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Digital Ministry: The Shift from Gathering to Connecting

Digital Ministry

It used to be that whatever churches did digitally was designed to serve the physical, meaning in-person, physical events and activities. The digital ministry was used to market, give information about, or offer registration for the physical.

But going forward, the church will need to turn that upside down and have the physical serve the digital. As my friend Carey Nieuwhof has written, churches will need to become digital organizations with physical locations. In other words, churches will be digital organizations with physical expressions, not physical organizations with a digital presence.

Think about companies like Sears, JCPenney or Toys “R” Us. They were the older, more traditional models that placed an emphasis on big, physical footprints and in-person shopping. All three had to recently file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.


They were physical retailers that slowly adopted an online presence, behaving as if most people still wanted an in-person experience. But people didn’t. They wanted to shop on Amazon. And Amazon read this perfectly. They started out online and then, only after that was established, did they start developing physical stores—but those are designed to enhance and serve the digital footprint.

The Church will need to see its online presence and online community as its primary medium for growth, development, discipleship, worship, ministry, community… everything. Not to solely become an online entity (there is an extremely strategic and important role for a physical campus), but to make the shift to the physical serving the digital.

Right now, Meck’s growth is meteoric. We’ve never seen anything like it:

January – May 2021 was +45% to January – May 2020

June – August 2021 was +69% to June – August 2020

When you are running at an average size of 100 and increase to 150, you see those kinds of percentages. But when you are running in the thousands, you don’t. We did. But where was the growth? It wasn’t in person.

It was online.

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James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.