There has been a lot of discussion around the validity of online church and whether is qualifies as authentic Christian community. Often times the dialogue originates from trying to figure out why people are migrating to online community. That’s a great question! Great because the reasons are as various as the number of people who now consider an online campus their home church.
I made the switch to online community two years ago and was surprised to discover real authentic community, gathered in unity, around a God given vision to reach those far from God. That doesn’t mean there is no focus on discipleship. There is, and it is rooted in honouring and extending grace to one another while encouraging new life growth with faith in the truth of God’s Word and His promises.
I am not suggesting that saying home and watching church online without committing to small groups and serving is a replacement for the local church. It’s not. And that sort of commitment doesn’t help us grow whether in person or online. We will grow in either space if we want to grow. However, growth does require Christian community.
I migrated to online church because God led me – literally! My former church was experiencing a change in leadership that came with a change in vision. Transition isn’t easy and I found that the people I was most connected with had already left or were leaving. Church culture became increasingly inner focused without a vision to use communication platforms for outreach (my area of serving). I was going to church every Sunday, but I was becoming stagnant.
So I started praying, asking God to show me where I fit. Where I could serve. Then He placed an online sermon in front of me that answered those questions. For me the switch was all about a God given vision that I could participate in. A place where I could serve with my background in digital and social media platforms.
Today I am part of a YouTube leadership team and lead a group of online moderators who are active in helping hundreds of people a week connect with God, and participate in Christian community. There are so many committed volunteers, from all over the world, ready to serve the Lord. It’s simply awe inspiring!
Jesus went where the people were and today the people are in person and online. This isn’t a competition of which is more authentic or real. It’s about reaching and connecting with the lost, and each other, no matter where they’re found. Bringing the Gospel to all the world using all available channels.
This brings up the authenticity of digital home group. Let me share my very first home group experience. Mary my home group facilitator and I were discussing the sermon points from the previous Sunday. Mary said that a new participant from Kenya was joining us today. An hour into the video chat we got stuck contemplating “now what?” in regards to the sermon questions. Right at that point Amani from Kenya logged in and brought the exact answer we needed to move forward. You see Amani disciples Christians in Kenya and brought her gifts to our group. It was amazing! Literally a truth bomb from the Lord. A side note: Amani was waking up at 4:30am just to be together in home group. Now that’s commitment!
My online home group is a belonging gift from the Lord. We take the sermon points and make them personal, connecting our hearts together. We encourage and build one another up with the truth in God’s Word and pray into the mission field He has put us into. We don’t just belong, we are growing in our faith together. Today we are 10 women in real authentic community!
All of this is possible because of the vision given this particular church by God. It comes with a well developed, yet always shifting, process that organizes and validates those who really want to grow and serve under this particular ministry. I am in awe of the faith of my church leadership. Faith that God is able to sort out the sincere from the insincere. Faith that reaches out, loves one another, encourages truth to one another, builds each other’s faith, and let God look after the rest. Online church has been an incredible blessing in my life and a solid place to grow in community with other Christians across the globe.