Is “virtual preaching” virtually diluting the Church?

Posted: September 18, 2010 in IJS, Religion Potpourri, Snap, Crackle and POP Culture, Testify
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

TV is changing the world, but is it changing the Church?

If you’re a football fan, you may have seen the megalopolis Jerry Jones erected in Arlington, Texas (outside of Dallas).

Some say it’s because God deserves a sanctuary that large to watch his favorite team. Others believe it’s some sort of obfuscated version of overcompensation. And then there’s that amazing video screen. Lord have mercy, it’s huge. And unfortunate.

Imagine sitting anywhere facing the sideline. Of course, you pay $400 for a glorified nosebleed seat and you are faced with two choices – watch a bunch of guys who look like ants on the field of green below or gaze upon the wonderment of a 159′ x 71′ TV screen. In HD, no less.

You bet you are watching the TV screen. Who wouldn’t?

You get back to your car and feel like you have lost five pounds. Your pants fit the same. You still look a little bloated in the cheek. And those $18 nachos you threw down your gullet didn’t help your GI tract. Then it dawns on you, with parking, eating and the seat costs, you are out close to $600… for watching TV. Think you’re going back after that epiphany? Me neither.

Considering that realization, I was reading the greatness of CNN Belief’s blog and found a nice opinion piece on a horse of a different color; yet, with the same flashy saddle – TV watching in church.

People listening to their pastor preach on Sunday morning may now ask a question that no one has ever asked before: Is this live or is this on tape delay? They are pastors like Rev. Ed Young, senior pastor of Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas. Young broadcast videos of his sermons from his “mother” church to other congregations in Texas and even one in Florida.

Beam me up, Scotty. With the rapid growth of churches these days, the need for TV screens is a must because there is always that one seat in the back behind a structure beam. Well that, or some oblivious woman with her “crown of glory.”

However the issue is with the satellite congregation. Ostensibly, they are watching church on TV. Sure, there’s a live worship team and the occasional assistant pastor edifying folk and making announcements but when the senior chieftain takes the stage, it’s showtime. The lights dim, the crowd quiets and on goes… the TV?

Has this become the pseudo-church? We all experience fellowship of a different ilk watching a game and grubbing down on BBQ fresh off the grill at a friend’s house. So why can’t this be the same? Simple – it’s not.

That power you experience from above is not the satellite

Church is not meant to be entertainment. It’s a hospital for the hurting, a refuge for those reduced to tears. Church can be a fun, a blast even, but when the saints go into screensaver mode instead of the monitor they are watching, we have an issue.

Geoff Surratt, author of “The Multi-site Church Revolution,” said at least 3,000 churches nationwide use some variation of high-def video to spread their pastor’s Sunday morning sermons. Some broadcast hologram images of pastors that float suspended in the air behind the pulpit, while others project images of ministers on large video screens. Some sermons are broadcast live, while others are pre-recorded.

Even worse, “pre-recorded” church. What’s stopping people from mailing it in from Netflix or peeping TBN and DayStar for church? Who needs a church building anyway when you have DVDs and iSermons, right?

The Bible clearly shows that if we have fellowship with God, then we should have fellowship with his people. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Facebook is fun but a little disengaging with all that poking going on. Twitter is great to follow other people’s conversations (even though most well-known Christ followers don’t follow back). However, what is so social about social media is that it has limits in its socialism.

Can’t the same be said about satellite churches? You are together in the company of believers, but then again, not so much. Everyone is watching the TV, separate from any attachment and once the TV turns off, they all go home. Just as if they hit the remote control.

And if you don’t believe me… didn’t the Word become flesh and dwell among us? It wasn’t transmitted in HD. You know, like a football game.

Comments
  1. Marie says:

    I think the church video screens are not always a bad addition to a service. Although it depends on how the church uses the technology they have that makes the difference. I think having a large screen to project images to help get the point across is great, or during ceremonies held at the church having a large screen for slide shows is great. My church has a Vista Spyder and it’s been great during funeral services to show the images that family and friends have provided to share a memory of their loved one. Also if people are in the back of church they can see what’s on the large screen better than something that could be put on an overhead projector. What I don’t agree with are prerecorded sermons, and hologram images of the pastor. Otherwise the screens are just there to assist the pastor and if the message is loud and strong then people will be more focused on that anyways to care what else is around.

  2. Thomas White and I addressed this issue in Franchising McChurch: Feeding our Obsession with Easy Christianity. The reality is that these churches have to promote a Lowest Common Denominator Christianity to make it work across various state and community lines. It frequently becomes a weird intersection of ongoing evangelism crusade and TV evangelism without any meat for the disciple to grow on. Check out the book! If you have questions about this movement, in may give you some ideas to think about…

  3. […] Writing on The Wall – Is “virtual preaching” virtually diluting the Church? I am beginning to wonder so. The crazy thing is that churches who multi-site are now starting to […]

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