Thursday, February 02, 2006

Video Church

There is a good bit of talk going on around the blogosphere and elsewhere about the validity (or lack thereof) of video churches- i.e., churches where the preaching comes via satellite or video. The arguments for this can easily be found. I am simply going to register my complete dissatisfaction with the idea.

Some of the discussion arises from churches growing quite large and therefore seeking to plant another church. So far so good. However, some have said that starting a church with another, different pastor did not work, so they started the new church and allowed them to have the same ‘preacher’ by piping in the sermon via satellite link. In some cases these new churches are in outlying areas of the city where the ‘preacher’ ministers. In other cases, the ‘satellite’ church is in a different state (see Brett Maragni on this phenomenon). All of this begs some key questions about what pastoral ministry is, what corporate worship is, etc. If the oversight of souls (Heb 13:17) is at the heart of pastoral ministry (as I argue), then how does this happen in a video venue? Even if there are other elders ‘on site’, what is the impact of the detachment of the preaching? This seems to me to show that our view of preaching is too performance oriented. We want a certain amount of glamour rather than simply faithful exposition from a local shepherd. The fact is that while eloquence is nice, it is not required (1 Tim 3; Titus 1). Faithful, orthodox proclamation is- and certainly Titus 1:9 envisions preaching aimed directly at the local situation.

True preaching should arise from within the community as the pastor from within the community speaks from the Word of God to the people among whom he lives, works, shops, hurts and celebrates. Preaching and pastoral care cannot rightly be separated (in spite of the fact that they often are in larger church situations where the ‘main’ pastor preaches and others do pastoral care).

The talk seems to suggest that people are gathering more around certain personalities rather than around the word of God and within the worshipping people of God. It also suggests that we place too much value on the gathering of crowds. Certainly we want more people to come to faith. The question is, “What is the right way to accomplish this?” The place of community and oversight has simply been lost in so much of the thinking about the church in our day.

14 comments:

Brett said...

Thanks, Ray, for the plug. I am still developing my thoughts for my fourth post in my series on this subject. It will be titled "The Advantages of Franchising Church." Until then, for a counter perspective, you can read Pastor Mark Driscoll's reasons for adopting the "video church" approach at http://theresurgence.com/multi-site_at_mars_hill

Brett said...

Great insights. Your sentence, "Preaching and pastoral care cannot rightly be separated" is outstanding. That reality ought to cause us to examine ourselves as evangelicals and really think through how to protect our pastor-teachers from becoming professional pulpiteers as churches get big.

Carey D said...

Do they have commercials, too?:-)
Good post, Ray.

Carey D

slmayes said...

I agree. The video church is not really a church at all. Sometimes in church growth and innovation we outsmart ourselves.

Alex F said...

I think my own thoughts follow yours but am still working on it. It seems that the same line of thinking, taken consistently, would implicate megachurches even before they develop satellites... ie is there a big difference between watching Andy Stanley on a screen in Dothan, AL and watching him on a screen from the balcony at the "home base" in Alpharetta?

I'd be interested to hear you talk about that sometime...

Ray Van Neste said...

Alex,

I think you are exactly right. The video church simply extneds the concept of church at work in the mega-church. It was Baxter who said a church should be no larger than can be adequately 'overseen'- and he was of course referring to being able to visit with each family at least once a year to talk about their spiritual condition. We however have almost completely lost the idea of oversight.

Mark O. Wilson said...

In a larger congregation, the speaker is viewed on a screen anyway. It is not a stretch, therefore, to move the screen to another location.

As long as the group has a common connection with the person speaking -- it's not that big of a deal to go to video.

I thought the way you do about video venues until I actually attended one. (Blackhawk Church in Madison, WI) The video service was outstanding -- and if I attended church there, I would go to that service rather than the "live" one. It was more laid back and "authentic" actually

Regarding the "care of souls" -- in the smaller context (video) there is usually a staff member who provides this pastoral connection. Due to the smaller situation, there is actually a stronger connection between the staff pastor and the members of the congregation than the "live" preacher at the mother church.

Anonymous said...

"laid back and 'authentic' actually"? What are you expressing here?

"video and the 'care of souls'...actually stronger"? What are you expressing here?

I find these comments very odd for a minister!

I am at this point not sure of my view of all use of video but in the majority of situations I would say I am against it i.e. Andy Stanley. I don't believe we need more laid back - if that is the case lets all stay home a do church through tbn. Authentic or self promotion would be what I see in most video situation, but again not all. I could go on from there but I am just wondering about what others think?

Baxter is very correct about size and accountability. What a sad state of affairs for the pastor(s) who puts other things above his two main task preaching and the care of souls.

Mark said...

I would be curious to see how the satellite church organizes their leadership. Are the staff members considered pastors or are they simply fascilitators? Have they been called to serve as overseers of souls or do they just make sure the video feed is working right?
I think this forces us to ask what a biblical pastor looks like--and that will inform our idea of what kind of worship service we want to ascribe to.......

R. L. Vaughn said...

Good thoughts, Ray. About 15 or 20 years ago, I wrote an article on the subject of worship and modern technology. In all I said, the main point was this -- we need to think deeply about whether the acceptance and integration of modern technology will change the nature of the gathered assembly. I think in the case of video church it does, at least from what it should be. For example, soundtracks were becoming quite popular in my area at the time. If a church accepts the utility of musical instruments in worship, and further believes that playing those instruments is a way of using one's talents to worship God, why would they exclude those people from that blessing of worship just to "improve" the sound, making it prettier and more professional? Wherein lies the priority?

What if we change this "video church" format up a bit? Perhaps this is a slightly "poorer" mega-church, and instead of getting the pastor on live satellite feed, he records his sermons and mails them out for his "satellite churches" to gather and listen to. Do we feel the same, or does this change how we think of it? What if the "satellite church" can't gather together so they hook up via some kind of video conference call to hear the pastor?

I think there are a number of issues that we have not "thought through" concerning our technological advancements and how to use them. Many years ago I had a aunt who was home-bound, and my uncle got the idea of tape recording the sermons to take to her (this was before this was a common practice). This was an excellent idea for the circumstances, but would have been a very poor substitute for attending church had she been able. I think this idea of "video church" could have a temporary place in a circumstance where that was the best that could be done for a time. But it is a poor substitute to continue when we can do better.

I also agree with what Brett wrote. The whole concept of video church seems to emphasize pastors as polished professional pulpiteers in a way that is foreign to the Scriptures.

Gordon Cloud said...

Excellent point, Ray. You raised the question of "detachment" due to viewing on the video. I think one need only look at the shallow Christian lives of those who choose to listen to "television pastors" as opposed to church attendance to see this point born out.

I am not against television preachers (provided they are doctrinally correct), but they will never replace the opportunity to sit under the "live" preaching of God's Word.

Another thought, if churches birthed from a mega-church aren't working very well with different pastors, could that be an indication that the mega-church is founded upon the abilities and personalities of the pastor rather than Christ?

R. L. Vaughn said...

A very good question, Gordon.

Ray, your blog inspired me to say something on the "Video Church". I have formulated a series of questions to ask for trying to help determine the propriety of the use of many of our technological advancements. I would be interested in hearing your comments on these questions, should you have any. Thanks.

Steve said...

The "video church" and mega churches may have their multitudes in Western Christianity, but we are witnessing a spiraling of moral relativism and unchanged lives (both in and out). If these entities had the commands of Jesus Christ in focus, wouldn't they have more of a preservation quality on the surrounding communities?

Steve said...

Just a follow up on my prior post...for clarification, I don't endorse either method, the mega church or the video church (due to the organic nature of the church). If Jesus' commands were followed, we wouldn't see this type of activity. However, I do see this type of activity as a natural progression in a culture where individual sovereignty reigns.