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Florida church takes services to Facebookcomment (0)

May 6, 2010

By Jeremy Henderson

If you think of a church as a building, then feel free to ignore Nathan Clark. But if you think of a church as people, then just confirm his friend request and “google” your Bible.

As director of digital innovation for Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., Clark is on the front lines of a digital revolution in church ministry, spanning everything from iPhone app evangelism to clickable fellowship in the virtual world of Second Life.

“We encourage people to be the church everywhere, every day, so it just makes sense to put resources out there to help people to be that church,” Clark said.

Which is why in March, Northland officially launched an application that allows worshipers to invite their Facebook friends to go to church with them — not only without leaving home but also without leaving the increasingly familiar environment of Facebook.

“At Northland, we often talk about the need to take the church to the people versus asking them to come to us,” Clark said. “For us, it was a wake-up call to realize that we were doing precisely that online — asking people to come to our website for worship. Why require a virtual commute over to our website when you can have church where people are?”

Northland first began taking church beyond the pews in 2001 via “distributed sites” and currently operates live, two-way video connections between its central campus and four satellite campuses in central Florida. The current week’s service is now available via Facebook 24 hours a day, in order to, as Clark puts it, “take the church where people live.”

While some might scoff at the idea of being “superpoked” by God, the potential of online church via social networks like Facebook and Twitter seems staggering. If Facebook were a country, then its population of more than 400 million would make it the third largest in the world behind China (1.33 billion) and India (1.17 billion).

Twitter recently topped 100 million users, and a growing number of churches, including Northland, are incorporating the micro-blogging service into their actual services. In a 2009 TIME magazine article on tech-savvy congregations, a pastor said, “If God leads you to continue [Twitter] as a form of worship, by all means, do it.”

Clark and co. feel the same way despite whatever traditional coat-and-tie objections might arise.

“Sure some people might use (online church) to duck out of reality or to avoid face to face relationships … just as people use (going to) church to avoid having a personal relationship with God,” he said. “But for us at Northland, we can’t let our fears about how people might use or abuse something affect how we respond to what we clearly feel is a call from God. Even if what someone gets isn’t a perfect church experience, if that person is in an environment where they’re worshiping where they might not have been otherwise, that’s not an insignificant thing.”
For more information, visit www.northlandchurch.net.

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