There is a rising trend in Evangelical churches these days: pastors preaching to multiple congregations through hi-def technology:
The Sunday morning service at Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas, was humming along with hymns and prayers when something unusual happened.
The lights in the sanctuary suddenly dimmed, and members of the church hushed as they peered at a pulpit shrouded in darkness. The parishioners then erupted in cheers and whistles as Ed Young Sr., the church’s senior pastor, emerged from the darkness with a microphone in hand.
“Please be seated, be seated,” Young said as he grabbed the Bible. “How are you guys doing today? Doing well?”
Young delivered his sermon, but he couldn’t hear or see his congregation respond: He wasn’t physically there.
Young’s parishioners were instead looking at a high-def video image of their pastor beamed into their sanctuary from a “mother” church in Grapevine, Texas.
Young is part of a new generation of pastors who can be in two places at one time. They are using technology — high-def videos, and even holograms — to beam their Sunday morning sermons to remote “satellite” churches that belong to their congregation.
The problem with this trend isn’t the technology, or even having sermons broadcast to multiple locations (EWTN essentially does this all the time). The real problem of this particular use of the technology is two-fold: (1) it encourages a cult of personality around the pastor, and (2) it diminishes the sacramental nature of Christianity, in which matter and spirit are combined in our path to salvation.
Most Protestant services revolve around the sermon, and the better the preacher, the more likely the service will be popular. Churches begin to revolve around the personality of the pastor, whose preaching ability is essential to the success of the church. But the structure of the Catholic Mass helps to prevent this problem. The focus of the Mass is not the sermon, but instead the Eucharist, in which Jesus Christ is truly present to us in sacramental form. The only cult of personality that should exist in the Church is around the person of Jesus Christ.It is great when a Catholic priest is a good preacher, but that is not the primary reason we come to Mass, and it should not be the high point of the liturgy. Instead, the miracle of the consecration is what should draw us: through the power of the Holy Spirit bread and wine are able to change into the body and blood of our Lord.
Furthermore, we believe the “Word became flesh” thus elevating our physical natures to heights unimagined before the incarnation. This taking on of flesh by the Son of God has profound implications for our lives, and it effects how we live our Catholic Faith. The Church does not allow sacraments to occur without the physical presence of the minister (you can’t receive confession by phone, nor can a priest consecrate the bread and wine if he is not physically present). This isn’t anti-technology, it is good theology, for God uses physical matter to bring us closer to Him. As much as modern technology can help us in our walk with the Lord, nothing can replace one-on-one interaction with our pastors and fellow Christians.
Ultimately, it really isn’t very impressive that these pastors can “appear” at multiple locations at one time; Jesus Christ has been appearing at EVERY Catholic parish in the world since his Ascension! He doesn’t need hi-def technology to do it, but instead through a sacramental miracle he takes the form of bread and wine and allows himself to be received by his followers. No man-made technology will ever to able to top that!