How can churches not just survive but thrive in a digital environment? How can they establish an online identity that is true to their mission and values?
Ministers the world over quickly pivoted to online worship in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, forcing churches to examine how they could engage in authentic worship under difficult circumstances. For many, their initial surge of creativity gave way to fatigue under the weight of the steep learning curve, a drop-off in congregational participation, and myriad other challenges.
Out of his own church’s digital challenges and successes, Justin Bishop offers practical solutions combined with thoughtful biblical and theological reflection to combat these challenges and build a sustainable practice of high-quality online engagement alongside in-person worship. Sensing God Online helps churches strengthen their identity and increase their impact in their communities and the world at large.
This deeply biblical, theological, and practical exploration of Christian worship offers powerful guidance to the church as it navigates the challenges of unsettled worship patterns and traditions. Writing out of his own experience as a leader of worship through this time of pandemic, Justin Bishop re-imagines what it means to be the worshiping people of God in a virtual age. Sensing God Online is the most significant book that any church leader or minister will read in the coming year as they seek to bridge the gap between a gathered community glad to be back in the sanctuary and a scattered one content with virtual worship in its own sacred space beyond those walls.
—Robert N. Nash, Jr.
Arnall-Mann-Thomasson Professor of Mission and Comparative Religions
McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University
While the COVID-19 pandemic’s lasting effects for local congregations may not be fully realized for years, Justin Bishop’s prescient thinking and praxis about worship during this new era should be carefully considered and quickly implemented. Bishop’s call for congregations and leaders to shift from transliterated worship to translated worship should shake all our preconceptions about returning worship to “normal” as things were in pre-COVID days. Sensing God Online combines sturdy scholarship and wisdom with practical and real-world advice for all who seek to lead congregations and individuals in offering their best selves in worship to God.
—Rev. Jody Long
Executive Coordinator Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia
When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, the ground shifted underneath most churches in America. For congregations that were accustomed to gathering at church for worship each Sunday, the pandemic put an end to in-person worship. Most of these congregations resorted to some form of online worship, but learning to use technology while planning meaningful worship experiences proved to be a huge learning curve. Justin Bishop offers practical help for these times by demonstrating how to use technology in creative ways that can appeal to the senses, emotions, and intellect of online worshipers. With theological and biblical awareness, Justin claims that online worship can indeed offer a sacred encounter with God. This book is a must-read for all churches who desire to do online worship with quality, integrity, and creativity.
Associate Dean McAfee School of Theology,
Justin Bishop has written an extraordinary book of personal testimony, theological reflection, and technical tips to encourage and empower leaders of worship in any religious community to discover God, the omnipresent, has been online from the beginning, but people need your help to sense that presence. Bishop draws elegantly and incisively on the Fathers of the Church, his toddler son, the Bible, and the community of his own church to discover God-with-us in every moment, and in every moment to find an opportunity to share God’s presence with others. The valuable technical information Bishop provides leaders of worship are grounded in the principles of gospel communication he clarifies. Bishop’s confessional and theological reflections along the way proclaim that for any worship in any moment we must first return to trust in our evermore immanent God-with-us who calls us to learn anew how to reach and love one another.
—Rev. Michael W. McCann
Retired priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta