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Online Church: An Inside Perspective

The church is the church whether its members meet together in a building or separately in front of screens for a season.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m the communications director for Eastridge Church, a large multisite church east of Atlanta. Most weeks bring their own challenges, but my days off on Friday and Saturday are usually uneventful. This weekend was a definite exception.

From early afternoon on Friday, I had to work on preparing an announcement that we would forego in-person services and have church online only. Scott Moore, our lead pastor, made a video to share with the congregation, and I went to work letting the congregation know by email and Facebook post, incorporating Scott’s video and reassuring our church family.

Our announcement got less pushback than I expected; in fact, the vast majority of people were relieved and even excited at the prospect of having church with the family.

We decided to prerecord our service so that we could worship with our families too. Scott recorded his sermon, and we had a four-person worship – representing both of our campuses – lead an acoustic set. I did instructions on how to give online and fill out a web form connect card (complete with decisions, serving opportunities, and prayer requests). An impressive group of staff and volunteers gave their time to make it happen.

Saturday included putting together an email and Facebook post with ways for our church family to be represent Jesus to the community even while hunkering down at home. Then I spent some time making sure that everything that I was responsible for for Sunday was taken care of.

Sunday morning came. I have to admit – I was nervous. We’d never had church as a Facebook Watch Party (even though we live stream our services every week). Would our people interact? Would they just sit and watch the screen? What if we can’t get the video started on time. Every scenario went through my mind.

The service went off without a hitch. I saw people saying hello to each other. I saw friends from as far away as Kentucky and New York City watching. I saw dozens of church family members sharing the video and urging others to watch. I even saw friends whose churches weren’t having online services join in.

Best of all, I was able to worship with my family, something I don’t get to do often – even though my whole family attends Eastridge – because I’m working during services. For one service, three generations of my family gathered to worship.

We even took the Lord’s Supper together!

At the time I’m writing this, we’ve had over 4,600 views of our service videos. I don’t say this to brag about my efforts or about our church (though I’m immensely proud of the folks who have helped us pull it off). What I am saying is that we’ve been able to have genuine community under quarantine – and that God was glorified and lifted up too.

The author of Hebrews encourages us about “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, ESV). But the church is the church whether its members meet together in a building or separately in front of screens for a season. Sure, it’s not the ideal way to do church, but if we’re family, we want to keep each other safe.

If you’re a church leader, and you want to know how your church can be the church online, please reach out to me. I may not have all the answers, but I can put you in touch with those who do.

Let’s be the church, even if we’re keeping our “social distance.” God is in control, so let’s keep our eye on Him!

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