Posted by Craig Borlase on 8 May 2015

It really couldn’t be simpler. Periscope turns your smartphone into a live TV camera. It shows the world what you’re doing, real time. From political protests to the most marriage proposals, Periscope lets the world see through your own eyes. It takes live social media to a whole new level.

It’s only a matter of time before it all goes wrong, some say. We’ve seen enough twitter trolls to know that digital can bring out the dark side in those who feel that it gives them something to hide behind. How long until the first Periscope murder? 

Maybe those extremes are too far removed for you. Instead you see in Periscope a wealth of opportunities for the world of worship. 

Ever wished that a friend who has resisted faith could just experience a worship-soaked moment for themselves? Periscope could be the answer. Ever wondered what’s going on in the kind of churches that don’t have six figure production budgets? Periscope could take you in. Ever hoped that you could get a little real-time wisdom when you’re trying to crack a tricky rehearsal? Periscope could open up the doors. 

Or perhaps you wonder whether we really want them open like that. Aren’t real doors better than digital ones? If we concentrate our efforts on curating experiences that appeal best to screen viewers, isn’t it inevitable that we’ll end up focusing on entertainment more than engagement? And what’s with crowd-sourcing anyway? Aren’t we at risk of assuming that the opinion of the masses trumps the conviction of the few? Try telling that to the early church. 

In his novel The Circle, Dave Eggers predicts a Periscope-type development from a Google-type firm. The sales pitch is clear; if you don’t share your life's best experiences you’re selfishly withholding them from those who could never have them. What right have we to say that the most wonderful experiences in life should be private? 

There’s something about this that resonates with Christianity. Uncomfortable as it might make us feel, we often hide behind the notion that faith is private. We can sleep at night in these days of the decline of Christendom by telling ourselves that the heart matters more than the external show.

So, yes, perhaps we could all do with the push to be less private that Periscope provides.

But is it wholly public? Are we right to assume that we just all need to get better at broadcasting what we do in church? Do we run the risk of becoming all presentation and no substance? This is not the first time that the church has been accused of this. 

Perhaps the middle ground is this. Periscope, like so much social media, offers us opportunities to can bring out the best in us, as well as the worst. But surely it can only ever be just another tool to communicate the essential truth of what it means to worship God? 

Do we know what that really means?

Are we living like it right now? 

If people could really see our lives in private - not the staged version that we choose to share - would they be convinced of the power of the Gospel?

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