Tim Hutchings – Online Churches #refract

Lifechurch.tv. Video venues – main venue (Oklahoma) has sermon, etc but local versions may have own pastor, own band etc – are about 30000 people regularly attended. Everything is multimedia, lots of ‘production’ to keep attention. The comfortable challenge – strip away everything that may people put off (big Cross, special clothes etc) but use world class rock band, casual clothes, etc.

Uses clever video technology & looks to use interaction to make you feel like the only one he’s talking to?! Bought up old Walmart store, etc & use golf buggy to bring you from car to the space. Not preached to a lectionary but to a series. Website offers trailers. Counter tells you when next sermon is etc. Largely recreated online exactly what they do offline. Originally prayers via video, now added a chat function, lots of controversy as only really for Amen, etc. If don’t like or need real prayer are expected to go to Live Church where there are trained workers to take call. No chance to for the main speaker to be ‘vulnerable’… There are LifeGroups. Official Facebook page with lots of comment. The original content isn’t dialogic, but the extra online spaces allows that.

New Spring Church South Carolina
11000 members, launched 2000. Architectural style = bland! Perry Noble. More aggressive in style and less afraid of upsetting people. Was website (Internet campus) but closed it down but why? Response (personal capacity!) – was intended as an experiment. Found had thousands rather than hundreds. Church needed clearer understanding of what church is (were they diluting concept of Church?), no commitment or accountability in small groups? What about those combining local & online attendance? Local pastors getting feedback – critical consumer feedback mentality. Found the online broadcast was important – but took away the social media & social accountability…

Theology was shaping technological choices in both churches. Internet may promote relationships but it’s also about celebrity preachers speaking to a massive audience – keep both online. Both tried to build social & interactive spaces around the central content. Social shaping goes online – ideas & practices change in unpredictable ways (so may get people coming online specifically to be negative – how to deal with it?). Lifechurch second largest church in the States – does that make it a good church? Is it about the numbers? Who is visiting from where?

What about contextual theology? General principles online but need to start off by being very clear about who you are and what that means about being online, etc. How many things do we present as certainties that actually have those with multiple experiences?

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