Church Online can be a valid outreach if the church communicates that the normal expression of God’s intent and design is that we gather in worship with people, then scattering for the work of mission in the kingdom. But after scattering, God’s design is that we gather again.
5. What is the Future of Church Online?
While it’s not possible to know how the future will play out, and it’s certain that different churches will respond to Church Online in different ways, my hope is that we would strike a good harmony between online and physical presence that maximizes both for the health of local churches and for the sake of God’s mission in the world.
First, churches are only going to continue to function more and more within community that includes online aspects. They’ll do it primarily in person, but they’ll also have online opportunities and outreach.
Second, the rise of the online campus pastor and other digital content and discipleship roles will continue to become more prominent. How exactly those roles will look in the broader scope of a church staff will vary, but they’re not going away any time soon.
Third, churches are going to have to learn to become more agile and responsive to shifting trends online. This will require church leaders to seek out active ways to listen to their congregation and community like never before.
Fourth, the emerging trend of churches like Life.Church, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, and James River Church launching digital campuses in the growing metaverse will likely continue. While the theological, missiological, and ethical implications of the metaverse remain largely unchartered, early adopter churches are going to naturally create innovative practices that later adopting churches will follow.
Ideally, churches will have an online presence, but will strongly encourage life-on-life interaction. Social media and online gatherings can be tools we use to introduce people to Jesus Christ and his church. They are not going away anytime soon, so we cannot simply ignore them. Instead, we need to learn how to use them for God’s glory. If not, we will become increasingly irrelevant in a world shaped by the internet.