Watching vs. Attending: The Dilemma of TV Ministry

daytona turn 2Last year I was able to go to the Daytona 500. This year I will be at home watching the race on the TV.

Arguably, I will see the race better at home. I can see close ups, and angles that I could never get from one seat. I can clearly hear the announcers. There won’t be any weather, parking, or crowds to negotiate. I will be comfortable in my home.

But I will not feel the rumble of the cars as they go by. I won’t hear the roar of the engines, or experience the excitement of being in a crowd. For all of the hassles that go along with attending an event, there is something about being there that makes it worthwhile.

I generally prefer to listen to a CD (Or album download) rather than go to a concert. I like to watch the Blu Ray over the theater. But when I do venture out to a concert, I remember why people pay lots of money to see their favorite band perform. When my friends and I go see the midnight show of a major blockbuster at the iMAX theater in 3D I don’t seem to mind the crowd or the cost. The experience makes it worthwhile.

I never watch college basketball or football on TV. I just don’t. My school was not a nationally known school, and I don’t have a team that I root for. Unless it is just an amazing game, college sports bore me. But when I was in college I went to most of the home football and basketball games. I loved going. For basketball games we sat in the same section every time, even named it. There was something special about being a part of the crowd. I don’t watch pro baseball or basketball on TV, but I have enjoyed every game I have ever gone to. Offer free tickets to the game to any fan, and see if they don’t choose to go as opposed to watch on TV.

I work in a field that specifically takes live events and extends them outside the walls. I make our weekly services available online and on TV. There are literally tens of thousands of people who experience the worship of my church by viewing it. They watch on a screen, from the comfort of their home. They do not have to negotiate any of the hassles of going to church. They will see the services, they will hear the Gospel. They can even call in and talk to a person about a decision or prayer need. In many ways, it is just like going to the services.

But it’s just not really like going to the services at all. Our TV program is edited to be a TV program. It’s not a corporate worship experience. You can worship an an individual or family, but it’s not an example of the body of Christ coming together. Watching the video stream gives you the live content, but it does not give you corporate worship. And that’s not it’s purpose. We do not want people to simply be satisfied with watching the services. We want people to go be a part of the local body of Christ, if they possibly can.

So we will broadcast the services, and make the message available. And we will have counselors available to pray over the phone. We will take worship and the message of the Gospel into people’s homes. We will reach over 10 times the number people who attend our services in person with our broadcasts every week. In many ways, those things are exactly why we do broadcast ministry. But the broadcast ministry will never be an end, it will always be a means.

Our goal will always be to get as many people possible tied to a local church, whether it’s our church or another one. I know that some people either cannot or will not come to the church, and the only way we an reach them in through our broadcasts. I’ll take that, but I won’t consider that the ideal.

That leaves me with several conclusions; What happens in the room is more important than what happens on TV. If my broadcast is service based, it is incumbent on us to take what happens in the room and make it into a good TV program. Then we must encourage those who watch, and those who call in, to be a part of a local church.

Finally, we need to make sure that our worship services and events are experiences people think are worthwhile.