Yesterday saw our first webinar in our Digital Church series, with a capacity (socially distanced) crowd in attendance online and over 1,000 views on FacebookLive, exploring the theme “From Survival to Revival”.
That title comes via a Sharon Stone prophecy in which she prophesied that that the virus was meant to distract the Church from revival mode to survival mode but that it would have the reverse affect. My own theological reflection on what is happening around the world with the online church shows that something amazing is happening. With the recent polling evidence from SavantaComRes and Tearfund, we seem to have seen a massive rise in people praying and engaging in online church. This matches the anecdotal evidence which has been running through all the stories of online engagement. So, we turned it around – we’re talking about moving “From Survival to Revival”.
Our first seminar was sold out a week or so ago and on the day we also live-streamed the broadcast on Premier Digital's Facebook page and launched a new Facebook Group (Digital Church) to discuss where we are going with what God is up to in the Online Church.
Pete Phillips, Premier's Head of Digital Theology, opened up the webinar talking of how what was happening in the Online Church was a global phenomenon seen in both the use of technologies but also in the opportunities for people to come and see what we are up to in our worship. But Pete also noted all the many different ways that the Church was using technology to connect: Zoom services and coffee meetings, livestream church, pre-recorded church, Teams church, OBSproject and VMIX supported church, live eucharists/masses, dial-a-sermon and Agapes! God is online doing mission. It is our duty to follow his example!
Our conversations included great speakers talking about their different engagement with online church. Revd Bryony Taylor (@vahva) discussed her five key learning points:
· Don’t compare
· One thing at a time
· Context is key
· Ask who’s missing
· Keep it simple
Bryony’s talk explored some of the key lessons that she had learned – intensively practical points but at the same time reflecting sensible advice – don’t compare your work with what others are doing, keep things simple, but at the same time look out for the people who aren’t there and how could they be included more?
David Adabale from New Wine Church in Woolwich explored how we implement an evangelism strategy through the Online Church. Building on the material in his excellent book on amplifying our message through media, Build Media Team.
In fifteen minutes, David explored the “what, why, who, when, where, how, now, support" of an online engagement strategy, making the important point that now is the time to use online to engage with a new audience and seek to share the Gospel in new ways. David especially encouraged churches to appoint key staff to share the vision and to invest in digital now even in the problematic times around COVID19 finances. It was a great presentation in David’s friendly style.
Throughout the webinar, the 300+ guests present sent in over 70 questions to the central panel and while other speakers were engaged up front, the remaining panellists worked hard at answering these, along with Premier’s Chief Operating Office and co-host, Kevin Bennett and Charlotte Neal who acted as producer for the Webinar. All the questions were answered – some live on the show, especially around Bryony’s advice for dial-a-sermon services. Her handy advice is available here:
We were pleased that Alex Yeung had sent in a film of how things are going in COVID19-hit Hong Kong. Alex gave us a good outline of what is happening and a sober reflection on the numbers of people attending online. I remember particularly the emphasis on going deeper into discipleship – that revival is based not on numbers but on God’s decision and on God calling a people to renewal – a theme picked up in Dotha Blackwood’s bible reflections later in the Webinar.
Darren Parker from Everyday Church went back to the global scene in the final talk, picking up from some of the comments I had made in the opening talk on the world-wide impact of the pandemic. The online church phenomenon is not a local thing…it’s a global thing…it’s a God thing. But also, a theme in other speakers’ talks, that digital is not a replacement for physical but rather the two are a complement to one another. In Everyday Church, all eight campuses came online at the same time with daily prayer meetings enhancing the work of the online church and opening up leadership because everyone could attend from home.
Darren also pointed that over the Easter Period on the global ChurchOnline platform, there were 31,858 services, 9.7 million people engaged with these, 70,000 commitments were made, and the churches involved reached every nation across the planet. The whole point of digital is that it shifts church from the geographical to the global and from Sunday mornings to 24/7. It was an inspiring and exciting talk opening the horizons of digital engagement.
The Webinar ended with Dotha Blackwood from Spurgeon’s College reflecting on the difference between revival and renewal and the promise that God holds out for those in isolation and separation. Using material from the Psalms Dr Blackwood took us into a deeper place, a place of stillness with God that simply incredible.
The seminars are just the beginning of a series of eight seminars so far lined up to explore issues around the COVID19 pandemic and its affects upon the Church. You can sign up for a subscription including all 8 seminars for only £29.50 per month, or each future seminar will be available for £19.50. The next one cannot be missed – Justin Brierley and John Lennox will be joining us to look at Unlocking Apologetics in the Era of COVID19.
Join us, let God revive us. Let God renew us. Let’s shift Church from not only the geographic but also the global, from Sunday morning to 24/7.