Even as USA Today reports that more Americans are cutting out cable and satellite and replacing these services with set-top devices that stream TV shows and movies from the Web, many of us are now using these devices to attend church in people’s homes.
Case in point: More than 4,000 owners of the Roku player have installed a new channel from Northland, A Church Distributed (www.northlandchurch.net) that streams live worship services, along with past sermons, music and classes.
A pioneering church that has brought live worship to mobile devices including the iPhone and to Facebook’s 500 million users, Northland launched the first-ever church channel on Roku this October. Northland recently helped LifeChurch.TV launch a similar channel on Roku and wants to help many more churches do the same.
Originally designed to stream Netflix directly to TVs, Roku has since opened up to developers to create new music and video channels including Amazon On-Demand, Pandora and Major League Baseball.
Starting at $59, and about the size of a paperback novel, Roku is one of the most compact and least expensive ways to bring the church into just about any room. Installation is simple: Just connect the box to your existing Internet connection using ethernet or WI-FI, and plug an HDMI cable from the back of the unit into the TV.
“Our hope is that people will use this tool to gather together as the Bible challenges us to do in Hebrews 10:25,” explains Marty Taylor, Northland’s executive director of media design and technology.
The device is a potential boon for the burgeoning house church movement. According to noted researcher George Barna, one-third of American adults claim to have “experienced God or expressed (their) faith in God in a house church or simple church meeting in the past month.”
Ron and Marcy Burth started a house church this summer at their home in Venice, Fla., which is now attended by 20 people. Marcy raves, “The Roku box is fantastic. It has really simplified our connection to Northland.”
Jeremy Langston is an online congregant from Benton, La., who has worshiped with Northland along with his wife and five children for about a year now. A paramedic on an offshore oil platform, Langston worships via Northland’s Facebook app when he’s working in the Gulf.
“When I am home, I enjoy the Roku’s large, high-quality picture instead of a tiny computer screen, and the sound is much better,” he says.
Hulu, the popular online TV and movie site, just made its subscription service available in the Roku Channel Store. Additions such as this will almost certainly have more people buying the device during the holidays, which means more people potentially finding Northland’s channel.
Langston concludes, “It may help win many people to Christ who were not even looking for Him.”