Meditations (Web)Church

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

The rise of net campuses: Are local churches on the ropes?

with 67 comments

Andy Stanley’s NorthPoint Community Church yesterday joined other progressive, nationally-known ministries in jumping on the internet campus trend.

I think it’s safe to say that what started out as an outreach experiment has quietly become a “standard” part of the modern technomedia church, which includes vodcasting and podcasting, streaming video of sermons, multi-site video teaching and the various social media efforts, including twitter, facebook, and community infrastructure.

Not only am I pumped for the good folks at NorthPoint, including John Saddington, Jeff Henderson, and Los Whittaker who are behind the initiative, I think having several heavyweight ministries exploring this terrain is only going to speed up our learning about how best to grow strong churches online.

This tweet about the news did catch my eye Tuesday, and I thought was worth commenting on:

Lifechurch, Central/Vegas, NewSpring, et al w/ net campus; now Saddleback & Northpoint…local churches better figure out a reason to exist. @BrianConard

For the record, I don’t think local churches will ever be replaced by cyberchurches.

But I think it’s already true that ubiquitous access to skilled, accessible and powerful preaching from the super-ministries of Perry Noble, Mark Driscoll, Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler and Francis Chan and others, along with their church “life” that can be shared through and in other media and online venues, are transforming people’s expectations of how a local church fits in the modern Christian life.

Especially if that local church is mediocre, passionless and tone deaf to the culture we live in.

I think it will “raise the game” for every church, since every demographic is adopting technology at a rapid pace, and the acceptance of modern worship (including web worship) is accelerating daily.

If anyone wants to bet against this culture shift, they should take a lesson from the demise of the newspaper industry, speaking as one with a foot in both cultures. (The traditional church and the traditional media are both presumptuous about how well they know their “audience” and are meeting their needs. Both have a deathly tendency toward believing that their audience isn’t smart enough to know what’s True and what’s good for them. And both like to arrogantly assume that their people “aren’t going anywhere,” despite the mushrooming number of choices around them.)

Small local churches will close. Large ministries will grow larger.

Only the excellent will survive.

The bigger question for the health of the church is how well this bridge generation — US — will develop the new leadership structures and new community structures that will provide the bone and sinew of “membership” of a “body of believers” in this new era.



Written by NickCharalambous

June 3, 2009 at 10:55 am

67 Responses

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  1. Excellent post that doesn’t give all the answers. I do find it ironic that just because it becomes big or wide-reaching it is automatically bad.

    D.L. Moody in 1899 said something I read recently that caught my eye and may enter into your discussion surrounding “only the excellent will survive” and if that is a good thing or not, “The quicker every church that hasn’t the love of God is swept from the face of the earth, the better.”

    That’s something to chew on isn’t it?

    Shane Kennard

    June 3, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Shane. I’d agree with you agreeing with Moody. I was thinking that myself when i used the word “passionless.” The longer I walk in Christ, the more I realize that at the end of the day, delighting in God is all. Really all. You can have knowledge and all the rest of it, but if you don’t passionately and wrecklessly love God with everything you have, if you aren’t savoring and treasuring him above everything, then we’re not fully glorifying the God who created us to enjoy him — and we’ll be pathetic evangelizers.


      June 3, 2009 at 2:06 pm

      • Yeah, I’ve wondered if “evangelism training” is necessary. We’ve either got it or we don’t and training isn’t going to make us “get it.” Maybe for a short time, but a lifestyle of passion or zeal doesn’t flow out of book training. That’s one thing I’m working with our small core team about. Does the information we receive lead to zeal or does it take away from our zeal? Romans 10:2 speaks to that a little bit.

        Keep producing zealous and knowledgeable disciples for the rest of us to see!

        Shane Kennard

        June 3, 2009 at 6:18 pm

  2. Great post! I love going to online church, even though I’m a Pastor of a local church. The thing that scares me about people like North Point doing on-line church is that many local churches will want to copy it, but they don’t have the resources or know-how to do it, so we may end up having lots of very poor looking web campuses. This has been the case with first showing services on TV (you should see how bad the quality of the production is in many of the churches shown on TV in the Baltimore region) and then it has happened with the making of video and graphics!

    Alex Penduck

    June 3, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    • That’s a great point, Alex. I wish I’d thought of it 😉 Quality is an issue, and beyond just the production value. I think net campuses must strive in every particular to offer a full expression of church, which includes pastoral support but most importantly involves connecting “viewers” with each other and others in the church so that they are truly part of a body of believers. I know that as I lead the NewSpring Web Campus, that is my top priority. And i think there’s a lot more to it, resource-wise, than some executive pastors might see.


      June 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    • I can answer this bro.

      Alex, stay tuned to what we’ll be doing at North Point. We’re going to share everything that we do and also “how we do it.”

      What’ll be the biggest kicker is that we’re going to be providing a model that can be “copied” and perfected by others.

      And, that doesn’t mean that it’ll break the bank.

      God is amazingly good at helping us be innovative with very little, even if we may have very much.

      We’re going to be the best stewards of our time, resources, and energy as possible, not just for ourselves but for the others that we can help stimulate, encourage, and challenge.

      John (Human3rror)

      June 3, 2009 at 8:02 pm

      • I think this philosophy is a very positive one. Often people and churches tend to want to hold onto what works for their own glory. Its easy to become concerned about “our success” and forget about His plan for us and others.

        I’m glad to see NP is willing to share what they know and learn with others.

        I will anxious and watching to see how it turns out.

        Chuck Self

        June 3, 2009 at 8:21 pm

  3. Only the excellent will survive.

    Theologically-speaking, I disagree with this.

    I think it’s safe to say that what started out as an outreach experiment has quietly become a “standard” part of the modern technomedia church…

    Which is what, 50 churches? 100? I think you’re a bit overly ambitious about how many churches are currently embracing a web strategy that’s quite this far into technomedia.

    That said, the barrier-to-entry for web-based technology is falling daily. I hope we see more churches embracing it as a means to communicate, share and let people discover content. It would be nice to see the church embrace instead of cold shoulder a technological advance, especially the power of the web.

    Joshua Blankenship

    June 3, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    • Thanks for the push back on a post that went too far in hyperbole, perhaps. I am intrigued on your theological disagreement about the value of excellence since your design skill, for instance, is probably seen by many as raising the bar in that area.

      To flesh out a little of what I meant on that, excellence doesn’t have to be about “production,” but i do think that it needs to be remarkable.


      June 3, 2009 at 4:09 pm

      • again, I think the point is that we “just don’t really know” what “excellence” is in terms of a God-perspective.

        I think the low-cost, low-budget productions can give just as much glory as a billion-dollar one.

        John (Human3rror)

        June 3, 2009 at 8:00 pm

      • When I say I theologically disagree with “only the excellent will survive” it has less to do with excellence and more to do with “only” and “survive.”

        The assumption in that statement (and to an extent your post) is that longterm, sustaining ministry will only be accomplished by embracing excellence/technology and those that are less enlightened or perhaps more wary of tech will fade away. I think this fails to take into account developing countries, or the sovereignty of God to call people to Himself through a variety of means.

        I think scripture (and I’m doing my due diligence to find the exact passages I’m ambiguously referencing) makes it clear that the churches that will “survive” will do so because they herald the gospel of Jesus Christ and his atoning work to make us right with God. That’s remarkable. But it might not look like our Western version of “excellence.”

        I’m painting with an extremely large brush here, but I’d hazard a guess that the underground church in China, meeting in secret in homes to study the Bible, runs a greater chance of surviving than larger predominantly suburban churches in the US that often err in their presentation of the Gospel.

        It’s too easy to let excellence become an idol, and the modern evangelical church is often too quick to place it as ultimate in strategy/planning. And I very much doubt Jesus enjoys (or will bless with long life and survival) ministries that do not glorify Him above all things.

        Joshua Blankenship

        June 4, 2009 at 8:28 am

        • Agree wholeheartedly. Beneath my post there were two assumptions: 1) a lot of local churches aren’t doing a very good job of lifting up Jesus in sound doctrine. 2) the mega-ministries that I’m referencing are majorly Jesus-focused (although certainly not without their own flaws) and that’s part of what’s remarkable and excellent about them. There are times when it pays to invest more time in writing a blog post … thanks for reminding me of that.


          June 4, 2009 at 8:48 am

    • I agree with this 100%. I think God loves to work with churches that “suck” in men’s eyes but that God probably “glories” in.

      God’s got an interesting way of turning the tables.

      John (Human3rror)

      June 3, 2009 at 7:59 pm

  4. “The traditional church and the traditional media are both presumptuous about how well they know their “audience” and are meeting their needs.”



    June 3, 2009 at 3:56 pm

  5. I think what’s attractive about the movement is that ‘leadership’ seems less obvious and more spontaneous.


    June 3, 2009 at 9:49 pm

  6. This is a fascinating discussion. As the Worship and Executive Pastor at our church, I see my main two jobs as (1) helping people love God more and more, and (2) helping our local church be as effective in carrying out our God-given mission as possible. I tend to be techno-centric, so I love the possiblilities for increased relationship-building opened up by social media like Twitter, the internet, podcasting… but I am beginning to wonder. I’m wondering (as I try to sell the merits of staying ahead of the technological curve to many of our less-technocentric church members) if maybe people are either wired for this… or not. Maybe Twitter and streaming video-church lights a fire in them because they can see God’s kingdom expanding, or… maybe they just aren’t that into their computer. I’m trying to decide right now: sell technology with passion as a means to an end, or concede that what matters is the end regardless of the means. As you said above, ipiphanist, “…at the end of the day, delighting in God is all. Really all.” Amen! And, Lord, if we should use Twitter and streaming video to bring you more fame, please let me know. Help me lead well.

    Joshua Skogerboe

    June 3, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    • That’s a fascinating comment. I agree that not everyone is going to “get” technology. But as someone who came out of an old school industry that practically bet the business model on technophobia, I think we’ve got to be really cautious. For one, technology will continue to evolve as human-shaped. No. 2, technology is only ever successful when it solves a problem. And if it solves a problem, people will often set aside their discomfort because of the return. Just take a look at Facebook use among the 60+ set driven mostly by photo-sharing and keeping up with children, grandchildren. I think we need to cast vision that soberly recognizes how technology can help the church be the church, but the vision can’t be about technology for technology’s sake or staying culturally relevant, but for practical outworking of one’s salvation.


      June 4, 2009 at 8:39 am

      • They can share photos of all of their old pastors for the past 60 years…

        Steve B

        June 4, 2009 at 11:13 am

        • Steve B – … or they can list their charter members who haven’t attended in years… 😉


          June 5, 2009 at 6:53 am

  7. What’s interesting is that if you read other blogs and other magazine articles, they’ll tell you that the era of the mega-church is over and that the experiment failed. These authors stress that relationship is what it’s all about, and in the end, people may WANT a good show, but they NEED caring relationships with other real people.

    People who make these arguments obviously don’t know much about North Point, which stresses small groups and other relational environments. But still, I wonder, how relational can a Web experience be? That is yet to be seen.

    In my opinion, small churches ultimately won’t disappear because of the relational factor (especially from less tech-savvy people who don’t feel a relationship is real unless it is in person).

    Bill Whitt

    June 3, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    • The relational-ness of the Web is exactly why i think the future of the church is online. Not that the relationality will all happen using online tools, but that the web offers us a better chance of developing and investing in friendships more fully. I think suburban development, industrialization and the age of the mass media did a lot of harm to our social fabric. The web is building that social fabric back again. Just think: there are people who would rather chat on Twitter at night than sit in front of the goggle box … progress?


      June 4, 2009 at 8:30 am

  8. I hope you’re wrong that small local churches will close… I hope that the rise of web campuses will encourage and revitalise small churches, not close them down… we need the local church

    Nathan Edwards

    June 4, 2009 at 4:23 am

    • I agree that we need the local church. No question. My issue is with small churches like we see today are viable, financially if for no other reason. Once a church reaches a certain size, at current tithing rates, the “preacher” will be part-time and a volunteer. The local church might begin to look a lot more like the Acts church, meeting in homes for prayer, breaking of bread and ministry. If it does meet in a special venue, i don’t think it will be “staffed” in the traditional sense, and “applying themselves to the apostles teaching” may very likely involve video teaching.


      June 4, 2009 at 8:23 am

      • So you are saying that the decrease in size of local churches could actually bring us back to a closer to how the early church met… that sounds REALLY cool…

        Nathan Edwards

        June 4, 2009 at 8:26 am

  9. I don’t think the local church is in any real trouble. However, the local church does not to start to leverage the technology that is available today in order to draw people in and also to engage those who are already there.

    I think it’s great that North Point is going to share what they have done. That being said, many local churches are not going to have the funds necessary to invest in that kind of infrastructure. What might be low cost to North Point, may be totally out of reach for a smaller, local church.

    John makes an excellent point when he says “the low-cost, low-budget productions can give just as much glory as a billion-dollar one.” He’s right. The talent is out there in the community. The church just needs to be willing to tap into that talent and move beyond what are antiquated ways of reaching new people.

    Jay Caruso

    June 4, 2009 at 8:19 am

  10. The largest group of congregations in the US (according to the Hartford Group) are congregations under 100 people (59%). The largest group of worshippers attend churches between 100 and 500 members (45%).

    All these huge “mega-churches” (1000+) combined account for less than 8 percent of all church-goers in the US. The local church isn’t going anywhere. They are quietly doing the work of the Kingdom and simply not drawing a lot media attention.

    Most of these churches simply cannot afford a large web presence. The cost of equipment, licensing and bandwidth – while dropping – is still probibitive in many cases.

    The same study shows large evangelical churches showing the highest growth. But they are such a small piece of the proverbial “pie” right now.

    Mike Mahoney

    June 4, 2009 at 8:48 am

    • I don’t think “the local church” will die. I do think small churches are shutting their doors daily and that the trend will continue. I did not intend to imply that small church death was a good thing or that big churches are the answer… simply to say that there are dynamics that are reshaping the church (at least in the west) that are fundamental and epochal. And i think they have to do with the way the Web is going to transform every aspect of the way we live our lives in ways that we haven’t even begun to grasp. Of course the church can survive without technology, but the conditions that spawned China’s house churches and the African explosion are not going to be the same in the globalizing “flat world” that we are beginning to live in. The printing press and the rise of protestantism didn’t stop the local catholic church as a whole … but it did in specific cultural, political and economic circumstances … that’s what I’m getting at.


      June 4, 2009 at 8:56 am

  11. Love the internet, love social media, love connectivity that internet brings. I hope that you’re wrong, however. I don’t love internet church. It doesn’t seem to fit with how the bible describes church.

    The bible describes church meetings as places to talk to each other, to encourage one another, James talks about confessing sin, Paul continually admonishes the churches he writes to to love one another, bear with one another – the bible carries STRONG implications that the members of various churches that meet are to care for one another.

    I think the internet church thing is only possible b/c we’ve created church to be a big anonymous show – like a concert. Of course it can be done over the internet, b/c we no longer pay attention to the biblical side of knowing and caring for the other members.

    Love Andy Stanley, Craig, and all those guys. But I don’t think this is biblical – not helpful for The Church in the long run, my opinion. I think in 5 years we’ll be talking about the downside of this trend.

    @joshua, what do you think? @joshua email me back about photog lessons!

    Jesse Phillips

    June 4, 2009 at 8:58 am

    • Jesse: if I am content to lead a Web Campus that is just about the passive consumption of a show, I will be in active disobedience of my call to ministry. The only reason i am engaged in this kind of ministry with the kind of passion and determination that I am is that I believe the web — with proper vision and wise tools — can help the body be the body. Or as it says in my personal vision statement: .. “an environment for worship, vehicle for community & discipleship, & medium for evangelism.”


      June 4, 2009 at 9:05 am

      • thanks IpI. I hope you’re right.

        Do you really think “community & discipleship” are possible over the internet? I guess it depends on your definition.

        Jesse Phillips

        June 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

        • Jesse, I think Community & Discipleship are definitely possible over the net… that’s the whole point of my ministry (… The main problem with internet ministry and community/discipleship is that it’s harder to chase people up… with a local church, you can always turn up at someones house if you have to, on the net they are often 3000 miles away and you don’t have their address.

          Nathan Edwards

          June 4, 2009 at 10:57 am

    • Love your passion here Jesse!!

      And it is definitely possible for internet church to not pay attention to the biblical side of knowing and caring for others – but this is something just as rampant in physical local churches all over the place – not just limited to big churches or online ministries.

      We do work very hard on having our experience connect with people in regards to the “content”, but we work equally as hard in connecting with people, caring for them and providing opportunity in a virtual environment for biblical community, healthy relationships and true caring.

      Admittedly everyone is still figuring out what experiences can be facilitated through the social web and their impact on individuals personal development, engagement and relationships. But as long as people are connecting with each other online, seeking God there and life in Jesus we will be there figuring this thing out along with them. And I don’t think that is negative for the “C”hurch.

      Tony Steward

      June 4, 2009 at 10:50 am

      • ok, cool, Tony. I trust you. but am still leary of this new fangled online thingy.

        Is there any way of measuring what kind of Christians these methods produce?

        love you, bro!

        Jesse Phillips

        June 4, 2009 at 10:58 am

        • 🙂

          I am not sure how to answer the measuring christians part really – I think that could be a very interesting conversation on something like “discipleship metrics.”

          What sort of ways do typical churches measure their christians?

          Tony Steward

          June 4, 2009 at 11:16 pm

  12. Perhaps the driving issue – with all churches big and small – deals with their obedience to minister where God has called them to serve. Many local churches are thriving without an internet ministry — because God hasn’t called them to an internet ministry. When I read a post like this (great post, by the way) I step back and ask God, “Is this something we should be considering at the church? Is this a new opportunity for our congregation?” If the point continues to come up, I get several others praying with me on it. If not, it’s a closed matter.

    God desires for us to be obedient and faithful to His call. He does not call us to reach those who are out of our touch. But he does call us to touch all we can reach.


    June 4, 2009 at 9:00 am

    • “He does not call us to reach those who are out of our touch. But he does call us to touch all we can reach.” Brilliant. My “audience” is unashamedly the developed, urbanized, techno-driven world.


      June 4, 2009 at 9:06 am

      • “My ‘audience’ is unashamedly the developed, urbanized, techno-driven world. – Then that’s who you need to be reaching, as the Spirit of God leads, by whatever means available.

        I think many of us forget to ask ourselves that question as we walk into our studies and step behind the pulpit each week. Our “audience” is whoever shows up this Sunday or gave enough to meet the budget last month.

        Pray for the churches out there — big and small – that they will be led and continue to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as they work to reach the audience God has placed before them.


        June 4, 2009 at 9:24 am

  13. Joshua Blakenship took what I was going to say and made it so much more elegant. 🙂 So I am just going to say my thoughts exactly, JB.

    In addition, I think this is a very westernized view of church. There are 21st century churches who haven’t even been able to participate in the modern technologies such as running water or toilets, much less internet in even its most simplistic form.

    anne jackson

    June 4, 2009 at 9:42 am

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Anne. (I feel inferior already.) It is a westernized outlook. Guilty. But the (ill)health of the western church is what burdens me for ministry.


      June 4, 2009 at 9:45 am

      • Psssh…whatev 😉 No need to feel guilty. I think it’s great that it’s on your heart. I think of the passages throughout scripture that I used to think only applied to us personally – how, when we take care of the poor, God hears our own cries. There is no doubt the western church could be struggling through something very difficult right now. I wonder if our prayers are hitting the ceiling because we, generally speaking, tend to overlook or give our sloppy seconds to those outside of our walls…are we too introverted?

        (I share a different passion – just looking for how our two can meet…)?

        anne jackson

        June 4, 2009 at 10:08 am

  14. […] – I was looking at Twitter and saw a link to this blog.  The title is “The rise of net campuses: Are local churches on the ropes?”  Is is talking about how Andy Stanley’s Northpoint Community Church has started an internet […]

  15. I think this is the future and I love it but we also must make sure that we keep the body of Christ as one. God loves the church and so must we!!

    Jason Kirkland

    June 4, 2009 at 9:49 am

  16. Wow, there are some heavy hitters commenting on this post so I will trend lightly. I tend to agree with Jesse Phillips in that my biggest concern is that an internet-campus model (in itself) is not sustainable for the long term health of the local church. Simply put, the internet campus does tend to lend itself to being anonymous and void of commitment. Case in point — twitter. Sure you learn some cool things about people and you may even find some things on twitter that will help you grow spiritually. At the end of the day though if I do not have relationships with those people inside of the local church then twitter has the potential to become mindless (and inhumane – in the truest sense).

    Don’t get me wrong I use twitter everyday. I listen to podcasts multiple times a week and I watch Driscoll, Andy, Francis and the rest of them online. As a member of Buckhead Church I even think that North Point Online is going to be a great environment to connect people to the church itself BUT it must only an environment.

    My deeper concern is that the online “worship experience” will become just that — an experience — if we do not intentionally and proactively promote the interest of the local church within this environment.

    Feel free to disagree. 🙂

    Kevin Bazal

    June 4, 2009 at 10:02 am

  17. What will the measure of “success” for the internet campus be? Many will tout huge numbers of those involved but is this an accurate measure of changed lives? While I think inet campuses have great potential to add to or enhance existing ministries, it will be much more difficult to move people into the body. The church that figures this out will be the one with true success. This is also another area that is ripe for for egos to grow even larger. I predict that will be the greatest internal challenge for the church.


    June 4, 2009 at 10:20 am

    • moving people into the body is a challenge, no doubt. And that challenge consumes a lot of our thinking here.


      June 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm

  18. wow – way to much here to read it all, lol. (so i’ve not read through all the comments) but here is what popped up into my head upon going through the initial post:

    I actually see the rise of net campuses / church online as something that will be a benefit to the local church, even the smaller ones. The key will be partnerships and ministries learning to have definitions of success that go beyond the people sitting in just their seats and giving to just their ministry.

    What I mean is that as ministries that excel at bringing the church online get larger they also will have the need to help the people that are connecting to them find people of faith around them in their local context. Some of us will have a multi-site strategy – but that will never be enough to fully facilitate the scale of connections made through ministry online. As the ministries that take church online are able to find and partner with local churches around the world then we will see some amazing things.

    Excellence will be required of everyone, regardless of size or culture or technological competence. And we will start to see ministries trying to complete the entire need of the body of christ just within their walls, and start to recoginze their church’s/ministries “part” in that body and learn to partner with the global church to lead people to Jesus and fullness of life in him.

    Atleast, that is what came fresh off my mind – would love thoughts on that sort of vision of things – and loving the passion in this topic of conversation!

    Tony Steward

    June 4, 2009 at 10:29 am

    • I think that many online experiences will be church supplements and not church replacements. So I agree with Tony that this should help the local church not hurt it.

      But I also think that this is a mission field, not a self sustaining activity. My guess is that virtually no online church will be self sustaining only through the gifts and donations of those that participate. They will have to raise funds from outside or the parent church will be supporting and deeming it a missions activity.

      So one question is how many churches will be “successful” enough that the funding will continue in a few years.

      Adam S

      June 4, 2009 at 12:21 pm

      • Fascinating point about whether the web church can be self-supporting … my rule of thumb is that if it isn’t, then there’s something wrong with the way that the web church is developing disciples.


        June 4, 2009 at 12:35 pm

        • I don’t disagree with you but I think that people have begun to assume that if it is on the internet it should be free. Especially if it is church supplement and not church replacement, people may be discipled to give more, but not to the online church experience.

          Adam S

          June 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm

      • Church Online at is self sustaining and has been for a while.

        Tony Steward

        June 4, 2009 at 11:19 pm

  19. Don’t really think comparing what is happening in print media to online media translates to church. A “Church” experience is much more multifacited. Some people will connect on line, some will find a home in a “mega” church, others will find their fulfilment in a fhuch of a few 100 and others in a church of 50.

    All sorts of expressions of church will continue and flourish.

    Why do we always want either or why can’t we have all.

    I am a pastor and I thank God for podcasts, web campuses, blogs etc etc. I may not be and Andy Stanley or Perry Noble but through the web these guys have made me a better communicator and a better leader. That’s why I encourage people in our church to listen. We are all on the same side.

    And anyway peoples growth and the growth of the kingdom is more important that any one particular church.

    By ALL means bring people into the kingdom

    Billy Ritchie

    June 4, 2009 at 10:51 am

    • The only similarity with traditional media is that “form” – the ritual act of “reading the newspaper” – was thought of as somehow more important than why someone was finding themselves reading the newspaper in the first place, to find out about the world, and mostly, the people around the them. Whether we like it or not, a lot of people don’t go to church for religious reasons … but they are there are they are at least potentially hearing the word of God. We need to be wise about the fact that many people are moving online relationally and they’ll abandon the church unless we move with them.


      June 4, 2009 at 12:53 pm

  20. I’m a HUGE fan of Andy Stanley & NPM. Personally, I love online church. It enhances the experience of my local church. However, I am involved in a local church, meet weekly in a small group with others to encourage, pray for, learn with both believers and non-believers. I wonder how often that will be the case? How many people will use this as an excuse to “go to church” yet not be plugged in anywhere locally? I just wonder, with how community minded NP is, how are these online churches planning on encouraging getting into community? They can’t hold environments for people all across the country to get plugged in. We have heard so many great things about social networking, but the downside is that the online virtual community is just that – virtual. While I can be connected to others on their facebook page, it’s not always the true, get in your life connection. How to they expect to foster community when this church will be totally one sided? John, I would love to hear your thoughts..


    June 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

  21. This is a great disussion–something our editors are discussing for an upcoming article. Thanks, Tony, for Tweeting about this discussion. Lately, in the magazine we’ve been interviewing online church leaders that are doing online baptisms, communion, etc. That fascinates and disturbs me a little …I’m curious to hear what others think about taking the sacraments online. Can someone experience the baptism, communion, etc. in an authentic way? Are we taking it too far?


    June 4, 2009 at 11:15 am

  22. At the end of the day I think it shakes out for me like this: will the use of new technologies honestly HELP the people of our local church and/or the Church (big C) love each other more, care more deeply for lost people, and think adoring thoughts about God? That’s our aim. Period. I’ll keep making a case for the benefits of Twitter/Blogging/streaming media, etc. as long we see actual growth in people as a result. For the not-so-technologic amaong us, I’ll tell ’em to go out for coffee.

    Joshua Skogerboe

    June 4, 2009 at 11:30 am

  23. Ah…what is born of the limits that come with 140 characters!

    Actually, Nick, you’re not far off from the exact intended meaning of my tweet; both of us having media backgrounds (mine is radio), we’re thinking just about the same thing about just about the same thing — the experience of the “consumer” of our “product.”

    (Now, I hope we don’t get caught up in those words…if readers and responders are among those who can’t stand such terms being used to describe born-again believers in worshipful relationship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then I’ll apologize right here and ask that you let that go for the purpose of this discussion.)

    Regarding the experience of the consumer of our product, my tweet was as much about *talent* as it was technology, and my comment about churches figuring out a reason to exist was about the *effect* of the distribution of talent, not just the means of the distribution of talent (and substitute “giftedness” or “gifting” for “talent” if you want).

    Talent sets the bar. Talent sets the top bar for the organization, and talent sets the bottom bar for the user of the organization’s product. For those *in* the organization, that bar sets *the best* you’re ever going to do and what you’re going to bump up against until you move on. For those consuming the product of the organization, that bar sets *the worst* of what they’re going to be willing to accept going forward and what they’re going to require of you as a minimum lest *they* move on.

    That being the case, *mere exposure* to talent changes everything, especially if that level of talent is easily available to the consumer, and strong talent is now (or soon will be) easily available via the internet. The bar is quickly being raised on what will be the minimum acceptable level of quality when it comes to “strong preaching/teaching,” always a top reason people choose a particular church. One no longer must accept a mediocre — or worse — level of teaching talent. If I want a high-level “suburban baby-boomer” style, I go get Rick for a humor slant or Andy for a “heart” slant; if I want high-level “middle-America ‘tweener’ (younger baby-boom & older Xer)” style, I go get Craig; if I want “neo-hippie warrior” style, I go get Mark; if I want “in-you-face, call-it-like-you-see-it Southern” style, I go get Perry. I no longer *need* any local church in particular to get great teaching…as a matter of fact, if that’s what I’m looking for, my experience is likely to be better if I *don’t* go to a local church!

    *That* is why I say local churches better figure out a reason to exist. I am *not* saying they *won’t* exist…just that they need to figure out *why* to exist. And the responses here have suggested many of those reasons.

    The reason for a local church to continue to exist is to do those things that can be done only in the real world — facilitate relationships and evangelism, drill down on local needs and interests, care for people, meet needs, raise up children, etc, etc, etc….to be all the three-dimensional, “with skin on” things the Church is supposed to be but often isn’t because the local church thinks it’s doing its job when it simply manages to have somebody stand up front and preach or teach on a Sunday morning.

    Perry, et al, are right when they say “brands are the future, not denominations,” and I’d expand “denominations” to “denominations and small/medium local churches.” Those brands are, as has been said, inevitably going to be built around strong talent delivered via video. A local church’s “senior pastor” likely won’t be the main Sunday teacher but will be the “chief localizer,” if you will, of the church, much like the “campus pastor” position we’ve already seen develop. He’ll still be the leader (and still need to be an awfully good one, at that) of that church and could very well speak on some Sunday mornings as the needs of that church vary somewhat and override where the “brand” is going. Churches will be known for “(insert name) teaching and ______” — “Andy Stanley and great family activities,” “Rick Warren and great small groups,” “Mark Driscoll and great community service and outreach,” and so on.

    By the way, Nick, radio guy to newspaper guy, I couldn’t help but enjoy this:

    “The traditional church and the traditional media are both presumptuous about how well they know their ‘audience’ and are meeting their needs. Both have a deathly tendency toward believing that their audience isn’t smart enough to know what’s True and what’s good for them.”

    I’d both agree and slightly disagree with that. The difference is that, in radio, we *do* assume the audience knows what it wants and, best we can, do give it to them. Unfortunately, that places and keeps us in “follower” mode all the time and results in us get a little stale. Both media and churches do need to be out in front a little (churches more so than media)….to *lead* a little, whether that be via pull or push.

    Alright, *plenty* long enough….I’ll quit there!

    Brian Conard

    June 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    • Glad you chimed in … you said it all better than i did.


      June 4, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    • Brian i’m not as good with words as you so this may not be very clear. I love the internet and everything that it brings us and want to embrace it to reach more people with the gospel. But I struggle to accept that the future holds just a few excellent communicators with brands of the gospel. We have one brand and that is Jesus and when we lift His name up people will be drawn to Him. The Bible suggests that he chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. The people he chose were mostly not learnerd men. A few teenager fishermen included but when one of these guys preached a simple sermon 1000’s of people got saved. I understand that with all the brilliant preachers in all the great churches in the states with huge budgets and great production church attendance continues to fall. (Things are no better here in the UK) I love the outlook of churches like who leverage technology, make Craigs sermons available for local churches to use as you suggest (which we have used along with others through one prayer) but also look to empower the local church. My understanding is that they have now taken the logo off their various OPEN resources so that local churches can even use them with no reference to the maker. Empowerment, partnership and synergy not competition

      Billy Ritchie

      June 4, 2009 at 3:57 pm

  24. “I think what’s attractive about the movement is that ‘leadership’ seems less obvious and more spontaneous.” – Yes!!


    June 5, 2009 at 6:12 am

  25. Two thoughts on this:

    1.) With more people turning to cyber-churches, my church will lose offering income, and we will not be able to pay for all the fancy advertisements, big screen TVs, and other showy stuff that my church has to have.

    2.) Maybe my church can start a cyber-church network and charge a fee, so we can earn more money!

    Bill Burry

    June 7, 2009 at 10:47 am

  26. […] local sermon is crumbling” A few months ago, I caused quite a stir with my post “The Rise of Net Campuses: Are Local Churches on the Ropes?” It picked up 903 page views, and dozens of comments, which in my opinion far outclassed the quality […]

  27. […] The rise of net campuses: Are local churches on the ropes? […]

  28. […] Reflections, Parts 1, 2 and 3 and 4The future of the Church is onlineThe local sermon is crumbling The rise of net campuses: Are local churches on the ropes? Can churches deny human choice?What the web church can learn from the 2009 Hartford Seminary […]

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