In a recent essay in New York Magazine, English author Andrew Sullivan states that “the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction.” He criticizes how churches have traded their places of sanctuary and contemplative prayer for “spaces drowned with light and noise” and “emotional spasms.” He praises solitude and meditation as a balm for those who are drained from constant web interaction.

The quiet retreat of a contemplative church might draw what Sullivan calls “a frazzled digital generation” to its doors, but that doesn’t mean churches can expect to reach the app-addicted without having an online presence. According to Darrel Girardier, digital strategy director at Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee, churches will indeed have to start asking themselves how they will provide solace from those who are overly connected, but they can’t deny the impact they have when they become part of a person’s daily digital habit. “Whether we like it or not, this is going to be the future,” Girardier said. “We have to figure out how to get there.”

For two churches in Valdosta, Georgia, however, apps are the future they’re embracing right now.

The Virtual Gathering Place

Building an online presence for CrossPointe Church in Valdosta, Georgia, was never a question for its leaders. According to the church’s communications director, Janetta Oni, if there were simply one physical place in town where everyone gathered, the church would need to go there to meet and minister to people. The space to be right now, however, is virtual.

“All the media on people’s cell phones—Facebook and Instagram and apps—it ...

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