Is your cell phone screen a church plant that fits in your pocket?
Technology and church services have a history of moving from one screen to the next.
The First Screen was the movie screen. People gathered in the public space of the movie theater to see the world presented to them through the lens of the movie camera. History and entertainment were all brought to the big screen. People, together in public, were able to laugh, cry, cringe, cheer, and share emotions together.
Just as moviegoers watch together, so too, do those who attend a church service. Both require the people come to a location. Both function off a set schedule. A both limit their offerings. Choice, time, and location are all limitations of the First Screen and the church service.
The Second Screen was the television screen. People were connected to the outside world through a menu of television programs. People could learn about the world around them and talk about what they were watching. Television was able to reach more people. Those people required a greater variety of programming. But, instead of sharing the screen with the public, the Second Screen was shared in privacy of the home alone or with family and friends. Strangers were not part of the Second Screen experience like it was in the First Screen experience.
Watching church services on television required a person to be in front of their television in a fixed location at a certain time. While television increased the choice and variety of its offerings compared to the movie screen, the content was still decided upon by others. Experts controlled the programming of which churches or pastors you were able to watch in your home.
The Third Screen was the computer screen. The computer screen changed the way we work and play. The Internet allowed people from all over the world to pursue their particular interests and to form virtual communities on-line.
The Third Screen allowed people access to more information than they could have imagined. It opened up access to new types of media and allowed people to participate in creating, capturing, sharing, and comment on all types of media. But, though they belonged to “communities” they were still virtual communities. The Third Screen experience was happening in virtual space, not touch space.
This is church online. Most people settle down in front of their desktops or laptops and watch the service as it is streamed to them from points across the globe.
Choice has never been greater and the ability to participate in the creation, consumption, commenting on, or collection of media is available to many.
The Third Screen seemed to be the penultimate in screen evolution. However, the Third Screen Participants of online churches are still limited to access to the Internet access, either hard-wired or wireless. The Third Screen is limited to virtual community—no true person-to-person interaction. Virtual space will never match touch space in the most powerful aspect of human interaction.
The Fourth Screen is the screen you take with you. The Fourth Screen allows the user to leave the private and take the virtual community out into our actual community. The Fourth Screen allows the users to take advantage of the ability to create, share, collect, and connect, with their virtual and real community simultaneously.
Users can be in public, but still be at church. They can exist in both virtual space and touch space. They can introduce their virtual community to their touch space community. And it can happen anywhere, at anytime. Choice, unbound by time and geography, accomplished with portable technology.
As video becomes a more pervasive and accepted part of our lives and the technology of video instant messaging and live streaming video continues to grow more powerful and more portable. The ability to connect via portable technology allows church services to take place anywhere that is meaningful and convenient for churchgoers.
A church service can be literally carried out of our private spaces and into our public spaces. Virtual spaces carried out into actual spaces—carried in our pockets.
It’s like a church plant in your pocket.