In just a few weeks, New Life will open a new location near the center of our downtown district for people to gather and worship. When most large churches open new locations, the sermon is from the lead pastor and is shown via video with some very cool technology making that possible.
In this season at New Life, we are exploring another option. We will have a very real and present human teaching the Scriptures.
I am not here to pick a fight with all my pastor friends who have video campuses. There is certainly merit to each approach, and I certainly respect the innovation and technology that allows some of our best communicators access to growing audiences.
But I do think our approach has strengths that need to be considered, too.
1. We are giving young communicators a chance to grow
I remember all the chances I got while in my 20s and early 30s to actually study and preach a sermon. Mostly, it was on street corners on Saturday mornings or at rescue missions right before lunch or at some small, rural church led by one of my relatives. But they all were opportunities to learn, to fail, and to ultimately grow up. Preaching and teaching, like any other skill set, requires reps, and it is hard to get 10,000 hours of needed practice when there are fewer and fewer openings on the preaching calendar.
2. We get the privilege of studying together
Our model of campus expansion calls for each campus to preach from the same text each Sunday, allowing for some differences based on life lessons and personality. This means we have the privilege of studying together. Yes, it is a privilege. Since I have started this with a group of young leaders, my overall study time has been reduced by at least 30%, and my preaching has gotten better, or at least, my wife says so. Together, we can read more Scriptures, study more commentaries, and have better exegetical debates than if the burden of study rests on just one person. Plus, the unity that is forged in these collaborative study sessions is very powerful and only helps on Sunday in the pulpit.
3. We get to pastor people right in front of us
There is an unmistakable bond that happens between the teacher of the Scriptures and the listener each week. I want to look people in the eye and pay attention to what God is up to in the room, and I cannot do that effectively by video. I love when the Holy Spirit alters my course in a gathering because of something unique happening in the hearts of people. Then in the next gathering, I don’t sense those deterrents, so I follow my outline with equal effectiveness. Somehow, for me, I need to be in front of people to be at my prophetic best.
We are just starting this journey and I am very thankful for a talented team of communicators at New Life that make experiments like this possible. I may very well use technology to primarily communicate at future campus sites, but for now, I really like the relational path we are on together.