Dave Merwin interview

Recently, I had a chance to talk with Dave Merwin, founder of BetaChurch. This is an extension of the Noah Institute, which has been showcased on Screenspire. The focus of BetaChurch is to help the church with design and technology. Dave has a unique perspective on how the church can use web-standards for outreach. To learn more about this ministry, read on.


What's with the name BetaChurch; are you testing out a new method of online church? What has been your ministry background?


BetaChurch comes from the following idea: In regard to design and technology, if the rest of the world is at Web 2.0, then the church is only at version 0.6 in attempting to integrate the Great Commission with modern methods. We are at a place in history where all the tools for communication are new. I am so excited about what the church can accomplish in this era.

I was in youth ministry for ten years (Young Life) and those I worked with were some of the most creative and intelligent people that I have ever known. I believe the church can become influential in our culture again if it becomes more involved with technology and design; not being afraid, but simply saying "What if we try this?"


Do you run Noah Institute as a full-time gig, or do you have a day job?


The NI is a labor of love. Some day though, the vision is to do it full time. I have a day job at Anderson Group International as the Creative and IT Director. I strongly believe that the two work best when intertwined. In my case, creativity is facilitated by technology. AGI has been very supportive of the Noah Institute because they have similar missions, though AGI isn't non-profit. AGI serves the church through audio and video consulting.

In addition, I serve a select few clients with creative services and development. I have a small team that I work with that makes me look good. We try to have fun. Most of them are also involved in the NI work as well.

The end goal of the NI is to fund a think tank that is devoted to giving the church the answers that it needs, and a place to make cool stuff, much like Consumer Reports for the church. That is the vision. If you need a model, look to MIT. If we can build something like that… Oh man!


Describe the vision behind BC and what made you decide to start this up.


BetaChurch is about building a model and trying it out, refining it till we get it right. We want to talk to those who are "in the know" within circles that are not. For instance, we want to speak with the Pastor that is a techie geek, or the Youth Director that studied art in college and loved it. We want to give them the ideas and encouragement they need to keep trying and improving.

The purpose is to talk about ideas, innovations, and things done well or poorly to help these visionaries propel design and technology forward. We want to be the place where folks can come and say, "Wow that is a great idea!" or "Hey, I'd better watch for that in my church." Or even better, "I had no idea that was even possible. That will change the way that I minister the gospel."


Would you share your testimony, and how you came to faith?


I am one of the "dramatic" ones. I did not grow up in the church. I was an alter boy for a bit, but that was only to get a discount in parochial school, to avoid going to public school where beatings and crime were frequent. I am the child of 60's parents. They divorced when I was five.

As a child, we went through a lot. Picture any TV melodrama and you'll understand most of it. I had a criminal record by the time I was 16. Petty stuff, shoplifting, arson (it was just a field) and other silliness. I was a hurting soul: drugs, booze, women etc.

My sophomore year changed a lot. I ran away from home and moved in with my dad, who was sober and maturing. I met a pretty blond who took me to this thing called Bible study. I would fight and argue with the leader all the time.

December 3, 1987 I went on a winter retreat and heard the gospel during that intense weekend. It floored me. I wept and wept, understanding and yet confused at the same time. Why me? Why would the Creator of the universe die for me? What possible worth did I have?

Ten minutes later, that cute blond broke up with me. Still, we are friends to this day. After that, the Lord sobered me up, gave me restitution with my earthly father, and started me working. I went to art school forever but hated it, and worked with Young Life for about ten years.

In 1995 I met my wife. She is my best friend, lover, and the mother of my children. If there is an earthly reason for anything that is good about me, I attribute it to her. We have 2.6 kids: one boy and one girl. Our third, a baby girl, is due December 24th.

In Christianity, I believe that we are called to full lives, directed by God. My faith has always encouraged me to not hold anything back. I once heard a pastor say: "The richest place in the world is a graveyard, because that is where dreams are buried." I don't want that to be me. I want to die empty.


Wow, that's a powerful testimony. While I was fortunate enough to have parents that have stayed together, I can identify with some of the petty crime. I sort of fell in with the wrong crowd in high school: shoplifting, fighting etc. I think I broke a guy's nose (please forgive me if you're reading this). Anyway, is there anything else you'd like to add before we close?


We need help. Besides funding, we need skilled writers. I would ask your readers: If you are interested in getting involved, please email me directly. Let's talk. We have a lot of projects being planned that are going to happen as soon as we get them staffed. This will include technology experiments, design resources, and actual products. It should prove to be very fun.

Also, if you're are at all interested in supporting what we are doing, please make a donation. We need donors that share our vision and understand why helping the church with design and technology is so important. Your donation would be tax exempt under 501 c3, and we can accept it through our site.

We appreciate contributions, but also want to have a personal relationship with our donors. I am a husband and father of three (2.6), so I understand not wanting to just give away resources to bless a faceless ministry. So, get to know us. I would love to tell you about what God is doing in BetaChurch. If you have questions, feel free to call 541-335-1832 or email me.