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When it comes to developing cutting-edge technology, two congregations are proving that it's possible for churches to lead the way.

LifeChurch.tv, based out of Edmond, Okla., has long been known as one of the most innovative and fastest-growing churches in the United States. Yet while it continues to expand throughout its 13 physical campuses across the country, its latest inventive online development has opened doors to virtually every corner of the world.

LifeChurch.tv staff members recently rolled out BabelWith.me, a free group chat translation tool that allows participants to communicate in real-time using up to 45 languages. Developed in-house as a Web-based Google app, BabelWith.me isn't just for LifeChurch.tv members, but can be used by any business, church, mission group or individuals hoping to expand its message globally—or simply to communicate more effectively in such languages as Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi and Spanish.

"In our increasingly global society, language barriers have remained major hurdles to bringing people together," said LifeChurch.tv innovation leader and pastor Bobby Gruenewald. "Our hope is that BabelWith.me will set conversation free by empowering communication between different cultures and creating new opportunities for important discussions."

Meanwhile in Honolulu, New Hope Christian Fellowship has followed last month's highly anticipated release of Apple's iPhone 3GS by offering live streaming of its services to all iPhone and iPod touch users. After two weeks of test runs by New Hope's tech team, the church began offering full—and free—streaming of its services this past weekend.

"Typically, churches are years behind other organizations when it comes to technology and innovation," New Hope's technology and innovations director, Michael Sharpe. "We have tried to reverse that trend and pioneer new ways to spread the gospel using the most current tools available. We don't mind the long hours and stress that comes with innovating because we know that if we can come up with something useful, it can be used by other churches around the world."

By using the new iPhone 3.0 software that incorporates HTTP live streaming, New Hope says it is the first nonprofit organization to offer iPhone streaming.

"We are always looking for ways that we can leverage technology to reach people where they are at," said Peter Thourson, New Hope's interactive developer. "[Now] users across the globe will be able to continue to attend church regardless of where they are." [swerve.lifechurch.tv, 6/19/09; prnewswire.com, 6/30/09]

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