The Reverse Broadcast Experiment
Today we tried something different during our 10 AM worship hour. For the last 13 months, we've been running two simultaneous services at 10 AM, one in the sanctuary and the other in our gym. We call the gym service the Upper Room Service because the gym is located on the second floor of our west wing. Both services feature live worship followed by a simulcast of the sermon from the sanctuary on a large screen in the gym. As we had hoped, the Upper Room Service has attracted a younger crowd, mostly 20s and 30s, with lots of singles attending. By virtue of not being in the sanctuary, the service tends to be more informal and definitely more intimate. The leaders push the envelope a bit more in the Upper Room because there is more freedom for experimentation.
This morning we pushed the envelope in the other direction. In all of our services, we premiered a short video called "Where is the Upper Room?" because we do almost no advertising for the service and we are woefully deficient in our signage. No one would ever find the service by accident. If you came to Calvary as a visitor and didn't know about the Upper Room Service, you'd probably never discover it. In a way, I think those who attend that service like it that way. It's been allowed to grow and develop on its own and now has a strong, loyal following.
We decided to try to reverse broadcast back into the sanctuary. That's not as easy as it might sound. Until today everything had been designed to go in one direction. Our tech team worked countless hours over the last few weeks pulling wires, making new connections, and whatever else they had to do to make it possible to broadcast from the Upper Room back into the sanctuary. Last week when we did a test run, everything seemed to work well. Of course, that more or less guaranteed that we would have some problems today.
We hadn't told the folks in the sanctuary what we planned to do. When the time came for the sermon, they expected me to go to the pulpit and begin preaching. Instead, an image flashed on the screen from the Upper Room. With no sound. When we did the test run, the sound was so loud we had to turn it down. So they saw me on the big screen greeting them from the Upper Room but unless they could read lips, they didn't know what I was saying. Pastor Andrew Irvin was in the balcony watching the broadcast. When he realized the sound wasn't working, he leaned over the edge, telling the people in the sanctuary, "Now he's greeting you. He's asking the camera to pan the audience in the Upper Room," and so on. It was like that old routine from Saturday Night Live where someone shouts the news for those with hearing problems. Meanwhile the tech guys worked frantically to get the sound working. I knew nothing about the problem so I had the people from the Upper Room turn around and say hello to the people in the sanctuary. Two or three minutes later one of the leaders told me to use a handheld microphone. When I did that, they could hear me just fine in the sanctuary. So I did my greeting a second time and had the Upper Room people turn around and say hello to the camera again.
When the service was over, the folks in the sanctuary told me that even after the sound came on, there was a hum in the system that lasted about ten minutes. After the tech guys fixed that, things seemed to work well. We don't know why the sound went out in the first place. It turns out that it didn't matter anyway because almost everyone in the sanctuary enjoyed the surprise of seeing me on the big screen. By the end of the sermon, I could sense that God was speaking to many people about the issue of surrender to doing God's will. Technology and even our glitches didn't get in the way of God's Spirit working through the Word. I think church was a little more exciting for most people today.
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