A little bit of tech news here at the church: we just got a new video camera.
For those who might not know, for about a year now we’ve been video recording our services and posting the sermons online so that folks who missed a service can view them later. Up until this point, we’ve been using a little camcorder that Lora and I own, but it’s not really up to the task of providing broadcast-quality footage. So, we decided to upgrade the camera to something a little bit more suited to the job.
It took us a while to find a good deal – pro-quality video cameras are expensive! – and a little longer to get all of the cables and connections set up correctly to allow us to begin to use it, but this last Sunday we finally got the new camera up and running. And, boy, what a difference a new camera makes!
There are two big challenges to video recording our services. First, the camera is located in the very back of the room, meaning that it is pretty far away from the stage. As a result, the camera is “zoomed in” as far as it will go in order to make the faces of people on the stage recognizable.
The second challenge is related to lighting. Our sanctuary was not designed with high-quality stage lighting in mind, which means that anyone on the stage is poorly lit from the front. Making matters worse, the stained glass window located in the baptistery – which is beautiful – lets in lots of light behind the people on the stage. Our old camera wasn’t able to process those odd lighting conditions very well, resulting in washed-out images and poor focus.
The new camera addresses both of those issues very well. Even though it is still located at the back of the room, the new camera has high-quality lenses that allow it to have a crisp picture, even when it is zoomed in. Additionally, it has advanced light-processing capabilities that deal with all of those lighting challenges and produce a picture that actually looks somewhat normal.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
Partly, it is a way of reminding you that you can always catch up on old sermons by visiting our page on the video-hosting site Vimeo (click here). We also generally post the sermon videos to our Facebook page on Sunday afternoons, so if you are a follower of ours on Facebook you will receive notifications of the new videos each week.
Mostly, though, I thought it was interesting because of the metaphor you can draw between video cameras and the Christian life.
One of the things that makes our new camera superior to our old one is the lens. The old camera’s lens isn’t defective or broken – it’s just not designed for that kind of work. It functions perfectly well for what it is designed to do – shooting close-up video or amateur-quality footage – but it’s inadequate for more challenging applications.
I think there’s a parallel between the lens in the old camera and the way we see the world when we live our lives apart from God’s will. In our human understanding, there is so much that seems senseless, hopeless, and bleak – things that cause us to believe, wrongly, either that God doesn’t exist or that He is indifferent to our struggles.
Viewing life with an inadequate lens leads to a real sense of alienation with God. “If God is so good and powerful,” goes the common refrain, “why do bad things happen to good people?” Another common complaint has to do with a sense of injustice: “I’m a good person,” the thinking goes. “Why doesn’t God give me money/power/prestige/etc like He does to all of those people who aren’t as good as me?”
Having these thoughts or asking these questions do not indicate a lack of intellect, nor a lack of morality. Rather, they indicate a lack of perspective. We simply cannot understand the world in which we live unless and until we learn to view it through a better, more highly-developed lens – the lens of God’s Word.
When we do, we discover that our previous perspective was completely at odds with the reality of God’s creation. The question isn’t “why doesn’t God give me what I deserve?” as we may have asked before; rather, the question is “why does God choose to continue showering me with His blessings even though I continue to fall short of His plan for my life?” It’s not “why do bad things happen to me sometimes?” – it’s “why does anything good happen to me at all?”
In short, when we view the world through the lens of God’s Word, we understand that our lives are rich and blessed far beyond what we deserve because of God’s incredible, unending grace and goodness.
Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Dealing With Light and Darkness
Another of our old camera’s shortcomings was in its ability to deal with light and darkness. Too much light, and the picture became very “washed out.” Too much darkness, and the picture was too dim to recognize.
Again, the problem wasn’t some sort of fault in the old camera – it is simply that the new camera is more suited to dealing with these difficult situations. It has digital processing capability built in to allow it to correct for challenging lighting and produce a crisp, clear picture.
Every photographer or videographer will tell you that lighting is a constant challenge. It is possible for quality results to be achieved in even the most challenging of conditions. However, attaining these results requires skill, experience, and good equipment.
It is much the same in our Christian lives. We live in a world that is far from perfect, and while we see examples of goodness and light – God’s blessings, people taking a stand for what is right, etc – all around us, we also encounter times of darkness. How we deal with both of these, the light and the darkness, says a lot about walk with God.
Do we struggle to see the light during times of darkness? Even in the midst of our most trying times, God is there with us and will guide us toward His will. Remember the words of the Psalmist: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
God’s calling to each of us is to bring light into the world in our words and actions each day. When we embrace this calling, we become, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
The End Result
You can tell the difference between the videos created by our old camera and our new camera pretty quickly, especially in the unedited “raw” footage. The focus is sharper, the contrast is more natural, the details are more crisp. When the video is compressed to be uploaded to Facebook it loses some of that quality, but the difference is still evident.
That’s the way it should be with our lives once we have begun the journey of discipleship – the difference should be evident. People should be able to tell that there is something different about us and wonder what that difference is.
To be clear: we are saved by grace alone, not by our works or our actions. We cannot live lives that are good enough to earn our way into heaven.
But, as we live in God’s grace and we begin to grow in our relationship with Him, a natural result of that growth will be lives that are changed. We will begin to reflect more closely the nature of God rather than the nature of the world in which we live.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We are called to be different, not because we seek to attain glory for ourselves but because we cannot help being transformed by His work within us.
Do our lives reflect who Christ is, or do we reflect the world in which we live? As we grow each day in our walk with God, our lives should reflect that growth. In doing so, we will provide to our world an incredible witness to the power and love of God.
So, as you watch some of our new videos, I hope you’ll be pleased by the improved quality of the video. A camera is a small thing in the big picture of God’s plans for our church, but it is a tool that will allow us to do lots of new things in the months ahead.
Likewise, it is my prayer that we will allow ourselves to be used by God to accomplish great things in our world. He has a plan for each of us, and that plan is far greater than anything we could come up with on our own. May we be the light of the world, right here in Flatonia, Texas.
One final thought: I keep referring to our “new” camera, but the truth is that it isn’t new at all. The camera we just bought is actually almost 10 years old – practically ancient by technology standards. However, what is inside the camera is of such high quality that, even a decade after it was manufactured, it still produces excellent video – far better than that produced by the 3-year-old camera that we had previously used.