"Is Watching a Very Good Sermon on TV or Online the Same As ‘Doing Church’?"

This is an excerpt from an article by David Livingston:

For the first time in church history, our generation is able to watch and hear quality Christian preaching and music seven days a week, morning, noon, and night. And indulging in this wealth breeds in some a “consumer mentality,” such that they can simply change channels or turn off completely whatever they don’t like. In this, many people fall into a similar pattern with their actual church participation, i.e., to routinely “surf the Web of congregations” instead of hanging in there with all the other imperfect people in their church.

They, therefore, ignore the plain biblical instruction for their good—that God ordains struggles, conflicts, and outright orneriness within a church body so that he will get the glory of saved sinners like them growing in their faith, practicing his “one another” commands, and showing a clueless, alienating world his alternative community of reconciliation and grace.

That said, let’s go back to the original question and more particularly to what it means to “do church.” For starters, let’s acknowledge what the majority of us actually do every weekend at Bethlehem in our multi-site services. On a rotating basis, a different fraction of us will get live preaching, but most of the time far more of us sit and “watch a very, very good sermon” on a big video screen. So, what am I doing here, throwing stones at my own glass house? Maybe.

No doubt there are more than just a few folks who have surfed their way into our services from elsewhere to hear the very good sermons and will stay only as long as the sermons remain very, very good. That’s what “doing church” is for them … they are “auditing” church.

And that’s not all bad … in fact, it’s way better than staying away. By all means, come and audit! For that matter, staying home to watch a good sermon on TV is also way better than watching virtually everything else on TV. Long ago, the Apostle Paul wrote that he rejoiced at any kind of gospel preaching so long as Christ was proclaimed (Philippians 1:15–18), and so should we.

The rub comes in letting ourselves settle into minimalism. In other words, it’s very sad to reduce “doing church” to listening to a sermon whether it’s at home in front of a screen or in a building with others in front of a screen. “Doing church” is far more and far better than that … both on Sunday mornings and all through the week. Why? Because church isn’t a building to go to or programs and classes to attend; it’s a living fellowship of people who have a saving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ … and a saving relationship with one another as members of the family of God (consider Hebrews 3:12–13).

Read the whole article here.


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