Imagine attending a church and participating in the service without stepping foot inside the physical building. In 2014, CJ Cousins, associate pastor at Restoration Praise Center (Bowie, Md.), began developing a program called RPCtv, to stream RPC’s services and provide ways for online viewers to interact.
Written by Alexis A. Goring
“Today, people are suspicious, turned-off and feel less favorable toward church,” said Cousins. “RPCtv creates a gateway to our church life. It’s designed to foster interactive community and as an evangelism tool for our members.”
Each week, RPCtv draws a viewership of more than 300 people, but had almost 3,000 viewers during a large winter storm. In addition to sermons, RPCtv offers online Bible studies and devotional, testimony and promotional videos. On Saturdays, viewers can log in and join the chat to interact with other viewers, make comments during the service and return their tithe and offerings. Chat hosts engage with viewers by praying with them, facilitating discussion and answering questions.
Michael Dortch, one RPCtv chat host, says his most memorable moment was when 20 people clicked on the box to “raise their hands” to recommit themselves to Christ, be baptized or receive Bible studies. “Sometimes, you may just get one or two to raise their hands,” said Dortch. “But when you have that kind of outpouring you realize what a difference this is making.”
Cousins conducts virtual Bible studies to those who are interested. “Melissa Semchenko is someone who reached out for Bible studies via RPCtv,” said Cousins. “She lives 90 minutes away and is not an Adventist, but believes our message. We’ve been studying together and she’ll be getting baptized soon. She hasn’t come to a service at RPC yet, but feels connected to the church because of RPCtv.”
Semchenko feels God led her to RPCtv when she stumbled upon it while browsing the Internet. She watched sermons and other RPCtv programs and kept coming back for more. Cousins contacted her within 48 hours of her filling out a connect card. “The church that I’ve been to before always preached about a judgmental, punishing God,” she says. “When I was introduced to Pastor Cousins and RPCtv, I learned more about God’s loving and forgiving character and that He wants us to know Him and Him to know us. My studies have increased my knowledge of God and given me a closer relationship with Him. I’ve learned more about His loving and forgiving character.”
Though today many churches stream or record their services, most churches do not have a team of people who interact with viewers during a live-stream. “This makes a huge difference,” says Cousins. “We can follow up with viewers and better meet some of their needs. I think that’s what really sets us apart.”
RPCtv’s reach is worldwide, from South America to the Middle East and the United Kingdom. “This is how we’re fulfilling the model Jesus gave,” said Cousins. “It’s a tool that our local congregation is using to reach the ends of the earth. We hope this can be a catalyst to plant churches around the globe. The messages we produce on RPCtv constantly speak, not just to who we are as a congregation, but to the relevance of the Bible in context to where the world is today. No matter what we do and how we package and develop it, the content of the gospel will always be the same.”
In the next five years, Cousins hopes to stream RPC’s evangelism meetings and hopes that RPCtv will continue to grow as a tool for people in the DC / Maryland / Virginia area, and around the world, to connect to God and the church.