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What Does the Future of Church Look Like?

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https://youtu.be/A-uNgwU1zEw

Churches are evolving to meet people where they are and stay relevant. In today's episode, Kenny Jahng and DJ Chuang discuss various ways emerging churches embrace technology and serve a digital-first generation. If you want to ponder the future of the church, dive into today's episode of the Church Online Podcast. Let's go!


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Transcript

The following is a machine-generated transcript of the audio. We've been testing the NueralText online transcription service. Now, as you know, Machines < Humans so these transcript notes won't be 100% accurate. Probably more like 80-95% accurate. Hopefully, this will help you scan the episode content to get the gist of the conversation. Enjoy!


[00:00:01.690] – Kenny Jahng

Hey, friends. I'm Kenny Chang. This is the church online podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today. We've got a big, profound question that we're going to attempt to discuss right by me. And on the other side of the screen I don't know what side of the screen is my good friend, DJ Chong. Welcome to the show, DJ. How are you doing today?

[00:00:20.290] – DJ Chuang

Hey, thrilled to be back, Kenny.

[00:00:24.050] – Kenny Jahng

DJ, now, for those of you out there that don't know who DJ Chong is, you must know him. He is a thought leader, an expert. He's helped churches and nonprofits for decades learn how to use the latest digital technologies. And he also happens to be a brand ambassador for the church domain name, which is a part of this whole portfolio of a company called Identity Digital Powering, the most relevant domain names on the Internet. And so I asked him to drop by again with us today, twisted his arm to spend a little bit more time with us in this season, because I wanted to get to this question that I think is pertinent in so many different ways and angles. And the question of the day is, DJ, is what does the future of church look like? What does the future of church look like? And obviously, here at Church Tech today, we're going to take a little bit of a little bit of an angle that's skewed toward the tech digital, but it's obviously relevant to culture because the culture is digital today. We're digitally native all over. One of the first questions I think I have for you, DJ, as we get out of the gate, is we've talked a lot about churches over the years, right?

[00:01:37.330] – Kenny Jahng

And there's some really exciting things that are emerging out of this pandemic. We see glimpses of innovation happening. I know that's something dear to your heart and my heart to see church leaders trying new things and new uses of technology. Not just new technology, but new technology to use in different ways, using constraints to actually bring about creativity and innovation. And so that's been something that's been really exciting, at least to a technologist like you, I'm sure, I guess. What are some of the things that you've seen happening lately that is future forward or headed in that direction?

[00:02:18.490] – DJ Chuang

Well, I'll take a quick snapshot of road down Memory Lane. I first connected with you online before I met you in person, and this was over ten years ago. And you were a proponent for a blog called Advertiser, and you had some background in advertising, and you thought churches could be stronger in their communication and branding. And then me, I started a podcast called Social Media Church because of you, because we needed it at the time. This would be 2012. Ten years ago, there wasn't really a lot of conversation about social media and church, and yet social media was becoming such a part of people's lives because that's how they communicate and that's how they connect. And if you were not on social media, you were almost obsolete for the next generation, especially social media. Church is the website now. So when Dot Church domain names became available in 2015, I switched right over. And now there's over 500 episodes of that podcast continuing that conversation. And now it's just part of most of our lives. And so we've come a long way. And then now we're on the brink of new technologies, especially with Facebook being renamed, their parent company being renamed to Meta, because the Metaverse, whatever that is, is being shaped as we speak by researchers and technologists building new technology in VR and AR and XR.

[00:04:06.370] – DJ Chuang

So VR is virtual reality, AR is augmented reality, and XR is extended reality. And the mixed reality is kind of the mix of all those things. But we're going to have a conversation in terms of what we're seeing because I know, I think I saw on the Church Tech Today podcast that you were a part of hosting a virtual reality church conference.

[00:04:33.750] – Kenny Jahng

Oh, yes, that was back in August. I wasn't hosting it, but our friend Barbara actually decided to host the conference. She was hosting a conference in Charlotte in person, but also a month precursor to that, decided to actually host something in VR. It wasn't about VR, but it was an experiment to host an actual gathering using VR as the virtual mediated medium, which is really interesting. I think that's an example of what we're talking about, that there are these things that are happening on the edge, but it's really not that far on the edge that we have all these things that are close to us now. One of the things I started to say is I personally think that AR augmented reality has a lot more potential short term than VR does. But who knows? I might be right, I might be wrong. One of these things I think that you're going to start to see is augmented reality projections on worship stages and church buildings and all interactive displays. I was just literally staying at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square in the right in the middle of New York City, and I want to go to a nice dinner.

[00:05:47.030] – Kenny Jahng

The top floor on the 40 something floor has a rotating restaurant. But it was not closed. It was not rotating that day because that month they had an AR cooking. It's not exhibit, it's an experience. So basically for this nice fancy meal, they actually had a projection of this tiny little chef that would come onto your table and knows exactly where the plates are and would cook up stuff. And then as the waiter or waitress puts food on the table, it's contextually aware and so it would dance on the food. So there's all this stuff that's happening on the edges, but obviously there's going to be more practical applications of that, but yes, absolutely. Now, I will say this. Let me just cut to the chase, because you and I know being in this digital space, and I will say definitely on a weekly basis, almost on a daily basis, when I was served as a church online pastor, I would get pushback on the viability of using technology for church and using church online, et cetera. And today, I think most church leaders can understand what a hybrid church model looks like. But what is an online only church?

[00:07:01.950] – Kenny Jahng

And our friend Tyler Sampson has experimented with that. Coming out of First Capitol with the name of his online only church was Churchanywhere US. That was a nice experiment. But the feedback or the pushback I would get sometimes, and I'm sure you have too, is, does that violate Hebrews 1025? That would be quoted in my face all the time, right? Like we're not giving up meeting together as if we're in the habit of doing right, but encouraging one another. That proof. Texting. What do you say to that? Where are we with that today?

[00:07:39.620] – DJ Chuang

DJ well, the scriptures are contextual and so where it is possible to gather together, certainly that's an ideal situation because we're embodied beings and there's something about our bodies being in the same space and time with another person that there's actually electronic signals that our body emits. So when people say that, there's a certain vibe about this place that's actually happening. So there's something that does happen in real time, in real space, and yet at the same time, there's also something real that happens in virtual space. So people have often said when they're in virtual reality during a meeting or a worship experience, it feels like you're actually there and you're there with someone else. And so there's something in our brain that happens when we're in the same space, whether that's physically or virtually. And so gathering in virtual space would seem to me actually fits the idea of Hebrews 1025. If we can gather in the same space virtually and at the same time, we're still gathering and we're definitely connecting. So the point of Hebrew and scripture and how we can be the church is being connected, being together and sharing life and doing life together and fulfilling the one another's.

[00:09:11.740] – DJ Chuang

So technology is making that possible. And I'll mention this, this is conversation that's happening as we speak. So Joe Rogan experience is one of the most popular podcasts. He has conversations for 3 hours plus, which is still a fantasy of mine. One day I'll find a conversation partner that goes 3 hours. We're not doing that here. But he had a recent conversation with Mark Zuckerberg about the future of technology. And that's worth listening to for those of you that are tech minded to see where technology is headed and where technology is headed, people are headed, and therefore the church can come along because church is the people church is not the building. Church is not the technology. Church is the people. And we should be meeting people where they're at. That's why we consider using technology in the future of the church.

[00:10:08.530] – Kenny Jahng

Love it. Now, you and I are always scouring like churchanywhere. US are scouring for examples of churches that are kind of like how websites are mobile first. There are some that are virtual first or remote first or hybrid first. Can you share with us just a couple of them?

[00:10:30.410] – DJ Chuang

Yeah. So there's three that I can think of that I've visited recently. There's one called Imagine Church. And so they revolve around the Mighty Network, which is kind of the latest version of custom social, private social networks. Back in the day, like five or ten years ago, there used to be a thing called Ning ning that provided web based social media. Well, Mighty Network provides mobile based social networking for organizations or clubs or churches. So imagine Church convenes around mighty Network, and then they do Zoom live streams and Bible studies. But it's all coordinated around Imagine Church. Their church started because of worship musicians that were constantly traveling. So they couldn't be in the same space physically, but they wanted to have a spiritual life together as a community. So imagine that church came into being and they continued to meet every week online, various nights of the week to accommodate schedule. Yeah, every church has a fascinating origin story. Certainly there's some online churches just start because they're inspired. So Vrchurch.org is one of the pioneers of VR churches. So Bishop DJ Soto, I got to meet him in person as well as online on several different occasions.

[00:12:10.800] – DJ Chuang

And he's been doing VR Church for five plus years. And he's training others on how to do VR Church. And basically it's hosting a worship service in VR. And then some churches do it just with a big screen so you can sit in the theater. So Lifetime Church does it that way. And then for DJ Soto, with VR Church, he actually creates an entire environment. So they have VR architects building the worship experience that fits the story of the Bible teaching of that day or that week. And you walk through in the virtual space as if you were walking along the gallantly sea as Jesus would teach. So you're not sitting in an auditorium, you're actually immersed in the experience of walking with Jesus. I mean, that really makes the scripture come alive, right? Isn't that amazing? Yes, absolutely. That's what's possible. I'll mention two more examples, a couple of others. Daily Church is an associate of mine here in Orange County, jordan AC launched Daily Church, and that one revolves around Discord. So Discord initially started as a gamers back channel chat thing, and now it's becoming a very popular way. It's kind of the anti slack for those that use slack for work in terms of chat communication.

[00:13:52.170] – DJ Chuang

Discord has become used for in other ways and some churches are using it. So daily Church wants to provide resources for watch parties and people to gather on a daily basis as a church living out their faith very simply, but on a daily basis. And a third one that really caught my attention because they were doing something really unique in terms of hybrid in a different way. So instead of typically a hybrid church is a church that's brick and mortar has a physical location, and then they add an online experience or they add an online campus. Well, Historic Church is based in downtown Dallas physically, but physically is second to their digital experience. So on a weekly basis, they provide online teaching and they encourage people to gather for watch parties and then they gather once a month or a little bit more frequently as a community, for the community. So they're not gathering for the church's sake, they're gathering for the neighborhood's sake and serving the community. So Historic Church, historic Church is making history for the future of the church by having that online connection for the sake of the community. That's paradigm shifting.

[00:15:13.470] – Kenny Jahng

Love it.

[00:15:14.040] – DJ Chuang

And that got my attention.

[00:15:15.320] – Kenny Jahng

I love it. Of course, I feel like he's an OG old timer now, but Alex, Instacchurch Live is another one that started doing church online on Instagram. That was another one. And the other one I know about is I don't know how you pronounce it. Is it XII church. Or is it twelve church? Do you know about that one?

[00:15:39.730] – DJ Chuang

Well, the website is XII church. I haven't looked at it lately.

[00:15:47.470] – Kenny Jahng

Is it twelve church or is it XII? It must be twelve church.

[00:15:51.810] – DJ Chuang

Well, we can take a look, but we'll encourage our people, listeners to go take a look. Xi is for the roman numeral.

[00:16:00.450] – Kenny Jahng

Yes. Roman numeral. Twelve XII church. Church. They do twelve minute sermons. They do it everywhere, virtually, et cetera. I think it's a really interesting one. Now. DJ, I want to go back. You just mentioned some gamer churches. Now.

[00:16:14.840] – DJ Chuang

Yes.

[00:16:15.430] – Kenny Jahng

Come on, let's get serious. Right? Like that sounds sacrilegious to so many people that I know. Can you share some more examples there or tell us a little bit more of like what is that model when we say there's a gamer church? What's going on there?

[00:16:31.630] – DJ Chuang

Yes, well, gamers, I think this was like five years ago, more than 50% of adults. So people over 21 play games and video games have become quite sophisticated with a narrative and a score of music. And it's very immersive. And people spend hours there. And because where people spend their time, what gets their attention has them. And so gamers have built relationships through playing games. And so some inspired people and pastors have taken that opportunity as a way to cultivate ministry and they even become churches. So the ones I think of is on Twitch. Twitch is a gamer community. There's thousands and thousands of people, and this is confounding. There's thousands of people that watch other people play video games. Not something I do, but thousands and thousands of people will watch other people play video games.

[00:17:44.390] – Kenny Jahng

Is thousands the word? It might be millions.

[00:17:46.400] – DJ Chuang

DJ there I was just trying to scale it down, something that we could grasp in our head. But yes, millions. Millions of people are watching video games. They even call it esports confounding. So because people are there, people get to know the gamer. And the people are watching the gamer play the video game, want to get to know the gamer. And so the gamer actually has an opportunity to share their personal testimony. And because they feel like they're getting to know the gamer, they're even willing to attend Bible studies and worship services there. So there's a couple of Twitch churches. There's one guy that moved from Virginia to Missouri for lower cost of living, a guy named Jake Jate, and he has a whole gamers church thing through Twitch. And he plays hours a day. And he's building a community through Twitch and ministering to people when that per request, and they hold Bible studies.

[00:18:56.730] – Kenny Jahng

It really is a community. Just to give you the scale, if you guys listening today to this conversation, haven't been on Twitch, this is something that actually is happening. It is real. I think as of 2022, there's over 140,000,000 monthly active users on Twitch and 30 million daily active users on Twitch at this point. And we're not talking about like the average YouTube video of four to six minutes, right? We're talking about streams of 4 hours, 6 hours long that they're streaming on Twitch on YouTube. This thing is a cultural phenomenon that shouldn't be ignored. And I love these pioneers in that area. Roblox is another gaming platform, right? Like, that's another area where there's a Robloxian church.

[00:19:43.120] – DJ Chuang

That's right there's. A young guy named Daniel Heron in his teens started a Robloxian for Christians in a robot church, and that's reaching thousands. And so a young enthusiastic follower of Christ started reaching out to his fellow gamers on Roblox and now they have a whole Christian community and a church on Roadblocks. And it's a fascinating story how people are reaching people on technology, but reaching people because they're people on the other side of the screen are real people with real needs spiritually. And it's a huge mission field that people can go to as their I guess they got to be good at games, but just like a missionary has to learn the language of the people, gamers have to learn language of gaming.

[00:20:38.190] – Kenny Jahng

Now, one of the things that I always look forward to is discovering these new case examples of churches. But one of the things I think that is a thread that I've seen, that I've noticed, especially like church plants or these innovative new ones, is the comfort and ease and adoption and use of church domain name as their website address. I think back in the day is it the Gen Xers? I was going to say boomers, but it's not even boomers. There's so much discomfort, even millennials maybe. Is it discomfort with these unique Gtods? But it seems like in particular in the church space, church plants and tech oriented digitally native ministries in particular, just like the ones that we just rattled off today, was not intentional. Right. Not just filtering it out, but imagine that church or daily church or twelve church or PGN church. There's all these church church ministries. It seems like there's more comfort or more acceptance of this domain name.

[00:21:54.050] – DJ Chuang

Yes.

[00:21:54.900] – Kenny Jahng

Any thoughts on why it seems to be that isn't a domain name a choice of the technology advanced or the digitally native today?

[00:22:03.590] – DJ Chuang

Well, for one, available for two, it clearly identifies who you are. Three, it shows that you're future oriented. So you're with the times.com. Just says you're old. It dates back to the 60s. That's almost two generations in the past. And then church. Every time I talk with people about a dot church website or domain name, it gets people's attention. It stands out.

[00:22:32.320] – Kenny Jahng

Yeah.

[00:22:33.310] – DJ Chuang

When people just say.com dot, oh, that's just another website. It doesn't grab people's attention. And hey, we're in the attention economy and people's attention are very short. So when you're able to grab the attention, have a brandable domain name like a church, it just becomes very valuable and it fits the future orientedness of creating the future of the church.

[00:22:56.790] – Kenny Jahng

I guess so I guess it stands out, but it also doesn't make them flinch. Right. I don't think anyone flinches at a church website anymore. Now if you say dot football or shopping or shoes or something, people like what? But I get it. Right. Like dot church is not something that's widely just received as normal today.

[00:23:21.410] – DJ Chuang

Yeah. I'll mention one more thing just to let the numbers speak.

[00:23:25.110] – Kenny Jahng

Yeah.

[00:23:25.480] – DJ Chuang

So I just checked yesterday and there's over 30,000 doctors domain names registered. If you think of the US, there's about 330,000 churches over 3000 close a year. So we're right at that 10% mark. So that's kind of a tipping point. It's becoming very mainstream and normal. So that helps to give the social proof why it's becoming very acceptable not only for the next gen but for churches at large.

[00:23:57.710] – Kenny Jahng

Absolutely. Yeah. Once it gets into that double digit lane, things start to happen, which I think is really interesting. So I think we're at the point where church domain names are available, widely available. It's not like if you're searching for.com domain name, good luck. You're going to need to find some permutation that's convoluted. But dot church is still at the point where if you're looking for a brand's name, you probably can find something. Or as we talked last time, you can add a prefix or suffix to it and get something very closer that's meaningful and intentional, but yet there's enough that there's awareness and there's usage out there, particularly, I think, right now. DJ, if you go to the registername.com and actually use a promo code that we have as Future Church, if you use the promo code, Future Church, one word, no spaces. Just use that promo code, you'll actually get the largest discount available for your domain name. So if you are part of that ministry, or even if you're not on behalf of the church, you might want to grab the church's domain name, something that's relevant, and then you might even gift it to the church or share it with the team.

[00:25:16.240] – Kenny Jahng

It's not much at all. Right, DJ? The cost of a domain name actually is not it's. It's an impulse buy at this point. It's not a $600 purchase or anything like that. Right, DJ?

[00:25:27.430] – DJ Chuang

Right. I forget what the discount price is, but I believe it's under $10 for the first year. So much more affordable.

[00:25:35.520] – Kenny Jahng

No brainer.

[00:25:36.730] – DJ Chuang

TLDs.

[00:25:38.890] – Kenny Jahng

Yes, absolutely. So I would go to name church. It's a great registrar. There are any other registrar that sells it. There's many other others out there, but the promo code is for Name Church. If you go to Name Church, check it out, do a quick search right now, hop on your mobile and see if your domain name is available. Use the promo code. Future church. All one word, no spaces. Check out and you got a domain name that makes sense. Well, DJ, thank you so much for hanging out with me today. Today was fun. You know what? If we do another podcast about this, we might challenge Rogan and go for 3 hours marathon talking about the future of the church. That might be something you can cross off your bucket list real soon. I'll tell you what, we'll leave it up to the people vote. If the Internet votes, maybe we do that. Do me a favor, email me at kenny@churchtechtoday.com, tweet us, or send us a DM on Instagram at ChurchTECH today, we would love to know what your thoughts are on some of this newfangled stuff. The gamer church, the church only model, hybrid models, et cetera.

[00:26:47.320] – Kenny Jahng

Let us know. But more importantly, the Internet. We want to know what you think. Should DJ and I sit down for a multi hour conversation where we just hang out the cord and hey, maybe we can have some guests invite people on from the audience to feel part of that time. DJ, what do you think?

[00:27:06.730] – DJ Chuang

That would be fantastic. Just like the old days on Talk Box when you had this video chat and people come and go. The water cooler, the virtual water cooler.

[00:27:19.770] – Kenny Jahng

Absolutely. You know what? If we actually do this kind of stuff, this is another reason why you buy domain names and keep them. I've got this domain name that might be perfect for this podcast if we actually end up doing this Rogan style stuff. It's called. We should have recorded that. That'd be the perfect name for a podcast.

[00:27:38.850] – DJ Chuang

Hey, wasn't it you that actually got.

[00:27:44.530] – Kenny Jahng

Yes.

[00:27:47.170] – DJ Chuang

And what's amazing TikTok is now trending. So church talk actually could be a thing again.

[00:27:56.550] – Kenny Jahng

It could be. Let us know. Let Internet make your vote. Email me at kenny@churchtechtoday.com or send us a DM to any of our channels on Insta, Twitter. You can also look me up on LinkedIn. DJ, thank you so much for hanging out with us today. You'll have to come back soon. Another time. Everybody here, we really appreciate the community. We want to hear from you. What do you you want to talk about? What do you want to hear? Who do you want to hear from? Let us know, because we want to make this all for you. In the meantime, make sure to get out there, engage, be social, and stay social.

CTT Staff
CTT Staffhttps://churchtechtoday.com
ChurchTechToday is the #1 church technology website for pastors, communicators, and leaders. With the goal to provide insight into a variety of topics including social media, websites, worship, media, mobile, and software, ChurchTechToday aims to shed light on how church technology can empower and position churches for impact and growth.

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