I’ve worked in online ministry for more than a decade now. I’ve met so many incredible people along the way, but there is one leader that stands out more than any other. This leader impacted thousands of people’s lives online, but not in a surface way. This leader built deep and meaningful relationships with individuals all over the world impacting so many lives through the Internet. This person is likely not who you might expect to be pioneering online ministry.
Her name is Ruthi Crockett.
Ruthi is a widow in her 70s. I met Ruthi about 6 years ago at a ministry fair in the lobby of Community Bible Church. She was looking to connect with a different ministry, but our Online Church booth had no visitors. Ruthi is the friendliest person in the world and came over to meet us and learn what we were doing. As a former missionary with a global mindset Ruthi instantly was attracted to online ministry, but admitted that she wasn’t a techie. She said she had an iPad and was available and willing to serve.
I began meeting with Ruthi on a weekly basis in my office at the church where I would teach her about the basics around Facebook and online interaction. Our time discussing technology was probably only 10% of our conversations as the conversations quickly turned to her speaking into my life and becoming the greatest encourager into my life and the ministry God had called me to lead.
Ruthi diligently served the ministry on a daily basis and has continued to do so for the past 6 years. She once heard that midnight was the peak time that people looked at pornography on the Internet, so she committed to host an online church service EVERY NIGHT at midnight to make sure that there was another option with real people available to connect. She did this every single night for more than a year. She also met a pastor from Nepal in one of our online services and became his women’s pastor. I’m not joking. She would wake up at 4am on Saturday mornings and lead a women’s Bible study in Nepal where 20 women gathered around a computer all sitting on the floor to have Ruthi speak into their lives via Skype and a translator. Here is a picture of Ruthi leading one of these Bible studies in Nepal:
I could share story after story of the lives that Ruthi impacted and my name being at the top of that list of lives changed because of Ruthi’s online ministry.
As you look to build your online ministry and you are looking for a great leader, I want to encourage you to look for a Ruthi. Here are a few key reasons that I believe Ruthi’s online ministry was so successful:
- She was available – Ruthi dedicated significant time to the ministry and the people she was ministering to
- She was relational – Ruthi really didn’t care about the technology, but prioritized the relationships that she was building online
- She was real – Ruthi dug in with people sharing from her life experiences and learning about theirs
- She genuinely cared– when people disengaged, Ruthi was persistent to follow up with them and make sure they knew she cared deeply
Here is an interview that I did with Ruthi on the Social Media Church podcast about a year ago:
Today, Ruthi is in her final days as she has been fighting cancer for several years now. I will never forget sitting in Ruthi’s hospital room about 4 years ago when a doctor walked in to tell her that she has cancer. I’m as emotional now as I was then where my jaw dropped. Ruthi’s didn’t. I’m embarrassed to admit that in that moment when I wanted to comfort Ruthi, she actually comforted me as she wasn’t afraid of cancer. She smiled and told me that it was going to be okay and that she wasn’t scared and trusted her doctors.
Ruthi is one of the most incredible people I have ever known. Her life has impacted countless lives of everyone who came in contact with her whether in the flesh or online. I can’t even begin to effectively describe how meaningful her relationship has been to me.
I love you and will miss you more than I can say. Thank you for trusting me and locking arms with me in serving the online ministry of Community Bible Church. Thank you for investing in me personally and for the countless hours of conversation around just about everything. Thank you for all the prayers, all the hugs, all the encouraging notes, all the phone call and just being who you are. I will miss you, but will celebrate your crossing the finish line and worshiping in Heaven.
Thank you and I love you,
From vlogs to promotional content, webinars, live streams, inspirational content and more, videos are becoming the core to social media content! It is only right that you find the best platform to host your videos and suit your needs. The answer? Vimeo. In this video, I share 6 Vimeo features that I love.
I’ve been dreaming about Virtual Reality Church for about 5 years now ever since the first time I tried on the Oculus Rift headset. So much so that when the .Church TLD opened up, the first domain that I bought was VirtualReality.Church as I was convinced that Virtual Reality Church was going to be a big part of the future.
Last night I had the privilege of attending my first Virtual Reality Church service led by my friend DJ Soto with VRChurch.com. To be honest, it wasn’t what I envisioned at all. It was much different.
You see, I dreamed of a physical church worship service being streamed out in 360 video so that it could feel like you were there.
What I experienced last night was much different. To be honest, it was so much more than I dreamed. What DJ has created is a church that fully exists in Virtual Reality.
Here’s what my experience was like:
I logged into the AltVR app after first creating an avatar and jumped into the VR Church event. When I arrived I saw about 20-30 people “standing around’ chatting much like you would experience in a church lobby. Except these people were all digital avatars. You could move around and click on people to see their names and then walk up to them and have a conversation. This is hard to describe, something you really have to experience.
Shortly after popping into the Virtual Church a friend named David came and said hello. I asked him where he was from and how he found the church. He said he was from Australia and found it listening to my podcast! What a start to my first visit! Then I connected the dots and realized that David is a friend I know (fairly well) having met multiple times face to face. This personalized the experience much more and then shortly after this interaction, the pastor (DJ Soto) came and greeted me personally.
Next thing I new a countdown clock popped up on the big screen and people began to gather in the virtual auditorium area. They started with a worship song that played with words on the screen and then an announcement time followed by a sermon led by the pastor. The service itself was less than an hour and much like a physical church service, but in Virtual Reality.
After the service the pastor announced that next week the venue will look different as they will be having baptisms and communion (can’t wait to see what that’s like). Then people stayed and fellowshipped together. This is probably what caught my attention the most. This was real, genuine fellowship and very few people left immediately after the worship service like you see in most physical churches. It was so interesting!
As I’ve processed the service comparing my expectations to my experience, I continue to be blown away. It’s my belief that this is fully church and there will be hundreds of Virtual Reality Churches in the next 10 years. And my opinion is also that these will be healthy spiritual communities for many. I believe this is part of the future of the church, but this is not the future of the church. This is an expression of the church in a unique new space that has not previously existed.
I believe that physical churches will launch virtual churches like this with avatars and a preacher preaching through avatars or even a preacher preaching on the video screen like you see in video venue churches. I believe churches will also live stream their services in VR or offer them on-demand so that those that can’t be there physically can experience in this immersive environment.
There are so many possibilities that are opening up and I’m more excited than ever! I would love for you to join me next Sunday at VR Church and experience it for yourself. I believe it will be a historic moment as I’m guessing this will be the first time that people share communion and baptism in Virtual Reality.