By Glenda Warren, marketing manager, New Directions Christian Church
In Memphis, one of the denomination’s largest churches is emerging as a leader in the use of technology to reach the unchurched.
New Direction Christian Church, led by Senior Pastor Dr. Stacy L. Spencer, began in 2001 with 60 members as a church plant of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. During its first worship experience the church had to place speakers on the lawn to accommodate the size of the crowd. In 11 years, New Direction has seen more than 23,000 join its ministry and has added multiple campuses. Current membership is reported as around 15,000.
Using methods different from many traditional churches, Dr. Spencer is able to translate the Word of God using today’s current events, situations, technology, creativity, drama and dance. Dr. Spencer is well known for using real life examples, even urban hip-hop references, to reach and equip members with the practical tools needed to live as God would desire.
Once the church reached critical mass, it began to mobilize and search for opportunities to serve and reach more of the community. Outreach became a major part of the ministry’s work and it began to search for ways to use technology to spread God’s word to the masses. Many of the unchurched were found online. In 2004, New Direction began to stream its services online. Now there are nearly 1000 online viewers each Sunday from as far away as South Africa and Japan.
When the social media craze took off, New Direction embraced it as a means to carry the Gospel. It set up Facebook and Twitter pages for the church and its senior pastor. Dr. Spencer posts his daily devotionals as well as daily affirmations and personal posts on a regular basis to social media sites. His Facebook fan page has more than 11,000 followers, many of which comment or share his posts regularly, extending the reach.
New Direction uses technology both to stay connected to members and to interact with them via text messaging, e-mail blasts, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
In an effort to stay connected to members on the go, the church decided in 2010 to build a church app for iPhone, iPad and Android users to download. The New Direction Christian Church app provides the opportunity for users to watch live worship services, view archived sermons, read daily devotional blog posts, request prayer and give from their smartphone devices.
During mid-week Bible Study, Dr. Spencer takes time to communicate directly with the online viewers via Facebook Connect and live streaming.
When trying to reach the unchurched and younger generations who may not come to a church building, New Direction Christian Church, works to be a light to the world.