July 6, 2009

Church Experiment #27: LifeChurch.tv

Sunday, I experienced the perfect storm of laziness.

It was the day after the 4th of July, which meant I enjoyed a few adult beverages with friends the previous evening. It also meant I stayed up pretty late and had a difficult time waking up in the morning. The weather was chilly and rainy in Cincinnati—an odd combination for early July. My gas tank was on empty, and I really didn’t feel like stopping to fill up. I had exhausted most of the churches within walking distance of my apartment. The Hindu Temple I plan on attending at some point in July is a thirty minute drive. And so on.

The perfect cure for a lazy Sunday afternoon?

Church online.

I have known about LifeChurch.tv (www.lifechurch.tv) for a few years. An acquaintance worked there for a brief stint, and I was always fascinated with its online church experience. At the time of my visit, they had twelve actual campuses—eight in Oklahoma, and one each in Florida, New York, Tennessee, and Texas. [They’ve since expanded to Arkansas, Kansas, and New Mexico, and more than doubled their campuses in Oklahoma.] From what I understand, all campuses use the same live feed for their services. If I go to church in Albany, New York, I watch the pastor from an Oklahoma campus give the message. As their tag line states, “One church. Multiple locations.”

In 2004, LifeChurch.tv decided to open an online campus. That means people all over the world can log on and watch the same service at the same time, complete with worship, an offering, announcements, and a message. (Communion is a little tougher.)

This isn’t a videocast. Many churches allow you to visit their website and watch a video from the previous week’s service. I used to listen to many podcasts on my MP3 player (Matt Chandler, John Ortberg, Mark Driscoll, Erwin McManus, Rob Bell), but this is different. [MP3 player? I guess my Sony Walkman was on the fritz that week.] It’s like going to church, only in your pajamas. How often do you attend church in your underwear?

I did exactly that yesterday. (You are welcome for that visual.)

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.


~*~KIMBERLY~*~ said...

Now, I can relate to this online church thing.

I have been using this every week for the past month or so. When I'm not able to make it to my local church I use online church.

I am also distracted by the chat room. I just click on the video feed to make the video go full screen. It blocks out everything else on the website. Press the esc button to get out of that view. But, honestly, I love the full screen video option. No more distractions. I listen/watched Pastor Dino Rizzo on Sunday. However, if you aren't able to make the Sunday sessions you can check in during the week also.

wendymhall said...


Ok, I have to admit to being old fashioned. I just can't imagine attending a church online. I can see how it's helpful to people who can't get out for whatever reason. But, isn't virtual community just that? How does one build healthy people skills if this is the only way they interact with other Christians? Yet, just because it doesn't work for me doesn't mean God can't make it work for someone else.Very interesting post. Thanks!

wendymhall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dana Byers said...

Steve, thanks for sharing the experience you had at church online. It's always great to get feedback.

LifeChurch.tv's church online is my church home. Like you, I sometimes struggle with the distraction of the chat room conversations. I suggest people attending click on the NOTES tab above the chat room window, thereby shielding the chat activity so you can listen to the message.

May your church experiment this year continue to go well!

Lydia said...

Wow, I never, ever even thought about that. I know many people do web-casts of their services, but this really takes it to another level.

Thanks for passing along your experience!

Brandon said...

Great to have you Steve! Glad you stopped by. We are probably the only church that doesn't kick you out for coming in your underwear...that's pretty cool :)

RA Cook said...

I think that it's very possible that what most of us get from most churches can get effectively transmitted online.
I don't think that's good.
I think that a personal and private faith is different than that described in the bible or lived by the early church.

Anonymous said...

i do attend an online church service and have a reality based realtionship with my fellow attendants most of which i attended church with before the online was available...i enjoy both the chat potion and the video message..sometimes other people make points about the message in chatting that u wouldnt normally think about... i love my online experience.

Dherbert53 said...

It seems like the TV church people are making a sincere attempt to reach those who do not attend church and lead them to Jesus and to a local church which is great.

"Red's" experience is not unlike the experiences I've had with small groups in the real world: one or two people are extremely needy and the resources of the group are usually focused on them...AND there's always one or two individuals that offer bad advice or make dumb comments and the group has to correct them.

Years ago, when the Internet was young and I was separated, we had a group called "divorced Christians" on AOL and chatted, worshiped and prayed together. It was an interesting experience and the prayer thing was expecially touching.

Now Steve, get out of your PJ's and go to a real church next week!

tami said...

I'm glad it's available for those who can't leave their homes. That said I'm also feeling very aware of the false community that facebook, online church and texting, etc. can create.
I had been talking about it with friends and then reverb gave a sermon on false community and shared his notes.
Maybe just by being aware we can avoid it.
God does want us to interact with each other. Texting just isn't the same as going for coffee...
Just as online church isn't the same as going to a worship service, IRL.

Thanks again Steve, I enjoy your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

its not a good place. I have seen hosts there be abusive to people, lie about people. I have never once felt the presence of god there, at all