Video In Church

Earlier this week, Ben Arment asked for some insight on video preaching in churches. The question essentially was why not allow for well-known communicators to preach via video in your church? He asked this within the context of the small church and the pastor that preaches too long, bumbles his way through a sermon, etc. The context for Ben’s thoughts stem from the launch of the “One Prayer” outreach headed by LifeChurch.tv which is bringing several well-known preachers together to preach a series of messages on a single topic over the span of a few weeks. Many churches have signed up for this video feed and I’m sure the pastors are using it as a time for vacation without having to worry about filling the pulpit.

As I sat down to write about this topic, I noticed this morning that Michael McKinley has written about this on the opposite end of the spectrum for the “Church Matters” collaborative blog. Funny thing is, Ben booked Mark Dever to speak at his “Whiteboard Sessions” church conference a few weeks back. Dever is the head of the “9 Marks Ministry” program which promotes the “Church Matters” blog.

Personally, I’ve used video a few times in my preaching. I may use it a bit more in the future. As an aide to illustration, I think it has its place but as a replacement for the local church pastor, I think that’s stretching it a bit. I like the concept of “One Prayer” and would have no problem using a video feed once in a while as a change of pace for preaching. I think variety can be helpful and in this case, using it at the beginning of the summer season was wise because several church pastors can put a high quality message on the screen while they take a week off to be with their families. It also allows them the chance to be a part of something bigger which is also nice. Believe me, the folks at LifeChurch.tv knew this as well. They have marketing professionals working in their church that had this figured out.

That being said, replacing the local church pastor with a video teacher each week would likely bring about attendance apathy. It wouldn’t be long before the church family would want to skip church and catch the message online. I mean, what is the difference? Other than tithing (which would be available via internet), you get the same message at a time that works better for your busy lifestyle. I doubt small group connections would take place too since many would hit and miss due to the availability of the message through other means. Using this idea as the next natural outgrowth of the video venue church is flawed in this way. Video venues still use the church’s own speakers and at least, the pastors seem to be available. Using a well-known speaker in another part of the country wouldn’t afford that same convenience. I’m still not sold on the video venue concept but I will not condemn it until I have a chance to see it play out on a local level.

I’m still a believer that the local church needs it’s shepherd. I’m not perfect and never will be but I’m a servant to my people and I love them. My preaching is crafted with their needs in mind and I don’t believe you can ever replicate that with a permanent video preacher. I don’t think you can separate the “teaching” and “ministering” aspect of ministry. As author Michael Quicke comments in his book “360 Degree Leadership”, “Preaching IS Leadership.” I agree with him.

What are your thoughts?

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Video In Church

9 thoughts on “Video In Church

  1. Scott,

    I appreciate your point of view because I felt much the same way at one point. I attend a church extension campus of Seacoast.org that gets all of its sermons via video. The philosophy is one church many locations. I think we have 13 locations now. Our congregation outgrew the original location and the town of Mt. Pleasant, SC would not approve building permits for growth in that spot. The church started planting campus churches that had their own local pastoral staff, missions, music, etc. But the message is all the same via video. Our one “campus” has grown from a couple of hundred meeting in a temporary facility to over 1000 attendees across three service times in just three years. Several of the other campuses have seen similar growth. Now that I look back at it I was actually watching the pastor on video when I went to the main location. If you were not in the first six rows you got a better view on the screens anyway.

    So we do have a local shepherd and we do not have the attendance apathy even though we have a video message. My wife and I have made great use of the Internet church at times. We have had some pretty unique circumstances (a child with immune issues) that deter us from using the church nursery. The following link has some notes on the use of the Internet Campus.

    http://www.hoei.com/caden/blog/2008/02/11/happy-half-birthday-jj.htm

    Other than that we do our best to attend church in person every Sunday to worship with our fellow believers even though we get our message via video.

  2. martyschmidt says:

    These are some great thoughts Scott.

    Do you think the idea of using videos for the message is more of a band-aid on the bigger issue of some people are pastors and shouldn’t be?

  3. Scott Cheatham says:

    Marty,

    I wouldn’t want to claim anything. Is there the opportunity to get lazy and use video in place of thoughtful preparation? Certainly but laziness can take on many avenues in a pastor’s life.

    I think the idea of One Prayer is awesome and for the time of year, well planned and thought out. I would have no problem participating in something like this but we aren’t ready just yet (technically). But the question of “would you step aside?” as Ben Arment asked is more to what I wanted to address. The answer is that it’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus but the people I serve need a pastor that accessible. I’m leaving in a moment to go visit a family today that needs prayer and someone to help shoulder their burden. I know lay folks can do this too and they should! But pastors need to know their flock to shepherd them properly.

  4. What does that mean, “to know their flock?”

    Sociologists agree we can really only develop significant relationships with about 90 people. Should that be the limit on the size of our churches?

    If I have 200 adults in attendance, how many of them can I spend time with during the week? 10? 20? So can I only preach to the 20, or do they become representative of the 200? And if 20 can be representative of 200, why not 2,000?

    I invite you to come visit us in Jacksonville and see a thriving young church with better than 50% of our adults involved in small groups, 40% of our adults volunteering and impacting the city around us. Local staff are shepherding the congregation, yet our lead communicator lives 400 miles away.

    It not only works for the flock, it works for dozens who are coming to know Christ for the first time!

  5. Scott Cheatham says:

    Rich,

    Thank you for stopping by and for your thoughtful comments. Congratulations also on your successful church plant. It sounds exciting.

    As I stated in my article, I never would criticize the use of video in this way. I just don’t see it replacing the lead pastor in the long run. You might have a different take on it as Access Church is a part of Andy’s Stanley’s network. Before I became a pastor, I would never have been a part of a church where the preaching was all done on video. That doesn’t make my preference the only right one but it is still the mindset for the vast majority of church goers today.

    You asked me about “knowing my flock” so let me try to be brief here. I agree with you that “significant” relationships will never be possible for all of your church people and I agree with the small group philosophy of building a network of peer connections in the church to help in this area. That said, I do believe you can get a handle on each family in your church without having to know them intimately. The numbers you quote are about right. I think you need a pastor at about a 100:1 ratio so a church of two hundred would need (at the least) two pastors to effectively minister. I think it’s important to develop future leaders who can help in this part of ministry.

    I’m still not sold one way or the other on video venues. I see some that are having success and others that are not. The teaching is the same so is it something else that makes others succeed while others; led by good, earnest men, do not? That could be the subject for an entirely new post!

    In any event, thank you for stopping by and commenting. God’s blessings to you at Access!

  6. Stacy J Ross says:

    I just went and read his post I tend to think that his entire point is flawed. First, it is a huge assumption that small church pastors “…bumbles through his message and preaches too long…” Really? Small church pastors bumble through their messages and preach too long? How does he define too long since Driscoll is known to preach for 60+ minutes, Chandler for 30-40 minutes, Andy Stanley for 40 minutes…. Bumbles through their messages, really? So small church pastors are inept at preaching and don’t take the time to adequately prepare like the large church pastors do?

    Secondly, it is a huge assumption that the small church is small because of ineffective preaching. If you live in a town of 10k you won’t have a mega church no matter who you are. Not to mention that preaching is one part of what is needed for a healthy church.

    Thirdly, it is a huge assumption to say that, “They were laughing hysterically at times, totally focused at others, and pushing deeper into their seats with spiritual conviction by the end. It was awesome. But let’s be honest… This doesn’t happen in most churches.” Other than laughing hysterically, which isn’t required, people pushing into their seats and spiritual conviction doesn’t happen in small churches? What would he say about Mark Denver who specifically resists the urge to make people “laugh hysterically” so that he can stay focused on the Bible?

    I have no problem with the video venue campus approach. I figure if you can use it to preach the Gospel and extend the Kingdom of God then by all means use it. I have a major problem with saying that everyone should do it so that the rock star pastors can preach.

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