SOCIAL MEDIA & Going to church in virtual reality: examples, ideas & cautions

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D.,  I once was skeptical about the depth of community that could be created online. But having taught graduate courses online (as well as onsite) for over 20 years, I’ve come to believe online community can be very personable and deep.

And so, I’ve come to see online churches as another campus or venue through which to spread the Good News. Granted, it still has its weaknesses as does every type of venue, but it also has a potentiality that the strategic leader must not overlook.

7 weaknesses I have identified of online venues include (but also often occur in live venues):

  1. Hubris that comes from being personality-driven
  2. Focus on receiving and not giving
  3. Accountability eclipsed by entertainment
  4. Technology drives expenditures
  5. Disenfranchised continue to be marginalized/ignored
  6. Reconciliation takes more effort
  7. Spiritual transformation is downplayed

Recently I had the opportunity to pull together speakers for the annual conference of the Great Commission Research Network. These were speakers who had experience leading online churches. You can find more information from the conference at these links:

SOCIAL MEDIA & Questions to stimulate discussion on how churches can more effectively utilize social media.

SOCIAL MEDIA & #NathanClark the leader of one of the nation’s first online communities tells the best thing a small church can do to connect & minister online

In addition one of my students from Kingswood University in Canada has started a church with her husband that includes an online service. Find more info about their multiplication strategy here: SOCIAL MEDIA & How a Toronto church plant uses gaming site Twitch to create online bible studies & community

Finally, here is a good video from CNN that gives a introduction to online churches.//fave.api.cnn.io/v1/fav/?video=us/2018/11/13/going-to-church-in-virtual-reality-beme.beme&customer=cnn&edition=domestic&env=prod

You can also view the CNN video here: https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/11/13/going-to-church-in-virtual-reality-beme.beme

SOCIAL MEDIA & How a Toronto church plant uses gaming site Twitch to create online bible studies & community.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Here is how Waypoint Church in Toronto, CA uses the gaming site Twitch to create community and online bible study.

When we first felt the call to a start a new church in the city of Toronto we knew right off the bat that two things were going to play a major factor: space and time. In a big city find a place to meet is hard. Most shops do not have the room for people to just hang out. Not to mention that you could spend up to 30 minutes traveling to a church, or meeting place. Because of this geographical need, we said we would want to take full use of media. Our first idea was to start podcasts, which can be found on our website. With over 80 hours a week in transit alone, it is a great way to connect with scripture.

Our second idea was to have online bible studies, where people could interact. Ask questions, make comments, really dig deeper into the subject being covered. Of course we want to have groups meeting in person, but that is not always possible. Our first Waypoint (a group that meets to study scripture) will be taking place on Twitch, a gaming network. Each week we will be going deeper into the passage or topic talked about in that weeks podcast. It is a great way to interact and dig deeper. Our hope is that we will have people engaging in the faith and leaning more and more how they can be transformed by the power of Christ.
So if you know someone who would be interested let them know they can join us on Twitch starting October 23rd @ 7:30pm EST.