What is church? Is it an online, screen-based, streaming experience? Or is it a face-to-face meeting with people and germs that we might not want to associate with? That’s the topic we’re going to talk about today on What You’ve Been Searching For. I’m Joel Fieri, president of Christian Podcast Central. Stay tuned.
In our further research onto what you, the Christian podcast listener, have been searching for, one of the topics that came near the top was online church. Online church is a big deal these days. In this pandemic, shutdown world we live in, churches that didn’t have an online presence have created an online presence, and churches that were online have greatly expanded their online presence. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, as you might have guessed, I have some thoughts on that. Keep in mind, these are thoughts coming from the president of a Christian podcast network. I’ve made it my business to make sure that there’s as much good Christian content online for people to view as possible.
I also associate a lot with video and web professionals. We talk a lot about this here at Christian Podcast Central. Most of the video and web professionals I know think it’s a great idea for churches to expand their online presence. That’s a little bit like a hammer thinking everything’s a nail. If you’re a video and audio and web professional, as the one behind the camera is smiling and nodding right now, you want to take every opportunity to expand Christian content on the web and church on the web. I understand that.
Let’s talk about whether or not it’s a good thing or a bad thing to have church become more and more of an online experience. I see a couple pros, a couple good arguments for it. I see some bad arguments for it, too.
The first good argument is that it gives us access to a lot of great teaching from really great pastors that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I myself have watched a lot of sermons from pastors that I wouldn’t otherwise hear. Also, a lot of good worship sets, good music, good ideas, good Christian content. Again, I said that’s what I’m all for, good Christian content online.
The second good argument I see is that online is where all the souls are. All the souls that need saving are online because everybody’s online. If you look around, everybody’s on their phone. And if they’re not on their phone, they’re at Starbucks on their laptop with their phone. And if they’re not at Starbucks on their laptop with their phone, they’re at home watching their smart TV with their laptop and their phone. We are a screen-based society now. We’re a screen-addicted society. If everybody’s on their phone, on their screens online, that’s where the church should be, because that’s where the souls that need saving are. That’s really one of the reasons I started this podcast network myself, is that I wanted to redeem cyberspace. Since we’re all there, we might as well have God’s truth there. Those are the good arguments I see for expanding online church.
Now, for the arguments against expanding online church, these are the concerns I have, the dangers I see in making church a largely online experience. The first concern I have is that it will further reinforce the entertainment and performance-based culture we have in church right now. We have turned our worship experience into largely an entertainment and artistic experience. Worship has been redefined from a complete life experience of making your body a living sacrifice and holy and living your life in worship to God to strictly a music and artistic-based expression. Our worship services now are basically rock concerts followed by a presentation. It’s hard to call what sermons are these days actual sermons. They’re more motivational type talks. I see the church moving more and more that direction, and if we go online and if people strictly are watching a show or watching something in video format, it’s going to be just more and more of the same. So we’re going to further push ourselves to be entertainment and production-based rather than real-life worship based.
The second reason and the second concern I have with online church is the more we make church an online and social media-based experience the more the problems our society is having with screen addiction and social media addiction the more those problems will take hold of in the church. Our society has become a combative, intolerant, anxious society that’s incapable of dealing with the real world. We’re having more and more problems dealing face-to-face with people. Our online and social media addictions and our presence and our obsession with it has made it so much easier for people to become disconnected from one another and hostile to one another based on the fact that we only interact with people on a screen. We don’t interact with people face-to-face.
If you haven’t done any research, hadn’t done any reading on screen addiction, I suggest you do so. Screen addiction has become a giant problem in our society. The most recent book that I’ve read is from our podcast partner, Dave Murrow of Church for Men. He just came out with a new book called Drowning in Screen Time. I highly suggest you get it. We’ll put a link below to it where he talks about the problems of screen addiction and social media addiction, and then he offers some practical solutions.
The third and final reason why I would be concerned with expanding online church is that, bottom line, it’s disobedience. God tells us, “Do not forsake meeting together as believers.” Online meeting together is not the same as in-person, face-to-face meeting together. Anyone who’s done more than five Zoom meetings knows that it’s not the same. Meeting on a screen is not the same as meeting someone face-to-face.
What we’ve done with online church is we’ve facilitated people being disobedient to God’s command. We’ve made it easier to be disobedient. God, doesn’t say, “Don’t forsake meeting together as believers unless it’s a little dangerous, unless it’s risky.” Well, all throughout Christian history, people have taken huge risks in meeting together as believers. Even now, people in the Middle East and in China, believers are being killed and persecuted for meeting together, but they’re still meeting together. He also doesn’t say, “Don’t forsake meeting together unless you can’t figure out how to make it work or unless it doesn’t make sense or unless it’s easier to sit on your couch with your coffee and tune in any time you want, and maybe not tune in at all this week, but we’ll get it next week.” That’s not the spirit and that’s not the intention of us meeting together as believers. I think the easier we make it to forsake meeting together face-to-face the easier we make it to forsake meeting altogether.
Those are my thoughts. Again, this is just me opening up the discussion. What do you think? What’s your opinion? What’s your view on online church? Join in in the comments. Please, let’s keep this conversation going. This is another one of those things we have to get right, folks. And the only way we’re going to get it right is if we talk to each other and listen to each other, and that’s what we’re trying to do here at Christian Podcast Central and on this podcast.
As usual, check us out on YouTube and now we’re on Rumble and Gab under Christian Podcast Central. Check us out there. Look for us on Spotify, Apple, all your other podcast platforms. Most of all, as I always say, check out ChristianPodcastCentral.com for more content like this. See you next week.