Last weekend, I was suffering a combination bad head cold/allergic reaction to the Valentine’s Day flowers I bought for my wife. (No, the lesson was not stop buying flowers for Valentine’s Day. Rather than inflict my sneezing/coughing/hacking/misery on our church, I chose to miss church. Instead, I would watch the livestream of the 9:45 service.
Except the livestream worked for all of about five seconds, and then stopped. The livestreaming system wasn’t working, and I watched the “visitor numbers” fluctuate from five to eight to eleven and then back down as online visitors began to figure out the same thing.
While it would have been nice for someone like me, being sick, or someone who wasn’t able to travel to church, I realized something. Livestreaming, even when it works, is not the next best thing to being there. You can watch a church service, but you can’t participate. This is likely at least one of the issues I have with so-called online churches, and churches that use videostreaming as they embrace the “sites” concept. Something is missing, something important.
Yesterday, Marcus Goodyear posted an article at his blog, Good Word Editing, entitled “The Uncertain Future of Traditional Faith Communities.” And he put his finger on what’s missing – community. But he raises more fundamental issues that the problem the problems of livestreaming.
The American church today is losing both its knowledge and community roles, and what does that mean? Marcus says it’s already lost the knowledge role, and it’s losing the community role.
I left a comment on the post. Before the community role began to change, the church, or a significant and influential part of it, began moving away from the knowledge role and embracing a personal experience role. Like most major changes, it happened incrementally. But at some point, many churches – and I am speaking of those in what we would call the evangelical tradition – began to move away from teaching the Bible. The focus became something else.
This subject needs – demands – a broader and continuing discussion. People are experiencing the problems of the church, and there are a lot of books being written, but the discussion seems to have been largely left to the experts – theologians, pastors, theological academics.
This is one of those subjects too important to be left to the experts. The church itself needs to engage.
Read Marcus’s article, and let me know what you think.
Photograph: Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.