As most of the churches in China have their own chat groups or official accounts on WeChat, online platforms bring both advantages and disadvantages to pastors and their flocks.
Common problems & suggestions
Dilemmas confronting believers
1. Online sermons are a mixed bag. Some heresies quietly creep into cyberspace platforms and even spend a lot of money to build an eye-catching online presence. Believers without a lack of discernment are likely to fall prey to them.
2. Some Christians are more concerned about the quantity of sermons they hear on different platforms and quickly forget what they hear.
An elderly sister once shared a parable to describe this-- "too many sermons resemble rain falling on a heart the same as on a concrete floor, easily flowing away."
1. To protect themselves from heresies, Christians can pay attention to WeChat accounts or websites recommended by church pastors. That will reduce the risk of being misled.
2. Sermons are not only to be heard, but also to be absorbed. If one insists on listening to many sermons, he or she can make notes of a single sermon and meditate on it again and again in a week; he or she can listen to many other sermons the rest of the week.
Problems faced by pastors
The convenience brought by the Internet enables pastors to communicate with their flocks at home and influence more people. Reruns are available for those who are far away. One sermon can nurture persons several times. However, the challenge is to ensure that every sentence is theologically and logically correct. The content should be informative and inspiring.
As a pastor, I can seriously say, "These requirements are actually what we should attain. Online platforms just strengthen the qualities we should acquire." The conclusion is the acceptance of those and no complaints.
Highlighted issues during the coronavirus crisis and suggestions
According to my observation for the past month, the pros and cons of online ministries have been accentuated.
The greatest advantage is that the ministries solve the issue of "nonstop services and meetings", but it is hard to have a worship atmosphere at home. An embarrassing situation for pastors is that they keep talking while looking at no one... When preaching in the church, they can see the facial expressions of the congregation and adjust what they are saying. But it's quite embarrassing when they fail to see others and have no idea of their reactions.
On the contrary, pastors can refer to notes while preaching online, but if they develop that habit, it will be difficult for them when they are back in the pulpit.
If a believer replays a sermon online or has to do something else, he or she can do that while listening. Nonetheless, Christians need to be quiet and involved in worship when it comes to the agreed-on meeting time. That shows respect to the organizers and helps them form a communion with other believers.
In order to be more involved in their sermon delivery, despite not seeing their audience, pastors should earnestly prepare their sermons and practice delivering them several times so they are more skilled. They should practice more times than they do when preaching in the church.
A sermon should be given without the pastor looking at his notes so the facial expression is inviting to the listener and the pastor comes across well to his audience. If a pastor's sermon is broadcast online, he or she can watch themselves in a mirror to see that they are delivering the sermon well.
- Translated by Karen Luo