Once again, the issue has come up regarding a worship service being watched or listen to on the computer rather than attending a worship in person with your church family. This particular case is when one church decided to tell its congregation to stay home and gather around the computer to launch their live worship service.
It happened this past Sunday on New Year's Day. So you can imagine everyone sleeping and watching the service in their pajamas and drinking their favorite warm beverage. So the question that comes to mind is, should you watch a live worship feed? My answer would be it depends.
First of all, I don't think there is nothing wrong with having a live worship feed, but, like podcasts, they can become a substitute for the body. Hebrews 10:25 says that we should not neglect the meeting together. In Acts 2, we see the church devote themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship. All of this cannot happen on computer screen. There is no interaction with the body through a screen.
What about giving a lost person a chance to hear the gospel. That is a plus, but it gives them the opportunity to turn off the computer if the sermon becomes a little uncomfortable. I have never seen a lost person leave a church service where the gospel is preached, though I think it happens in a lot of churches, but having an online worship service might give them more opportunity to turn away than a face-to-face encounter. Invite them to your worship service and don't them about the live feed because odds are you might not see them again unless, by God's grace, they become born again and want to plug into the body.
Next, a pastor cannot pastor from a screen which is one of the arguments against the multi-site structure some churches have. One of the things that I appreciate from The Village Church is when Matt Chandler comes on the video before the sermon, he says this video should be a replace the church you are attending or the pastor who shepherding them.
Finally, the church becomes a matter of convince. If you are running late or overslept, the excuse is, lets just stay home and worship around the computer. That shows no discipline from the parents and teaches their kids there are ways around something if you have the means. Same thing for those who attend college and don't want to attend a church in their city because they love the church they were apart of.
Let me take this time to address two issues that might come up with live worship feeds. First, what if you and/or your family is sick. Yes, please, if you or someone in the house is running fever and spending the night in front of the toilet, that is just fine. God is not going to hold you accountable for that. That might be a good time to get our the laptop and watch the live feed.
What about those who don't attend a gospel-centered church in their city? I would encourage them to find a church so they can plug into where they can minister to those in the body. I don't see a problem with them listening to a podcast with preachers that preach the gospel, but they a podcast or live worship feed, should never ever replace the local church.
There are some benefits to a live worship feed, but a church really should discern if it is the right thing for them to use. Technology is a wonderful thing given to all of mankind by God's common grace, but it should be used with care and caution.
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