Garbage magazines and franchise churches...

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(David) On the way out of the office the other day I noticed a magazine on the front table. It was one of those freebie church business magazines that attach themselves to church addresses like lint to black sweaters. Entitled Church Productions, this particular magazine promotes audio visual equipment to seeker flesh houses and their evangelical wannabes. But if you can get past the blasphemous worship of profiled churches, every once in a while there's an article of interest to a church on the verge of building a new sanctuary.

So I picked it up. The cover article was "Church in a Box" and I thought it would provide sound and staging ideas for churches without a permanent home. But it didn't. It was church in a vacuum, worship and preaching in a studio broadcast to live congregations elsewhere.

That this is a really bad idea I don't think I need to argue.

But what's the essential difference between the seeker world's church-in-a-box and the increasingly popular remote worship locations of even many Reformed churches? What's the difference between church-in-a-television-studio and John Piper's one church in three locations or Mark Driscoll's 100 churches with one preacher?

Does the fact that John and Mark actually preach live at one location negate the essential soullessness of studio worship? Do a studio audience for the original sermon and live music and announcements at the remote site make a video sermon more palatable?

There are numerous reasons to question the wisdom of such worship, even in its more moderate forms as practiced by Bethlehem Baptist and Mars Hill churches. Broadcast preaching is remote preaching, no matter the circumstances. It doesn't attach. It doesn't connect. It's immediate neither to individuals nor to entire congregations. It can never have the directness of in-person preaching, and thus it diminishes the disciplinary power of preaching.

Can you imagine John Piper staring down a specific teen by video at Bethlehem Baptist's south campus as he makes a point about sexual purity? Why even try to address specific disciplinary matters by the video pulpit when those matters are non-germane to the life not merely of individuals but of whole audience congregations? And not just discipline, comfort, exhortation, training in righteousness...every local application of the Word suffers under such a model.

Beyond diminishing the power of the Word, think of the price exacted by remote preaching in the lives of subordinate leaders and young men weighing the ministry. Imagine the future faced by young seminarians at Mark Driscoll's churches... Perhaps they'll teach Sunday School classes and make announcements but Mark will be preaching to their congregations for decades. 

But troubling as these and many other issues are for the multi-site church, there's a bigger concern here that eclipses all the rest which I'll leave for a separate post...