Friday, June 16, 2006

The Screen-fed church?

I was listening to one of Dr. Mohler's "Ask Anything Wednesday" programs...which I recommend, by the way...there's a link to his site on my blog. he was answering a question on satellite churches using video and the like in order to have two or more campuses. I have friends who may read this (in my dreams) who are part of such churches. Here's what it made me think of...preaching that's on TV every hour of every day, especially at times when the local church is gathered. Also, the whole concept of live streaming services came to mind.

Now, I'll have to say right up front...I have been in a church that has done this, and I know that the TV ministry, in general, was a useful outreach tool for us. However, I wonder if we might be saying something about the importance (or lack of importance) of the local church when we provide TV options for those who don't want to physically be in church. I know the argument that you might catch a lost person flipping channels and get their attention...however, are we sacrificing something of great importance? Are we saying to people that the only benefit to the local church is "gettin' some preaching?" I am incredibly vocal for the preaching of the Word as central to the local church...however, that's not the only reason our gathering is important.

We are saved into a body...a body that provides for our spiritual growth through preaching, teaching, accountability, prayer, fellowship, etc. There is no TV screen or computer screen that will be able to hold a teenage boy accountable when he's struggling with pornography like a Christian friend or youth worker at church will. There is no TV program at 10:30 on Sunday morning that will ask a struggling woman penetrating questions about her wandering eyes to other men like a woman in her Sunday School class might. There is no cyber-church that will notice the apathy in our hearts and call us to the carpet of the Word. It is through visible, gathered, local churches that these kinds of sanctification are given an arena of effectiveness.

So, let's not "pull the plug" on getting the Gospel into every format possible...mp3, DVD, TV, streaming, etc. However, let us be very careful not to silently usurp the vital role of the local church. We are meant to experience spiritual life together as a body, without "cyber" being the main adjective of the experience. Those who are spiritual giants walking before us are not long-standing members of TV churches. They have been part of real churches with real relationships...with words of comfort, challenge, encouragement, instruction, and accountability both given and received. Let's make sure we are not unintentionally de-emphasizing something that God has intentionally emphasized.