On Christmas Eve, I wrote about the temptation of forever-virtual church. Thousands of churches started streaming their services during Covid stay-at-home orders, and even though those orders are gone now, many churches are still streaming. Though streaming is useful technology, and there may be a place for it in churches post-pandemic, churches also need to consider the potential downsides.
Trevin Wax has an excellent blog post for The Gospel Coalition that’s worth reading in full called “‘Gotcha’ Sermon Clips Are Bad for the Church.” He’s referring to the online phenomenon of people sharing edited clips from sermons that portray the speaker in a negative light. Wax discusses social-media accounts that weaponize sermon clips:
Some of these [social media accounts] point the spotlight on “crazy fundamentalists” while others root out the “most woke”—in either case we’re introduced to preachers who seem determined to live up to the worst caricatures. At times, we see clips from charismatic megachurch pastors delivering inspirational drivel rather than sound biblical teaching. The intended reaction, it appears, is to name and shame the “bad preacher” and to shake one’s head in pity or disgust.
So far, these have mostly been videos of prominent pastors or Christian teachers with online ministries. But it’s worth considering that your pastor from your church could be next if you’re streaming your services for the whole world to see. Sadly, there are lots of people in this country with grievances, an Internet connection, and too much time on their hands, and they might not stop at megachurches for much longer.
“But my pastor would never say anything like those crazy people online,” you might think. Of course, but that’s not the issue. He doesn’t have to say anything crazy.