This Wednesday, DisciplesNet Church posted our 19th worship video, an Ash Wednesday worship. Within this new church, without doors and with walls as wide as the world, we continue to experience a whirlwind of activity. Much of this is taking place behind the scenes, including in preparations for expanding our ministry.
In the midst of our growth, however, we are way overdue in filling in our growing DisciplesNet family, friends, supporters, and guests about progress since we went online in November 2010. We’re very sorry about that! We hope that this blog and ones to follow will help to update you on what is going on and what to expect.
Many of you have already become a critical part of this ministry, sharing in ways such as prayers, ideas, devotions, financial support, and encouragement--all of which are a cause for great thanksgiving. Particularly at this point in our ministry, we can’t see each other, so let me describe our congregation for you.
As of this week, we have had people in 53 countries connect with DisciplesNet Church, either through our website or our Facebook page. Aside from the United States, at this point we don’t have large numbers from any single country: six here, one or two there. We are extraordinarily humbled to know that a growing number of people are joining in our worship and viewing our devotionals and prayer page from around the globe.
Our Vimeo statistics show that our worship videos have been played/loaded from the the following countries, ordered here from most to least (feel free to skip these if not interested in these specifics):
United States, “Unknown,” Canada, India, Australia, Egypt, Great Britain, France, Germany, Paraguay, Viet Nam, Italy, Bulgaria, Korea (South), Japan, Sweden, Portugal, Brazil, Romania, Hong Kong, Turkey, Ireland, South Africa, Belgium, Albania, Cambodia, Latvia, Poland, Greece, Spain, Lithuania, Netherlands, Taiwan,Philippines, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Israel,Switzerland, Malaysia, Finland, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, and Ukraine. Included in the “unknown” category are those who link in to watch the videos from places and in ways that don’t identify their whereabouts; this category includes individuals we have communicated with in Iraq, Afghanistan, and China.
More people from around the world are making connections mainly through our DisciplesNet Church Facebook page, and register as “liking” the page (667 to date). These include persons in Pakistan, Malawi, Kenya, Burundi, Indonesia, Nicaragua, and Morocco.
Often the thought of this leaves us stunned, yet excited at the way that people of faith are literally able to follow Jesus' calling to,“Go into all the world,” sharing the good news of God’s love. With all we have within us, we are trying to do our best at improving our videos and content to try to be worthy of people’s connection with us. For instance, we are trying to watch what we say so that we are inclusive of people, regardless of the country or the physical state of health of those connecting with us on their end of things.
As we were getting our site ready to launch last November, we worked hard, wanting to be “good enough” for the people who would watch us. We have so many weaknesses in person as well as in process. We are still operating on a shoestring budget. Most of our work comes from people volunteering their work, their hearts, and their passion for serving God. We don’t have a big studio, directors, or a professional film editor. If those appearing in our videos stop to think about it, it can be quite daunting, The heartfelt prayer spontaneously prayed, or the communion meditation or sermon message delivered after a long day of work-- is going around the world, with every mistake preserved on tape and subject to ongoing criticism. Unlike a traditional “one and done” worship service, our mistakes will linger for people to see long after we have grown beyond them! We try not to dwell on this or else we wouldn’t have anyone to volunteer to be on the videos.
DisciplesNet Church grew out of a calling to see, include, and involve in our community those individuals and groups who have historically been unable to participate in the life of a church because of some kind of barrier--as well of those who would like to be part of such an inclusive family. Sometimes we hurry in from our other jobs to worship and record our tapes, coming through rain, snow, ice, etc.. Our hair may not be right, our collars not straight. We may have been up all night in pastoral care situations or learning video editing by doing, but our prayerful commitment we have made is to be there for people, failings and all.
We live with the tension, then, of doing the best we can in each video and answering the call to be there, now, for our community despite our flaws. We hope and pray that God will continue to work through us as God has done throughout history: speaking through the human frailties and shortcomings of those who answer the call to God’s service. We hope that DisciplesNet is able in some way to speak to you of God, God’s faithfulness to all people, and God’s desire thatnot one of God’s children be ignored
So far, our Devotional page, our worship services, and Prayer Wall are the main features available for people to visit. We are frustrated that we haven’t quite yet gotten all of our ‘ducks in a row’ to launch the main interactive feature of DisciplesNet: the DisciplesNet Café.
We have been testing the Café among our leadership core, and now it looks like will be ready to roll out within the next two weeks. We are excited to see how that will work for those wanting to join us, and know that part of our growth will involve finding new shortcomings and working to overcome these. Part of our calling is not just to have devotionals and videos for people to read and see, but a faithful, hardworking, loving community that people can be a part of---even if they are never able to leave the confines of their homes. We are anxious to expand what we are doing to actively include people of all ages, including a strong ministry for children and youth.
A small but growing number of people are sending financial support to DisciplesNet. We want you to know that this support, in all sizes and forms, has blessed this ministry in marvelous ways. It is allowing us to be where we are now. Currently, financial gifts are supporting our webpage development, video equipment, recording supplies, and office/worship center. Our gifted pastoral team continues to work for little or no compensation. Although in ways this shows their commitment, it also means that the work they do for DisciplesNet is in addition to the often taxing full-time jobs most already hold in ministry. We are praying for the day to come soon when we will be able to support our ministers with compensation that will allow them to work in DisciplesNet Church's ministry first and full-time.
We continue to hear stories of how DisciplesNet is reaching people. In the next blog, we will share some of these stories, giving more details of the people making up our DisciplesNet family. These stories and the words of support and encouragement are great motivations to keep going, and cause for celebration and praise for what God is developing here at this church called DisciplesNet. Thanks for being a part, and thank you so much for your continued support.
Peace and grace,
Pastor Deb Phelps
Deb Phelps is Senior Minister of DisciplesNet Church, and an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).