My Struggle with Streaming

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Live streaming is growing in popularity in churches.  Some think it is necessary for growth and evangelism, but I am struggling with it.

(Image courtesy of newlifecm.com)

(Image courtesy of newlifecm.com)

It is not that I do not love technology or digital media, because I most certainly do.  It is not that I do not want to reach new people and engage them even before they walk into the door of the church, because that is the way of my generation and those after my own.  I worry about abuse, about sending mixed signals regarding worship.  Worship is when the people of God (two or more) gather together to give their best.  There is a lot of intentionality in worship, and it undergirds everything we do, from gathering to going forth with God’s blessing.  We should be offering our best, which means we are intentional about our prayers, how we sing, being ready to hear what God is saying to us as the Scriptures are read and illuminated, and even being dressed, present on time, and ready to go when worship begins.  I hear a lot of people talk about how they just could not get it together, and so they stayed home and watched worship live stream, and that is what they did: they watched.  We must be present together with God and each other to manifest the Body of Christ.  We need to be able to respond instantly to one another and the movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst, and watching makes us worship voyeurs, not partakers in each other.

Worship is more than a bunch of individuals gathering to offer their personal prayers and offerings, and get something personally from God Almighty.  It is to form a community with one sacred purpose and proclaim with our gathered presence the glory of God, the Father, testify to the salvation born of Jesus Christ, and be vessels of the Holy Spirit as it enables us to worship more fully.  I understand when faithful members are forced to be separated from their beloved congregation on Sunday morning whether from work, illness, or travel, and desire to be connected.  They do not want to miss the sermon, the sacred music, or any other aspect of their church’s corporate worship.  My concern is when that becomes a crutch, a viable alternative in the minds of people to stay home, to not be so intentional about being present.  I worry that live streaming might become a stumbling block to some, and just one is too many as the Apostle Paul says (1 Corinthians 8:9).  Even Jesus has something to say about our contributing to the waywardness of others:

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come!'” (Luke 17:1 NRS).

I have not resigned myself against live streaming, but I think my struggle is clear.  As someone who is called to lead God’s people in our worship together, I want to do what is right by God, the Body of Christ, and those who have not yet taken their rightful place in our midst.  If you had the option of live streaming, how would you use it?  Would it become a stumbling block to you, crutch in your mind that allowed you to stay home, or would you resolve to use it as a companion in this spiritual path we walk?  I would love to hear your reflections and conclusions to help me make my own.

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4 responses »

  1. Sarah,

    Well written and you make an excellent point about relying on streaming to be the way one ‘does’ church. It CAN become a crutch and a stumbling block, as I’ve seen it happening with a dear friend of mine who stopped going to the church she’s been a part of since the day she was born because she feels everyone there judges her. So now she uses online church services or watches David Jeremiah on TV with her husband and kids.

    But, on the other hand, I’ve seen it work for another friend, whose family lives up in Canada truly out ‘in the wilds,’ and there’s no church for miles.

    So yes, it IS a struggle.

  2. I think that the most wonderful part of streaming is the benefit to those who cannot attend church because of illness or physical disability. Most people never give a thought to the possibility that something will happen to them that would prevent them from attending church–as evident in the recent bus purchase at LUMC–it’s not wheelchair accessible. Broken hip? Stroke-related paralysis? Forget coming to church, we can’t bring you. Streaming would so help these folks. I’ve seen my own mother, who was extremely active in her church, sit and cry over her inability to attend services because she is confined to a wheelchair in a long-term care facility. If her church had streaming, I could take my tablet and we could participate in those services together. If able-bodied folks chose streaming over attendance out of sheer laziness, there’s not too much we can do about it. Their faith must be fairly weak if they’d rather be at home than at church.

  3. Sarah, I know you have had requests for copies of your sermons. If it can be streamed it can also be recorded. This would enable transcripts. Personally, i’d love to have a transcript of your recent Naked Vegetarian series.

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