“We’re all TV preachers now!”
I was laughing with some of my colleagues. Whether or not you were virus-screened regularly as 2020 and COVID-19 hit us hard, most churches were thrust into a love/hate relationship with video screens of all sorts. If a device had a screen, churches were scrambling for ways to beam their services onto it. We were suddenly tossed into the deep end of the video pool.
Many churches spent big bucks for equipment. Almost all churches spent some bucks. And we all spent a lot of time. Live-streaming is complicated. Even recording and posting later brought up all sorts of issues most of us had rarely considered.
Yeah, and all of this video scrambling happened in the midst of pandemic mayhem of all sorts. Folks charged with trying to manage a mess no one would know how to manage. Pundits from the far left and the far right politically decked out with the unshakeable confidence crazy and foolish people always possess in spades and at high volume, doing their best to drive the rest of us crazy.
Yes, and in the midst of all of that—one pastoral colleague of mine did more than 25 funerals for members and friends, deaths directly related to COVID-19—pastors and churches were also trying to figure out audio-video. What a weird picture. But there we were.
The video might look good, but the audio was horrible. The audio might be okay, but the video was jinky. What cameras for live-streaming? Recording?
“Hmm, that thing I make phone calls with and allow to disturb my meals also has a camera . . .”
“Well, really my iPad does a pretty decent job.”
“I think I need an attachment to mount this phone to a tripod.”
“How many experts do I need to involve?”
“I think I need this cable and that adapter and fifteen dongles.”
“I’d like to try this brand of computer camera but they’re as scarce now as toilet paper.”
“I’ve tried four different microphones, and the only question is which is the worst.”
“Uh, oh! I just coughed! I wonder . . .”
I even remember learning about camera placement when, one Sunday, a viewer commented on my, uh, nasal hair.
Each day, each week, and each Sunday, we stumbled on. And, finally, most of us came to some resolution we could live with.
And now we’re stuck. Oh, maybe some of the craziness is a notch or two quieter. Or maybe we’re just used to it, and since we know which of our friends prefer which flavor of foolishness, there’s little point in blathering on.
But what I mean is, we’re stuck in video production. For good or ill, most churches will keep the cameras rolling post-pandemic.
It’s probably good to get our services “out there.” I’m glad that folks who literally aren’t able to come, or shouldn’t come in person, have this option. It’s kind of nice to see names pop up on the screen, folks who are friends from long ago or former members or family—or anyone.
Want to visit a church to see if you might want to visit in person? Video.
Genuinely sick or “shut in”? It’s not just that the dog seems slightly bilious or that the barometric pressure in Bolivia is not conducive to church attendance. I mean, you’re sick. Or confined at home. Video.
For a real reason that you need to prove to no one, you genuinely need to stay home that day. Video.
There’s that screen. Punch the right buttons and, if the folks on the other end have punched the right buttons, video!
But we’re friends here, so we can be real, right? For most Christians who are serious about faith, it’s time to suck it up and get back to church.
I mean, really. I like sleeping late and sweatpants and a leisurely breakfast, too. But enough’s enough.
Hey, you may say, I have a real reason to stay home and watch the video. You don’t have to prove it to me, of all people. Anyway, I trust you.
But I’m also sure you’ve probably noticed that most American Christians are more likely to die in their sleep than by any dangerous over-commitment to anything as brutal as, say, serious church attendance.
In any case, we’ll still beam out the video.
But here’s the deal: Christians really need more than that.
We need to bow in the midst of others who bow—and who think bowing together is worth some actual effort. We’re talking about worshiping the King of the universe, not just checking off a to-do list where “worship-lite” is a great alternative.
We need to bow with folks who also share hugs and smiles and needs and tears and meals and songs and prayers.
We need to lift our voices together, our spirits together, our hearts together, in a special place made holy by generations of worship offered and life lived together.
Not least, we need to worship together to remind us of our brothers and sisters oceans away who risk persecution and death to worship together.
A screen at need, okay. But Sunday after Sunday?
For those for whom the church has never been a part of real life, not understanding this is understandable.
But Christians who worship the Giver of life should know better. And worship better.
Says a guy who is now also a TV preacher.
Muleshoe Journal Columnist