by Charlie Gross
In November 2013, I was brainstorming ways to connect the active people I saw in the park walking their dogs with a church service.
As I fiddled around with ideas to make this connection, it hit me: Everyone has a cell phone. In fact, the national stance is standing like statues with one hand out in front of us, holding our phones. Well, that, plus a downward gaze as we stare at the small screen, figuring out our schedule, tweaking our to-do list or Googling an answer to some off-the-wall question. So, since the cell phone is the common denominator, I quickly deduced that the obvious way to connect people to worship is through a conference call. I’ve been using conference calls to get things done and connect people for some time. I know how to do conference calls. That was the key I was looking for – worship via a conference call.
Later that month, I launched “First Mobile Church,” a specially designed worship service delivered live via conference call on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. Eastern time. To participate, one simply calls 518-530-1840 and after hearing “Start meeting, share better, please enter your meeting ID followed by the pound or hash sign,” you enter 345-710-914#. Those without long distance service can call 855-212-0212 and enter the 345-710-914#. More details are available on our website.
Now, fast forward to September 2014. I’m at our church booth at the Penn Township Days event. It was a lovely fall day with plenty of sunshine, clear blue skies and a growing crowd. I stood here, holding a business card with the information about First Mobile Church and tried to quickly explain the concept to passersby. We had a few extra chairs near our booth and a lovely lady used one of the chairs to rest a bit while she waited for her daughter to park the car. As she sat and waited, she overheard my brief explanation of First Mobile Church and asked for a personal explanation with the details. I eagerly complied, as I’m very excited about the innovative worship and long reaching possibilities. I learned that her name was Jane and she said, “This is exactly what I need! I’ll be at worship tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.” Well, sure enough, Jane called in and fell in love with the growing community, the ease of worship, the music, the personal prayers, the Scripture reading and the message. She even commented that she can worship in her pajamas… and her cat attends sometimes, too. This is a perfect fit for Jane. Then she told her sister, Joan, about it. Joan started calling in, too. These two represent just two of the over 20 callers that participate weekly in the worship service of First Mobile Church. But, this is what makes it so very special: You see, Joan calls in from Gainesville, Florida, while Jane calls in from Nottingham, Pennsylvania. They once said, “You know, in all these years, we’ve never been able to attend church together. Now we can! Thanks to First Mobile Church!”
If you’re searching for a church home accessible from anywhere, explore First Mobile Church on Sundays at 9 a.m. Eastern time. Or, if you’d like to expand your ministry to include your own shut-ins, travelers, vacationers and friends, let me know. I’d be delighted to teach you how to start your own conference call ministry. Click here to send Charlie Gross an email.
CHARLIE GROSS is the pastor of West Grove Presbyterian Church in West Grove, Pennsylvania, and First Mobile Church.