Creating Community from the Offline to the Online
This article – framed within digital religion studies – analyzes the online religious activities of a non-denominational Christian multisite church, LifePoint Church (LPC). A multisite church is a church with a central location that serves as a hub or production center for the church’s activities and service contents, which are distributed to multiple sites in different locations through video or webcasts. LPC is an international multisite church: it has five campuses: three in the United States, one in Bangkok, and another one in Brussels. The LPC Brussels campus serves as a case study to observe how communication technologies, in particular the Internet, are adopted by both pastors and members to recreate the same ‘sacramental environment’ across the five churches. Through online observation, interviews, and questionnaires, this research reveals two different usages of the Internet made by LPC. One usage is public, official, informative and formal, and is promoted by the Church’s leadership; the other is unofficial and is characterized by private and intimate communication among the Church’s members. The article will analyze in depth how the congregants create this informal communication, which intensifies group solidarity, members’ virtual religious practice, and group identity.