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Is It Time to Shut Down the Livestream?

The loss of large group worship gatherings over the course of the recent pandemic was undoubtedly a hardship for the church, but in the Providence of God, it may have been the catalyst for the development of some much-needed tools and resources. Almost every church in Canada figured out how to record and broadcast services, but now that the pandemic is over, the question remains: what should we do with these new capacities?

Many churches that were having a hard time regathering their people after COVID made the decision to restrict access to their livestream. If people were sick or traveling, they could request a password, but otherwise, the service would remain unavailable online.

I certainly sympathize with those concerns, but I wonder if a more direct, pastoral approach could solve the problem without sacrificing the benefit of making our services more widely accessible. We spent about 4 months here making personal contact with congregants who were hesitant (or negligent) about returning.

While we still have a small handful of people engaging exclusively online due to specific health concerns, the vast majority of our people have returned to pre-COVID levels of attendance. In addition, we’ve seen a more than 20% increase in our LIVE Sunday engagement, compared to pre-COVID levels, due in large part to the fact that people moving into our community were able to “check us out online” before visiting in person.

Almost everyone’s first visit to a church now is a virtual visit, so if we do not maintain some kind of internet presence, we will cease to exist for people under the age of 30.

Streaming our services can also be a blessing to people living in remote communities. This is a relevant concern for our church in particular. Our city is something of a gateway city for people living in more sparsely populated areas. We are the place you stop for gas and groceries on your way “up north” and we are the place you come back to for medical care and specialized services.

Almost everyone’s first visit to a church now is a virtual visit, so if we do not maintain some kind of internet presence, we will cease to exist for people under the age of 30.

As such, our church functions as something of a hub and refuge for people living in communities that do not have viable evangelical churches. They watch our service online every Sunday and attend in person 6-8 times a year. We’re trying to figure out how to manage that, but for now, maintaining our livestream is a way of bringing teaching and encouragement to isolated brothers and sisters in Christ.

An online service can also be used as an outreach tool by church members attempting to evangelize their friends and neighbours. Sending a link to a sermon or a prayer that addressed an issue of common interest can be an aid in disciple making conversations.

For all of these reasons we have made the decision to leave our services online without restricted access post pandemic.

Will this technology need to be managed?


Will some people abuse it?

Quite possibly.

But properly positioned and strategically leveraged this new capacity can be a net gain for Great Commission churches moving forward.


Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Paul Carter

If you are interested in more Bible teaching from Pastor Paul you can access the entire library of Into The Word episodes through the Audio tab on the Into the Word website. You can also download the Into The Word app on iTunes or Google Play.

N.B. An earlier and shorter version of this article was prepared for Thrive Magazine.