Wow! Just when you thought you were getting your arms around the amorphous world of emerging and emergent church, here comes the next installment in the so-called church revolution: "godcasting." The Christian Scence Monitor reports that some churches have dispensed with the need to even have a preacher present at services. Instead, they "godcast" (a ghastly idolatrous marketing term if there ever was one!) an image of the pastor/preacher to a warehouse or movie theatre where "churchgoers" visually feast on a recorded and digitally-transmitted signal.
Proponents argue that "godcasting" is "part of the new ecclesiastical world order where niche marketing... is the name of the game." Others contend that the method is effective at both reaching the under-30 "market" and avoiding the high costs of bricks and mortar church construction. And some attendees confess that the quality is so good that they didn't recognize for a couple of weeks that the pastor wasn't there! It seems Star Trek hologram technology has nothing over "godcasting."
Well, how should those who want a pure church, a church consistently reformed according to the word of God, think about "godcasting?"
First, they should realize that "godcasting" has the potential to deliver very little God. The New Testament makes it clear that the church - living, breathing human beings saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ - is the body of Christ, not the broadcast of Christ. Our experience of the in-breaking kingdom of God occurs among the people of God. Christ's love is made tangible through His people, not through images of His people. This new iconography is about as distorting and idolatrous as the old icons of East and West. For a real, abiding experience of God, join the ranks of His people... commit yourself to loving them and to receiving Christ's love through them as He intends.
Second, be wary of "models" of church that weaken the affection and accountability between pastors and flock. Hebrews 13:17 is appropriate. "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." The "old model" of church was instituted by the Lord with certain ends in mind, not the least of which was the mutual blessing and joy that is to accrue to both leaders and members as the leaders "watch over" the flock. Moreover, the pastor-congregation context is one of mutual accountability - each to the other and ultimately to God. Projecting life-sized digital images is hardly the "watching over" of pastoral ministry Jesus intends. And it will never be the "advantage" intended for those who submit to godly church leaders in a convenanted church community.
Third, avoid "models" of church that foster or allow anonymity in the local community. The main purpose of the public gathering of Christians is to edify one another. It's why we're given spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7). It's why certain offices were established by the Lord (Eph. 4:11-13). It's why we are instructed to care for one another in so many places in scripture (Eph. 4:2,32; Col. 3:13, 16; 1 Thes. 5:11; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 John; etc). Life in the Christian church is meant to be lived out heart-to-heart, flesh-to-flesh. And the example of such living by the Lord's design is the pastor (1 Tim. 4:12; Tit. 2:7; 1 Pet. 5:3).
Fourth, and finally, the church is to be a display of God's manifiold wisdom. Through the gospel, God has purposed to create for himself one new body made up - not of niche markets - but of men and women, boys and girls from every ethnic group (Eph. 2:11-3:11). How does a massive digital iPod of a popular pastor beamed to warehouses and movie theaters to homogenous niches of people who passively and anonymously "enjoy" the show reflect God's wisdom and glory? It doesn't. It can't. The old model of church, built upon the Rock, the Chief Cornerstone does. May it ever be so. And may we ever desire a pure church.
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