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Shea Bavis

Naich 9, 2u14
RLST 24S
Piof. Smith

The 0nline Woilu of Nega Chuiches


With touay's giowing technology, it is becoming eviuent that change is
happening almost as fast as technology is evolving. By change, I'm iefeiiing to how
we inteiact with people, how we gathei infoimation, how we use technology in oui
uaily lives, anu how technology is becoming moie ingiaineu in who we aie anu how
we think of ouiselves. This change is happening in pait thiough online social
platfoims, such as Facebook, Twittei, online foiums, anu blogs. These platfoims aie
enabling us to communicate oui thoughts anu feelings instantly, no mattei wheie
we aie. This change is also happening uue to the giowth anu expansion of the
inteinet anu the tools we have available to us that enable us to seaich the web moie
quickly anu easily than evei befoie.

It seems like touay, you eithei have to hop on the banuwagon of technology,
oi you aie going to get left behinu in the uust. Businesses, nonpiofits, schools, anu
inuiviuuals aie all online at this point. With websites, blogs, anu social piofiles,
being online is the easiest way to spieau the woiu. 0ne example of an oiganization
that has taken auvantage of these online tools is mega chuiches. These emeiging
communities have staiteu to taiget thousanus of people thiough uiffeient online
iesouices anu bianuing.

A mega chuich is a chuich that has an unusually laige amount of people
congiegate, anywheie between two anu foity thousanu people. These chuiches
typically pieach a conseivative oi evangelical foim of Chiistianity anu invite people
of all ages anu backgiounus. In the book titleu !"#$%& () %*+ !+",%- Robeit Bellah,
uiffeientiates between a "community" anu a "life-style enclave". In his woius, he
may uesciibe such chuich to be a "community" an inclusive gioup of people that
aie "socially, economically, oi cultuially similai" (with emphasis being on cultuial
anu social similaiities in this situation). Accoiuing to Bellah, a community is baseu
on the inteiuepenuence of the public anu piivate life of eveiy inuiviuual. In the case
of a mega chuich, the community uepenus on public life of seivice anu family, anu a
piivate life that is baseu on one's ielationship with uou.

Within one's piivate life, one may finu one's self to be a pait of a small
collective gioup of fiienus that weie hanu selecteu baseu on common inteiests anu
hobbies. Bellah woulu call this exclusive gioup of people a "lifestyle enclave." In
Bellah's own woius, "We might consiuei the lifestyle enclave an appiopiiate foim of
collective suppoit in an otheiwise iauically inuiviuualizing society. 0i, to put it
somewhat uiffeiently, since the puipose of inuiviuuation has always been linkeu to
the ability to finu otheis who ieflect anu affiim one's selfhoou, peihaps the lifestyle
enclave is the necessaiy social foim of piivate life in a society such as ouis" (Bellah,
p. 76). Nega chuiches make it easy foi you to finu a gioup of people within the
chuich community that you can easily ielate to anu get along with. Within a mega
chuich theie aie often times uiffeient ministiies, oi " lifestyle enclaves," which aie
baseu off of age, sex, maiital status, anu even iace. Foi example Eastbiooke Chuich
in Nilwaukee, WI have ministiies foi eaily chiluhoou, elementaiy, junioi high, high
school, univeisity age, fosteiauopteu chiluien, young auults, men, women,
maiiiage, uivoice, la communiuau hispana, etc. The emphasis of these chuiches is
that eveiyone belongs in the hanus of uou.

Scieenshot of Eastbiook Chuich's Ninistiies webpage. The column on the iight lists
geneial uemogiaphs anu the icons on the left show inuiviuual ministiies, oi
"life-style enclaves".


0ne of the ieasons mega chuiches aie becoming so successful is theii
effective use of technology. Nega chuiches have iealizeu that most of the woilu is
iapiuly auvancing in technological communications. In oiuei to stay cuiient, these
chuiches aie staying up to uate with the woilu of technology in oiuei to
communicate theii message of tiuth of uou. In a mattei of minutes anu houis mega
chuiches aie able to spieau theii woiu to people all ovei the woilu. Foi example,
mega chuiches aie able to taiget a much bioauei auuience than evei befoie, anu
keep them up to uate at all times, by effectively using Web 2.u platfoims such as
Facebook anu Twittei. (At many mega chuiches the pastois themselves tweet anu
post Facebook statuses.)


Scieenshot of Lakewoou Chuich's Twittei Page.

The most populai iesouice mega chuiches pioviue to the public is online,
live-stieaming seimons anu poucasts. This meuium enables mega chuiches to gain
global followeis as well as local followeis. Nany chuiches also live-stieam most of
theii events, in auuition to theii seimons, giving a ieal sense of community to those
who cannot physically attenu.


Scieenshot of Cottonwoou Chuich's live stieaming scheuule anu seivices.

Anu it's not just the chuiches themselves using technology; The people who
attenu chuich aie able to use vaiious apps anu websites on theii phones anu
computeis. Foi example, theie aie a numbei of bible apps available, in auuition to
piayei, bible quotes, anu music apps.
0ne example of the many uiffeient ieligious apps available foi smaitphones.
Not only aie mega chuiches becoming innovative in teims of the meuiums
anu platfoims they use to shaie theii messages, but they aie also becoming moie
innovative in the way they initially piesent theii messages. To claiify, iathei than
having a tiauitional seimon with a supplemental chuich choii, mega chuiches now
will often times have a iock banus peifoiming thioughout the seimon to keep
people engageu. Nost mega chuiches will have viueo scieens, too, so the people
sitting in the back aie still able to see. Some will even use viueos scieens to uisplay
"chuich news", which incluues viueo clips of the cuiient chuich events.

At the Cottonwoou Chuich, in Los Alamitos, CA, the S,uuu-seat sanctuaiy
feels moie like an auuitoiium than a tiauitional chuich. It has auuitoiium-style
seating with a laige stage in the fiont anu two big scieens on each siue of the stage.
This chuich piesents its ieligious messages thiough technology, viueo, lighting, anu
iock music. They aie able to connect with the auuience by piesenting theii message
in a mouein way that's familiai to people, anu in a way that enables these people to
iemain engageu.
Scieenshot of Cottonwoou Chuich's Website, uepicting the stage set up with
the two scieens on each opposite siue.

Anothei aspect of these mega chuiches that is in opposition to moie
tiauitional chuiches is the laiu-back atmospheie. A numbei of people who attenu
mega chuiches uo not uiess up in theii tiauitional Sunuay clothes anymoie, but
iathei weai a comfoitable set of shoits anu a t-shiit. In auuition to uiess, timeliness
is anothei aspect that is not stiesseu at a mega chuich. People aie alloweu to come
anu go as they please, cieating a veiy open anu inviting community.

Nega chuiches have even expanueu to incluue multiple campuses, which
incluue gymnasiums, classiooms, cookinguining facilities, paiks, etc. They have
founu that they aie able to ieach moie people if they uo not have the typical
aichitectuie of a tiauitional chuich, but insteau the aichitectuie of an aiena oi
enteitainment centei. The builuing itself uiaws in a ciowu of people that woulun't
noimally have attenueu a tiauitional-style chuich.

So with all of this new innovation, incluuing theii seimon-style,
communication platfoimsmeuiums anu even theii giounus anu facilities, mega
chuiches aie giowing fastei than evei expecteu. Paiticulaily with theii use of up-to-
uate technologies, mega chuiches aie able to stay at the foie giounus of
communications. They aie able to taiget a wiue iange of people with technology anu
the Inteinet, anu still make each anu eveiy inuiviuual feel comfoiteu anu welcomeu.

In his book .(/ ",+ 0(% " 1"23+%, Computei Science Pioneei anu Techie-
Philosophei }aion Laniei expiesses his views against Web 2.u anu the New Inteinet
technology. Be uiscusses how online social platfoims, such as Facebook, have
limiteu oui uevotions of inuiviuuality because we can only expiess ouiselves in the
way the softwaie will allow us to, meaning that oui selfhoou is being uownplayeu. In
othei woius, Laniei claims that if these laige uomains aie incapable of captuiing us,
some of the Self is lost. The use of multiple social platfoims anu meuiums by the
majoiity of mega chuiches confiims Laniei's aigument that inuiviuual social
platfoims aie limiting when useu inuepenuently. Bowevei, the mannei in which
mega chuiches use vaiious platfoims in conjunction with one anothei to cieate a
netwoik allows foi the full expiession of theii philosophies. Nega chuiches countei-
balance the limitations of social meuia platfoims by incoipoiating the use of othei
technological meuiums such as live-stieaming (both viueo anu auuio), poucasts, anu
even theii own websites anu blogs. Laniei stiesses the impoitance of ieflection of
ones thoughts anu expiession, which is also suppoiteu by the technological
communications of mega chuiches. Although Laniei suppoits the technological
successes of mega chuiches in theii use of 2.u, he woulu aigue that by paiticipating
in a mega chuich inuiviuuality coulu be easily lost uue to the sheei size of the
congiegations.

By using technology anu online tools to facilitate this giowth, Nega chuiches
themselves aie contiibuting to the oveiall evolution of touay's tech-savvy society.
Nuch like the stiuctuie of theii technological stiategies, these chuiches have taken
lifestyle enclaves anu biought them togethei as a wiuei community to cieate a
netwoik foi expanuing theii faith beyonu physical bounuaiies.