Black Church Moves Into the Digital Age

The web is the new frontier for Black church

(Image: Mike Street)

Cyberspace is the church of the future. With advances being made in the social and digital worlds, seeing your pastor reading from an iPad may not be so farfetched.

A growing number of churches are looking toward modern technology to spread the word of God, increase membership, raise funds, and help keep their parish updated on the latest events and happenings within their worship community. During South by Southwest (SXSW), several members of various churches around the country gathered to discuss how the church has advanced in the age of social media. Blacks in Technology’s “The Black Church in Cyberspace” panel at SXSW Interactive on Sunday had panelists—Geraldine Rosa Henderson, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School; Rev. Joan R. Harrell, founder of RacismContradictsChristianity.com; Damon O’Brien, host / producer of 3rd Coast Fiyah / 3CF Productions; Pam Perry, public relations coach and social media strategist; and Corey Tabor, founder and lead pastor of Full Life Community Church, and founder and president of III Coaching, LLC—delve right into the role the web plays in Black worship.

Rev. Harrell, whose site is a multimedia hub of sorts, is bringing traditional Sunday morning worship services to the masses. Offering social media icons for easy shareability, her parish, Trinity United Church of Christ, has a digital pastor, known affectionately as the Digi-Pastor, who worships alongside members virtually on the web. The live worship experience is one of the church’s most popular features where members can watch service in real-time—wherever there’s an Internet connection—as well as live chat with other members of the parish via the site. Rev. Harrell also hosts a weekly podcast where she sermons and talks to members of the online parish. “This allows us to unite everyone from around the globe and gives us a much larger digital visual footprint.”

It’s the concept of uniting worshipers and meeting them where they are that’s prevalent in the age of digital worship. “Thank God for cyberspace!” said publisher of KineticsLive.com Jamye Wooten. His faith-based organization leverages Twitter chats and other new media tools to spread the message of social justice and social activism.

O’Brien, known to many as DJ D-Lite, is all about spreading the word; his method of choice is through music. He’s established the Austin Holy Hip Hop Alliance, a citywide network of those using hip-hop in ministry, and soon after formed Jamz by Jesus Christ (JXJC), an organized outreach effort by those in the Austin music community to incorporate faith-based music at SXSW. His brand has evolved into 3rd Coast Fiyah and is now hosted on DaSouth Radio Network, receiving 2 millions impressions per month.

The Black church has greatly evolved and some communities are quickly adapting the latest digital tools. The panelists are all helping to push the Black church in the right direction. These pioneers know that the web is the new frontier for the Black Church, and there’s a huge opportunity to carve out a space for the church in cyberspace.

Follow BlackEnterprise.com’s coverage of 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) at blackenterprise.com/technology.

ACROSS THE WEB