Every year more and more Christians choose to watch worship services on TVs, tablets, smartphones and computers. This trend is beginning to affect attendance, volunteering and giving. Some churches are closing their campuses, recognizing the inevitable: digital church is the wave of the future.
Almost every megachurch in America now livestreams its worship services on YouTube or Facebook. Even small churches make their pastors’ sermons available to watch and listen to online.
A number of my friends have pretty much stopped going to church, choosing instead to watch it online. Why go to all the trouble of driving to a building to hear a sermon when you can watch it from the comfort of your home?
The alarm bells are probably ringing in your head. I can imagine your objections:
Church is more than a sermon, you say. What about community?
Tell me, do you experience deep Christian community at church? Over the past fifty years many churches have scrubbed their Sunday lineups of community building activities, such as adult classes, coffee hours and the like. People who are looking for true Christian community can find it much more easily in a midweek small group.
How about sacraments such as communion?
Many Protestant churches observe communion irregularly, so members have no idea whether or not it’s going to be served. And let’s be honest — a five-minute ceremony centered around a morsel of bread and a sip of juice isn’t a jump-out-of-bed motivator on Sunday morning.
OK, so how about singing? We need to praise Jesus together in song.
Ahah! You can’t experience corporate praise and worship at home. Or can you?
In January, Hillsong released what’s believed to be the first 360-degree virtual reality (VR) worship music video. You can watch it here. Be sure to twirl your mouse (or finger) across the screen to experience the 360-degree effect.Pretty neat, huh?
Now imagine watching this video in 3D, wearing a VR headset. The musicians appear to be right in front of you – so close you can reach out and almost touch them. As you move your head you are surrounded by a vast army of three dimensional worshippers – hands uplifted, swaying in time with the music.
Meanwhile, your ears are treated to the sound of 15,000 voices all worshipping Jesus in song, captured Immersive Audio™. As you move your head the sound balance changes in response.
It’s almost like being in church. No, it’s better than being in church. Here’s why:
- Amazing quality. Your church may have good musicians – but Hillsong’s are better. They employ the most talented vocalists, performers and designers on earth.
- The crowd around you is more enthusiastic. Fifteen thousand worshippers who paid to go to a concert will be FAR lustier than a room full of Sunday worshippers, half of whom don’t even sing.
- It’s more convenient. Worship any time you want.
- It’s better for the environment. You can now worship in the presence of a great throng without driving across town, spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. No parking hassles.
- And best of all, it’s completely private. You never have to interact with all the difficult people you’d encounter in a real worship service. Introverts, rejoice!
And with that, church is now available as a completely autonomous experience. Christians can have the world’s best preaching and worship piped directly into their eyes and ears without ever having to interact with another human being. Technology allows us to create the illusion of Christian community without the challenges it presents.
There’s no indication whether Hillsong plans to release any more VR worship experiences. But if they don’t somebody else will.
So what do you think? Is the trend toward autonomous at-home worship a good thing or a bad thing? Leave your comments below.