categories: church, future, global church, mobile
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January 5th, 2009

by Bobby Gruenewald

41 comments (+ Add)

2009: The year the Church better get mobile!

mobile-1If you know me, then you know that I am a huge fan and user of mobile devices. My passion is not about having the latest and greatest, but because I see mobile as the single greatest space (present and future) to impact this world using technology.

At the start of last year, 3.3 billion people were mobile phone users.  This is a global phenomenon and contrary to what many believe, “global” actually includes the US :) 13-17-year-olds in the US send/receive an average of 1,742 sms messages each month.  EVERY populated area on Earth is affected by the growth of mobile usage.  So mobile is really both global and local.

I believe the Church must communicate with and engage people where they are at (not just spiritually, but geographically). Most pastors and church leaders I talk to agree with me, but think that using mobile technology is out of reach or expensive. It is true that you can spend a lot of money trying to reach people via mobile if you want to…but you don’t need to. 

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share and discuss what I think the Church should be doing with existing (and often inexpensive or free) tools to engage people where they are at.  It will be practical and you won’t want to miss it.

It is imperative we get it!

But first, let’s find some examples to celebrate…where have you seen the Church leverage mobile technology in an effective way?


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  1. Jan 5, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I couldn’t agree more. If the Church doesn’t keep up with where the world is going, aka technology, we will become ineffective and irrelevant. That’s why I love The message of Christ doesn’t change, but the way we represent it HAS to!

    My examples would be: Youversion, (Books with pages are quickly becoming a thing of the past. We need to realize that.)
    The applications has created with the iPhone and BlackBerry are also huge things to celebrate. This way, people can take the Word of God with them whereever they go.

  2. Jan 5, 2009 at 10:30 am

    we launched the bible reading program with youversion as we kicked off a three week series on the bible (txt). along with that, we are using to send a daily bible verse via txt to anyone who wants to subscribe. we had people do it in the middle of service and almost half of them did! it’s incredible to think that people will be engaging with scripture from their computers, iphones, and mobile phones via txt everyday.

    here’s the link on our church website about it -

  3. Jan 5, 2009 at 10:32 am

    This is funny because I just got off of a TokBox video call with Brian Ahern LC Network Guru and another LC Network church pastor Patrick. Technology has given us a greater connection. I also just got off of my YouVersion about 10 minutes ago. Great topic and I look forward to this weeks discussion as you throw out some fun and useful tools to enhance what we are doing.

  4. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:02 am

    twitter of course.
    I’ve sold stuff from twitter.
    I’ve connected for lunch through twitter.
    I’ve gotten directions from twitter.
    I’ve done a fund raiser through twitter.
    I’ve signed up people for a missions project through twitter.
    I’ve seen entire ministries run off of twitter.

    I love the instant communication. Thanks @terrystorch for getting me hooked.

  5. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I don’t know if you guys are aware of mxit? Very popular with teens here and VERY cheap. In South Africa a group created a user on mxit where they give drug counseling.

  6. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:07 am

    facebook,twitter,myspace etc all have mobile apps now. we are exploring how to leverage these and become digitial/mobile missionaries. we are also going to use a service like textmarks to use SMS.

  7. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:13 am

    8 years ago I was on a bus in Manila, Philippines. As I looked around, everyone was texting on their mobile phones, a concept almost unheard at the time in the states. It seems we were a bit late to the party on that whole trend. I wonder what else we are late on.

    IDC says, “Roughly 40% of all Internet users worldwide currently have mobile Internet access. The number of mobile Internet users will reach 546 million in 2008, nearly twice as many as in 2006, and is forecast to surpass 1.5 billion worldwide in 2012.”

    If you want to be global you better be mobile.

  8. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:14 am

    As a big user of mobile technology, I agree for the most part, but I feel we sometimes we put to much reliance in technology we forget how to have a real relationship. Mobile technology is great for linking and connecting within the church and people that are in the so called “bubble.” But the people that are hurting the most are not looking to connect via mobile, (homeless, prostitutes, drug addicts.) The church can go more and more mobile and that is great, but it needs to put just as much heart and missions into physical relationships with people. I think a heathy balance is important, especially for retaining relationships.

  9. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I agree with you Bobby. Mobile technology is the 21st century version of Guttenburg’s moveable-type press — a game-changer for culture. I’m blogging about this at and would love to talk with you more about the church and mobile tech.

  10. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I agree that the church needs to be on the four fronts of cyber communities(nations) because the Great Commission is put into a play showing Mathew 28:19 is much broader and no matter what translation shows we still have much work to do-

    MSG Bible- 19 Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life….
    NLT, KJV or HCSB - 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations…

    We have been a church for almost four years and have found our readership and those who listen to our sermons are much higher on-line than in person. In 2009 we have gone to an iFellowhsip format with guest teaching(preaching) and community projects verses keeping rent on a location. The sad part is that it seems many folks get to busy to attend in person or would rather be church gypsies then physical members. The good is that don’t give them an option to not be a part of a fellowship. We just have to pray for the Holy Spirit to lead those folks to a physical location……

    Pastor Frank

  11. 11Janne E (Finland)
    Jan 5, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Couple of thoughts about what Anna said:
    “The message of Christ doesn’t change, but the way we represent it HAS to! — This way, people can take the Word of God with them whereever they go.”

    I’ve tried using YouVersion for a while, and it’s great for having lots of different translations and the search feature. It also works quite well mobile (even on a Nokia..;). But on the other hand, if I want to take the Word of God with me… I just take my Bible. Printed text is still easier to read than on-screen text, and a book can’t go low on batteries. :) So it’s not really a new thing to have the Bible wherever you go.

    I also don’t agree that the Church would be irrelevant without mobile technology. I do believe God does indeed use technology to reach people, but it hasn’t been necessary for the past 2000 years. So can we really say that we’re now in an age where you HAVE to keep up with the technology or you can’t do anything? I believe God can still do a lot more trough a single man speaking His Word in His Spirit than trough every little tech thing we can invent.

    I don’t mean to say it wouldn’t be great to have the technology to reach more people, but just point out that there’s a danger in concentrating on the means too much.

    As long as the message is right, God can use any means of delivering it. The Gospel of Christ will never be irrelevant. :)

    Just a thought. Gotta thank LC for being a pioneer in so many good things. Being able to get great teaching trough internet has been lifechanging to me. And your example of doing things together is very inspiring. Keep up the good work!

    (Sorry for the long post)

  12. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:30 am

    [...] 2009: The year the Church better get mobile! Mobile technology provides churches with new opportunities to connect according to Bobby Gruenewald of Posted by Chuck Warnock Filed in articles, resources Tags: church, mobile technology [...]

  13. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I couldn’t agree more. so glad so thankful for the tools we have today for the spread of the Gospel, and immensely grateful for how y’all are bringing attention to our opportunity (and responsibility) to engage.

  14. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Texting is the only way you can pass info to students and KNOW that they will see it. It is the only way to effectively communicate with them aside from in person.

  15. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:45 am

    youversion and planning center online are my two big mobile church apps.

    we’re still green with PCO but it’s catching on.

    hoping to roll out a mobile web site this year but we’ll see..

  16. Jan 5, 2009 at 11:47 am

    we are leaving our home [again] and becoming global nomads again - so its good bye broadband, hello 3G.

    back in 1999, when we were full time RV’ing around USA, I used a pocketmail device to send emails though public telephone. very old skool. i guess we have come a long way in ten years.

    any suggestions on what phone to get? anyone?

  17. Jan 5, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Yes: it is imperative that the church gets on board, and continually learn and adapt ways to leverage mobile technology.

  18. 18Steven
    Jan 5, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    We’ve been using a site called for some while now with great success. The site is very easy to use and their support is great, I’d recommend taking a look at it.

  19. Jan 5, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    There are two posts on Swerve today that seem to be contradictory. Craig says we need all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Bobby seems to imply that we MUST have one kind of technology to reach the world. Yes, the world is changing and at least some of the churches should leverage the new technology. But I believe that for EVERY church to do so will cause some people to miss out on the gospel message because they can’t be reached that way. BTW, I still love you, Bobby. :-)

  20. Jan 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Andrew Jones, we are full-time RVers and face the broadband challenges you mention. Contact me at for further dialog.

  21. Jan 5, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I have seen SMS used to send questions to the Pastor during the sermon. The Pastor then answered questions making the service interactive.

  22. Jan 5, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    2009 The year the Church falls more in love with Jesus! Why does this get put on the back burner so much. The use of technology is great, but we are so carried in being the most innovative, most technological that we are lacking our true relationships. Like Craig has said in the past, it Jesus plus nothing else. Using these platforms are great, and will always be beneficial, but lets make sure we fall more in love with Jesus first, so we can communicate that to people that do not know him.

  23. 23Jared B
    Jan 5, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    What I do is I remind all my close friends about my LifeGroup every week using sms!

    It is very effective!

  24. Jan 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    You are so right, Bobby.

    To tag on Chris’ comment, I’ve been seeing a lot of churches use texting during the services as well. Granger, Park Community & Elevation Church are just a few.

  25. Jan 5, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Very timely. I just read a post on Tim Steven’s blog about how they used Live Text to Screen from Jarbyco to do a “Ask Anything” week. We’re doing something similar at a conference we’re hosting in March.

  26. 26Matty
    Jan 5, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    I have recently found as a free service for churches to host their sermon video. They just set up an iphone app in the apple app store too. Pretty cool that a small church with a video camera could easily be on your iphone within minutes of the Sunday teaching being concluded.

  27. 27Tim
    Jan 5, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    At Park (, as Dawn mentioned above, we’ve cut back our weekly program and do a monthly program and re-purposed our budget $$ to invest in texting. We use texting to communicate announcements, church news, etc. We also use texting in service and take Q&A from the audience, live polls, etc.

  28. Jan 5, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I agree. As for the “its too expensive part”, maybe we should cut fellowship events in half and put it towards reaching OUTSIDE the church… just a thought

  29. Jan 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    I like the idea of leveraging what people are already using. Twitter and Facebook are the two I use a lot. Both of those have mobile apps that work real well. YouVersion is fantastic too. I also like the approach of immersing the church into contemporary mediums of technology. I sure hope no one creates a ‘christian’ twitter or Facebook, etc. I have never and will never participate in a technology designed to connect people when it actually segments people.

  30. 31Kyle Black
    Jan 6, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I agree with Brandon that texting is the only effective way to reach youth once they leave us at church and go back into the “real world.”
    I have been able to start sending a daily verse via text messaging and the response has been huge. You can check out the story here.
    BTW I love the YouVersion bible app for the iPhone!!

  31. Jan 6, 2009 at 11:36 am

    We use text messaging in out weekend experience. For each service there is a text question at the beginning. All campuses and the web are live and are encouraged to send their answers and any questions about the topic. An AV staff compiles them and then sends them via blue tooth to the teaching pastor during the service. He reads them in the last third of the teaching. It seems to be a great connecting point for all the campuses & mobile users.

  32. Jan 6, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    My church used TextMarks to take questions during the service and througout the week.

    It was very effective for interacting with the church.

    I am really pumped about your mobile focus. My wife and I are moving to Africa, and suprisingly SMS is doing quite a bit there. I am trying to find ways to be involved.

  33. Jan 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Bobby, Sorry I didn’t clarify that. After having the opportunity to come down and meet a lot of your team first hand, there is no doubt that Jesus is first within your entire organization. I know one of my personal weaknesses in the past is focusing on innovation and technology so much, I sometimes can lose focus on the most important thing. Thanks for all you and the team provide.

  34. 35Kyle
    Jan 6, 2009 at 3:17 pm

  35. Jan 8, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    [...] Gruenewald of wrote recently that 2009 is the year the church better get mobile!  Here’s your chance.  Get your own mobile site today for [...]

  36. Jan 9, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    …..I agree with all the above, but I council a little caution. There are so many ways to communicate in this day and age, you can get lost deciding which is best, and which to use in what situation.

    The Christian Church has to adopt appropriate ways of sharing the Good News, but they have to be relevant to the community you are trying to reach. To know that, you have to know your community. To know your community, you have to be part of it.

    Blanket txt messaging, and fancy Facebook groups have their place, but how well do you know the guy that lives three doors down? How does he want you to communicate with him? You have to meet him to find out.

    Lets not let the communications revolution give us opportunities to be anonymous. Jesus went to the people, he didn’t send the equivalent of a 1st C txt message. Lets make sure we don’t either.

    Simes in the UK

  37. 38Janne E
    Jan 12, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Funny thing… I don’t argue whether we finns invented SMS messaging (you see Nokia is finnish), but I asked God if He knew any good way to use the SMS.

    It came to my mind that you could fit a good bible verse into 160 characters (1 SMS) and send to a friend. So I just thought I’d check John 3:16 for example.

    I was kinda surprised to see that in the finnish 1992 bible (first SMS was sent -92), John 3:16 is EXACTLY 160 characters long.. :)

  38. Jan 14, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    [...] a few think that 2009 is the year of the Church going Mobile. I’m not so [...]

  39. Mar 10, 2009 at 2:04 am

    [...] is passionate about this and wants to give you a quick mobile education, reasons why the church must go mobile, and a headstart in making your church website [...]

  40. Jun 22, 2009 at 4:50 am

    We do a lot of work with Chrisntian communities and provide a mobile service to them. There is a rapid growth in mobile users and a great way for people to stay connected with the church whilst on the move.
    Take a look at our website for some examples of our work.