Recently I wrote an article on the subject of the Virtual Church (which you should read before moving forward with this post to see where I am coming from on certain points) and even at the time of writing it I had already been keen on future related posts. I received some interesting feedback as a result and I suspect there is more to come. Nonetheless, it would be unjust to consider that topic while overlooking the virtual pastor, who is by default a component of the virtual-church.
The virtual pastor is not a colorful vector image like those seen in computer-generated animations. Instead, he is the man whose Bible teaching is broadcasted from a church service to another predetermined location, typically a building with ample seating capacity. It is there that a congregation of believers gather infront of a screen to watch the message being given, thus forming a satellite church in the least flattering sense, if not better expressed as church via satellite.
This is a new form of pastoring, one that is hardly compatible with the biblical image of shepherding sheep. A pastor that is not present to tend the sheep is tantamount to a church not present to follow the pastor. Both are a contradiction in terms and defy the nature of their definitions (the church is a gathering; the shepherd is with his sheep).
Virtual methods may work well when they are employed by corporate America, but their regular usage in ministry only perpetuates an already unhealthy church mentality. After all, how should we expect congregants to perceive God’s design for his church when their pastor can serve them through the air waves? Or worse yet, when his job is perceived only to be the delivering of a message, the more common view of a pastor these days?
It all fails to model the personal aspect of a connected body for church life when the closest a congregation can come to their pastor is a digital image viewed from the front row. It goes against the very behavior a pastor would expect from the sheep. At this rate, a congregant may think it just as beneficial to skip service and watch online from the comfort of home. At least they’ll save on gas consumption.
This article is not a rebuke to the pastors or ministries that are making use of technology where there is no flesh-and-blood alternative and as a temporary solution to a logistical problem. I do however find much fault with, and no reason for, a pastor who broadcasts himself to another location. A church must have its own resident teaching pastor. As we will see in a future post, the virtual pastor really isn’t a pastor at all according to Biblical terms. I question both the means employed to reach this end, and the end itself.
Because this topic is rather vast in scope, I will be posting the article in a few or more segments as a mini series. No matter how tightly I may try to write it, putting everything in one post would be too long, or incomplete at best.
Following are some of the issues I intend to cover in subsequent posts. I welcome your suggestions as well.
1. The Biblical definition and function of a pastor
2. The definition and application of ‘virtual’ in ministry
3. The biblical incompatibility of the ‘virtual’ nature with the living nature of church
4. The ethical and practical problems that ensue from a ‘virtual’ ministry
5. The justifications given by some to support ‘virtual’ ministry
6. Better alternatives to the broadcasted satellite church