Worshiping by Webcast


It’s my daughter Catherine’s fall break, and the rest of the family is using it as an excuse to spend a long weekend at the beach.  It’s a little cool here, but the breezes blowing in off the water are the kind that make you close your eyes and inhale deeply, and then let it all out in a rush of relaxation.  It was in that frame of mind, and with a fresh mug of hot coffee, that I logged onto the First Baptist website on Sunday morning for the live webcast of our 8:30 worship service.

I was impressed by the quality of the feed: full screen video and sound that came in loud and clear through my earbuds (thank you David Powers and the rest of the Communication Team!).  I heard Ralph Starling welcome us to worship, Eunice Kim play the prelude, Millie Flinn read the Bible.  I heard the Men’s Chorus sing, watched Bob Higgins dedicate the offering, listened to the choir sing the anthem.  And then I heard Lynn Turner preach, and even though I wasn’t there in the room I felt the full impact of her sermon.  At one point I laughed out loud.  At another point I felt a lump rise in my throat. 

All of this was happening in the sanctuary of Richmond’s First Baptist Church while I was more than a hundred miles away, participating in worship through an open laptop computer, with earbuds in my ears.  And I was doing it while sitting at the kitchen table, in my jammies, with a cup of hot coffee.  I can see how some people might decide to worship that way all the time.  It beats getting up and getting dressed, doesn’t it?  Looking for a parking place and sitting on an uncomfortable pew?  Plus, no one passes an offering plate when you’re sitting at home alone.  But there is something missing, and that something is the human touch.

I never read it, but I remember a book called Megatrends by John Naisbitt, published some thirty years ago.  One of the chapters was “High Tech/High Touch” which I understood to mean that as our society becomes more and more high tech, we will crave the human touch more than ever.  All those hours sitting in a cubicle at work, entering data on a Microsoft spreadsheet; all those hours in an empty apartment, watching what you TIVO’d the week before; all those hours playing “Farmville” on Facebook, while you wait for status updates from your Facebook Friends.  I can see how that kind of life would make you so lonely you would rush into the arms of the church on Sunday morning, and how important it would be that—when you got there—someone offered you the love of Jesus, a bone-breaking hug, and a cup of hot coffee (a reminder to all of us to give in the same way we would like to receive).

So, as good as this time at the beach with my family has been, I’m looking forward to being back at church next Sunday.  Worshiping by webcast is a wonderful option, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

5 thoughts on “Worshiping by Webcast

  1. As much as I can on Sunday morning, before our worship – I tune in for the 8:30 service. For obvious reasons, I can’t see it all, but to have a little bit of Richmond 600 miles away, adds a little blessing to my day. But as one who craves the community, nothing beats being there in person.
    As you know, I worshiped with FBC Richmond in July and I felt God’s spirit through the people, the music, and your word Jim. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of. As much as I am grateful for this webcast, I would love to be there again to have that feeling of community.

  2. Dr. Somerville:

    Miriam (my wife) and I only attend adult Bible fellowship on Sundays and not corporate worship at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton. We have personal worship and devotions every evening at home.

    We alternate webcasts between FBC Richmond, Moody Church in Chicago (Miriam’s from the “Windy City”) and Liberty.

    With all due respect, I’m convinced that Webcasting is the future of the church. While it may not appeal to some, because of the preceived lack of fellowship, Bible study will become more intimate at church (for those not attending worship) and in “house churches” and neighborhood groups like the 1st Century church.

    Finally, I think that big building programs (such as the one underway at Liberty) will not be necessary for the above reasons.


    Mark: I appreciate this response. I think if you could combine the webcast with a house church full of hugs, hot coffee, and sustaining Christian fellowship you’d be on the way to something real. And I love what you say about not spending all our time and money in building programs. The Kingdom is waiting! –Jim Somerville

  3. I am convinced that sooner rather than later we will be reading a plethora of books and articles on the damaging effects technology is having on society as a whole; our very ability to communicate and relate to one another face to face is disintegrating by the day. When I am no longer able to be out and about, I pray that I will still have access to the marvelous technology that makes “being there” electronically possible. Until that day, however, there’s NOTHING like the warmth of the building, the warmth of the people, and the warmth of the presence of God “in the house” to motivate one to carry that warmth outside its walls.

  4. This passage described how I feel about the church: “….Dinners and suppers of charity are given only among those who are in mutual love from similarity of faith. With the Christians of the primitive church dinners and suppers had no other object, they were called feasts, and were given both in order that they might heartily enjoy themselves, and at the same time be drawn together. At the table they conversed on various subjects, both domestic and civil, but especially on such as pertained to church. And because they were feasts of charity, whatever subject they talked about, charity(the meaning here is love) with its delights and joys was in their speech. The spiritual sphere that prevailed at those feasts was a sphere of love to the Lord and love towards the neighbor, which cheered the mind of every one, softened the tone of every voice, and from the heart communicated festivity to all the senses. For there emanates from every man a spiritual sphere, which is a sphere of his love’s affection and its thought therefrom, and this interiorly affects his associates especially at feasts. This sphere emanates both trough the face and trough the respiration. They were also a consolation in adversities, recreations of mind after study and labor, and as they flowed from spiritual love as from a fountain the consequent expansion of feelings and the liberation of imprisoned thoughts and thus the renewal of their state.”

  5. Does FBC Richmond still brodcast their worship on local TV? When I was there a couple times in the 90’s they were.

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