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The COVID-19 panic has forced a number of churches to stop meeting in person and gather online instead.
Some are meeting on Zoom, where everyone can watch everyone else. Others are simply broadcasting the service live to people who can watch on their phones, laptops or even televisions.
All that is a wonderful way for people to remain connected to the church and to each other during this strange time. But, some churches are allowing technology to ruin the point of broadcasting a live service.
I viewed one last weekend that broadcast the entire service from opening song through the announcements and sermon to the closing prayer. It was a solid message about what to do when you feel depressed during the COVID-19 lockdowns. I am sure the message resonated with many people.
However, the church allowed people to engage in a live chat while it was being delivered.
Can you imagine attending a church service where the people all around you are carrying on conversations, asking questions, telling stories, shouting greetings across the room and requesting prayer? It would be extraordinarily distracting and defeat the purpose of worship and learning.
Yet, this online chatting starts from the moment the stream goes live until 20 minutes after it ends. The one-line statements scroll up the right side of the screen as 950 people chime in to talk, describe their week, offer insight into the pastor’s teaching, comment on a song or simply to proclaim, “I love Jesus.”
So do I, but come on!
Adjacent to the chatting is a nearly nonstop stream of emoticons floating up the screen as people react to a word, song or someone else’s chat.
The chats scroll so quickly that it is impossible to keep up without trying to scroll up to see who said what to whom, or to learn what was just announced.
Fortunately, I found a way to block the messages by flipping on an outline of the service instead.
Still, engaging in chats during the middle of service would not be allowed during “real” church services, so why are they tolerated during virtual services?
It has the same affect as when a pastor tells people to talk to God and listen for answers before taking communion only to try carrying on that important conversation while four guitars, four singers, two pianos and, perhaps, a horn or two blast out so much noise that there is no way anyone could ever hear a word from God.
Technology is great in that it allows a church to continue meeting outside the building. But, let’s not allow technology to destroy why we’re attending church in the first place — to worship our savior and take in an important, timely message.
If churches want to allow chatting, perhaps it should be enabled before and immediately after the service.