Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Un-Incarnate Can't Be Killed

It probably comes as no surprise to many that I'm not a big fan of video preaching. I understand the practical reasons many pastors and churches employ video for worship services, and I fully admit I have no idea what it's like to troubleshoot the issues involved in having multiple thousands attend services over multiple venues. (There but for the grace of God go I. :-)

I also have to point out that my particular position is not that using video preaching is universally wrong or that those who use it do so unreflectively. My friend Matt Chandler both uses video preaching at Village Church campuses and sounds words of caution against it. When I was a researcher for the Docent Group, I had the privilege of working with/for some of the most innovative multi-site pastors in America, and I have found them without exception to be thoughtful, godly, humble men who love Jesus and his church. They are not technolaters, in other words.

All that said, I still have some basic objections with the message communicated in the use of video preaching. I think I've touched on some of my issues before -- and it's not as if what I say is inherently valuable anyway -- but one reason against it that I haven't blogged on is this: A preacher on a TV screen can't be murdered.

This will sound like a morbid point to some and probably like macho posturing to others, but we know that some preachers put themselves in danger when they get up to deliver the word of God. I do not think this is "good," but I do think it is a meaningful reflection of what preaching is.

A preacher serves his community well when he sees his proclamation of the gospel as standing on the spiritual precipice of heaven and hell before them. By doing so live and not by video feed, he incarnates the prophetic call of Scripture, reminding his flock personally of the despair of death and the eternal life of Jesus Christ. And this is driven home any time a pastor sweats or cries on his pulpit, touches the hands of his congregation, pauses for laughter or an Amen, accommodates (or speaks over) the cries of a baby, receives the repentant and the broken for prayer and counsel, and, yes, makes allowances for safety. I hope to never send a video in place of myself because a video cannot be shot in the face for proclaiming Jesus.

Jesus gave us for hundreds of years the written revelation of redemption through sacrifice and servanthood, but he still saw fit to show up in person to die.

Just some thoughts. Not airtight, I admit.


Michael Spencer said...

Well said. St. Eugene Peterson has blessed you.

Chitchat said...

If only Jonah had had a 6' screen and a Sony HD LCD projector, right?

must_decrease said...

I was thinking along the same lines as imonk, when Peterson, (quoting Dillard), speaks of worshipers as not being "mindful of conditions"

"Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?...On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or as I suspect, does not one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies straw hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares: they should lash us to our pews, 'Explorers unmindful of conditions died. Why don't similarly unprepared worshipers perish on the spot?" -Contemplative Pastor

Matt Maestas

Bob said...

You use technology to decry technology. I'm not with you on your platform.

You say these men can't be murdered but I see the opposite. These men have every word scrutinized and every mis-spoken thought is plastered on CNN for a week. You can preach to your congregation of 50 and need to make 20 apologies. These men have no chance at that. They have to guard every word and that CAN make them much more effective than most pastors. When you know the world is watching, you prepare better than the guy who has to preach to the same 100 baptists from the same 10 root families for 30 years.

I watch vodcasts and listen to podcasts of pastors and I am blessed by guys like MC. Without video, there is a lot of good teaching that I would not be experiencing and God has used these men in my life.

Jared said...

You use technology to decry technology

No, I don't.

My post has nothing to do with decrying technology.
And my first couple of paragraphs should help communicate this as well.

I have profited from podcasts/vodcasts as well. I spoke to the blessing/curse of their gift to the church, as well as how instrumental they were in my own discipleship in a recent interview with Michael Spencer.

I am neither against technology in general nor against it in this post.

Bob said...

"All that said, I still have some basic objections with the message communicated in the use of video preaching."

Okay, thanks for the clarification that you don't decry technology. I must have misunderstood your pasted paragraph above.

Your blog links to some well known Vodcasters and Podcasters so I know your heart and I really appreciate it.

MC talks about how he used to judge pastors who didn't greet at the door after the sermon and then he became the pastor of 6,000 and understood. I sense something similar from you.

Hey, I like your blog, thanks!

Jared said...

I am referring to the use of video preaching in a worship service as opposed to a live preacher, not the practice of video recording preaching.

As I say in the introduction, though, I don't think this practice is "wrong." It is just something I personally object to philosophically.

But I also say I have no idea what it's like to troubleshoot multiple services and several thousand congregants.

I understand Chandler's take on pastoral gladhanding. I am exhausted after preaching hard and then speaking to everyone who would like to have my time, and I only have a congregation of only 100 or so. I suspect I would be tempted to stay scarce as well if I had 6,000 waiting to talk to me every week.

I don't believe I'm judging anyone, though. :-/

Thanks for the kind words about the blog, Bob.

Bob said...

I'm convinced. Just ordered the new book on Amazon.

I've been fighting my Safe Jesus fundamentalist past for 25 years.

Thanks, Bob

Jared said...

And that's what it's all about. :-)


Thanks, Bob. I hope it blesses you.

jason said...

Actually, I found your posting to be pretty air tight.

If we are to follow the examples that have been laid before us in the Scriptures we have to be willing to risk our own safety for the sake of sharing Jesus. Look at Paul and the times he would go and preach even when people were begging him not to go because of the danger.

Let me ask this...if the video being sent it a live feed and thus you are preaching somewhere live to a congregation as some are watching that you find it as offensive as something pre-recorded?

Jared said...

Jason, I don't find any of it offensive.
I'm aware of the limitations of space and time, and when one guy is designated as the preacher, I know he can't be multiple places at one time or even preach multiple services without it taking a serious toll. I am not trying to be graceless with any of my criticism.

I have teased out more of my objections in previous posts but they basically boil down to a few points:
a) In an age where de-personalization and de-communitization and dis-engagement is a real threat, is asking congregants to watch a TV screen really worth the cost?
b) What are we communicating with this practice about the preacher? That only a few guys are good enough? That are churches wouldn't survive if it weren't a particular guy's voice they were coming to listen to? What does it mean for the future of young preachers? How does the celeb factor kick in?

Matt Chandler sounds those latter warnings himself.

I just don't think it's wise to so widely un-incarnate the act of preaching.

But, yeah, if there were a scale measuring my preference -- for whatever my preference is worth -- I would place "live feed" slightly ahead of "pretaped." But they're pretty much the same thing. The live feed preacher can't interact or look into the eyes of people in the pew any more than the pretaped preacher can.

C. Holland said...

"What are we communicating with this practice about the preacher? That only a few guys are good enough?" Funny, I just said essentially the same thing to my Other Half not two days ago (and I just read this post).

How is there a church of 6,000, or 10,000, etc. and not one guy is being mentored into pastoring/serving/ministry? Obviously I'm generalizing and not trying to hammer on the megachurch, but heavy reliance on one guy and many screen locations just seems to convey this message, whether it's true or not.

BTW, just ordered your book. My brother will be bringing it to me here in Western Europe in a few weeks, and I can't wait to read it.

Jared said...

How is there a church of 6,000, or 10,000, etc. and not one guy is being mentored into pastoring/serving/ministry?

CH, yep.

I know they have standard answers for this, using campus pastors, etc.

I can't help but think the unspoken admission is this: Nobody would come to this satellite campus if _______ wasn't on video preaching.

And we can't admit that b/c it says something troubling about our churches.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Would that be that our churches that use this model are so obviously indebted to TBN and Pat RObertson for this "new" conception of the church?

Anonymous said...

Jared...thanks for the reply. :)

I agree with you on the last part. There are so many people out there with the call to preach and teach on their lives and if we boil things down to the latest rock star pastor being the only driving force we end up hampering the mission.

It would be like if a major league baseball team played the same nine guys in the starting lineup for all 162 games every season. The guys on the bench may get some practice before game time but when it counts they don't get a chance to grow.

As with anything...not just can't learn to deal with people without actually dealing with them.

Thanks for posting your thoughts. It's been a great discovery for me since I moved to town.

Bob said...

Okay, the book arrived today, now how r u gonna get to Philly and sign it for me?

Long ago, I got Jack Hyles to sign my Bible. Woot!!

Oh Snap!