Alan George began his role as Church Online Pastor at Life.Church ten years ago. “People had no idea what that even meant,” Alan says, “but today everyone is a church online pastor.” A lot has changed over that ten-year span, as many churches across the world have started to embrace technology as a way to expand their reach. For most churches, though, it was only when the COVID-19 pandemic closed their doors that they began to think about online church services. It was for that reason that Alan spoke at the Indigitous “Ministry from a Distance” webinars.
Since its inception, Life.Church has always been passionate about leveraging technology to reach the world. Life.Church is a multi-site church that meets physically in several locations throughout the United States, but it is best known for its streaming church online services as well as its platform. The digital pioneers are also the organization that created the YouVersion Bible app. “We will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ,” Alan says.
Fourteen years ago Life.Church decided to start doing church online, but wanted to do more than simply stream its services on the Web for people to consume. Their idea was to go beyond content and have worship, messages, and Biblical community online. To get there, they created the Church Online Platform, which they now not only use for themselves, but allow any other church to use for free.
How it works
The Church Online Platform streams video alongside a chat area where people attending the service can talk to each other. “This is the only place where talking in church is okay,” Alan laughs. The platform also has the “live prayer” button, which they can use to pray with a member of the church staff or volunteer one on one. “If someone’s in the middle of worship and they feel convicted or they’re hearing the message and they feel like they need to give their life to Christ,” Alan says, “as a church, we can pray for them right then and there.” Altar calls, follow ups, and more can also be built into the platform. The idea is for your church to be able to do online everything it does offline and more.
Meeting in community
Church is about a lot more than Sunday services, of course. It’s about community, people meeting together and encouraging each other in the faith. That’s why most churches have life groups. Alan recommends meeting in community even at a distance, whether it’s meeting on Zoom calls, WhatsApp, Facebook groups, or using other technology. “YouVersion has this awesome feature called Plans With Friends, so you can read a Bible plan with your friends, comment, and talk about how God is speaking to you.”
This is new territory for a lot of churches and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the technology, by the awkwardness of preaching to an empty room, and be overcome by a desire to simply return to normal. Instead, Alan encourages churches to see this as an opportunity. “This is a time that we as a church can stand up and be bold, because we’re not standing in our own strength; we’re standing in the strength of God who lives in us,” Alan says.
During this time of social isolation and quarantine, people are on their devices more than usual and they’re searching for answers to spiritual questions more than before. As recently reported by Christianity Today, over the last month Web searches about prayer, God, faith, and the end times have skyrocketed. People are searching for answers that your church is equipped to provide. “This is not just an opportunity for the church,” Alan says, “I believe that this is a responsibility for the church.”