Pastor John

Pastor John

An Online Baptism Story

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the baptisms of 35 people at both our Apopka and Lake County campuses. It was a wonderful time of worship, excitement and awe as we witnessed people go all in by going all under in baptism into Jesus.

During that message, I also made a direct appeal to our online audience to respond as well by letting us know they want to follow Jesus and be baptized too, regardless of where they live. Two people from our online community responded that they wanted to be baptized, one of them being a local resident in our area. Her name is Susie.

This past Wednesday, our Online Pastor, Harvey Carpenter, and Adult Discipleship Pastor, Randy Green, met Susie at our Apopka campus and baptized Susie into Christ. Susie had previously attended Journey in person, but for health reasons, like many, she has been with us online only for the last several months.

We have talked a lot this year about going “phygital”—the combination of physical ministry locations with a digital ministry outreach. It’s not an either/or, but a both/and approach to doing ministry. This is the world in which we live and every day it moves faster and further into a phygital future.

I’m so thankful we now have both or else we would miss stories like Susie’s. For most of our history as a local church, we have only had a physical expression of ministry–where people come to a building at a certain geographical location at specified times for services and programs and classes offered by the church.

Several years ago, Tim Wolf had the foresight to begin offering a podcast of the messages from our weekend worship services. That opened the door for people beyond our physical locations to become acquainted with our ministry.

Not long afterward, Mark Wilson started videoing our messages and placing them on YouTube. Now people could not only hear but watch the messages. (BTW: we now have 2724 subscribers to the Journey YouTube channel which are more than there are members of Journey!)

A few years ago, we started livestreaming our worship services allowing people to see the entire worship gathering from beginning to end and even more people locally, as well as out of state, started joining us digitally.

But during the days of Covid quarantines and lockdowns, we all understood the necessity and power of online ministry and it has greatly shifted our approach in how we minister. We must continue to invest and direct some of our best resources to serving our growing online community. We also will continue to safely gather in person for ministry in our buildings. Again, it’s not either/or; it’s both/and.

All the pastors of Journey spent two full days this week learning, planning and preparing to connect a growing community of people—both onsite and online—to a life-changing journey with Jesus. There are exciting opportunities ahead of us along with some challenges that require wisdom and courage. Pray for both for our leaders: that we would have the wisdom to know the right things to do and the courage to do them. And celebrate with us every win along the way—like Susie’s online baptism story. Hers won’t be the last story like that, but it represents an important breakthrough for us. It reminds us that behind the digital screens are actual, real people who need the hope and healing of Jesus just as much as those who sit in a seat beside us on Sundays…and in Christian baptism, a digital viewer becomes a physical disciple of Jesus.

Loving the Phygital Journey,

Pastor John