With coronavirus restrictions forcing the closure of church gatherings worldwide, and authorities threatening to punish those who continue to attend public worship, the Christian church has become more dependent on the internet than ever.
Churches are now employing popular social media and video sharing platforms to conduct their services and broadcast their sermons. But how will the tech giants and social media outlets respond, especially considering their tendency to censor unapproved messages?
Well, it would appear straight-up banning churches isn’t off the table for some platforms, as a church in Moscow, Idaho discovered last week.
On Friday, Google suspended Christ Church’s app from the Google Play store after accusing the pastors of a lack of sensitivity and/or capitalizing on the current coronavirus pandemic.
The church received a notice from the platform, stating: “We don’t allow apps that lack reasonable sensitivity towards or capitalize on a natural disaster, atrocity, conflict, death, or other tragic event.
“Your app has been suspended and removed due to this policy issue,” the notice added.
It’s believed Google was referring to Pastor Douglas Wilson’s short lessons on responding faithfully to the COVID-19 crisis, and Pastor Toby J. Sumpter’s sermon calling God’s people to humble repentance in the face of the pandemic.
Is this a glimpse at what’s now in store for the church online? Should we expect to see more censorship of church services? Will the platforms that we now depend on dictate what our pastors can and cannot preach on? Time will tell, but if the past is any indication of the future, I don’t think Christ Church will be the last church gagged.
The banned messages, which are well worth listening to while they’re still available on YouTube, can be heard below.