With more than 800,000 followers on Facebook, Chicago-based internet preacher and U.S. Army veteran, Marcus Rogers, has an audience on social media that’s much greater than popular established churches like Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, and is just about 300,000 shy of Joel Osteen’s Texas-based Lakewood Church’s 1.1 million followers.
“I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody who can save anybody! His name is Jesus,” Rogers, who turns 33 next month, boldly declares in the introduction to his page which you must follow in order to get the latest updates.
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,” he warned in a veiled shot perhaps about the growing and diverse industry of internet preachers and online ministries. “Everybody claiming to be a Christian isn’t a Christian. Everyone claiming to have a word [from] God doesn’t really have one. It’s dangerous to just follow anybody claiming to be a Christian.”
In recent years, various social platforms and other online technology amplified the voices of a variety of controversial internet preachers ranging from more conservative ones like Rogers, to the profane like, “The Cussing Pastor,” Thaddeus Matthews. And 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 Rojas Ross, central team leader of communications at the Craig Groeschel-led 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 to us today to spread the Gospel to as many people as we can. There are more than 7 billion people on this Earth, and as long as there is one hurting person who doesn’t know Christ, we know our job isn’t done,” Ross shared with The Christian Post in a recent statement.
“Life.Church Online has allowed us to reach people who likely would have never walked through the doors of a church building. Beyond what we ever could have hoped or imagined, lives are being transformed around the globe. And we continue to see that number increase over time. So far this year on average, we’re reaching more than 500,000 people each week through Church Online, which includes live.life.church, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch,” she added.
She explained that Life.Church’s online community is made up of different types of people including those who: are outside the physical reach of the church; prefer to explore their interest in spirituality in an online context; people who are a part of our church, but are looking for an option to worship together because they are traveling or displaced, and people who prefer to experience much of their community in an online context.
“Though community and fellowship looks different in an online environment, we’ve found that many people are more open and feel more comfortable sharing details that they might hesitate to share in face-to-face conversations,” she said.
“We don’t expect Church Online to be the same thing for each person. For some, online ministry is a supplement to help them stay connected to their church when they can’t attend in person for various reasons. For others, it’s where they find Christ. Some individuals see it as their mission field. For some new believers, it can serve as a front door of sorts which eventually helps them get connected to a local church. And for others, it’s a full-fledged church home,” she explained.
A calling to the internet
Rogers says his messages resonate with his followers because, like their de facto spiritual leader, many have struggled to find their place in traditional churches.
“I’ve pretty much been in church my whole life,” he told CP. “My mother was a German woman, single woman, [with] four mixed kids. So everywhere we kinda went, we were kind of always the outsiders. In black churches they looked at us kinda 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. The Bible says there is safety in a multitude of counseling. So I kinda 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, what I would do, I would just fall on my faith and cry out to the Lord just 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, you know. And 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. They might not have their dad, a pastor in their life that they can just call because they are not part of the in clique or the in crowd,” he said. “So I was like, I’m gonna share what God has given me to keep me going, with everybody else. And I’m going to share the raw truth, whether it’s about my divorce or what I was going through. I’m just gonna be vulnerable with people and be real.”
He quietly began posting his video messages on social media when about five years ago, in the fall of 2014, one of them billed “I Will Drown Myself” went viral.
“Right before I left for Korea the Lord spoke something to me and you know, different Christians don’t really agree with this, but I was leaving my military base and I felt the Lord leading me to go to my office, and I went to my office and I saw this trash can there and I felt led to just fill it up with water.
“Immediately I started having these thoughts that people are gonna think I’m crazy whatever … I felt led to put my head in the trash can and started recording whatever came to my mind and that was my first video,” he said.
“That took off and from there I kept making videos with the intent to just help people, motivate people, encourage people. And I didn’t see anybody else doing that at the time,” he noted.
Rogers had no plans to become famous.
“I just wanted to help other people that I knew were just out there like me,” he said.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair