JESUS' MANDATE IS CLEAR: "Go and make disciples of all nations." But how can one congregation accomplish this in today's hectic, time-starved climate? One answer is to harness the power of technology.
A young woman lives in Beijing, China. Every morning, she walks to an Internet café, where she logs on to one of their computer stations.
More than 4,000 miles away in Australia, a man sits in front of his computer screen every evening.
In a Georgia hospital room, a young man is glued to a laptop monitor.
In Texas, an 8-year-old girl saw something on her computer that stirred her enough to insist that her parents drive her more than 700 miles from Texas to Huntsville, Alabama.
And a mother-to-be on complete bed rest is able to attend services with her church family each week.
These people have never laid eyes on each other, yet they are members of the same virtual congregation. An Internet Web site, www.Churchpond.com, known to most as Churchpond, has touched each of these lives.
From Humble Beginnings
Churchpond did not arise out of a series of committee meetings attended by influential decision-makers, nor did a group of well-heeled investors get together and pool their resources to turn the world upside down. Instead, Churchpond barely made a ripple upon its arrival.
It happened back in the fall of 2002. Urick LaDonis joined a group of other Seventh-day Adventist twenty somethings, college students, and recent graduates, who would meet for vespers on Friday nights. Many of the students found themselves isolated from their churches back home, and disconnected from fellow believers in the Atlanta area.
Urick, known to family and friends as an inventor and innovator, began to think of a way for these students to have access to Christian content whenever they wished. He came up with the idea to film these vesper programs and stream them online so that students could watch them from their dorm rooms. As time passed, this service grew to include church services and flooded its banks to include a wider cross-section of the Adventist community.
Today, Churchpond has its own Web site, which streams live and prerecorded programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Letters, e-mails, and phone calls come in from around the world—Australia, China, India, Trinidad, Jamaica, the African continent, Korea, Europe, and across the United States. Churchpond has come a long way from sharing a weekly vesper service.
The Churchpond network now includes churches in the United States, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Bermuda, and Canada. More than 120,000 viewers per month access the Web site to view sermons from around the world. The site has presented remote broadcasts of various events, including camp meetings and international mission trips. Churchpond has also hosted evangelistic campaigns, including InterNet, a quarterly evangelistic series developed by its own staff
Urick and Dacia, his wife, are passionate about Churchpond's potential to reach as easily into the farthest corners of the world as into the house next door. Together they have sacrificed and invested long hours in this ministry. Although excited about Churchpond's potential, they are quick to point out that this is not a substitute for church.
"We developed Churchpond to meet the needs of people who for one reason or another could not make it to church," says Dacia. "We had a special burden for students, convalescents, and those on maternity or paternity leave." Her face and her voice reflect strong emotions whenever she tells of people whose lives were touched through Churchpond. She and Urick believe that ultimately it is not possible to prevent "misuse" of something even as benign as Churchpond, but they trust that if this is truly a tool inspired by God, He will use it as He sees fit.
How It Works
First, a church decides it wants to air programming on Churchpond. In the early days, Urick had to actively seek out churches; now it is increasingly common for churches to contact him, seeking to present their services to a wider audience. Once an agreement is reached, Urick trains the church's sound and video staff on how best to capture the service and upload it to Churchpond so that it can be streamed live to those who would view it.
It sounds fairly straightforward, but Urick, Dacia, and other committed volunteers have spent long days and sleepless nights keeping everything moving. In fact, the project has become so time-consuming that Urick, a former IBM employee, has devoted himself full-time to developing and maintaining Churchpond.
Urick believes that much of the success of Churchpond is due to many who have lent their time, support, resources to the ministry. Urick also credits Carlton P. Byrd and William L. Winston, former pastors, of the Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church in Atlanta, as well as the Berean membership, for supporting Churchpond since its early days. Additionally, forward-thinking conference and union leaders have by their support opened a number of avenues of ministry to Churchpond.
Another invaluable contributor is Kurt Shull, an editor and videographer whom Urick met on a mission to India. Kurt now produces and edits a great majority of the mission videos on Churchpond. In addition, Churchpond has been sustained by donations from people around the world. However, above and beyond all these, Urick and Dacia believe they have seen the hand of God in the progression of Churchpond from a vesper to a global communications medium.
As the power of the Internet and associated digital technologies continue to be unleashed in new and unpredictable ways, Churchpond is looking forward to enhancing and expanding its ministry. The Churchpond team shares the goal that this ministry be utilized by the church body as a witnessing tool to introduce people to Jesus Christ.
Oh, were you wondering about the people mentioned at the beginning of this story? Well, here's what you did not know. The girl in Beijing is 10 years old. She does not walk down the block, or across the street to the Internet café. She walks 10 miles each way, to hear a message that she can hear nowhere else but on Churchpond.
Mr. Primus in Australia does not watch Churchpond by himself. He invites all of his neighbors to come join his family, and together they hear the gospel presented across almost 10,000 miles of fiber-optic cable.
The young man in the hospital has been laid to rest. He was only 40 years old when he died from cancer. But right up to the end, he was able to worship with his church family, to hear and see them pray for him, and to be encouraged.
That young woman from Texas was 8 years old when she tuned in to Churchpond. She watched the services of the Madison Mission Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, and insisted that her parents drive her there so she could be baptized. She was baptized in that same baptismal pool she first saw on Churchpond. That is not the end of her story, though; her mother and her father were also baptized in that pool and are now members of the Madison Mission church.
And the young mother-to-be on bed rest? She's my wife. Thanks to Churchpond, though confined to our home, we were able to watch church services each Sabbath during the weeks leading up to, and the weeks following, our daughter's birth.
*** And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matt. 24:14, KJV).
Please note: Our Story was published in the Adventist Review (2008).
By D. Dwayne Adams
Churchpond Ministries, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered in the state of Georgia.
We are an independent ministry seeking to advance the Advent message through technology.
Mission: Churchpond is dedicated to spreading the message of God's love through technology to those who don't know Christ as Savior and to supporting those who are already believers.
Vision: The Churchpond network is the preeminent online technology oriented broadcaster and producer of Christian programming with a worldwide presence and diverse appeal.
Christianity - We are an organization founded on two main principals, 1) Christian values, and 2) embracing the shared Christian goal of spreading the gospel. We believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior of all mankind and that the Bible is God's guide book for everyone. As such, we hold ourselves to high standards and provide content that will inspire and encourage viewers to develop strong, personal relationships with Jesus Christ. We believe that truthfulness, respect, and uncompromising integrity are integral to Churchpond Ministry, Inc. and under no circumstances will we fail to act in accordance to these principles.
Technology - The foundation of this ministry is innovation through technology. Churchpond continually seeks ways to apply new technology in spreading the gospel. Our fundamental concept is "Evangelism Through Technology."
Client/Customer Focus - Churchpond's primary audience is its viewers, listeners, and content providers. We believe that we owe all who log on to www.churchpond.com a commitment to quality programming, applicable to all age groups. In order to satisfy our worldwide viewership, we feel we have an obligation to be respectful, professional and responsive and may all efforts towards this accomplishment.
High-Tech Outreach Nets Baptisms
Woman heard God's voice, but tipping point came at Internet seminar.
Ten years ago, Brenda Perkins was hanging up the laundry on Saturday afternoon, when she received the strong impression (she believes from the Lord) that Saturday is the Sabbath. She was impressed to go and read Exodus 20, and the very next Sabbath, she walked over to the Mount Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Athens, Georgia.
For a decade, this former Baptist had attended the Mount Olive church on and off, but never really made a commitment. However, God was busy working behind the scenes.
In early 2007 someone handed Perkins an Amazing Facts home Bible study course, which she completed.
The "final straw" arrived in the form of Churchpond's online revival series InterNet. Perkins was invited to the Mount Olive church to view a downlink presentation of the series. The theme —"The Ten Commandments Revealed"—was presented by Carlton P. Byrd, former senior pastor of the Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church in Atlanta.
After attending the 10-day presentation, Perkins decided to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In June 2007 Robert Guerrero, pastor of the Mount Olive church, baptized Ms. Perkins at the South Atlantic Conference camp meeting.
Perkins' story is that of a woman seeking truth and finding it. It is also a story of the importance of each element of the church's evangelistic efforts. From Bible workers to members handing out tracts and inviting neighbors to church, Perkins' testimony showcases the classic efforts of the church to invite new believers.
In addition, this story also illustrates the use of technology to spread the gospel. Churchpond.com is an online ministry best known for streaming live and archived church sermons. Its worldwide reach has resulted in baptisms as near as Texas and as far away as China.
Churchpond.com founder Urick LaDonis reports at least four people were baptized as a result of the 2007 outreach. With church involvement ballooning from two churches (involved in Internet evangelism) in 2006, and four churches in 2007, to almost 15 churches in InterNet '08.
Churchpond is currently planning InterNet 2013.
Photo: Ms. Perkins meets Urick LaDonis.
Thank you for your interest in supporting Churchpond Ministries. Your generosity helps us continue our mission of leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
Make your check payable to "Churchpond Ministries, Inc" and mail it to:
P.O. Box 310147
Atlanta, GA 31131
Please note: Donations to Churchpond are tax deductible.