With more than 800,000 followers on Facebook, Chicago-based internet preacher and U.S. Army veteran, Marcus Rogers, who turns 33 next month, has an audience on social media that’s much greater than many popular established churches. With one click his latest words of wisdom for Christian living are delivered in written posts and videos which often rack up millions of views. “People choose to follow people who are portraying the version of Christianity that they are comfortable with. However he warned ” It’s dangerous to just follow anybody claiming to be a Christian.” Everybody claiming to be a Christian isn’t a Christian.
As the population of the unchurched continues to grow, some church experts say their data reflect a growing engagement among the faithful with ministries online, with some even choosing to fellowship exclusively on the internet. Lucinda Ross, from the Life Church, which spans 32 campuses in 10 states, says since starting their Church Online platform more than 10 years ago, engagement has grown exponentially. “Our decision to create Church Online in April 2006 was driven out of our heart to reach people where they are. At Life Church, we believe God has called us to use the technology available today to spread the Gospel to as many people as we can.
Rogers says his messages resonate with his followers because, like him, many have struggled to find their place in traditional churches. “I’ve pretty much been in church my whole life,” he said. “My mother was a German woman, single woman, with four mixed kids. So everywhere we went, we were always the outsiders. In black churches they looked at us funny, in white churches, she wasn’t married, a single mom.” Without his father and the outsider status of his family, Rogers struggled to find his niche. “I didn’t have people that were raised up in the church as friends that I could depend on.
I felt like I was just in a position where I had to learn everything the hard way, ” he said. “Marriage, relationships. I didn’t know anything about women or anything. “I was deployed to Iraq, deployed to Afghanistan, and went through just so much mess in my life. It was so bad at one point I wanted to kill myself because I was just like, my life is just not working and I have nobody I could talk to. I can’t just call the pastor. I can’t just call my dad,” he added. Desperate for direction and not ready to die, Rogers, who is a father of five children, said he began calling on the Lord for help.
When the Lord began responding several years ago while he was on deployment in South Korea, he said, his life began to change. “Instead of trying to kill myself, I would just cry out to the Lord for a word or something to keep me going, especially when I was in South Korea. And then the Lord just began to speak to me. He would download stuff to me and I would begin to open the Bible and He would give me revelations, and I was so desperate for it,” he said. Inspired, Rogers soon decided that he would start publicly sharing some of what God was revealing to him. “I realized there are people out there like me. They are outsiders.”
Rogers had no plans to become famous. “I just wanted to help people that I knew were just out there like me,” he said. The ministry is now so popular, Rogers left the Army last fall to commit to his ministry full time. Asked why he thinks his ministry became so popular, Rogers says his decision to be open and honest about his walk with Christ is what resonates with many of his followers. “When I meet people face-to-face, that’s the number one thing they always say. Because I was vulnerable, they were able to connect with me, the transparency. It was more authentic to them and then, when they look at me they feel like, well, if he can make it, then I can make it.”
Rogers says he encourages them to find local church homes. He doesn’t believe his ministry is enough for discipleship, so he has partnered with churches across the state and globally to help match his followers with congregations. “I tell people this does not replace church. You need to be in church. You need to have accountability in your life,” he says. Social media as nothing more than a hook. “It’s like planting a seed. To support some of his followers locally, he holds monthly prayer meetings in space that he rents. For his spiritual health and to ensure he is accountable, Rogers attends a home church with a pastor that provides him with guidance.
Despite the success of his online ministry, Rogers says in the beginning a lot of people in the church mocked me. But once they started seeing people coming in to get baptized, repenting and getting delivered from homosexuality and things like that, they started to look at it a different way,” he explained. “Every year the percentage of unchurched people keeps going up with people not being raised in church. It’s so unfamiliar to them. People used to go to church because maybe they were raised in a church home. That correlation isn’t happening anymore so they don’t have something to go back to in a season of transition or crisis,” he explained.
“In crisis or transition people are most likely to come to faith because they are looking for stability . That might be marriage, that might be having kids, that might be a loss, a new job. I think historically in Christianity, in those transition points, that’s when people come back to church. But they only come back to it if it was a base at some point,” he continued. “Because that base isn’t established anymore, I think what happens is people just aren’t coming back and this is where online is a great opportunity that we have to lean into members to evangelize,” Rogers said.
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