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Seven Digital Disruptions in Churches

I had no idea what was about to transpire.

The year was 1994. I was serving as pastor of a church in Birmingham. I did not have the foresight to see how churches were about to be disrupted by the digital world.

Now, over 20 years later, I can look back and see the massive digital changes. But I was not prescient. I have been greatly surprised.

So what are the digital disruptions churches have experienced? I don’t have an exhaustive list, but here are seven key disruptions.

1. From the house to Facebook. We once connected with members and guests with home visits. Today, we are more likely to connect on Facebook and other social media.

2. From the worship service to the website. A guest’s first point of contact used to be the worship service. Now they go the church’s website to garner first impressions.

3. From the offertory to online giving. This shift is growing. Churches of all sizes better have online giving as at least one option for giving.

4. From the newsletter to the blog. When I became a pastor in 1984, I wrote a column for our church’s print newsletter. It had the highly original title of “From Your Pastor.” Today, more pastors and staff communicate via their own blogs.

5. From the cassette to the podcast. I’m really showing my age now. My first sermons were distributed via a plastic cassette. If you happen to come across one of my sermon cassettes, please destroy it immediately for the sake of the kingdom. Another way podcasts have disrupted churches is providing weekly messages from other pastors, especially well-known pastors. It can be tough on pastors when a church member says, “Matt Chandler says …” or “Andy Stanley says …”

6. From the paper Bible to the digital Bible. In the past: “Please open your Bibles …” Today: “Please open or turn on your Bibles.”

7. From the announcements to the app. Some church apps automatically update with news and prayer requests. By the time you hear it on Sunday morning, the news is old news.

There has been so much change in such a short period, so many digital disruptions in the church. What can you add to this list? Let me hear from you.  

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thomrainer@churchleaders.com'
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.