Download The City iPhone App
The City iPhone App is available for download! Now you can access The City–which is Grace Church’s online meeting place–on your phone. Download the app at the App Store or by searching for “The City: Your Church Community” in the App Store.

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What’s The City?
At Grace Church, we use The City for church-wide communication. The City is where we share announcements and RSVP to events. It’s also a place where we share needs and prayer requests and ways to get involved.

We encourage all members and visitors to our church to participate in The City.

Request An Invite
To request an invite to Grace Church’s City, email the church staff here or sign up at the Welcome Table on Sundays.

Sign In To The City
To sign into The City, go to our web site www.graceofalexandria.org and click Life at GCA from the menu.

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Most guests who drop in to check out Grace Church of Alexandria on Sundays heard about us through our web site. When our church was a fledgling church plant, and even now as a fully established church, hands down, our web site is the #1 way people first have connected with the church, and have decided to check out our church family.

We are indebted to the excellent team at The Worthwhile Company for designing and hosting a stellar web site and blog for us. I want to give a shout out to them, because they’re one of the key reasons our church plant was able to establish a clear identity in our community of West End Alexandria, without having the visibility of our own church building. Perhaps they can help your ministry or non-profit too.

The designers, programmers, and strategists at Worthwhile have never truly been satisfied with the site they created for us, but have regularly suggested improvements and enhancements as the web has changed and as their skills as a team have increased. If your church plant, church, or ministry is looking for a creative, reliable, effective partner to establish or strengthen your web presence, I heartily recommend you check out Worthwhile.

We have been blessed that not only did Worthwhile put their brains and skill to work for our church plant, their lead designer (the one who designed our web site) Dave Ruse and his wife ended up relocating to Alexandria, Virginia, to become members of our church and lend a hand in even more personal, meaningful ways. Truly, the team at Worthwhile are fast friends and key partners in our mission of making the glory and majesty of Christ known inside the Washington D.C. beltway. These are just a few of the many ministry partners that helped our gospel preaching church get off the ground, and we give thanks to the Lord Jesus for them.

p.s. Worthwhile recently set up a foundation called Web For Good that creates and maintains ministry web sites free of charge to needy, deserving ministries. Check it out! www.webforgood.org

In this third and final post on Technology and the Gospel, we’ll overview useful web-based technology that churches, particularly church plants, can utilize for effective ministry. It could be titled “Technology and Church Planting.” The gospel itself is the power of God to salvation, so these tools do not enhance the gospel. Rather, they are effective ways for a church plant to organize, equip, and spread word about God’s gospel work in and through the body of Christ. If you’d like, see Part I here and Part II here.

Church Web Site & Blog
Web site – www.graceofalexandria.org
A carefully-planned, quality-designed, and regularly-updated web site is indispensable for starting a church. You get what you pay for. If you don’t keep the content on your site fresh, you lose credibility with visitors. Not sure where to turn for help? The Worthwhile Company has done a great job creating and suppporting our web presence.

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Google Calendar – calendar.graceofalexandria.org
Our church needed a simple, easy-to-use online calendar for our congregation to know what’s coming up at Grace Church of Alexandria. We’ve found Google calendar to be problem-free and easy to integrate into our web site.

Leadership Team’s Blog – www.graceofalexandria.org/blog
We’ve structured this church blog as part of our church’s web site. That way when web visitors find this blog, they’re already on our church’s web site, may navigate to other pages on the site, and then consider visiting our church. We post news of coming events as well as include audio and lyrics to new songs the congregation is learning. In addition, often we share pictures such as these from our Hot Tub Baptism to show friends and donors to our ministry how God is using their prayers and support.

Google Analytics – www.google.com/analytics
A free tool to gauge your web site’s effectiveness in reaching the residents of your community.

Social Media
Twitter – www.twitter.com/gracealexandria
People have discovered and attended our church via Twitter. It’s an easy way to get word out about your church, speak brief encouraging messages to your congregation, and inform attenders about coming events.

Facebook Fan Page – See GCA’s here.
A free page to spread word about your church in your community and to update your congregation on coming events and opportunities to serve.

Collaborative Tools
Google Docs – docs.google.com
This suite of online tools like spreadsheets and word processor allows teams within your church to work together effectively without needing to be in the same place. Best of all, it’s free, unless you want the ad-free version.

Action Method –www.actionmethod.com
If a team within the church needs to co-operate on task management, this is the tool to use. Action Method is a web-based task management tool with the added benefit of an iPhone app.

Email Communication
phplist – www.phplist.com
This tool makes it easy to send out email newsletters and updates to our regular attenders, members, and supporters of our church plant. We have one newsletter for attenders of GCA and one for prayer partners and supporters of our church planting effort in the Washington D.C. metro area. We keep the emails simple and clean, with lots of pictures to draw interest and visually show God’s grace at work in our church family.

Worship Planning Tools
Planning Center Online – www.planningcenteronline.com. Tools like this enable pastors and others who plan worship to do so easily, keeping an archive of past orders of worship and tracking who is available to pray, read, and play instruments in corporate worship.

Sermon Podcasting
Sunday sermons are posted here as a blog post with a player embedded in each post. They’re also accessible via iTunes, an RSS feed, and our church’s main web site. You may think we’re going overboard with so many venues to access our sermon podcast. We’ve found that the average guest to Grace Church of Alexandria has already listened to at least one, if not several, sermons on our podcast. That’s how they know we’re committed to expository preaching that takes the Bible seriously. Numerous members of our church have told me they were eager to visit GCA after listening to our sermons online, because they knew how we handle and preach the Word of God.

I’d like to thank our church’s “deacon of technology,” Shayne McAllister and Peter Beninate, for the contributions they’ve made in managing and enabling the tools our church relies upon. What are other web-based tools you’ve found useful for church ministry and church planting? Share them in the comments area below.

The Spirit + Technology = The Ends of the Earth

In the last discussion on technology, I concentrated on how we can abuse technology’s power, but let’s not overlook the good ways technology can be used: especially when the Holy Spirit is in control. Have you ever considered that the extent to which the internet covers the earth is mostly the extent to which God’s Word is accessible to people? Remember, out of the same mouth flows blessing as well as cursing. You can encourage the body of Christ via email, Facebook, AOL Instant Messenger, and yes, even with your iPhone. You can witness of God’s love to an unbeliever, or even promote your local body of believers so others can join you.

Because you are reading this post on our blog, you may be somewhat technologically savvy, but I want to illustrate the power of today’s technology for missions. My brother, Brannon McAllister, recently took a trip to the Balkans with our dear friends at Frontline Missions International to help shoot photography of missions work going on in Albania and Kosovo. You can see his work in the upcoming Dispatches from the Front, Part 2 in early 2010. Meanwhile, check out Part 1 of Dispatches From the Front.

While on his trip, Brannon was able to use the very popular website Twitter.com to post updates about the trip. He even posted a picture of a village in Albania that, as far as they knew, had never heard the gospel. I was also able to talk to my brother through an internet video chat from Kosovo.

In case you missed it, that means the internet is in Kosovo. . . which means the message of the Gospel is available there too! Let’s be thankful to the Maker of heaven and earth for the internet. He is sovereign over the rapid advance of technology in the past 25 years, and He is using the internet to further his kingdom. Christians throughout history have been “early adopters” of new means of communication. The next words we think of after “Gutenberg” are “printing press” and “Bible.” Christian preachers were some of the first to use radio, and (unfortunately for some) television. Why should the internet be any different? We make the best use of technology that we know how. We want to reach the ends of the earth, both physical and virtual, with the good news of the gospel.

The goal of reaching “the ends of the earth” is not limited to reaching the most remote places on earth, but also those places that are unreached by sheer numbers. Some evangelical authors such as Timothy J. Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan argue that we should concentrate our evangelistic efforts on cities because

  1. there is a higher concentration of people;
  2. culture emanates from cities to the surrounding areas, and
  3. this is the pattern of the early church.

In the Internet Age, this concept of the urban concentration of evangelism has a digital component. Not only are there higher concentrations of people in cities, but there are increasingly higher concentrations of people online. In general, culture is often made in cities, and it is increasingly distributed online. Grace Church is a small city of believers that is bringing a new kind of culture to the city of Alexandria. We want to distribute the good news to Alexandria, and to the ends of the earth.

How can you use technology to reach people with the gospel? Think about it, and we will be talking about practical ways to do that coming up here on the blog.

Technology

Fallen Tongue + Immense Power = Trouble

One of our members describes Grace Church of Alexandria as one of the most “wired” churches he knows of. This may be true. The average Grace Church member is a Mac user, who is using an iPhone to check their Gmail account. Is that a good thing? Is the technology in our lives just background noise in a world that needs more clarity and less confusion? I struggle with this as a computer technician. My job for a while was to know the latest technology for my clients, and support them when it broke.

Throughout history, Christians have struggled with technological advances, and you will see many well meaning Christians speak out against radio, television and the Internet: as if these were the problem. Of course our real problem is our sin nature, and ultimately us.

James 3:8-10 – “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (ESV)

In the time of James, the tongue was the primary form of communication. Today, I would think our communication usually runs through some kind of technology first before it arrives at the intended audience. The tongue was to James what email and Facebook are to some of us. Take a look at your communication over the next week, and count the opportunities you have to sin with the Internet. James is trying to tell us that the medium is not the problem, because it can be good or bad, depending on who controls it.

Technology tends to amplify our problem with communication. As with most things, greater power means greater responsibility is needed. We can email people quickly without thinking. Have you ever clicked “Send” and regretted it? We get on Facebook, Twitter, and email and communicate too much. Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 says Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.” (ESV)

Note: I’ll be posting more on technology & church planting over the next few weeks.

Follow Grace Church on Twitter!

December 16th, 2008

You can now follow Grace Church of Alexandria on Twitter! Click here or go to our home page and click where it says “Follow us on Twitter.” We’ll update you on our church planting efforts, tell you about new blog posts like this one, and share random happenings about our church family. Kudos to Garrett Lee for getting Grace Church started on Twitter.

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