To Screen or Not to Screen? Considering Live-Stream Preaching

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The increase of video venue preaching is evidence of the popularity, viability, and potential good of this church planting model. By video venue preaching, I mean a place where a congregation or its leadership intends it to be a local church and its preaching/teaching is streamed from another locale. Yet even though the model is popular, viable, and potentially good—perhaps especially because it is these things—it must be engaged critically and thoughtfully.

Video venues have several immediate strengths.

  1. Video venues allow for church plants (or new church sites) in places that are comfortable and attractive to people who are uncomfortable in traditional churches. Some people will never, outside a tragedy or other life-altering event, enter a church building. Video venues can be welcoming places to almost anyone.
  2. Video venues can create faith communities in places that are otherwise void of churches. Cities have zones and they are not always intending to create places for churches where there is natural foot traffic or commerce. Video venues can often find places to meet where there is not an abundance of church buildings.
  3. Video venues can maximize the preaching gift of a person otherwise bound to one geographic location. Typically, the preacher on the screen is highly gifted, trained, and effective. Video venues maximize the potential of this person to impact more people than are present in a single location.

While there are multiple positives of video venue planting, these present day blessings cannot be accepted uncritically. The law of unintended consequences—that there will be impacts that were not intended—will hold true. By asking questions now, however, hopefully video venue plants/sites can be strengthened. Here are three questions for video venue users and strategists to consider.

  1. How will video venues maximize the preaching gift into the next generation?

On the one hand, video venue already maximizes the preaching gift by multiplying the image of the preacher. On the other hand, my friend Lenny Luchetti wonders if limiting the preaching gift to one (or few) people does not give opportunities for others to develop and discover the gift. Some churches using video venue will carefully announce and orchestrate Sundays for live preaching to help multiply preachers. What other ways can video venue sites give opportunities to develop preachers for the next generation? Further, how will video venue foster preaching as a corporate requirement—not necessarily in the same homiletical structure as a Sunday morning, of course—if it is increasingly seen as a job for specialists?

  1. How will video venues connect preaching and pastoring?

For decades, if not longer, ‘pastor’ and ‘preacher’ have been synonymous. To bring a word from the Lord meant that one was a shepherd in the community. To be the shepherd in the community meant to bring a word from the Lord. Video venue preaching multiplies the audiences to whom one pastor may speak, but in so doing naturally separates preaching and shepherding/pastoring. How can churches using video venue keep them connected? Conversely, is it time to re-think this model and challenge the synonymous use of these terms?

  1. How will video venues deal with the impact of the screen?

We know that our brains are being formed by screens. We interact, learn, and see the world differently because of the light shining in front of your face right now. Whether from a cell phone, laptop, tablet, or TV, screens are forming our perceptions of reality. Churches using video in any form, but especially video venue sites/plants, must consider what they are communicating with the screen and not simply on the screen. Further, churches must anticipate a reaction against the screen. People will seek ways not to see screens in all aspects of their lives—including corporate worship. Anticipating the effect of the screen and reaction against the screen will help churches using video venues to lessen any negative impact or fallout.

Conclusion

The presence of positives and potential negatives of the video venue shows that there is a tension to be handled by Christian leaders. The video venue solves certain problems, captures certain opportunities, and promotes certain gifts, but also creates new problems and comes with fresh warnings. We do well to anticipate and reflect on these questions now to refine what is good, repair what is broken, and restrain what is misguided. How do you see video venue churches capturing these opportunities? Addressing these challenges?

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