Digital Missionaries

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Bryan Haley

In most contexts, digital platforms and tools have become incredibly valuable over the last few years. Now is the time to develop digital missionaries.

Show Notes

Episode summary

Most churches recognized the value of digital platforms and tools through the last few years. But now that meeting in person is an option again, what happens to those invaluable tools? Let's develop digital missionaries for the future of the church. We talk with Jeff Reed, founder of The Church Digital, about how ministries can embrace the digital frontier and equip people to be missionaries in their neighborhoods and in their digital circles, as well.

Our guest

Jeff Reed, Founder of The Church Digital

In June 2000, Jeff led his first Online Bible Study, taking 75 people around the planet through the book of James using a text-based system called Ultimate BB. He was doing digital ministry way before it was cool. Founding THECHURCH.DIGITAL in 2018, Jeff’s passions have evolved into helping churches (and individuals too!) find their calling through digital discipleship, releasing people on digital mission, and planting multiplying digital churches.

[email protected]

(484) 324-8724

Mentioned in this episode

Transcript

Jeanette:

Since 2020, many churches have begun to dig deeper into the online space and how hybrid worship experiences work. Online church is not a foreign concept any longer. But what if there is more to online church than just your Sunday service? How can your church use digital resources to disciple people, serve your community, and create deeper connections with others? In today's episode, we talked to Jeff Reed about the importance of digital ministries beyond just worship service.

Bryan:

Hey, church communicator, hey friends, welcome to the podcast. I'm Bryan Haley, the producer, and I'm joined as always by my co-host, Jeanette Yates. We are here energizing communications in the church, and we are so excited that you've joined us today and that we have Jeff Reed on our podcast today. Hey, Jeff, how are you?

Jeff:

Hey, everybody. Great to be here. Thanks for the invite. This is-

Bryan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jeanette:

Yeah, Jeff, I'm so happy to have you here today. We've been Twitter friends for a long time, but we have met in person, right?

Jeff:

Yeah. Pre COVID. We were at the exponential right before the end of the world happened.

Bryan:

Oh, wow. Yeah.

Jeff:

That feels like it was like a decade ago, but a couple years I guess.

Jeanette:

Yeah, it was just not too far. We were just talking before we hit record about, I've known you for a while via Twitter and the one in person time, but I happen to know about you that you've been doing digital ministry for a long time. So instead of me talking about how long you've been doing this, I'd love for you to just intro introduce yourself to our audience.

Jeff:

Yeah, awesome. Hey, my name's Jeff Reed. I've been doing digital ministry for about 22 years. Actually, the first online Bible study I taught was in the year 2000. So I graduated from college 1999, December, 1999, right when Y2K was coming. If you're old enough to remember Y2K, you know. But the part of it was that I really just had this passion to do digital ministry, even back in the year 2000. This is before Facebook, this is before borderline MySpace was kind of around, your web browser of choice was Netflix. Your search engine was Ask Jeeves. And so this is what we were doing back then.

And strangely, right when I graduated from college 1999 with this vision to do digital ministry, no churches were hiring a digital pastor in the year 2000. Who would've thought? So I started an online community called ebeliever.com way back in the year 2000. This is in the boom of the dot com era, and we had about 40,000 people, literally from around the planet that were part of this community. We were using a bulletin board system, like a text based, like a Facebook wall, it was called Ultimate BB at the time. It was a CGI application, and so built it in HTML using Adobe page Mill. Is it net? Oh my gosh, I can't even remember the name of that software was called. Some of the HTL compilers, Photoshop, Macro Media, Fireworks. If any of you are old people, you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth.

Jeanette:

I understand, but Brian does not.

Bryan:

No, I never heard of any of those things.

Jeff:

The heart of this was, man, I've always had this passion for helping churches do digital ministry. 20 years later, guess what? In the year 2020, February, even then, churches still didn't care about this. There was, "Hey, we're broadcasting our services. Everything's great. But beyond that, maybe we care about discipleship, maybe we care about small groups. But right now the building's working fine, so let's not jinx everything." And of course, March 16th, whatever it was, the end of the world came and everybody pivoted, starting to recognize the purpose of digital then.

Jeanette:

So tell people what you're doing now. What's your big thing that you're working on? That's kind of important, before we dive in?

Jeff:

So pre COVID, I started a company called the Church Digital, basically championing the idea of digital church, of being church in digital spaces, whether that's an existing church that's operating in a fully ecclesiology, looking at the biblical functions of a church and doing that digitally, or even planting a church that only exists in digital spaces. And that's always a fun conversation. We're talking about digital church, streamer church, social media churches, metaverse churches. So in company with that, we just started a nonprofit called Digital Church Network, where we're creating a community, where we're gathering these people together, people that have a passion to see digital ministry and digital discipleship happen to be multiplying disciples in digital space. And so that's at Digitalchurch.network. We've got this incredible discipleship strategy that we roll out with that we can talk about that later. But the heart of it is that we're really focusing on moving beyond just the one hour on Sunday in physical space or in digital space, and really moving towards more of this relational approach of digital ministry.

It was funny, yesterday I was talking with the guy who works for a globally recognized Christian organization. He has former time, he was on staff with a giga church here in America, well known church. And he was talking about how churches, they really are, their online presence is just stuck on this one hour on Sunday. And how even the small churches are like, "Hey, you know what, the big churches, I can't compete with their budgets. I can't compete with their production, so I'm just not even going to do anything with online." And it was funny, my comment to the guy was, "Yeah, but I'd much rather be a small church in this space." To be relational, to be able to utilize those relationships and the friendships digitally, to be able to have that accountability with people when you're working in digital space, so many churches are missing, and I know this is where we're going with the conversation, but small churches, they're missing the point.

The whole reason we're doing this whole digital is not to broadcast your sermons that everyone get there. Even the big churches know that somebody's better than them. The thing that a small church can do, or a medium sized church can do, is that relationship. And that relationship doesn't cost money. How much does Zoom cost mean? So at the heart of this, why are we stressing over the one hour on Sunday when we should just be focusing on relationships and empowering, oh, I don't know, digital missionaries to go and be the thing. So, hey, sorry, I probably just sped us up to 20 minutes into this thing.

Jeanette:

Okay, thank you so much for listening to the Church Juice podcast.

Bryan:

Well, let's just go back to the beginning a little bit. How did you even get involved in digital ministry? Was it just a passion that you had for web building? Or where did you see the potential for digital ministry 20 years ago? Because obviously that leads into what ministry looks like today and what it'll look like in the future too.

Jeff:

So I was a middle schooler. And I was opening my copy of A Plus magazine, which was Apple's Print magazine from, maybe I'll put a time on it, maybe like 1990. And it was the first time that I had saw the word multimedia, the combination of print, graphic, and text together. And this is before internet. Well, I mean, I guess the internet still existed, but before www, before it became mainstream. And it's this surreal thing where I just knew this was going to be the future of the church. And this is 30 years ago. I'm a kid, but I just had this strong passion to help. So I'm not saying, but literally, I dedicated everything with my life afterwards. I volunteered in high school running church production, learning AVL, Video Switcher, even computer systems.

I started learning to code in high school. In college, I was a radio TV film major for the purpose of going in. It was funny, after I graduated from college, actually my wife, my parents, my family were very much, because I had this calling to go into church work, they were like, "Jeff, you need to go to seminary.: And I looked at seminaries at the time. The year is probably 2000, like I said at this point. And it's like nothing I want to do seminary can teach me. They are not thinking about the stuff that I'm thinking. And it's funny, even now I have the opportunity to go speak at seminaries because they're like, "Hey, the stuff that you're talking about, Jeff, the seminaries, we're not thinking about. So we want you to come influence." It was funny actually, I had a seminary offer to hire me. And they discovered I didn't have a master's degree. And they were like, "Hey, we actually cannot hire you if you don't have master degree." And so you can change it, but systems are so stuck in themselves that it doesn't reproduce new ideas.

Bryan:

I mean, I can speak to that. I'm in seminary now and there's still no talk of digital.

Jeff:

Yeah, it's few and far between at this point. But it has always just been, for me, it's been this heart passion. I'm probably on my sixth or seventh business at this point that I've run, that I've started. And I have about a 15 year church ministry career. And all of that's been centered around church, around technology, around discipleship, around multiplication. It's funny, and honestly, I'm the type of guy, I think my longest job has been, career, at one location has been four years. And so I typically push very hard, get the organization to the point where they have the lid, hit that lid, and I'm like, "Hey, I'm bored. I can't be at this lid. Let me go somewhere else." And so I'm constantly being that, which is why, well, in the past four years, I've actually started three or four businesses started around this digital church idea that are tackling and addressing it from different sides, trying to help organizations.

The vertical of my life. And the thing actually I love right now, like I said, I've got probably five jobs that I'm doing, but it's all centered around helping churches and organizations understand this idea of digital church and even planting a church and digital space.

Jeanette:

So let's kind of talk about that a little bit more. The three of us here today, we understand digital ministry, digital churches as being more than just the service. But for many churches, they maybe got to we need to have online worship, not only during the ban, but now. They're like, "Okay, we're in. We're going to keep doing this. We understand it's importance." But there's been a shift in churches thinking about digital ministry, digital church, since the pandemic. And now many of them realize the potential. But I want you to talk a little bit more about what has changed for churches? How did digital ministry shift in the last two years? And what has changed irrevocably? We're not going to be able to go back to way that things were before. What has changed? Why has that happened?

Jeff:

What COVID did is it made everybody do something different. I've heard this analogy several times, and so it may be a little dated even here on this podcast, but the church service became the queen of the chessboard. And so the queen is the most powerful piece on the chessboard. And as a result, inexperienced players will use the queen exhaustively. "Hey, you know what? We need to recruit some more volunteers for our kids' department. Let's do an announcement on stage. Hey, we need to really address the fact that marriages are horrible in our church. Let's do a sermon series. Hey, we need to really push evangelism so let's do a series where we invite all our lost friends to church." Forgive the term lost. But the heart of it was is that the church service became everything. And in March, 2020, that Queen got off the board.

And as a result, we had to use, "Oh my gosh, I got to pick up the phone and call somebody. Wait, you want me to actually respond to someone in Facebook Messenger? I don't understand." We didn't know what to do, which is funny, this is one of the reasons why I believe there's so much burnout in church, because all of these pastors were trained this is the way, and then as a result of this change, they're like, "I don't know how to do this. I don't believe in digital, and now you're telling me that's the only thing I can do for two years, not to mention the race reconciliation and everything else that's happening, cultural shifts because of COVID and other things? So as a result of all this that's happening yeah, there was a lot of change. There's a lot of disruption. Now, where we are, whenever, I think this is going to run in May, right? So May 2022, at this point, the church has an option.

We can go back to March 2020 and just operate the way we were. Or we can experiment and try to keep doing different things. There are a percentage of churches that are wanting to do different things. They're wanting to look at virtual reality. They're wanting to look at digital discipleship. They're wanting to, instead of launching multi site locations, they're going to a micro site approach, more relational in communities because they're recognizing some things about relationships and discipleship in this current culture. However, there are churches that are pivoting away. I can tell you a friend of mine from a church in the Midwest used to be a digital pastor, and his church told him maybe February, March, of 2020, "Hey, yeah, we're no longer going to have a digital pastor position. We're going to shut down the campus. So basically you've got a level one IT director job open for you, or you're gone."

And my friend actually resigned. And now he's planting a digital only expression of church, continuing on in digital ministry. I can tell you another lady that basically had the same conversation where a church said, "Hey, yeah, you don't have a job. We don't actually believe in this digital church, this church online stuff." And she said, "That's great. I'll go find another job, that's fine. But can I take the digital church with me?" And she actually took the online campus and the people that were connected with that, and is now running it as a completely separate digital church, completely independent of that one church. And so there's some really interesting moves, whereas the church, as some churches, are pivoting back to the way that it used to and ignoring maybe some of the cultural shifts and changes that are out there. And now there's also this new move, this bleeding edge idea, where individuals and churches are now paving a new ecclesiology, a new model of what church is that maybe didn't it really exist or didn't get attention before 2020.

Bryan:

What do you think that five years from now, what does digital ministry look like?

Jeff:

Oh, shoot. So call it 2027.

Bryan:

Sure.

Jeff:

Yeah, what you're going to have is you're going to have metaverse, you're going to have augmented reality, you're going to have virtual reality. You're going to see artificial intelligence infused into the discipleship processes. What's interesting, I think the church is also going to be much smaller. And let's move away from the technological piece for a second. There's a decentralization idea that's coming. We're already seeing this. We're seeing mega and giga churches have moral failures. We're seeing smaller churches increase and we're seeing bigger churches decline. Now look, the life churches and the Saddlebacks, they're always going to be there. I'm not saying that that's going to shut down. But I do believe that you're going to see a trend of people moving towards smaller environments. And so I use the word decentralization a lot where I think the idea is not for the church to grow a giant centralized building, as much as it's to create smaller, decentralized environments that allow for freedom for contextualization.

You guys are marketing people. Seth Godnum, that's not a strange name. You guys know Seth, right?

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

Right, yes. So Seth and I get, we're like-

Jeff:

Yeah, you're way back. I've probably been mistaken for Seth the time or two. But this is a podcast, you can't tell that I'm bald at the moment. But Seth, somebody asked Seth on his podcast, "Hey Seth, how do I get my message heard around the world?" And Seth's response was, "A billion people don't care about anything you have to say. If you really want to get your message heard around the world, you need to tell as small an audience as possible. Craft that message in such a way that it is for someone. Get them to hear it, get them to understand it, get them to tell someone else. And basically multiply that conversation through."

And so for the church, the way the culture is moving, it's not even about growing these massive organizations that are actually going to be harder and harder to maintain in future culture. Instead, it's about how do we create smaller environments or even empower the greatest resource we have in our churches, the people in the pews, to be the church or create church within their own environments? It's not so much about one person, one man, one woman being the spiritual voice behind that pulpit on stage. It's about empowering the hundreds or thousands of people to be the spiritual voice in their environments where they are, whether that's in physical, digital, or metaverse space.

Bryan:

So you've talked a little bit about I think what digital will look like or what it even looks like now. You've talked about how some people that are planting digital specific churches. But I think one thing that makes all of creation, creation in itself, is that we were created for community, which is hard to recreate in a digital space to the same extent I guess. So how do you create that same level of community? Does it require or does it necessitate a physical space, a physical building? What does that look like?

Jeff:

What's interesting is I actually think that community gets defined, not by us, the church, but community gets defined by the culture. And now listen, my mom's 70 something years old. My mom, by the way, leads two online small groups. So even my mom has figured out how to create community in digital space, but the idea of my parents at their age fully understanding and adopting that digital or metaverse culture, it's going to be difficult because that's not native to them. I can connect you with some gen Z'ers that fully engage with that community in digital and metaverse space. There are deep friends, lasting relationships that are built on virtual reality and Discord. Listen, at some level, I even don't know that I understand it. But I recognize it when I see it. And so when I have these, and listen, there's nothing I've said in life more controversial than the idea of a church entirely in virtual reality.

Like YouTube comments alone is 10 times more hate on that than anything else. And I'm not even saying that I want everybody to adopt a metaverse ecclesiology. What I'm actually saying is here in 22, the metaverse ecclesiology, we don't know what it looks like because the metaverse hasn't even been really reconciled yet. Technology's coming and It's not just these virtual reality headsets that we see everybody wearing. It's augmented reality that's based on our glasses, where I'm going to be sitting at a Starbucks and I'm going to be looking across the table from me, and Bryan, instead of staring at you at on a computer screen, I'm staring literally at your life sized hologram sitting at that same Starbucks table. And we're having a face to face. I can read your body motions, I can read your facial emotions. I can see when you look at your clock. The effacing that we lose, if there's even a little bit here via Zoom, where we're going, it's not there. So now that I have that level of interaction, does that equal what's happening in physical community? Is it not as much?

It's interesting, this is an old brain science guy, his name's Edgar Dale. This research is older than me. But I believe it holds true. It talks about how there's levels of remembrance. And at different levels, would do different activities, we remember things better. And actually, I got a bookmark right there and I really want to click it, but the idea is if we see something, it's 10%, there's a 10% chance we're going to remember it. If we hear something, it's a 20% chance we remember it. If we're actually in the room tangibly with somebody, it's like a 40% chance if we remember it. If we're actually actively doing something with it, there's a 90% chance that we remember it. This is why modeling is so important when we do disciple making. And this is actually why we find that virtual reality is an incredible environment for learning. And so utilizing virtual reality for discipleship, modeling some of those conversations, even in virtual reality, is an incredible opportunity for us to create and remember things maybe over a sermon, which probably just freaked out some pastor now that I just said that.

Jeanette:

Well, so speaking of freaking out pastors, let's take a step back. So you are casting vision for us about the possibilities of being disciples in a digital space, teaching disciples in a digital space. And there is much work and research and prayer and consideration, and like you said, kind of shifting the paradigm. Many churches, and this is where we're going to not freak out the pastors, we're going to take a deep breath, pastors, don't worry, let's kind of talk about where we are. So that's where we're going. That's the possibilities that are coming. Whether we decide to go there or not, that's another story. But those are there.

But right now we have post pandemic, we have online worship, we have in-person worship, and now many churches are trying to figure out, you use the word decentralization a lot. Well, you also use another word for this online and in-person experience, this figital experience in worship that's both dynamics of physical presence, physical space, online presence, online space in the worship context and also in the discipleship context. And I don't know it, I know most of this conversation is about discipleship. And feel free to talk about the figital experience in that way, but I also just would love to hear what you have to say about how can churches make their level of experience for both of those people, whether they're online or in person, be on the same plane?

Jeff:

There's an interesting tension, like a large church has the production value to be able to produce that quality service. A small to medium sized church, you may not have the production value. Or your worship leader may carry better in a room, but isn't camera friendly. And so there really is this tension. And I made the joke earlier, even at the giga churches, there's always somebody that's a better preacher. And so oftentimes churches will look at themselves online and say, "Oh, we don't want to do anything with online because we can't compete with the big boys." And honestly, and Jeanette, this may freak you out, I'm actually okay with that. But don't stop digital because your worship service production doesn't match up.

What's interesting is actually if we look at stats, and I'm going to quote Barna December 2020 evangelism report, they came out with some stats that 80% of people called to Christ, they're not going to a building and they're not looking at their church online service. They're not looking at sermons or services period to get the spiritual answers. Where are they going? They're going to search engines, they're going to Google. So congratulations, YouTube is now your pastor of evangelism. If we're really going to be effective evangelism in the future, today. It's not, "Hey, let's really up our game for our production," because people cold to Christ don't care about it. It's much more about how do we get our people on mission to have those conversations, to be looking for those conversations? And then what's our digital strategy so that we can be effective when we want to connect with people online? Now the digital strategy is not post your 40 minute sermon on YouTube. There's tons of research of why that's not a good idea and how that doesn't work within the algorithms.

And so it's more about even creating clips or even shorter videos that are more pointed towards answering things. Even to the point of, "Hey, let's get our people on mission creating some of this stuff and empowering them to have this voice." What's interesting, another, I believe this came out of Barna maybe a couple months ago, this idea of 57% of people, 57% of people active in your church right now, strongly trust church leadership. It's not a bad stat, 57%. The reciprocal is scary to me. 43% of the people that are in your church building. That are active, these aren't like CEOs, Christmas, Easter or only people. These are actively involved in your church. 43% do not strongly trust church leadership. And so I think in many ways that's because we've lived in this season where we the church, we the pastor, have been trying to get people to be part of our vision and our mission.

I think digital offers this really interesting opportunity to create a digital missionary and start to help them do their mission. Instead of being more of a pass down hierarchy view, do what I tell you to do, I think now the church has an opportunity to pivot into a networking stance. How can I help others be on mission? How can I help them reach their people? And invite and invest in invite culture. And this may be rattling, an invest in an invite culture I think is losing influence. I don't think it works today like it did 15 years ago because culture shifted. We have this natural fear, we do not trust large organizations. Barna is even telling us 80% of people that are called to Christ don't want to come to the building. In many of the same ways, I don't want to go to a mosque. And so this isn't rattling, it's more of what do we need to shift, what do we need to do differently to be effective in the future?

And we're seeing where digital has this opportunity to empower, to influence, to allow others their turn to be on mission, rather than driving those people that want to be on mission and getting them to, I don't know, serve coffee or open doors or be the usher or run the nursery. Those are awesome jobs. Those are awesome roles, but there's other opportunities as well that the church needs to recognize.

Bryan:

And a lot of churches that I talk to, we talk a lot about personal invitation. That is no matter what industry you're talking about, personal invitation, personal promotion is always the most successful. How do you see churches, like you said, the personal invitation or the personal ask has changed, the success of that has changed, or the look of that has changed. Do you know any churches I guess that do this well that are equipping their congregation to invite people digitally to what's happening in the church and seeing success and do that? What do those tools look like I guess?

Jeff:

What we're actually finding when we talk about digital missionary is this. Where there's training and there's understanding, that people have influence around them. They have people that don't know Jesus. In digital and social media spaces in the workplace, in the environments around them. And it's many different practices towards this. Some is centered around training them to have those Christ conversations, training them to be there and be a support, utilizing social media for good as opposed for hate. And so this is a very, once again, it can be a challenging trend. When digital spaces, we do know this, it's better to ask questions than make statements. And so rather than getting on a platform and using a bunch of exclamation marks and periods, it's much better to get on that same platform and ask questions. Even from an analytics standpoint, the algorithms are going to work with you better because people are going to answer those questions.

But as they are answering those questions, what are you doing? You're building trust. And so now that I'm asking what their opinion is, I actually have the ability to converse with that person rather than preaching to someone that's literally not going to hear me because I don't give a crap about them. And so a number of churches that are doing this. We're looking at Tyler Sansom, Church Anywhere is doing this very well, First Capital Christian, in Indiana. Even some of the stuff Dave Ferguson and Community Christian. We're doing some things through Digital Church Network where we're actually working through, he's written books over the years, Blessed Practices about ... It is centered around how to connect within your neighbors. And what's interesting, just within the past month or so, I've started talking to him about how they do blessed practices and how actually this really applies to digital community as well.

And so we're actually remapping Dave Ferguson's Bless and applying it into digital and metaverse and letting that be the foundation for what a digital missionary can even look like. So it's much more relational, but it's also positioning you in the place where, "Hey, you as the church attender, you need to be ready to have authentic conversations about God. You need to share your story about it and be transparent." What we're recognizing in Metaverse culture and where we're going in the future as culture continues to shift, the value of the pastor is going to continue to decline. That seminary degree is not going to have the impact that it did 20 or 30 years ago. But the ability for that pastor to influence others to have these conversations, that's where we're going.

Jeanette:

One of the things that we like to do when we're speaking with our experts like you, is we are talking about for some churches, big concepts that they're still trying to wrap their head around. Everybody's just been trying to get through the last couple of years and now they're at a crossroad where they're really trying to have to make a decision about this. And we've given them a lot to think about with all of that. But one thing we like to do is ask you about the practical. Sunday's always coming. We've got a few days, Sunday will be back. What could a church do this week?

Jeff:

The idea is, and we've talked about some lofty heavy topics here, but the idea is how do you experiment without throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Is there a way to do something at a small level, at a micro level, and see what happens? And so if you're interested in exploring the metaverse, buy a VR headset, walk around AltspaceVR, create an account for free on Microsoft and explore the space, meet some people, have some conversations. If you're interested in becoming a digital missionary, start to even just pray about who is on your Facebook feed, who's on your Instagram feed. Maybe look for some of those hard conversations, maybe look for some of those trolls and those jerks, and realize that they need Jesus too and start to pray about what that looks like. Maybe as a pastor, recognizing, "Hey, I need to pivot a little bit or experiment," instead of going from a teaching approach, going towards more of a training approach where it's not about passing information on as much as preparing someone else and holding them accountable for what you're asking them to do.

And even some of that can be done in the small, It doesn't have to be done in the big. I mean, Jesus started with 12 and he had three inner circle people. Find your three, find your 12 staff and volunteers, throw on a couple board members if you got them, and give it a shot. Experiment and see what happens. What's funny is the churches that don't experiment, I just did a podcast yesterday. There was a church that didn't experiment. They went whole hog in this radical idea. Basically they shut the doors of their church three or four weeks a month, pushed it all online, micro. So a multi-site church only met physically once a month. And the results were interesting for six months. And one of the things they said was, "We wish we had experimented and went slow about it." That's one thing that the churches don't do well.

We don't crock pot well, we microwave incredible. Give a church five days, they can take over the world. Give a church five months. They have no idea what to do. And so this is, I think if we're really going to be effective, it starts to point at what's our goal? What are we trying to do? And then experiment with it. Sometimes it makes us feel like we lose power when we experiment. It makes us feel weak as leaders because it makes us look like we don't have all the answers already figured out. But what's interesting is the experiment makes you more endearing to your people because it's less about you, it's more about what's happening. And it gives them an opportunity to be part of what you're doing, which is what they don't get if you basically tell them what to do.

Bryan:

So one last question to kind of go off of this, because a lot of churches that I've talked to feel like they've gone through so much change in the last two years that they're afraid essentially to make any more changes. They either want to keep things away that they are, they want to go back to the way that things were, but they don't want keep trying to make changes. So what would you say to that pastor, to that church leader, who is feeling the weight of so much change and their congregation being overwhelmed with so much change over the last couple years? How do you talk to that leader and tell them keep trying things?

Jeff:

I feel for you, pastor, I do. It has been a very rough season. What you need to ask yourself is in 2020, was it working? In 2020, we were at a 25% decline of the church. And that was before any of the COVID impact happened. We were 25% down over the past 25 years. And so as a result of this, was it really the golden age that we want to go back to? Or do we need to recognize and maybe learn some lessons through this? Look, at the heart of this, I think what we're finding is by doing digital ministry and some of these digital plants, digital churches, some of these extreme situations, virtuality, metaverse churches, what we're finding is we're reaching a different type of person. Some of these churches are reaching in their services, 80 to 85% atheists, agnostics, 70% de-churched. I can tell you stories of Satanists that are finding Jesus in some of these extreme cases.

And so there are churches, or there's physical churches that are experimenting, that are reaching a different type of person than the buildings are reaching. The buildings will continue to be necessary. And so pastor, if you want to just continue to run the building and ignore some of the digital and metaverse spaces, you're probably going to be okay for a stretch. I don't know that it's a wise decision in the next decade, but for the next five years you're going to be okay. But what you're missing is an opportunity to be more effective in ministry by doing multiple things. I think we're moving past this season of putting all the eggs in one basket, putting all the energy into one strategy. It's not so much about simplifying anymore as much as it is diversifying because the churches that are diversifying are seeing so much benefit as a result of it. And as a result of that need for diversification, decentralization. Now it's an opportunity to, like I said, empower these leaders to do something different.

Pastor, the challenge is for us not to gauge our success based off what we see in that building, in those pews, on Sunday morning. It's much more about on mission, it's much more about discipleship and the potential multiplication that can happen with your church. I'm a guy who's literally produced tens of thousands of church services in my life. I've launched 12 multi site campuses from a tech production aspect. I've had 30 some employees underneath me, all responsible for the weekend service, weekend experience, from communications, from production, from tech, IT, digital strategy, online. I've overseen that in my life and I can tell you that if we would pour even a fraction of the energy that went into any one of those church services, if we would pour that into disciple making, evangelism training, multiplication, giving people the why of investing into their friends and sharing Jesus with them, even a fraction, you'd see your church get changed as a result of it.

Bryan:

I could keep asking you questions all afternoon, but I really appreciate you coming on today and being a guest on our podcast, Jeff. And I just really appreciate your time and the expertise that you've offered to our audience as well. If someone wants to follow up with you or learn more about your ministry, where can they find those details?

Jeff:

Email is [email protected] Nobody emails anymore. My cell phone is (484) 324-8724. That's literally number four, the church, if you speak phone alphabet. And I'm on all your social media channels at The Church Digital, so would love to connect with you.

Bryan:

Absolutely. And we'll add all that to the show notes as well. Thank you again for being on the podcast today.

Jeanette:

Yeah, thanks Jeff.

Jeff:

Great, thank you.

Bryan:

And thank you for listening to the Church Juice podcast today. If you haven't already, make sure that you take a second, hit the subscribe button, and follow along so that you get the latest episodes every week when they drop. And if you haven't, we would love to have you join our Facebook group so that we can keep today's conversation going throughout the week. You can find all of the show notes for today, including how to Contact Jeff, how to get involved in the Facebook group and more by going to our website, churchjuice.com/podcast.

Jeanette:

The Church Juice Podcast is a listener supported production of Reframe Ministries, a family of programs designed to help you see your whole life reframed by God's gospel story. Church Juice is produced by Brian Haley, with post production by audio engineer Nate Morris in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information about Church Juice, visit churchjuice.com. For more information on Reframe Ministries and our family of programs, visit Reframeministries.org.