An American pastor delivered a message at a church through a technology that makes it appear he was there but actually absent.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of New Season Christian Worship Center in California was invited by Pastor Peter Mortlock of City Impact Church in New Zealand to preach for his congregation. Mortlock desired to have Rodriguez in the church but was hampered by pandemic restrictions. And did not want to stream either, so they proceeded to utilize holography instead.
Calling it a "holy hologram," Rodriguez spoke with CBN News about his experience.
"It does take some capacity. You have to have the apparatus and infrastructure. There is a difference between watching someone on screen. Unless you touch them, you don't know they aren't there," he said.
The California pastor shared that the idea came up after Mortlock requested for him to preach at his church. But due to distance, they were limited to having it online, as churches usually practiced during the pandemic, which the latter did not like.
"Pastor Peter said, 'We really want to have you here, but we can't and don't want to stream. COVID prompted churches to visit the Star Trek universe. It's equally as effective in delivering the gospel and advancing the Kingdom," he recalled.
Rodriguez is now considering the use of holography to preach at his church's campuses.
But Cameron Buettel, a leader at Grace Community Church (GCC), criticized the use of this type of technology. In his 2016 article titled "The Absence of Shepherds," he said that the system is a "demise of shepherding," adding that "holographic pastors are conducting virtual relationships with vast congregations."
"And that has led to a marked redefinition of what a pastor is-what he does and where he leads," he added.
He mentioned about the viewpoint of Steven Furtick, the pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina, about his church, which Furtick said he considers "as an army to support and defend his vision," not a flock to be cared for - a position which, Buettel said, is a departure from the Biblical doctrine.
"That represents a deviation from how God's Word describes the role of a pastor. Scripture paints vivid pictures of a pastor caring for a local gathering of God's people in the same way that a shepherd cares for his sheep," he declared, citing verses Acts 20:28-31, Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Peter 5:2.
He went on to say that the pastoral role was "modelled" by Jesus, as written in John 10:1-16, and "passed on the responsibility" to the disciples, as stated in John 21:15-17.
In addition to Furtick, the GCC leader also noted about the statement of Andy Stanley, founding pastor of North Point Ministries (NPM) in Atlanta. In a 2007 interview with Christianity Today, Stanley claimed that referring to pastors as "shepherds," as Jesus said in the Bible, is not "culturally relevant" today anymore.
The NPM pastor uses holography in his preaching like what he did in Athens, Georgia.
Buettel pointed out that Stanley's view of the church is a "deviation from the pastoral blueprint of church history" and that it "warrants biblical scrutiny rather than blithe acceptance."