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Church experiments with online video, chat

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (BP) — Watching a church’s worship service online can be a way for those who are sick to still participate and feel like they are part of church. But Crossway Baptist Church is among those congregations taking streaming video to another level in an effort to harness social media for the Gospel.

Using a service called Church Online Platform, Crossway will not only broadcast its services over the internet, but the church’s media team can chat privately back and forth with viewers while the service is taking place. Chris Rhodes, the church’s media director, said ideally it should help them connect with viewers who are not yet believers. It is similar to Facebook Live, but it is available on the church’s website and is available to non-Facebook users. The new service was scheduled to launch at the Springfield, Mo., church on Easter Sunday.

“A lot of people have questions, whether it’s about the church or something they heard in the message,” Rhodes said. “We hope to have people available to respond to the Gospel just like we have counselors who can talk with someone during an invitation time.”

It’s a virtual way to privately talk someone through any spiritual questions they have, clear up any confusion about any church position on doctrine or Scripture, or just help to create a better sense of community, he noted.

Once churches already have a streaming service, the free platform lets churches integrate sermon notes or the biblical text. On its website, the service is described as more than a video player: “It’s an agreeing-in-prayer, real-life, around-the-world community builder.”

Crossway’s members are already engaged with the church on social media, and Rhodes said he hopes this will be one more way they can use technology to share Jesus.

“They’re excited about what our church is doing, and they believe in the message that’s being preached,” he said. “It’s part of them being so community oriented and wanting to reach out to the lost. They’re just really plugged in.”

For information about Church Online Platform, go to www.churchonlineplatform.com.