The Christian's Guide To Online Church
Rev. Billy Graham recently published a piece sharing his thoughts on watching or listening to sermons instead of attending church in person. I found this quote to be particularly interesting:
“I’m grateful many churches today make their services available through radio or television. As a result, people who can’t otherwise attend their church because of sickness or age are still able to share in its ministry. Admittedly, they miss the opportunity to see their friends or get acquainted with new people—but it still can be a great spiritual help to them.” -Billy Graham1
Here at New Charlotte, we offer several online worship experiences each week. Though it’s not television, per se, the discussion is relevant.
So who is New Charlotte Church Online actually for?
Well, if you physically attend New Charlotte Church, it’s not you.
Before anyone takes offense, let me clarify. Sure, we want you to engage in our online worship experiences if you’re physically unable to attend our Sunday morning gatherings, but the goal isn’t to provide a way to attend church from the comfort of your own bed or living room couch.
Thanks, Mitch. But I’m still wondering…who is it for?
At its core, online church is intended to be an alternative way to participate in a church community, not unlike another geographic campus. In short, it’s a way for our church to reach far beyond the walls of New Charlotte so that people from all over the world can experience the New Life of Jesus.
Some people can’t go to church because of illness or disability. For some, attending church may not be an option because Christians are persecuted in their country. Yet for others, it’s simply because they were out of town that weekend, or maybe they attended New Charlotte at one time, but moved away and want to stay connected. All are great reasons and all were taken into consideration when New Charlotte Church Online was envisioned.
Then why wait until 5pm on Sunday to watch the sermon for that week when you can view any sermon you choose at any time on New Charlotte’s website?
Churches that have been offering online worship experiences for quite some time have hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of viewers each week. Each service time has dedicated congregants from all over the world who come together to catch up in the chat rooms before the services. They encourage, lift up and actively pray with and for their online community. They even organize opportunities to serve in their respective communities. Sounds a little like real church, right?
That’s the point.
In all fairness, though, we really need to consider the other side of the coin. For all of you who believe that online church should never take the place of a personal presence in a church community, guess what?
You’re right and we agree 100%.
Online church can and should be a valid outreach, but we need to keep in mind that God’s intent and design is that we gather in worship with other believers and live in Biblical community with one another.2 We can’t do that by merely watching church services on demand in our pajamas.
With that said, I want to encourage each of you to check out New Charlotte Church Online one Sunday evening at 5pm. In doing so, my prayer is that you will be encouraged by this outreach and look for ways to share it with those in your life who need the New Life of Jesus. To Him be the glory.
Mitch Pons is Online Campus Director at New Charlotte. On Sundays, you'll most often find him leading worship onstage, editing and uploading sermon videos, and hosting our 5pm experience at New Charlotte Church Online. When he has free time, he loves spending it outdoors with his wife, Sarah, and their two children, Sidney and Mason.