I Never Thought I Was Going to Be a TV Preacher
There is a meme going around in pastor circles with a picture of a pastor doing a live stream a few months ago. It had a pastor standing in front of an iPhone and said, “Every pastor is a televangelist now”. I laughed out loud, both because it had a ring of truth to it, and because being a TV preacher was never high on my list of goals.
I remember one time some of my African-American ministerial collegues jokingly tried to push and friend of mine and I in that direction. In that moment at the ABC Minister’s Council Senate about 11 years ago some of the pastors were talking about their “anniversary” gifts and their “pastor appreciation” gifts that were given from the congregation. They included an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii and a time share with an extra week of vacation, or $25,000 in a Christmas bonus. I told them (truthfully) that my cash salary at that time was not $25,000 a year. They jokingly made plans for my friend Tim and I to set up our own studios, make videos, and broadcast them across the nation to supplement our incomes. I tried to tell them I had a face for radio, and a voice to pair with water boarding in interrogating terrorist suspects, but they would have none of it. We laughed for what seemed like hours.
Look at me now! I have devotions and sermons broadcast around the world each week via the internet. It makes me as uncomfortable now as it did then, but in a worldwide crisis, you do what you are going to do!
And, of course, streaming our services on line, and sending recordings to folks who could not be here has been a blessing. It has kept us connected, and challenged us to grow. Wes, Jen, Wayne, Todd, Jim, and others have done great in getting our services put together with sound and video, and broadcast to the parking lot and the world.
Early in the COVID epidemic we received funds to set up a livestream broadcast that will be a little higher tech. It took some planning and shopping, and the supplies are almost all here (Sony shut down its video camera factory during COVID-19 restrictions in Japan, so we are waiting on that). Soon we will have the ability to stream a nice video feed with a high-quality camera on a more permanent basis. We will also be able to develop other video materials. This will be a blessing for folks that are homebound, for several of our people that do shift work that keeps them from attending, and for many others. Some believe that live streaming can be a gateway to invite people into our fellowship. I am excited that we can share our ministry in all these ways.
In all of this, I do have one concern. Online worship should never be a full-time, permanent replacement for gathering in person. I am concerned that there are several of us that are perfectly comfortable watching worship in our jammies with our coffee in one hand and our bagel in the other. There is a reason the Scripture says, “Do not forsake the gathering of yourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). We need to be present to and connected with one another. It is hard to “one another” watching a screen. Now, many of you are caring for your health and being safe. That is good and right. But slowly we will need to get out, connect, care for one other, gather, worship, and pray with our church family. When that time comes, use our live stream as helpful supplement, not as a permanent plan for spiritual nourishment.