I would like to pick up on a question asked in response to my post about committing to a local church the other day. The question was that if we are broadcasting our services on Facebook, Youtube and Zoom and people can join in from anywhere and everywhere then how can we still claim that this is an expression of the local church?
My first response to this would be to acknowledge that this has long been my concern with the provision of online material and one of the reasons I had in the past been sceptical about livestreaming the main service. I’m still not sure that I would advocate livestreaming the main serve each week after the pandemic although I think we need to work had at continuing to provide good quality online provision for those who are unable to access a church service at a church building. My concerns leading into COVID were that a service where elders from the local church lead and preach is one where the local congregation benefit from knowing those elders and from those elders knowing them. So, someone watching from afar will miss something of that. Indeed a sermon prepared with a wider audience in mind will lose something of the specific application that you gain in the local church context.
However, I also have to recognise that in normal situations, we would frequently have visitors drop in who were perhaps on holiday, visiting family or wanting to pop in and check us out. So, we will always have guests looking in. In those contexts, I would not expect to change the service to meet their needs. Rather, they are invited to join in with what we are already doing. Of course, application will still have relevance to different places and contexts.
So, during the pandemic, I have simply followed the same approach. I’ve assumed that the Sunday Facebook is an expression of public worship with the local congregation in Bearwood in mind. This means that we also work on the basis that we have been a local church in the week, staying in touch with one another, supporting, challenging and encouraging each other. Just as when we are physically at the building, I expect what we do on Sunday to arise out of that local expression of church and feed back into it.
Therefore, when I preach on Facebook, even though I cannot see them, it is still our church congregation here that I have in my minds eye. Just as it was them that I had in my heart and prayers as I prepared in the week. As I consider examples, I think of ones that they will get and will resonate with them. As I decide on application, it is with our community in mind.
I trust that as I speak, people listening in from other places will find what I say helpful, but I still consider them visitors and my focus is on feeding the local church family.