Rawlings School of Divinity
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
Jacob Tyler Dunlow
online, virtual, social, community, connection, fellowship
Matts, Andrew Charles, "Virtual Recovery: Bringing the Kingdom to an Online Community" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4301.
Soon after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, the fledgling church community divided into two camps: One favoring the inclusion of Gentile converts only if they observed traditional Jewish Law and custom (e.g., circumcision) and the other, led by Paul, asserting that following Jesus did not require such formality and legalism. A lengthy debate concluded by reaching into the Gentile community to provide a captivating kingdom message of hope, love, and compassion. Today, the traditional, physical church community faces a growing challenge: reaching into a growing online community by providing a captivating kingdom message, while recognizing that potential recipients of the message may be averse to physical church attendance. Lifehouse Church, in the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., has wrestled with how it can best address this gap and has undertaken a strategic development plan. This study addresses a potential Lifehouse Church online ministry by reaching both internally and externally via quantitative and qualitative analysis, with a sample population of about 100 and sample size including 38 quantitative responses and eight substantive interviews. The resulting insights offered some important conclusions, including the need for positive, tailored, and targeted messages that resonate with the unique needs of the virtual audience. These conclusions offer a foundation and suggest ample opportunity for future research into how best to bring Christ’s message to the online mission field from a community church forum.