Yesterday, I wrote about how we (particularly preachers and pastors) ought to respond when our live stream goes wrong. It was prompted by the fact that our live stream went wrong this past Sunday. I would like to say the low point was YouTube throwing us offline for reasons entirely beyond our comprehension, but despite getting back online, that wasn’t even the low point. It was a hot mess, and no mistake!
But despite all that it is important to remember that your local church live stream is better for you than anyone else’s. Even when it all goes to pot and nothing works like it ought, stick with your local church live stream (if they have one). Here are a few reasons why.
It’s for you
There are loads of great preachers you could tune into now we’re in lockdown. The internet is awash with them. You can land on big name preachers from America or you could tune in to one that is being done by the preacher who always blesses you when he comes to preach at your church. The options are endless. And I am not suggesting you won’t be fed if you do tune into those other folks. I’m sure their preaching will bless you. But it’s worth remembering it’s not for you specifically. Those church live streams, helpful as they may be, are not being delivered with you in mind because, in most of our cases, those guys don’t even know us (and, if they do, they’re still not aiming it at you in particular).
But there is a live stream (if your church is doing one) that is aimed at you. The preaching has been applied with you, specifically, in mind. The preacher has thought about what the text says and then considered how this might apply particularly to you in the specific situation you are in. The rest of the service (if you have one) has been thought about so that it might help you to reflect on the points raised from the Word. The only live stream able to do that is the one from the church to which you belong. And, because of that, you do better to tune into your own church live stream than anybody else’s.
You encourage your leaders
Again, just as tuning in to Tim Keller or Mark Dever will serve you on some level (though not as well as your own church), you better serve your leaders by tuning in to your own church live stream. Fact is, big name speakers have no idea who you are. You are just another stat on their video viewing figures.
But your elders know who you are. To them, you are not just another stat but a precious soul entrusted to them by the Lord for them to feed from the Word. There is no greater encouragement to your leaders than seeing you engage with the Word and then grow through it.
If you take the opportunity to ditch your local church in favour of a bigger name preacher, you will no doubt be fed on some level. But you will discourage your own leaders who are labouring – particularly in these difficult circumstances – to bring the Word and apply it helpfully to you. And they know you will not grow as much by being fed generically from people who don’t know you, they know you would be better fed by people applying the Word specifically for you. So tune in to your local church live stream to encourage your leaders.
It cultivates the right attitude
If we really believed that the big name guys were best for us, we’d all stay home and tune in online every week apart from lock down. This is the line spun by the multisite advocates – why allow duffers into the pulpit when we could let’s just beam in the best preacher. It’s a short hop from that logic to staying at home every week, forsaking your church gathering altogether and downloading your favourite preacher from wherever they happen to be.
Most of us (I think) don’t buy that logic ordinarily. We recognise there are other things we lose and (I also think) we see the logic of the earlier two points above. But in these strange times, lock down inevitably feels like the rules change. We can’t meet now. We are being forced to download a stream from somewhere. Surely, under the circumstances, it is legitimate to browse offerings from elsewhere?
I don’t want to go as far as to say that is wrong or sinful. Let each one be convinced in their own mind. But I do reckon that it isn’t best, at least partly for the reasons I outlined above. But it is also because if we cultivate that attitude under these circumstances, we can’t guarantee that we won’t bring it with us when things are back to normal (that is, assuming things do go back to being exactly as they were, which seem doubtful). It is better to cultivate the attitude now that your local church is the best for you, even under these circumstances, so that you still believe it when we can physically meet again.
To maintain training opportunities
Right now, we appreciate everything is weird. Giving somebody training opportunities under these circumstances might seem odd. But at Oldham Bethel Church, we have decided to press on with our normal teaching programme. It was the programme that we believed was right for our people at the time we wrote it and nothing stops us believing it is the most appropriate programme for them now.
Our gospel worker was just about to begin a sermon series when lock down began. We gave it to him because, despite having come out of theological college, nobody had ever given him a full series to preach (which seems like a big oversight from where I’m sitting). We originally gave him the series to help his development and, whilst not ideal, wanted to press on with it even during lock down. So, notwithstanding the short break for Easter, he will be pressing on with his series on the live stream.
But if nobody tuned in to the live stream, it wouldn’t be long before we began to ask whether it is worth bothering at all. And should we come to the conclusion that none of our people are watching and so there is no point in live streaming, this also impedes the training opportunities that exist for those we are looking to develop in their preaching. And whilst that training is not ideal, it is significantly better than not doing it at all.
So, there are four reasons why I think you should stick with your own church live stream. Of course, there is nothing stopping you tuning in elsewhere if your church doesn’t have one or you are keen to have a second evening service and your church can only stream one. But make your local church the priority. It is tailored for you, tuning in will bless your leaders, it will help you love your church more and it will allow your church to continue providing opportunities to train others, even in these strange times.