I work at a church. Specifically, I work for Church Online at Life.Church. I’ve heard people wonder what online church could be like. Most of the time, they simply wonder if it’s real. Most people grasp how you can learn from a pastor online. But they wonder: Can you find community, accountability, and actual friends online? I know you can.
I started making friends online before “online” was really a thing.
It was the mid 90s in the computer lab at my university. It was the early days of the internet. Email was still fairly new, websites were just starting to be developed, and AOL was beginning to grow in popularity. And wi-fi? Nope. It was all dial-up.
A friend introduced me to an online role-playing game. There were no graphics, no audio. It was purely text-based, but it was amazing how words shared on a screen could connect people. I made friends online with people from all around the country, and even some from other parts of the world. While we chatted about the game, we also chatted about real life. We got to know one another, talking about where we lived, what we studied in school or did for work, and what music or movies we enjoyed. Eventually, it went beyond surface conversations. We shared our struggles, asked for guidance, and offered support.
As time went on, I stayed connected with these friends, even as I branched out to new online modes of communication. On 9/11, I thought of a guy named The_Man. That was just his screen name, but he was one of my real friends online. He lived in New York City, and dozens of us from that online community jumped onto the game to check on him. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when he finally logged in hours later to let us know he was okay.
And this is just one example of how we came together even though we were far apart. And in all those years, many of us never met in person, but we still knew one another, and more than that, cared about one another. It was a true community.
What happens every day at Church Online is just like that. People from around the world meet, connect, and make life-changing friendships. We may live in different cities, countries, or continents, but the distance doesn’t keep us from developing deep relationships. We laugh and joke together. We cry and pray together. And we support, encourage, and challenge one another.
God is using Church Online to change the world. People who were far from Him are now encountering His love in powerful ways because of the friends they meet in these online interactions. This is truly a global community, and our lives are different (and better) because of it. These are my friends, and I invite you to join us.