If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world behindChina (1.33 billion) and India (1.17 billion), and followed by the U.S. (307 million). Now, a new church is being planted in the “nation” of Facebook, bringing live worship to its 400 million-plus residents.

On Sunday, March 14, Northland, A Church Distributed, officially opened the doors to its new Facebook app, which allows worshipers to invite their Facebook friends to go to church with them – without leaving the familiar Facebook environment. Plus, even when live worship isn’t happening, the opportunity for worship is readily available because the previous week’s service is posted and available for viewing 24 hours a day.

We encourage people to be the church everywhere, every day, so it just makes sense to put resources out there that will help people to be that church,” explains Nathan Clark, Northland’s director of digital innovation.

With a congregation of 12,000 worshipers meeting throughout Metro Orlando and worldwide via interactive webcast, Northland first began taking church out of the building in 2001 via “distributed sites” – live, two-way video connections between locations. Northland now operates four of these sites in Central Florida.

The church started webcasting live services in January 2006 and, 18 months later, launched an interactive webstream of its services that includes immediate access to an online pastor and the ability to chat instantly with other worshipers. Approximately 2,000 people use this venue each weekend.

On July 4, 2009, the church launched an iPhone Web app – offering not just videos of past services, but the ability to join live services as they are happening over 3G and Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, 200 of Northland’s congregants now serve as online missionaries, replying to emails from thousands of seekers around the world.

Now, every Sunday at 9 and 11 a.m. ET, Northland’s live services will also be accessible on Facebook. Clark says the motivation behind this new tool is to “take the church where people live.” According to Facebook.com, the average user has 130 Facebook friends and spends more than 55 minutes per day on the site.

At Northland, we often talk about the need to take the church to the people, versus asking them to come to us. For us, it was a wake-up call to realize that we were doing precisely that online – asking people to come to our website for worship. Why require a virtual commute over to our website when you can have church where people are?”

Ultimately, though, Northland hopes online worshipers will join a community with other believers … or start one. To that end, the church is providing tools for online worshipers to start “simple churches” in their homes at http://distributedchurch.com/.

Clark concludes, “The point of being a Christian is to bear the image and good news of Christ everywhere. We hope this new Facebook app will help.”