

From the beginning, our volunteers — most would admit not being technologically sophisticated at all — were willing to believe on faith that God was in control of our Web Campus and would bring glory to himself through it. More than one volunteer shed tears of joy today when they finally saw what was possible.

Video producer Will Rodes (left) and Web genius Joshua Blankenship working the web campus chatroom

Video producer Will Rodes (left) and Web genius Joshua Blankenship working the web campus chatroom

Volunteers Tim and Rhonda Evatt

Volunteers Tim and Rhonda Evatt

Volunteers Micah Swift and Lynn Whitfield and Care Ministry Director Julie Keith

Volunteers Micah Swift, Elaine Payne and Lynn Whitfield

Amid all the techno-chatter, there were some amazing stories:

  • We had two people watching from hospital beds who received encouragement and prayer.
  • We had one couple burst into tears while they watched video of baptisms in the web service stream.
  • We had another person, struggling deeply, stumble across the campus while randomly surfing and receive comfort and prayer from two others who had experienced a similar heartbreak.

The web campus ministered to people. It was authentic. It was grace.

All I can say is “Thank you, Jesus!”

I don’t know how I got to be in this place and in this time, amid an extraordinary, unexplainable move of God. I’m all too ordinary. All I can do is praise God for his grace on me, and our church, and beg that he continues to shine his face on our ministry.

We had nearly 200 salvations today at NewSpring’s three physical campuses, bringing the year’s total to 650.

Join with me in praying that, with the help of the web campus, the number of those placing their trusting in Jesus for the first time will be multiplied by 1,000 times this year.

Written by NickCharalambous

January 25, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Launching a web campus needs a Will

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Motivation is important, of course.

But maybe not as important as having the people who can put the vision together.

In this case, I mean, literally, Will Rodes.

Will Rodes as a rock star

When the NewSpring Web Campus launches Feb. 1, any part of the worship service video stream wouldn’t be possible without him.

From equipping a mini A-Control video production suite. To making the most of a small unused office for our start-up studio. To configuring the various hardware and software components that enable us to encode our live worship stream on the fly. Will is, and will continue to be, indispensable.

He’s a great encourager, he’s got a great eye, a killer sense of style, lots of creativity and technical skillz. Yup. Pretty much the full package.

You should go check out his various blogs and media sites. You’ll be glad you did.

Written by NickCharalambous

January 24, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Posted in web campus

A few reasons I’m pumped for the NewSpring Web Campus launch

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This thing called technology. It changes everything. No matter where you are in the world, you can tell your friends about Jesus and get them to church at NewSpring.

Who are you trying to reach through the NewSpring Web Campus? Record a video clip and upload it to our special YouTube group for the NewSpring Web Campus launch Feb. 1. Or tell us your story in the comments at the NewSpring Web Campus Blog

Written by NickCharalambous

January 21, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Web church prepares a way in the wilderness

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As a techno-evangelist, I pray I’ll never embrace technology uncritically.

Technology should always be a tool first. A way of life only when necessary. Never an idol. And as much as possible a way to connect, not disconnect, us from the relationships that should be primary in our lives.

That’s why I’ve appreciated John Dyer’s new blog. His most recent post about technology and “presence” was particularly fascinating for me since I had waded into these deep waters just a few weeks before.

John does a great job of laying a stronger theological foundation, and I think we’re largely in agreement that the use of writing in the early church as way to bridge distance and unify the early church means we can’t “argue against online church without also calling into question many other uses of technology in the Church.”

I’m with John entirely on the idea that fullness of physical presence should always be a goal whenever possible, although I do think video, and eventually holograms, will radically mess up what that means.

I’ve got just two quibbles:

No. 1: I see pastoral care over a community of believers who see themselves in community with each other is a major and weighty part of my role. For me, video on demand should not be confused with a web campus. I want to explore bodly ways in which we can use video to pour into people’s lives in discipleship, but without creating connecting tissue between believers online, we don’t have a body and we don’t represent Christ.

What that doesn’t mean is that I think physical churches do community better. They suck at it for the most part, as I mentioned here in response to John Saddington’s excellent post.

No. 2: We’ve got to get real about assumption that our web church experiment is a simple choice between “easy church” and “hard church.” I’m certain that John’s list of “people living overseas, hospital patients, and parents of new babies” might be a huge part of our demographic. But when Christianity is literally dying out in Post-Christian Europe, it seems to me, as a British native, that it’s a choice between “church and no church.”

The web church with its accessibility, lower level of apparent commitment, and enmeshing in a network that destroys social barriers provides a critical on-ramp onto the narrow highway that leads to life. (Matthew 7:14.)

My goal as a web campus pastor (and thought-leader) is to make our church’s methods of worshiping God and forming community far more flexible, only so that we can remove every unnecessary obstacle toward the lost seeing Christ face-to-face and joining themselves to his body.

In my view it is honoring God’s command to prepare a way in the wilderness. (Isaiah 40:3)

Written by NickCharalambous

January 21, 2009 at 11:43 am

Pray with us for the NewSpring Web Campus launch

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The NewSpring Web Campus is launching Feb. 1.

And we’d like you to join in prayer with me and our launch team every day for two weeks, starting Sunday.

We want NewSpring members, friends of NewSpring all over the world, and potential web campus attenders can join together with one heart and one spirit in seeking God’s blessing on our ministry.

You can follow along on the Web Campus Blog. Or if you’d prefer, you can download the PDF of the Web Campus Prayer Guide, so you can have it with during your daily quiet time.

We’re also searching for stories of folks who have drawn closer to God through audio and video of NewSpring services and are excited about the opportunity to gather online as a community of believers and worship together, live.

If that’s you, drop us a comment, or share a link to your video.

You have no idea how encouraging that would be.

Written by NickCharalambous

January 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Posted in web campus

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