Let's Go to the Tape
After a few minutes, you forget you're watching a video," the cheerful, thirtyish woman at the welcome desk says. In fact, everybody says that. In the Chicago suburbs. In Atlanta. In Minneapolis. In San Diego and Los Angeles. Everybody says you forget that the preacher is not right in the room with you.
"The test," says Larry Osborne, "is how do they respond when the preacher asks a question. Do they raise their hands when asked? Do they applaud a videotape?"
"Do they laugh in all the right places? That's what I wanted to know," Andy Stanley says. "And they do. Sometimes when we have a guest speaker, I go into our other sanctuary to see how the video is received. They laugh. They cry. And when asked to stand or to make a commitment, they respond just as well as when the speaker is in person."
Both Stanley and Osborne are pioneering the use of video sermons. Both preach live in one worship service and via video in other venues. Both declare the experiment a success. And both plan to expand their churches by video. Another church has chosen to go entirely without a live preacher, relying instead on recorded sermons from the big boys.
It was Larry Osborne at North Coast Church in Vista, California (near San Diego), who named the concept the "video café." It started in 1998 as an overflow room that was "a reward and not a punishment," in Osborne's words. He contracted with Starbucks to provide coffee, and with tables and greenery, tried to create an atmosphere like a café. The café became a worship service of choice.
The room soon grew so crowded that the tables were removed to make room for more chairs, and when that arrangement was packed out, a second café was added. Now worshipers can choose from five worship styles at 13 services.
The service in the main sanctuary is what you'd expect in Southern California, casual with an up-tempo rock beat, just right for "an old hippie," as Osborne calls himself. In the outlying rooms, the worship flavor is varied: edgy alternative, acoustical, lush praise and worship, traditional. Each venue is more intimate than the main worship center, 100 to 300 people.
"Leaders like it bigger, but the people like it smaller," Osborne summarizes. When the music (live) ends, the sermon video is played. "We don't try to hide that it's on tape."
Many churches are studying the North Coast model. In a 2003 Christianity Today article, Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren said his church's future is in the Cineplex concept, multiple venues and worship styles, where attenders are never late because a service, with its videotaped sermon, is always about to start somewhere.
Warren plans to double Saddle-back's attendance to 30,000 per weekend, without adding any arena larger than its present 3,000 seat auditorium.
In two places at once
The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, founded by Jack Hayford, is pioneering a live, fully interactive, two-way connection between two worship centers a block apart. When ...