More and more churches are starting Internet campuses every month. Recent growth has been exponential.
NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC, which is led by senior pastor Perry Noble, was among the first churches in the US to launch a distinct Internet campus. Nick Charalambous was given responsibility as the campus’s web pastor.
But earlier this month, NewSpring pulled the plug and ended its 18 month old online campus.
Why did they do it and where are they going from here?
NewSpring will continue to stream video of their services online “to serve attenders of our physical campuses who cannot make it to church and to offer an extra teaching resource to the broader movement of the gospel in the world” but they are no longer operating their online presence as a distinct campus.
Nick wrote on his blog:
Generally, I began as a bold champion and ended as one who was skeptical of online church in its long-term impact on the larger church and our gospel mission to create disciples of all nations, giving all glory to God. I do still passionately believe that physical churches should do all they can to leverage themselves online.
Nick blogged extensively over the course of the last month, sharing his observations about the experience of being NewSpring’s web pastor and sharing his thoughts about online church in general in a 3 part series called Web Church Challenges and a 4 part series of Web Church Reflections. Many of the pros and cons Nick described were things we discussed here in our 9 part series about online church a few months ago. If online church is something you’re interested in, it’s worth reading all 7 posts.
In his posts, he questioned the necessity of online churches.
Believers faced persecution and potential death to gather physically, even though their faith taught them that they belonged to one God in the spirit “over all, through all and in all.”… If the early church believed so powerfully in the primacy of physically planting the gospel, what circumstances are so pressing that they give us the right to seek an alternative method for building the church today?
He also wrote about the potential for online churches to undermine the local church.
I see a disturbing trend of online church attenders, if they are not also connected to local churches, behaving like “super-consumers” chasing the best teaching or the best worship or the convenience of the web church every week. Few of these people are “churchless” in any true sense of the word. They’ve decided their local churches simply aren’t good enough.
Ultimately, NewSpring found that their online campus was not contributing to their overall vision of creating a vibrant community of Christ-followers. In fact, it may have been undermining it.
I really appreciate the way NewSpring boldly experimented with their online campus, were honest in their assessment of it, and just as bold in terminating it when they found it wasn’t in line with their mission. I also appreciate the fact that Nick was honest with his thoughts about online church but did not bash those churches who continue to experiment with this new way of doing church.
What do you think?