Do you go to one of those modern-day churches that meet in multiple locations around your region? You probably have a live worship team and multiple pastors at your site to pray with you, but there’s a good chance the sermon is coming in via video from a “broadcast” location. Man, what will they think of next!? I happen to lead one such church, and I’ve heard both cheers and jeers concerning the live streaming of my weekly sermon via video.
While most people don’t mind using technology to spread the gospel further faster, some people struggle with this new dynamic. Is it wrong? Is it less…I don’t know…spiritual or something? Let’s talk about those feelings and why I completely believe it’s ok to receive a sermon via video!
Let’s tackle some of those myths and objections with good ol’ fashion logic.
Myth: “God can’t move through video!”
Truth: Hundreds of millions of people watched Billy Graham preach the gospel via television and millions accepted Jesus watching those broadcasts. Seems like God was moving! I’ve given invitations to accept Christ via video and many people have responded. They’re not responding to me. They’re responding to the Spirit of God drawing their hearts to Jesus. Good news: God’s Spirit can be all places at one time! If God can move through paper and ink, I’m guessing video is a piece of cake!
Myth: “The preacher must not care about me if he preaches from a different location!”
Truth: So are you saying that if someone is not in your immediate proximity, they must not care about you as much? Does love decrease with every mile of separation? Tell the deployed Soldier that his wife must love him less while he’s far away, and watch him punch you in the face. I guess the Apostle Paul was just a liar when he wrote to believers in Corinth from a great distance and said, “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor 16:24). If distance means we’re not as spiritually connected, then we should be really concerned about the fact that Jesus is in another dimension at the moment! I love everyone who attends my church, regardless of where they attend. I even love the ones who don’t come to church each week! That topic requires an additional post.
Myth: “My pastor won’t know me if he’s not here!”
Truth: You ready for a crazy confession that most pastors wouldn’t make? I don’t know most of the people in my church. I probably know about 25% of the people who show up to my church on any given weekend…maybe less. There’s another group who I at least recognize even though I don’t know their names, and then many more who I would ignorantly pass by in the grocery store. Guess which people I do know? Those who serve, give, and show up faithfully. I also notice people who make a really big deal about the church on social media and invite lots of friends to church. In other words, I know the people who actually get involved and participate. Here’s another shocking truth. I know people at the campus I don’t regularly preach at! How do I know them since I don’t see them every week, you ask? Divine revelation!? Does the Holy Spirit write their names on my heart!? Nope. It’s because they serve, give, and show up faithfully. In almost any size church, you can be as known or unknown as you’d like. If you want your pastor to know you, just be involved and act like a Christian rather than a consumer who only shows up when he needs something. Believe it or not, even though I don’t know everyone’s name and favorite flavor of ice cream, I do love everyone in my church and pray for them. I pray and ask God what to preach each week. He leads me based on who He knows will end up hearing the message. He knows your needs and orders our steps together! Even if your lead pastor doesn’t shake your hand each week, there are pastors at each campus who can and will pray with you. Last time I checked, they have the same access to God and equally effective prayers!
Here are some of the unique benefits of video-based teaching & multi-site churches:
1) One staff member can do the majority of the teaching for the church. This saves money because multiple teaching-pastors cost more...this can be a waste! Even if you can afford multiple teaching pastors, good preachers aren’t that easy to find. You probably already knew that based on the many boring sermons you’ve already heard in your lifetime!
2) Video-based preaching allows a church to spread across a region but maintain the same cultural DNA & language. Like it or not, the main communicator establishes the culture and DNA of the church. Different preachers result in different cultures. We can span cities, but share the same heartbeat! Thanks, technology!
3) It costs way less to start multiple church campuses than to build one gargantuan gazillion-dollar building that tries to accommodate everyone at one location. Multi-site church is good stewardship.
4) By spreading multiple church locations across a region, you can reach lost people who otherwise would have been too far away to drive to your church! Casting wider nets lets us catch more fish! This is good news for us fishers-of-men.
5) A multi-site church allows for higher-quality ministry and outreach to more people at a lower cost, because one central support staff can resource multiple church campuses. Another stewardship home run!
Let’s be honest: any objections to teaching-via-video come out of traditionalism, nostalgia, & personal bias. There is certainly no legitimate concern over the morality of the issue. Plus, objecting to video teaching is just inconsistent and hypocritical. If you see a good football game, it’s good whether you watched it in person or on your couch. In the same way, if you hear a good sermon, it’s good whether you watched it from the auditorium, mom’s nursing room, online three days later, or at another church campus.
Sadly, Christians are notorious for ascribing moral value to their own personal preferences and acting holier-than-thou about it. Have you ever heard someone rant about how the King James Version is holier than other modern translations? Over three decades of church participation, I’ve witnessed scuffles over the morality of electric guitars, lighting, projectors, choir robes, hymnals, and more! It’s honestly embarrassing. In this day and age, when you can get a Ph.D. through online college courses or have a robot perform surgery on you with lasers, Christians are still acting like technology dampens the anointing of God. Here’s what I think Jesus would say about the matter: “Do whatever it takes to reach more people because I don’t want anyone to perish!” Time is short and the harvest is ripe. I thank God for any tool that helps us bring people to Jesus!