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Why Church Shouldn’t Just Be on Facebook

The reasons worship services should be offline are all too human.

Every week, in the front lobby, the secretary of the church I attended in kindergarten updated the archive of sermon recordings. This was in the early 1990s, so the archive was a spice rack of cassette tapes, with maybe two or three copies for each sermon, in case multiple homebound church members wanted to listen simultaneously.

That sort of care for those who can’t make it to church on Sunday—whether occasionally or long-term, due to old age, chronic illness, or disability—is uncontroversial. Most churches have long since moved past cassettes to a podcast format or YouTube or CDs, but the basic idea of using technology to bring at least the sermon to those who can’t worship in person is here to stay, and so it should be. Though not a sufficient fulfilment of our duties on its own, it’s easily defensible as an outworking of the Christian responsibility to care for the sick (Matt. 25:36), “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2), and “look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27).

But what about conducting church—or, at least, its group worship and teaching—on Facebook? Many congregations tried this or something similar for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facebook reported that the week of Easter 2020, when pandemic shutdowns were just becoming widespread was, “the biggest for group video calls on Messenger and the most popular week of Facebook Live broadcasts from spiritual Pages, ever.” People seemed to take quickly to its ways of connecting when separated by COVID-19.

On Facebook, churches can form “groups” or “pages.” They can host chats and post memes that members and followers will see and respond to. …

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