How Life.Church Transformed Virtual Church
Back in 1996, Life.Church started out with a passionate mission, just as every church was founded. However, over the past few decades, Life.Church has gone on to spearhead the adoption of digital worship. Now the largest virtual church in the world, Life.Church remains the inspiration and guiding light for many churches that are looking to adopt digital platforms in an effective, impactful manner.
Here’s a closer look at Life.Church and how it has transformed the world of digital worship and virtual church participation.
Rapid Growth Powered by Vision
Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel knew that God was calling him to create a church, one that was different from all the other churches of the time, and one that would spearhead a movement for decades to come. Reaching generations previously untouched by Christ, Groeschel’s vision came to life with the help of his wife, Amy.
The church had humble beginnings, first meeting in a dance studio in Oklahoma. Within a few weeks, more than 130 people were attending the services, so they moved to a local middle school. The church continued to grow, and within the year, they were meeting in an old bicycle factory.
By 1997, the church was consistently seeing over 200 people each week. Still without dedicated church grounds, the Groeschels knew that they needed to revamp the worship experience. They completed a 750-seat worship center that spring, which remains active today in Oklahoma City. Attendance grew to 1,250 weekly, with three services each weekend.
Within months, Life Church had kicked off its first-ever off-site worship experience, taking everyone to a movie theater, popcorn and all, to spread the word of the Lord in a whole new way. By 2000, the church was seeing 3,000 people in attendance every week.
The Step Toward Digital
As the church continued to see higher and higher attendance at their location in Oklahoma City, they chose to update their online presence with the new domain: LifeChurch.tv. The leaders recognized the opportunity to influence through new mediums and were quick to adopt them. However, one of the main contributors to the shift toward digital came unexpectedly.
Craig’s wife gave birth to their fourth son on a Saturday evening, and Craig knew he wouldn’t be preaching the next morning. A friend suggested they share video from the experience, and that’s when a seemingly difficult obstacle become the opportunity to launch a fresh way to worship. LifeChurch.tv began to share its message in a whole new way.
In the fall of 2001, Life.Church held its first video teaching, which it called High Octane. By the end of the year, more than 5,500 people were attending worship experiences across two campuses, with the second location added when MetroChurch, a 25-year-old church in Edmund, joined the Life.Church family, officially making it a multi-campus church.
New Locations and New Ideas
As years went by, Life.Church continued to grow and welcome new ideas for innovative worship experiences. In 2003, they held their first live simulcast with the Edmond and Oklahoma City campuses during Christmas Eve worship. The following year, the Oklahoma City campus had a satellite uplink built so they could broadcast live video anywhere in the world.
Just a few short years later, in 2006, all the baby steps toward digital came together when Life.Church launched its internet campus. Now called Church Online, this ministry continues to revolutionize the way people accept and experience worship. There’s a genuine community, unique opportunities for volunteerism and discipleship, and LifeGroups. Thanks to these, Online has transformed the way we go to church.
Countless unique ideas, including virtual missions, have helped turn Church Online into a valid digital experience. Even better? Anyone can enjoy from anywhere they can participate. Of course, Life.Church didn’t stop there.
They introduced open.church that same year — a tool enabling them to share resources. These resources included content and messages — among others. They shared these with other ministries around the world. Life.Church continues to offer these resources for free, encouraging the good news to be shared and embraced at the global scale.
They then launched Network Churches, which enabled Life.Church to partner with church pastors and planters big and small. By sharing resources with one another, they have helped spread Christ and build communities around the world. Meanwhile, Life.Church has continued to merge with other churches, adding new campuses to their active vision.
Spreading the Message in More Ways
One thing that makes Life.Church so powerful and such an interesting, inspirational case study is that, no matter how much they accomplish, they never slow down. In 2007, Life.Church launched YouVersion, which is one of the most popular Bible apps available.
YouVersion also enables users to share Scripture by connecting it with pictures, videos, and other forms of media, making the Bible’s verses highly sharable online and more readily available for saving and downloading in the form of inspirational reminders.
In 2008, the church began offering dedicated online services, scheduling their first dedicated broadcast at the start of the year. In June, they recruited hundreds to participate in the first online prayer group, something that has since become a routine event for the LifeChurch.tv community.
Fast forward to 2012, and Life.Church signed up over 2,000 churches to their program that enabled any church to start using the Church Online platform for their ministries. Jump to 2015, and they were celebrating the 7 millionth download of their open free resources. Years later, they continue to hit remarkable milestones. This is all thanks to the founder’s passion for spreading the message by whatever means he could.
How Will Your Church Change the World?
If you’re a small, local church, it can be tough to step back every once in a while and see how you fit into the bigger picture. The fact is, even if you only see a few dozen attendees each week, every church plays a role in acting out God’s mission on earth and ensuring that everyone knows God’s love.
At Donorwerx, we specialize in helping churches big and small see the opportunities and make a lasting difference in their community. Interested in learning more? Schedule a Discovery Call today.