The Church of Facebook

I remember my church back in the day always had a moment to "pray for our shut-ins" — folks who couldn’t leave their houses to be there. Well now, via Facebook, those folks can actually go to church on their own. Or, I suppose they could just watch Joel Osteen on TV. But it’s an interesting concept nonetheless. PRNewswire reports:

If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world behind China (1.33 billion) and India (1.17 billion), and followed by the U.S. (307 million). Now, a new church is being planted in the "nation" of Facebook, bringing live worship to its 400 million-plus residents.

On Sunday morning, Northland, A Church Distributed will officially open the doors to its new Facebook app, which will allow worshipers to invite their Facebook friends to go to church with them – without leaving the familiar Facebook environment. Plus, even when live worship isn’t happening, the opportunity for worship is readily available because the previous week’s service will be posted and available for viewing 24 hours a day.

"We encourage people to be the church everywhere, every day, so it just makes sense to put resources out there that will help people to be that church," explains Nathan Clark, Northland’s director of digital innovation.

With a congregation of 12,000 worshipers meeting throughout Metro Orlando and worldwide via interactive webcast, Northland first began taking church out of the building in 2001 via "distributed sites" – live, two-way video connections between locations. Northland now operates four of these sites in Central Florida.

The church started webcasting live services in January 2006 and, 18 months later, launched an interactive webstream of its services that includes immediate access to an online pastor and the ability to chat instantly with other worshipers. Approximately 2,000 people use this venue each weekend.

On July 4, 2009, the church launched an iPhone Web app – offering not just videos of past services, but the ability to join live services as they are happening over 3G and Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, 200 of Northland’s congregants now serve as online missionaries, replying to emails from thousands of seekers around the world.