The Iglesia and the Eglise: How churches on opposite sides of the world are engaging technology

Who is the average smartphone user? An American college student? A young professional in a big city? The answer might surprise you: the average smartphone user is most likely to be a middle-aged man in China.*

While apps may have originated with Apple in California and the first smartphone was invented by IBM, China currently dominates the market. In fact, the US market only accounted for 17.9% of smartphone sales in 2012, and growth is expected to be strongest in India, Indonesia, Russia and Brazil.** Smartphone users now reside around the world, and the international demand for apps continues to grow.

“We're working with thousands of churches and organizations around the world, from South Africa to Brazil to Egypt” says Chris Sharpe, Media Director here at Subsplash. “It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to engage with the global church on a daily basis.”

Matthieu Layes, a staff member at Montreal-based Eglise Nouvelle Vie (“New Life Church”), partnered with Subsplash in 2011 to develop an app. “The French speaking world is our mission field. As there still is a large French speaking population that is unreached with the good news, we made it one of our key outreach strategies to reach the masses through the web. Developing an app was the key tool to efficiently reach the millions of French speaking people that own a mobile device.”

Several thousand miles to the south in Bogota, Colombia, Juan Manuel Cortes manages a Subsplash app for Casa Sobre la Roca (“House on the Rock”), a Spanish-speaking megachurch. Cortes first thought about developing an app when he observed a coworker reading a blog on her phone. When he asked her about it, she explained that she had listened to a sermon in English and was reading an accompanying blog post to help her understand the message. “That was the moment when it hit me,” Cortes says. "Why can’t we do the same thing for Spanish speakers? What a good way to take the message to a person.”

With thousands of downloads since the app launched in September and hundreds of new downloads each month, Cortes is ecstatic about the way an app has allowed Casa Sobre La Roca to extend their reach. He has met many people at the church who began attending after downloading the app and listening to sermons.

Cortes loves to share the story of a family who came to Casa Sobre la Roca after one of the sons accidentally downloaded the app on his father’s phone. After visiting the church, the entire family eventually became Christians. “You cannot imagine how many people have been impacted in some way [by the app],” he says.

Eglise Nouvelle Vie has experienced similar success. “Every week we receive emails from all over the world of people who testify how the messages are transforming their lives,” says Layes. Like many Subsplash clients, the reach of Eglise Nouvelle Vie’s app goes well beyond their membership. With over 3,500 members the church is by no means small, but their app is quickly approaching 10,000 downloads.

In an increasingly connected world, churches of all sizes from around the world are finding that mobile apps provide a platform to connect with believers on a local and global scale.

"Our goal is to make the best software available for the presentation of the Gospel. We want to give ministries the ability to have truly affordable high quality apps that they can control in real time, from features and layout, to branding and content,” says Sharpe. “It's been an incredible blessing for us to be a part of what God is doing through these ministries all over the world."

*mobiThinking: and Prosper China: **mobiThinking: