Friday, August 3, 2012

Virtually at Church

This week, after being sick last week, I was loathe to miss.  I had something really (really) big to look forward to, and I knew the phone could ring any moment.  After bouncing up and down on the couch, checking my cell over and over, I knew I would be irritating any churchgoers who were so unlucky as to be next to me.

So, I started thinking about the first church I visited, and how they said they recorded every sermon and streamed them online.  I thought about some of the megachurches I've heard about, and figured they probably streamed too.

Of course, I had heard about Joel Osteen and seen his books, with his ever-present smile and his beautiful wife.  I'd seen interviews with him and I'd even seen photos of the (huge, holy cow, omigoodness) big church where he holds services.

I thought it seemed like a good place to get a live-streamed church visit.

Lakewood Church, in Houston, Texas, is beyond big.  Said to be the largest congregation in the US, it can seat more than 16,000 people.  I would imagine they would have to have the most organized staff in existence, just to keep track of giving, groups, Bible studies and the like.

Just watching it on my little 14-inch laptop screen, I will admit to feeling overwhelmed.

Nicely, though, the website told me that there was a live service on RIGHT NOW.  So I clicked, got a quick little ad/intro to the church, and then an up-front view of Joel Osteen's pearly whites and well-known smile.

Sometimes, in services, we hear a message that is not meant for us-- it is meant for a friend or family member who really needs the verse or the words for that day.  This week's message (#546, God Will Bring You Justice) is an example of one of those messages.  Based, perhaps loosely, on Isaiah 61:7, his sermon referred to God being a just God, returning to the faithful what the devil had taken.  I have a friend who has lost much over the last three years, and is in a battle to regain hope.  I have another friend who is fighting to keep her child safe from a monster-- I have to believe this verse refers to them both.

The streamed service did not have any music, which I missed.  I don't know if Lakewood has no music at all or if it's just not streamed as part of the service.  In order to watch the past messages, people are encouraged to create an account on the site.  I did see requests for donations, but I am not sure if this is required in order to have an account.

I found the service uplifting and hopeful.  If I really needed to be cheered and hear some positive bits of God's word, I could imagine tuning in to this church broadcast again, but I don't feel like I'd be comfortable in the stadium-like setting.

The only thing that I wondered afterwards, after jotting down a few notes, was whether other sermons actually asked something of the congregation.  God gives much, but I believe and was taught that He also asks much.  There was none of that in the service at all.

Horribly, I found myself imagining Sunday traffic...

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