A week or so ago I had the great privilege of leading a workshop session for a group of folks who were considering the possibility of professional ministry. I’d been invited to present on Sunday morning and follow my presentation with a brief closing worship.

I’d planned on bringing my guitar and leading a time of praise, but in true “me” fashion, I left my guitar at home… but of course didn’t realize it until Saturday night. After about 30 seconds of anxiety, I decided I’d put my “money where my mouth was,” so to speak, and design a digital worship service. All I had with me was my Acer netbook, minimal software (though I did have PowerPoint), and an Internet connection. Less than an hour later, I was done. The worship included two YouTube music videos that I used to launch an interactive discussion (John Mellencamp’s Your Life is Now and Alison Krauss’ Down to the River to Pray). Because the crowd was small, I didn’t make use of Facebook, Twitter, or a live chat room, but with a worship assistant I could easily have put those pieces in place. I loaded it all up into a PowerPoint slideshow using the VLC media player so I could use the MP4 and Flash video files without converting them first.

The results were pretty much what I expected. Most of the ministry candidates were lifetime members of mainline churches and by some of their reactions one might have thought they’d never seen a television, let alone a YouTube video… and certainly never in church. Yet I daresay the majority of the participants attended churches that used video projection equipment most weeks.

What gives?

The fact is, the majority of Protestant churches in the US now use some level of “digital” projection (according to a Net Results survey in 2011), but in my experience, few churches utilize their digital resources adequately, and fewer still use that expensive projection system well.

So, here’s an inventory of sorts.

  • If the biggest glitch you’ve ever had in digital worship is misspelling eschatology, then you’re probably not doing digital worship.
  • If the only thing moving on the screen is the screen itself waving beneath the air conditioning vent, then you’re probably not doing digital worship.
  • If you could close your eyes and the only thing you’d miss were the words to the Gloria Patri, then you’re probably not doing digital worship.
  • If your biggest media cash outlay is updating your clipart collection, your probably not doing digital worship.

Bottom line: if you could duplicate what’s on your screen with an overhead projector and printed acetate, the words and images on your screen may technically be “digital,” but you’re not doing “digital worship.” Doing digital worship isn’t terribly difficult and it doesn’t have to be a major time commitment. But if you’re going to do it, please … do it well.

(Just a final note: Too many pastors are so enamored with video clips that they err on the side of using near-pointless videos just to be sure the worship is “relevant” to the audience. Pointless is pointless – be selective with resources that carry the message clearly and only use video when it specifically enhances the worship.)

Question: How have you seen digital worship done poorly? How have you seen it done well? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.