There are two basic reasons I hear pastors give why they do not want to put sermons online in either video or audio format. It comes down to either the theological and/or financial viewpoints.
The model we have today for doing church is rooted deeply in Hebrews 10:25, ” Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (KJV) While there are other verses that can be referenced, it would take a much longer article to discuss them all.
The referencing of this and other verses presumes that the online sermons are strictly for the current members of the church. There becomes a fear that by putting sermons online church members do not have a reason to come to the church building for a worship service. If the result of putting sermons online means members are not coming to the church building, there is either:
- a bigger issue at play: people are not experiencing fellowship, discipleship, and/or the pastor is the only attraction for people to come to the building, or
- a great opportunity: people may work on Sundays or be homebound and cannot come to the church building; or members may live several miles from the church building and could be used as catalysts together with the online sermons to extend the church further from the building into a wider community
A New Viewpoint
Until the past few years, true fellowship meant we had to physically be in the same place. While there is nothing that meets the level of fellowship people experience while in the same location, technology now affords us the opportunity to experience fellowship from a distance. This means fellowship can happen more often. Since there is no longer a requirement to invest travel time in order to physically assemble together, we can meet virtually and “meet” more often. By doing this, the depth of fellowship that is experienced over time from the virtual gatherings makes the fellowship we experience in person more meaningful and true to the koinonia the “church” is called to be.
Theologically speaking, we do need to ensure we don't stop assembling together. However, looking at the verses before Hebrews 10:25, we get a more complete understanding of what the author of Hebrews is saying.
Believers in Jesus no longer have to go through a human priest to gain access to God. We now have the privilege to approach the very presence of our Heavenly Father, as verse 22 states, “Let us draw near to God.”
As we arrive at verses 24-25, we believers are exhorted to “spur one another one on toward love and good deeds” and to “encourage one another.”
The irony of the book of Hebrews itself is it was doing this very thing (spurring and encouraging one another) without the author being in the physical presence of the believers. God was and is in the presence of His believers.
Moving beyond the Sunday morning “assembling together,” there are other opportunities such as discipleship, inreach, and outreach. You can read more in my post Six Ways Video Streaming Can Help Your Church.
Since there was historically a need to physically get together, there became a need to build edifices that would hold everyone who wanted to be a part of that fellowship. That meant bigger buildings, which meant an investment in constructing and maintaining those edifices. That results in the need for more and more money on a monthly basis just to “keep the lights on”, so to speak.
So a real and understandable fear that pastors may have in the beginning to offer other opportunities for fellowship, discipleship, and worship is the fear that tithes and offerings will decrease. The fear is
- the current members and attenders would begin to watch/listen online and not come to the church building,
- people would not give their tithes and offerings if they are not physically present.
This is understandable since it is a known trend that many churches suffer from the “summer giving slump” as members take vacation. When people miss being at the church building on Sunday, they tend to forget to give their tithes for that time period. The “out of sight out of mind principle” kicks in, and the tithe tends to not get mailed in either. This conditions the church leadership to have a presumed benchmark of how people would give if they were not at the building.
Each church has its own average gift per person in attendance. While the actual amounts given per person vary, there is an average. This average is pretty consistent for non-agricultural congregations. (Congregations in agricultural communities are dependent upon seasonal harvests.)
So, pastor, as you stand in the pulpit you have a visual sense of how many people are in attendance. Based on your experience you have a good or bad feeling about the state of finances for the church based on what you see.
So, when I or some other well-meaning person recommends you should put your sermons online or begin podcasting, you naturally and understandably have a valid hesitation.
Let me ask some “what if” questions.
With a new perspective that we are to exhort one another and make disciples…and not just on Sunday morning…
- some of your members were commissioned to start a Bible Study at the beach, lake, or mountains?
- before the Bible Study, each group participated in the online stream of the worship services?
- your members started sharing your sermons on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media in the spirit of planting seeds within their circles of influence?
- what if more seats are filled than ever before in your church building?
- more people begin serving as these new ministry positions open up?
- what if you begin ministering to people around the world through each sermon?
- what if all the time, prayer, and preparation you put into each sermon lives on past Sunday?
- those younger families you have been trying to reach start getting involved?
- you could “ride to work” with every member this week and provide some discipleship nuggets (e.g. podcast or MP3)?
- people who have never come to the church building began watching the services while inching closer and closer to God?
- your members started giving online more often than in person?
- you did not experience the summer giving slump?
What benefits did I miss? What concerns did I miss?
A great resource from FinanceForChurches.org for predicting revenue can be found here.