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.
Great post! The last days will bring (down) with it apostate churches. There will be "a great falling away". I believe this is already happening.
I read a book recently that was very enlightening. All churches have their problems, they're filled with human beings. But, perhaps we need the right problems eh?
I think you would enjoy this book: http://www.house-church.org/book_biblicalchurch.htm
I commented over there, too, Glynn. This is an exceptionally important discussion, one that needs lots of input from a lot of different people. Somewhere there needs to be a melding of knowledge and experience - not one or the other, it seems to me. Like so many things in life, finding that center place is important, being in balance, not throwing out the baby with the bathwater when we try to become 'more relevant' or 'more contemporary.' I think Jim's reference to the draw of liturgy is a piece of this, as is Marcus's response to Charity - that offering space for silence (together) and opportunities for the creation of margin in our lives is a good thing that the church could do more of. Everything old is new again.
marcus' site is not available to me. i don't know why, but, it's been that way for a long time.
as for churches, and community, live streaming, personal experience, bible teaching, discussions...it all seems to be the stuff that is floating all around the truth.
When you say that the church itself needs to engage...that is getting closer. what is number ONE for each of us to engage with? what is number two? what is number three?
most people know the answer to these questions already. we know what the answer is.
pray for one another.
what is most important?
Meanwhile my church is moving towards streaming... :) but I agree with both you and Marcus. We are missing something. And I think it is labeled correctly- teaching and community. But community also extends outdated from our church walls and we're missing that too. Thanks Glynn. I need to ponder and pray about this more
Glynn, I posted a comment similar to this at Marcus' blog as well:
I think that where the "church" is falling down is that we don't act upon what we know in the community that we inhabit. What valuable "knowledge" we eke out of the Word gets lost in our dissection and parsing and obsession over minutiae. This prevents us from engaging whatever community we find ourselves in and acting upon what we know. If the technology is going to be used to further divide the Christian community from each other and from the rest of the world, then it will contribute to our demise. I believe the technology should be the vehicle by which we get back to basics. If the technology can proliferate a message of non-judgment, forgiveness, loving our neighbors as ourselves, acknowledging and loving a real God, being the agents of implementing God's kingdom here on earth, then we should embrace it. We choose.
I hear ya miss Nancy - I haven't been able to get to Marcus' site for months either...
Thankfully, our home church's mainstay is knowledge and teaching thereof, followed by community and God's children's influential immersion in it.
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