Why Is Innovate Church Digital Church?
There was a time, and still is occasionally, that I feel a little “less than” when folks ask me about our church. As pastors and church planters, we all want to tell others of what great success we’ve had. And if we have a building/meeting place, the bigger the better, as it makes things that much more impressive right? And don’t we have that attitude sometimes of wanting to impress others? Let’s be honest folks.
Well, in all honesty, we didn’t choose digital, digital chose us. When I first began to have a vision of a new church, once receiving my calling, I knew what I wanted. And I knew we’d never be a big church for sure. We were going to be different from the start. How different? Not digital only different. But as I was personally getting excited with Spring 2020 coming around, where I could get out and meet people in our local park just down the road, Covid came on us. The world shutdown in a matter of days when Covid began. And like most people, we thought, “oh, this’ll pass in a few weeks, and we’ll get back on plan.” Yeah right! We are now beyond two years of Covid. Thankfully, it is much better now, but we’re still seeing flair ups here and there and especially across the world.
At the beginning I truly resisted doing online video sermons. Even more so when every other church began doing them. “We do Church differently, right?” Yeah, that’s what I thought. “We innovate.” Ugh, how ignorant I can be at times. This whole journey has revealed in me some ignorance and arrogance from time to time for sure. I think it was Easter 2020 before I put any kind of video message out for the world to take in. Actually, it was the Psalm readings that I began with on April 5, 2020. That’s a video to watch and see just how nervous I was at the start.
For these past two years I’ve struggled to find my own voice and to find our flock. I say flock because it was just one of the Words I heard from the Lord during my calling out of our previous church responsibilities. I’ve been fumbling my way through the digital stuff, throwing up FB ads, sharing sermon videos everywhere I could, and very little has caught traction to make us grow. Along the way I have really wrestled with the whole church planting expectations and growth. But God has always, multiple times, reminded me, this is His Church and He will grow it how He wants it. So, I continue to walk in trust…minus those times I get down and start pointing my finger back at me.
I’ve come to the belief that we are to serve the forgotten, the lonely people, that cannot go to a “traditional” church…i.e. a building. This could be because of a physical or mental issue. It could even be because of a trauma lived through in the church. We all know someone that has been “church hurt,” right?
Of course, my wife is part of the impetus for us being online and not having people over with her anxiety issues, (agoraphobia too),…heightened due to Covid as well. Please understand, I don’t see this as a negative, I see it as God using her to guide us into where and what He wants us to be. And there have been a few other experiences to help me consider these forgotten folks of the Church.
You see, if you can’t make it to church on Sunday, in many churches, then you eventually get forgotten. It doesn’t matter the “why” you aren’t there, you’re just not. I have come to realize there is a significant portion of the population that can’t go and sit in a crowded place physically. Anxiety issues are just one of many. Multiple Sclerosis can keep some one inside their home. Fibromyalgia and temperature sensitivity. And we all know some there are immunocompromised persons today that Covid has brought to the forefront.
Being digital, interactively digital, not just “sit here and watch a live streamed sermon from our church you aren’t really a part of anymore,” has helped us see where and what community we desire, maybe are called, to create. (I don’t want to get ahead of the Lord’s will for sure!) Digital church allows us to be in each other’s lives even when we are not in proximity physically. After months of receiving prayer requests submitted through a service we serve, my eyes have been opened to the epidemic of loneliness in and outside the Church. And then to know there are others similar to my wife that can’t go to a physical gathering to be an active part of the Church, I can’t imagine the loneliness some feel.
We’ve always talked about how some people will never feel comfortable to walk into a church building that first time as well. Even digitally there’s some struggle with that too. But, we’ve found that in many ways, people are more willing to take such risks digitally than, “in real life.”
Don’t get it twisted, while I am a huge advocate for digital or any other means to share Christ’s love, I am not a “digital is always better for everyone,” person either. The reality is the same as any other church. Some are going to prefer what we offer than others. And that is fine. We’re here to serve those whom the Lord draws to us and that is all.
Our heart is to provide a safe place for everyone. To be a community of belonging, even from your own home, hospital bed, or prison cell. It’s been a slow journey, and that is fine. As long as we are faithful to seek whatever, and whoever, the Lord desires of us. There’s plenty of lost sheep out there. They are who we seek to bring into the fold.