Digital Parish: From passion to podcast to faith community

Pastor Mark Lutz shares the story of Lux Digital Church--a fully digital church.

Lux Digital Church is a church committed to the belief that a digital church can successfully achieve all of the core functions that mark any effective, healthy church. Mark Lutz is one of the founders of Lux Digital. Mark has been a youth pastor, a discipleship pastor in a traditional church setting. And Mark is an avid gamer who wanted to grow a spiritual community for like-minded people. That community started with a podcast. We’ll get into that story and how it led to a digital community of faith.

The Episode

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Mark Lutz:

People invite people, their lives are transformed by Jesus. They experience the power of the spirit. They're growing in their faith. They're being discipled and finding community. And so they just in naturally invite other people in. And because we're ministering to digital natives, people who

Ryan Dunn:

We're hearing from Mark Lutz, our adjunct professor for this session of pastor in the digital parish. My name is Ryan Dunn, and I'm excited to share the story of Lux digital church. In this session, Mark Lutz is the, I guess, lead pastor of Lux digital. He's gonna share how this digital movement started with a passion moved to a podcast. And then the podcast birthed a community that grew into an online expression of church.

Lux Digital is a non-denominational church with an international footprint. They have a very clear multiplication strategy based on digital micro-communities that empower Jesus-centered influencers. I was drawn to learn more about Lux Digital because seemingly started in such a haphazard way with Mark starting a gaming podcast and finding that he could use that as a platform to both share faith and get people talking to one another. It's a story that we can learn from.

So let's meet pastor mark Lutz. Well, in this session, we're gonna get into this story of Luxe. Digital church was, which is a church committed to the belief that a digital church can successfully achieve all of the core functions that mark any effective healthy church. And mark Lutz is one of the founders of Luxe digital. And mark has been a youth pastor, a discipleship pastor in kind of the, a traditional church setting. And mark is an habit gamer who wanted to grow a spiritual community for like-minded people. And that community started with a podcast and has grown into something a whole lot more than that. We'll get into that story. Mark, how are you? Thank you so much for joining us.

Mark Lutz:

I'm doing well, Ryan and it's, it's good to be here. It's good to be on the podcast and Monday's my podcasting day. So we're recording this on a Monday. I, I record a show that covers a specific video game tonight. And we're actually launching a new podcast here in a couple of weeks and moving our podcast to an umbrella network in March. And so we're recording our pilot episode zero for that new show tonight as well. So I'm, I'm gonna be triple recording podcast episodes today.

Ryan Dunn:

Right? On a lot of time in front of the mic. Well, let's kinda go big picture and then we'll drill down into some of the specifics of your story and in the big picture thing, like, what is your why for doing digital ministry? Like why are you in the space that you're particularly in?

Mark Lutz:

Sure. I, I think you have to start by, like, I, I think it's helpful for people to understand because the natural tendency for the response to digital ministry by physical church it typically is like, that's awful. It's, it's a bad thing. It's gonna destroy the church, right? The, the, the gather we should not give up gathering together. And I believe all of those things by the way. So just for the, for all intents, just to understand I never intended to start something on line. I gamed in order to avoid people and decompress from people not to connect with people. I didn't do online gaming because I wanted to be friends with a whole bunch of people on the internet. I didn't podcast for that reason either. And, and for me, like before we planted Lux, I had been completely off the grid on social media, zero social media for years.

And so I was not the person to plant an online church. But as I, I say a lot right now, when you decide for Jesus to be your savior and Lord, you don't get to have preferences anymore. Like he, he gets to decide what you're gonna do.

So big picture, why I've been part of the gaming community for a really long time mine to higher life. I've been a gamer to a certain extent. That's a big part of my story. I'm not exclusively a gamer as all gamers are multifaceted people, but that is a part of who I am. And I was looking at I was looking at this online world on a website called Twitch. It's owned by Amazon. It's the biggest live streaming platform owns about 75% of live streaming on the internet. Just to give you an idea about a hundred million unique viewers visit their platform and watch streams about 70% of those people are male. At the average time watched is about 75 minutes a day. So that gives you a little bit of context for how many people are coming here. How many people are watching here? And I was watching guys like some of the bigger streamers who are streaming to 40, 50, 80,000 people a day. And I was looking, and I was saying, these people have more influence streaming to 80,000 people a day for 40 hours a week. Have more influence over the coming generations than any pastor in America.

Ryan Dunn:

That's a lot of time with people. Yeah,

Mark Lutz:

It's a lot of time with people. Their worldview is what's shaping Gen Z. And so that the church has to have a voice here because what I saw was people desperately searching for truth anywhere they could find it, but there was absolutely nobody telling them the truth on this platform. And in this space, like this is where the next generation is going to look for truth, but there's no one who's actually able to provide anything of lasting substance here. And so I was like, okay, well, there was all kinds of thought around, like, do we do an online evangelism? Do we, you know, raise up YouTubers, streamers, content, creators, podcasters to evangelize, what does that look like? And it sort of all became a “yes” together when we started dreaming about the digital church, which I can get into like a more detailed understanding, like why it became a church and not a mission organization, for example. But you know, we might be able to get into that later, but the big heart was, I just saw people desperate for truth and had nobody there to, to point them in the right direction.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Well, so it sounds like you started this whole thing through a podcast. What, what drew you to start the podcast?

Mark Lutz:

I'll be honest. So I podcasted a little bit on and off. It's not up anymore. We used to run a podcast called Relevant Leadership and we used that leadership podcast to train all of my youth leaders and people from our church. And then I ran a podcast called Fireside Talks, which is also dead, which was covering a video game. So I had a microphone one day I was playing a video game and I wanted to go mow the grass and listen to a podcast about it. And I realized that no one was podcasting about it. Okay. So that night I grabbed my mic and I recorded a couple of solo show episodes talking about the game, started inviting people to come on the show. And I just had a prayer. God redeem my love for gaming, use it for your kingdom and whatever that looks like.

So I just started offering to pray for people after we'd be done with the show and oh, you know, and God answered many of those prayers. And at the same time I was reading Henry Blackie's book, experiencing God. And in it, he says, don't just do things and ask God to bless them, but look into he what God is doing and partner with him in what he's doing. And that really had a, a tremendous impact on my life. At the same time there was a, a Buddhist well, he called himself a Buddhist atheist. It's not a, not a real thing, but I, I never have the heart to tell him that. And I won't say his real name, but his screen name was beef quake. And he reached out to me cuz he was listening to the show and he's said, I love what you're doing at the show.

I think you could build a community around this. Can I help you do that? And through that community, I started evangelizing to people, praying for people, supporting people, counseling people, and mentoring people. And I began to see that it wasn't, these weren't just like temporary relationships where I saw someone post something on Facebook and we had a connection, but no community. This group started spending a lot of time together to the point where there was genuine profound life transformation happening in the lives of the people. And that's when the that's when the sort of like the keys came and the door unlocked for digital church. And I said, if you can disciple people this in this type of a way, and I've never met them in person, then you can do a church without ever physically meeting in person. Because our, there were lives being transformed by the truth of Jesus and people being discipled inside this community. And they were from all across the globe. And that was that's really like the step that led to the step that led, led to the, that got planted outta the podcast. And then our launch team came outta the podcast. We just did a big call. And we said, if there's any believers out there, I'm a pastor. I'm gonna start an online church for gamers. And that's where we built our launch team was people spread all over the globe who were believers, listening to our show at the time.

Ryan Dunn:

Now that's a cool story. You did a lot of things within that intrinsically that a lot of the rest of us are kind of struggling to figure out. So one of the big things is that when we come to podcasting, which is a great thing to do, it is a broadcast medium. So you have like one voice and a lot of ears, but there's not a whole lot of like dialogue happening on a broadcast medium like that. But it sounds like you had some things in place where you were able to enlist some other voices and hear the voices of your audience. So what was going on around that time, where you were able to like what made it possible for you to in engage with your audience and hear their voices and start to build community around the podcast?

Mark Lutz:

But there's something beautiful about about content creation in the fact that people who consume the content naturally want to draw closer to the content creator. Hmm. Right. You get this it's you get this point of respect and this place of privilege inside people's lives who listen to you. And for, and, and you're a real, like, you're just a normal dude. Like I didn't know anything more about this game. I wasn't even particularly good about it. I was just willing to talk about it. So really what we did was two things. One, we opened up a discord that if you don't know what discord is, it's kind of like a slack or team building app, but it originated and was birthed through of the gaming community is originally like a voice chat option for you know, video game play and stuff.

And it has become something much more robust and significant than that. And you know, really, really, really great community building tool now really powerful. So that just allowed me to get instant access to people from my community. Then at the end of our show, which was a secular show about a video game, I did something called closing thoughts and it would be like a five minute segment where I would share biblical wisdom without sharing any of the Bible. And that was starting to impact people's lives. And people were starting to leave us podcast reviews saying that it was impacting their lives. And I was like, well, that's cool. So I started at the end of the show just saying, I, I am, I am a voice who's here to listen. My goal is to be a light in the gaming community. If you need someone to talk, to just know that I'm willing to listen.

And I started counseling people through divorces, I started deal helping people who were battling depression. I started you know, mentoring new fathers. And it was just because I opened myself up and said, I don't want you to just listen to me. I actually, I want to build relationships with the community and here message me on discord. Email me, here's my email. And I, you know, I started getting people's phone numbers and they started calling me and I started, you know, building relationships that way as well, praying with people over the phone, texting members of my community. And so just making myself available meant that people were willing to take that. Not everybody, but some people.

Ryan Dunn:

Right. Absolutely. Well you had this community around the podcast. How did that transition then into being a ministry and a church?

Mark Lutz:

Well, you know, it was a ministry from the beginning in the fact that like I knew what I wanted point that out.

Ryan Dunn:

Right.

Mark Lutz:

And like, it, it, listen, if you have any sort of a platform, even if you don't have a platform, everything that you do in your life is a ministry, right? Yeah.

Ryan Dunn:

Thanks for calling that out. Yeah.

Mark Lutz:

We have this, this like nasty thing in the church where we split, you know, church life from the rest of our life. And so, and video game world does that too. They talk about IL in real life or, or video game world. The reality is it's all in real life. Like, yes, the fantasy world that you're playing in might not be real, but you're really spending your real life in it. And so so there's that when it became a church, it was like 2019, the end of 2019. I took a walk with a dog and, and God said in, in that prayer time, which I don't really hear from the voice of God often, if, if I had told you that I would've said like 70% chance, it was God's voice. But typically what God tells you to do something crazy that you wouldn't have thought of on your own, it tends to be his voice.

And so I thought I heard mark, I want you to start an online church to which I responded that's her. And so I was like, Nope, not gonna do that because God doesn't speak contrary to his word. But the holy spirit has a way of being relentless as well. And so over the next several weeks, as I would take the dog for a walk, that was the only thing the holy spirit wanted to talk about was this online church, the holy spirit started walking me through scriptures and saying, don't give up gathering together. And I was like, okay. And the holy spirit, like, how have you not been gathering with these people? It's like, okay, I I've certainly have been gathering with them, like, you know, devote yourselves to prayer, to the apostles teachings. And it's like, well, I'm now seeing that we could actually do those things.

And when my mind went to that and I, I realized that so many of my preconceived ideas about church were just what I was comfortable with. It didn't mean that it was, it was, it was necessary for church. It's just, I liked potlucks in the fellowship. It mean we happy, right? Yeah. It's like, I like that. But the reality was there was thousands millions of people living within driving distance of great churches, with amazing potlucks that were never ever showing up. And they were going to go to hell. Yeah, because we never went to where they were because they don't care about our potluck or our padded seats or our killer worship pad or our charismatic preacher, whatever it is, they just don't care. And so it was like, okay, if I gave up what I like about church, and instead went to the Bible and saw what it said about what the church needed to be is online out of the question. And that's when I began to unpack theologically, ecclesiology wise, no there's things that are more difficult. There's things that are easier. And I would even, even as the pastor of a digital church, I'll tell you physical's better, but it's not gonna be for everybody.

Ryan Dunn:

Gotcha. When you were first having some of the reservations about hearing that voice, calling you to start a digital church, you actually thought it was heresy. Were there like specific ideas or notions or theological arguments that you had in mind that led you to think that the online expression was heresy?

Mark Lutz:

Sure. Things like I had said over and over again, God's plan a is the local church and God doesn't make plan BS. And I was like, I believe that's true, but I also cannot find anything in the Bible that says the local church was like, right. Yeah. And I was like, and I was like, and I looked, and I would say that things that we're doing as a church are biblical, you know, our three songs, our offering moment, our announcements, our, our sermon, our one song, our benediction, like, and then I would look in the Bible and it would be like, well, actually the Bible's pretty vague about what the new Testament church looked like outside of the thing that they devoted themselves to. And so when I stopped imagining church as my experience and justifying my experience by just claiming that it was biblical, and I'm not saying that what we do in the physical church is not biblical.

I think it's great. It's beautiful. It's wonderful. And I love it. And I'm still part of a local physical church. My family still goes there. I take my daughters there, all of that to say I, I just, when I wasn't imagining it by my preference, I realized that the scriptures and the teachings of God's word and what the church was is more open ended than what I thought it was. And we can read a lot of things into the Bible. And I, I say this a lot. I said the Bible was written for you, but it wasn't written to you. The, the Bible, the, the passages of where the new Testament letters were written were written to the churches in Galatia. And they were written to the churches in Corinth. Right. And believe it or not, the churches in Corinth didn't have the internet, neither in any of the churches in gala.

Right. They didn't have electricity, but you can't tell me that if Paul had the opportunity to tell the churches and gala to kick out the Judaizers over a zoom call, instead over a lesson, a messenger in a written letter that he wouldn't have chosen the zoom call, Paul would've chosen the zoom call. Right. so sometimes we read into the Bible, our preconceived sort of like what we, what we prefer instead of what's actually there. And we make assumptions about what the Bible would say about modern tech and the connectiveness that it can have without ever actually critically thinking about it or examining it.

Ryan Dunn:

That's good. Well, as you started to build up Lux Digital as its own, kind of there use the word brand, but as its own separate entity from what had been before with the podcast you mentioned that some things were gonna be easier and some things were gonna be more challenging. What were some of those initial challenges that you faced?

Mark Lutz:

Well, you know, we had to cross the bridge of sacraments. And that was one of the hardest bridges for us. We were like, this can't be a church. If we cannot be part, if the sacraments can't happen amongst us. Right. And so I come from a, a non-denominational evangelical church background. So, you know, I'm not Roman Catholic. And I realize like there's some definitive theology around the Roman Catholic church and some of the other, you know, Eastern Orthodox church that makes the digital church not a church. And I, I get that for me coming from the background that I came from, I thought we can, we can actually do the Lord's supper, even if I'm not like, do I really believe that my hands are so important that if I had laid them on the bread and the juice, that it makes it more significant?

Cuz I don't know, a single pastor, at least in my experience that laid his hands on every piece of bread and juice and wafer that went out to the congregation. So if I'm not already doing that and IM a, the one personally handing it to people, what's the difference between them getting grape juice and a slice of bread in their house and them getting a wafer and a little cup of juice at my physical church. And there isn't one as long as it's done in the right spirit. So we do Lord supper every month here at Luxe. And then the next one for us was baptism. Like what does that look like? And that, that was a significant obstacle at first. And so at Luxe we do baptism one of three ways. We recommend you go to a local physical congregation first to be baptized.

And I will actually reach out to and talk with a local pastor if you've given your life to Jesus and chosen proof of that. The next one is if you don't have a local physical congregation, which we have people who don't it's to be baptized by a, a believing family member or friend I'll train them in baptizing you and then you have to film it and share it with the church family, because it has to be a public proclamation of faith to your, your spiritual family. And the last option, we actually have a guy like this. He had no one in his entire life. He grew up conservative Muslim. He left the faith as a teenager, came to faith at our church as a college student and has never had a friend or family member. That's a believer. And so he actually has two atheists that are gonna baptize him. And I am going to be on a zoom call with him, declaring father, son, and holy spirit as they dunk him and then pray over them. And so that's kind of like our third option. And once again, that's recorded and then shared with our church family during a service.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. All right. So the, the church is still in a way shape and form a participant within the second. That's cool.

Mark Lutz:

Yeah. Yep. And there are other hard elements to it. You don't bump into people from your church in the grocery store, like you would a physical church, so relationships are possible, but they have to be more intentional vision doesn't rub off of you just by the way that you walk through the church building or that post-service interactions that you have with people. Vision has to be more intentionally passed down. And and sort of like the way in which you train people, you just have to be more intentional across the board with everything. So I do a lot more time on voice chats and video chats and hanging out with my church family because it does nothing is gonna happen accidentally to make it happen, right? Like you have to be intentional and purposeful in it. So, and, and that is, that's a big difference. That has been a big change for us.

Ryan Dunn:

So how are you going out and intentionally meeting new people in the digital space?

Mark Lutz:

That's a, yeah, that's a great question. So we stream our li our services is held on Twitch and that's where our community meets. And if you come to one of our service, you, as you'll notice, it's unlike any other, you'll probably picturing like, well, our online services on Facebook and two people say something the whole time, that is not the case with our church. So like, because I don't have an in person group, like my first 15 minutes, we're cracking jokes. We're hanging out, we're welcoming people in it's me and my wife on a couch. We go through announcements, we talk with our community, my sermon, I'm acting with the community and I'm talking to them, they're participating in our teaching time, post service. I'm hanging out with the community, I'm answering their questions that they have about the scriptures that we talked about that night.

So there's a lot of interaction. And so for us, like it, it's not uncommon for us to have 75% of the people who are in service, actively participating in the service. So it looks very different than your average broadcast ministry. We're not a broadcast ministry, we're a digital church. And so the way that we meet new people is the fact that people can come in and just stumble into our stream. We're in the just chatting court category every Wednesday night. But mostly we grow like every other church grows, which is word of mouth. Like P people invite people, their lives are transformed by Jesus. They experience the power of the spirit. They're growing in their faith, they're being discipled and finding community. And so they just in naturally invite other people in. And because we're ministering to digital natives, people who, you know, like there's people in our church who the first time they met the best men in their best men in their wedding was on their wedding day. But they had been gaming with them from across the country for 12 years. Yeah. And the relationship was significant enough that that person was in their wedding. And so like, most of the people in my community have relationships like that. People they've never met in person, but they have hung out with online for years. And so people invite people like that in.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. And then how do they, you go about doing some of the, like the discipling activity, for example, Luxe digital on, on your website. You say that you have small groups going, what do small groups look like for Lux Digital?

Mark Lutz:

Well, small groups look like just about the same as any other small group would look like with the absence of food. I mean, sometimes we do eat together, but you know, our, our small groups look like everybody else's small group did during COVID 19 and 2020.

Okay. Now you might have an experience with that and be like, oh, that stinks. I don't like that because it was horrible for me. And I didn't like going to that small group, blah, blah, blah. But that is usually people who aren't digital natives. My people are digital natives. My, my, my church family doesn't use the internet as a tool. They live part of their lives. There. They are in voice chats in video chats, every single night, hanging out and gaming with people. And so that's just part of their rhythms. So when I invite them into a small group, like my, my Monday night group, which I hold every Monday night, we're meeting here in a couple of hours like it's like one of the most life-giving parts of my week. It's so hard to get our group of guys just to calm down and quit laughing and cracking jokes long enough to get into something serious.

It's not this awkward thing. We have to cut it short at two hours sometimes. And at times I leave to go podcast at night and they're still in there until midnight just hanging out and chatting together and sharing life together. And we're having guys who are coming out of serious addiction issues. People who are finding accountability, my group actually came together and paid for professional counseling for one of our guys who are in my group. Okay. This dude lives in Iowa. There's nobody that lives within 15 hours of this guy in my group, part of our groups, outside the country, you know, Canadians, I have several Canadians in a group. And so like, we all pulled together finances to support him and pay for counseling, cuz he going through a really hard time. And so like we're sacrificing for one another, like providing meals for each other. Yeah. I can't, you know, bake something and bring it to your house. But we've literally ordered door dash from six states away and had it delivered at one of our church members' houses to cover meal that night because someone had surgery or someone had a baby. And so what technology allows us to do is enables us to care for one another. Although many of us are separated by thousands of miles.

Ryan Dunn:

Sure. And just outta curiosity, what platform are you using for small groups?

Mark Lutz:

We've used different things. Right now most of our small groups are held in discord. So we'll be in voice chat rooms or private calls. We have used right now media, so we have a partnership with right now media. They're a great, great resource. We got to hang out with them in Nashville this past year. And they gifted us in our entire church two years of right now media. And so we have held when we do video-based small groups, we've held them in there. Like this new small group season that starts this week. That's going for 10 weeks is based or around the messages. So we'll actually write small group questions and send them out to our leaders. And then those leaders will, you know, use those questions in conversation. A lot of our small groups about building community though, because the online world can be cold. And so it's, it's really important that small groups are part of the DNA of who we are a robust part of it from the very beginning. That's how people, that's, how people build deeper connection is once you get into a video chat scenario.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. You know, you talked about your small group coming together to give some financial support to somebody. Is it too meddlesome to ask how Lux how Lux digital is getting financial support?

Mark Lutz:

Yeah, no, it's not too. It's not too not too invasive at all. So I mean we raise support just like anybody else. So like any other church plan. So when you start a church if you, if you're church planning with a nomination a lot of time that denomin, I don't know how the UMC does it, but I know like the Christian missionary Alliance, like a lot of times they'll pay everything for the first couple of years. Yeah. When you're planting a church like a non-denominational church or an independent church that comes through fundraising and a lot of work in strategic partnerships. And so you know, we have a tithe and offering opportunity in each of our service is we do have people from our church who do give faithfully. But we are less than a year in.

So we are support of course not sufficient. Like we're not self-supporting yet. Although we hope usually takes a church three to five years to be self-supporting. I would think that we'll be there in five based on kind of like what we seeing and how we're seeing giving growing. But right now, you know, we have a partnership with Saddleback. We have a partnership with our sending church, new life, Christian ministries here Pennsylvania, [inaudible] in Florida, Open Door, North Carolina a handful of others. And then one of our, our Mo more recent ones is rivers crossing in Cincinnati. They we're one of their 10 and 10 now. And so which is like 10 churches and 10 years that they're helping start. And so like those partnerships do a lot to help fund us.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. And then what about support? You said that it was kind of a lonely space in the beginning that there weren't a whole lot of people doing what you were doing in that digital space. Have you found a, like a community digital ministers that you're connected with?

Mark Lutz:

So yes, yes, yes I have. Yes and no. So it, church planting in general is lonely. And a lot of the things that are true of church planting are true of digital church planting as well. There's not like, I think people think like it's this completely different thing and it requires, and I can't do it. Like I'm not a digitally bent person. So I I'm using all of the same skills, giftings and tools that I had in physical ministry. I'm just preaching to a camera with souls behind that screen. Right. Those people still count just because they're looking at a screen doesn't mean they stop being real people with real souls really made in the image of God. And I think that's the hardest thing for most people to comprehend is they see a screen name and they immediately dehumanize the person. They don't realize that person as a story and a family and a, a faith narrative and that their story deeply matters.

And they have questions that need answering and deserve to be answered. So my community originally, I went the through stadia church planting. Those are the people who helped launch us. They were, we were their first, we were their first official digital church plant that actually launched. I went through with two others the folks from king city church with chess Lee and Beverly Lund. And then Chris and Christie who Monroe, who lead relate church on Facebook. I also got connected with DJ Soto who pastors VR church and Angela Craig who pastors did, pastor pursuit church live on Facebook. And then Jeff Reed who leads the church digital podcast. He's kind of like, he's like the godfather of digital church stuff in this season. So,

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. Well in looking for the future of 2022, like what do you see happening next, both within Lux Digital Church, but also within kind of digital church in general?

Mark Lutz:

You know, with Lux Digital Church, we have a lot of dreams for what this next year is gonna look like. And our big push right now is like to get our people and build the culture in the mindset that we're not just creating like any other church should be. We're not just creating a comfortable place for Christians to come to. We've been very clear from the beginning. This isn't just some Christian gaming community where you can find other friends who don't cus like we are on mission to reach people, which means we are gonna have very messy people in our church. And we have very messy people who, who are calling Luxe home and who, who are not followers of Jesus, but who are interested in the church and the teachings of Jesus. And so a big thing that like one of our core values at Luxe, all of our core values are something is greater than something else.

So one of our core values is one is greater than 99. And that's a big push for us this year is you finding your one, who's your one person it's not about same, but who is your one? And how can you reach your one and how, how can we equip you and pray for you and help you in that pursuit of reaching and discipling that one. And and so that's a big push for us this year. I don't know what the digital church is gonna look like in 2022. It, it just seems to me that there are, there was a lot of churches that were really gung ho about it in 2020, and then 2021 rolled our, and they're like who we can go back to our buildings. We can forget about all this stuff that I didn't wanna learn to begin with.

And then there are these offshoots of like people who were on those teams who saw the potential and are deeply saddened by the fact that none of their leadership did and, and their leadership was all gungho and behind them until the day that they were allowed to reopen their doors and bring people back into their church. And they just totally forgot about the people that they were reaching, who can't physically get to their building, and they've just been pushed to the side. And so what I'm seeing is a lot of people who are coming out of that and saying, God's at work in my life, he's working on my heart. And now the only way to start a digital church is for me to that leave the church family that I love. And so I'm hoping that 2022, we see a shift and we see some people who are leading physical churches who will reevaluate and begin sending digital planters. Cause I'll tell you this, the, the, the, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few in this space. Like there's lots of people, it's not a small amount. It's a tremendous number of people. And we don't have the time or resources to be able to reach them. We need physical churches to kind of get in the game and realize that the digital church is not a threat to them. We're reaching a completely different demographic and type of person. Yeah. People that would never come to their church.

Ryan Dunn:

I think that's a great distinction that this is not kind of a, a replacement for anything that's previously come before, but this is kind of a next level expression.

Mark Lutz:

No, no. This is an extension of what the physical church is. It's better way to put the reality is, is there like, I, I live in rural, rural Western Pennsylvania, right? There is almost nobody from my town of 1200 that are gonna come and call my church, their home. Very, very few. So we need physical churches because the majority of people, if they want a faith expression are still going to go to a physical church to find that, however, there is enough people who will not that it, that would engage digitally that a digital church aren't, don't just make sense. They're necessary. Cuz there's enough people that will never come physically. And we do send some like there's some people who come to our church, they come to faith and we're like, we love you. We wanna bless you, but you need to go find a physical church because they're physically church minded people. Like they need the physical accountability. There's some people that that's not the case. There's some people that come in and we're like, Nope, we can be the full expression of the church for this folk, this person. And they can grow in their faith and really live on mission where they are physically connected to us digitally. But there are some folks who are just like maybe a physical church would be good for you and we'll even help them find that home, you know, wherever they are in the world.

Ryan Dunn:

That's great. Well for somebody who wants to come in and check out Luxe digital church at kind of the the entry level, the opening of the funnel, like where might be the best place for them to engage.

Mark Lutz:

Yeah, sure. So Lux Digital Church or youtube.com/luxdigitalchurch. You can watch all of our sermons there. If you want to get links out to where we are Luxe digital church.com that will give you out to our YouTube, our Instagram, our TikTok, our, and we can get into that. Not all of those are places where we exist as a church. Some of those are just front doors for us that allow people to find us and come in. But can also find a link out to our, like where our church is. Like our Twitch page is our sanctuary. Like that's picture of your church. You have a worship center and then you have the rest of the building, the bathrooms and the coffee station and the children's ministry and the small group rooms and the Sunday school and all of the, the welcome center, all that stuff, all of the rest of the stuff that isn't our sanctuary in discord, like that's the rest of our physical building. Our blueprint exists there, but our sanctuary is on Twitch and you can find us every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM. We go live at 8:20, say the doors open at 8:20. The service starts at 8:30  twitch.tv/lux. L U X digital church Wednesday night. And if you create an account, you can follow us and chat with us, just come in and say, Hey, hello, I'm coming from the podcast. And we'll be there talking to you.

Ryan Dunn:

I'm glad you brought that up because in our minds from a traditional church standpoint, a lot of us think in terms of like, we want to people in the community, we wanna invite them to be a part of our community through worship. And then we want to enter relationship with them in, in a small group. Right. And we all have kind of geographic locations where that happens, the community, the sanctuary, and then, you know, either the home or like a Sunday school room or something like that in, in your mind, are there, are there specific platforms like that for Luxe digital? Like you're meeting people on Twitch and, or meeting people on social media and, and coming to Twitch and then going to Discord?

Mark Lutz:

Yeah. So, I mean, we're meeting people on social media, on TikTok, on Instagram. We're meeting people on Twitch. I live stream, I stream three hour this morning. So I leave livestream every Monday, Wednesday, Friday in the morning on my own personal Twitch page. And I always invite people into church. We have multiple members of our church, family who also livestream and do podcasting and content creation, cuz it's a hobby and it's fun. And they invite people to come into Luxe as well. So those are all sort of front doors for us into the community that we're engaging with. And then word of mouth. And then yeah, so Twitch is our sanctuary. That's where people, you know what, it's not even necessarily where people come first. Like we have more people who join us in discord and then we invite them to come to church with us and they come to church with us there.

But just like any other church has an engagement pathway or sort of a funnel. You know, we do too. Our funnel in the end is so we believe everything that is digital goes physical and everything. Physical goes digital, right? Every one of us are a digital being in some capacity. If you have a smartphone and you look at email, you are a digital being in some capacity. I just happen to be more digital than you are. Probably if you're listening to this podcast, you experience things digitally. So, you know, for us what our, our long term hope and dream is, is to plant a dispersed network of house churches all across the globe. So as God sends us leaders who are apostolic in nature, we raise those leaders up, we'll train them through missionary training to engage in their physical communities and invite people into their home to pastor those communities you know, bring like baptize people lead in communion, all of those things.

So they'll be connected through a web of digital church, family and digital resources, but they'll actually be discipling communities of 10 to 12 inside their homes where they raise up new leaders and plants, hopefully one day. Yeah. There's hundreds of nerds who are gathered behind their computers all across the globe, but hopefully there's also, you know, our church in Mosco, our house church in South Africa, three house churches in rural Missouri a house church in LA five house churches in New York city who have been raised up and are, they have all of the DNA built into them to not just be a church, but also to plant. And they're connected through the theological covering and the resources of our digital home base. And so we believe that we'll go physically eventually just through a dispersed house church network that can be global and can span all languages, which we're really excited about. Right. We can literally raise up like in-country missionaries from anywhere in the globe through modern tech, which is really exciting.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Oh, that's a great vision. Yeah. Mark, thank you so much for sharing the story of Lux digital church with us and your story in coming into this realm as well. It's really refreshing for a lot of us to hear like you weren't quite down with it at the beginning. So as a lot of us have found ourselves in the, in the digital ministry realm with similar stories. So it's awesome to hear that you kind of came from that place and, and have continued to thrive in this space.

Mark Lutz:

Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me on Ryan and, you know, can I I'll do, I'll do a quick shout out. We have a couple of UMC churches in our community, so I don't know, know if they're listening or not, but if you're Cait United Methodist church or Zion United Methodist church, you guys are great. They're part of our ministerium here in Western Pennsylvania. So I don't know if you guys listen to the podcast, but if you do a little shout out, I hung out with those pastors a couple of weeks ago. So I figured I'd get, 'em a little shout out here on the show.

Ryan Dunn:

I appreciate that I'm gonna hunt 'em down and tag of us if as this episode comes out.

Mark Lutz:

Awesome. Awesome.

Ryan Dunn:

Thank you, Mark.

Mark Lutz:

Thank you.

Ryan Dunn:

Thanks so much for participating in this session of pastoring in the digital parish. You're gonna want to click over to luxdigital.com to check out Lux Digital Church and the latest from pastor Mark.

Pastoring in the Digital Parish is a resource from ResourceUMC.org, the online destination for leaders throughout the United Methodist church. We're gonna have a new session next week, but in the meantime, if you want to explore more on starting a digital movement, then check out our Holy Mischief episode with Shannon Karafanda. Or to get into some of the gaming tech that Mark mentioned, then listen to our Discord episode with Nathan Webb or our Twitch session with David Petty and Russell Dornisch. Both of those are helpful.

This has been fun. My name is Ryan Dunn. If you have a question or suggestion for the podcast, send me an email at digitalparish(at)umcom.org. Thank you. And I'll talk with you soon.

 

Peace

 

 

 

On this episode

Pastor Mark Lutz of Lux Digital Church

Pastor Mark Lutz is one of the founders of Lux Digital. Mark has been a youth pastor, a discipleship pastor in a traditional church setting. And Mark is an avid gamer who wanted to grow a spiritual community for like-minded people.

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.