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A View from the Altar / Holy-gram preaching
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Holy-gram preaching

A new trend emerging in urban megachurches is preaching via high definition video.  The preacher isn’t actually there.  It may not even be a live video link but a recording made some other time.  The CNN article linked here says some are even using holograms.  The preachers doing this see it as a way to extend their reach without having to be physically present or bear the cost of new buildings.

But the church is more than a place to download data about Jesus.  You can do that on a blog, right?  Church is a place to enjoy brethren, receive inspiration, moral challenge and accountability, and above all, to join together in worship.  For many Christians, the pastor is a friend, the guy who demonstrates the faith for them in real flesh-and-blood living.  And Paul says that’s a pastor’s duty so his progress in the faith will be evident to everyone.  (1 Tim 4:15)  If ministry needed to be done life-to-life in 64 A.D., then what about now?  Ministerial remoteness is the last thing we need for a generation of people who text each other while sitting at the same dinner table.

Hebrews 10:24 says we’re supposed to be “provoking” one another to love and good deeds.  Obviously a blogger can’t be totally against doing that by wire, but hey, I do attend an actual church now and then.  If people begin to view themselves as spiritual flash drives and the church as a USB port, then the whole thing about fellowship vanishes and the transformation is finalized in which Christianity degenerates into spectacle.  And at that point, genuine Christianity is stone dead even if the buildings are packed.

A second concern is harder to explain and revolves around the antiquated notion of worldliness.  The Bible teaches that the vast realm of people without Christ has its own way of doing life.  Christless people naturally tend to worship idols of every sort including (and especially) remotely located media stars.  In the case of movie or rock stars, the remoteness is a necessary component of worship because the persons themselves are often such loathesome, degraded specimens of lechery and grunge.  Who could miss from the latest trash news about Lindsey Lohan or Mel Gibson?  As Ravi Zacharias often points out, evil-as-entertainment is fun to watch and gossip about, but real evil in your own household is enraging, heartbreaking, soul-crushing.  We are drawn to the spectacle but cannot endure it up close, which is why we tend to pick idols that are pretty and wicked but then keep them at arm’s length and ignore what they say.

The worldly pattern is so pervasive it’s easy to miss: an exalted stage act connecting spectators to an attactive but inaccessible star.  It is almost everywhere in America.  The local Murphy station has TeeVee screens over the gas pumps where the programming is about athletes and actors.  When pastors copy this by virtual preaching, it sure looks a lot like the church aping Hollywood.

Hollywood, of course, is mostly just a technologically amped-up version of the old Greek system of gods and goddesses.  Recall they pretty much had their gods all over the place, too.  (Acts 17:16)  The potency of the Greek system consisted not only in it heavy-handed ubiquity, but also in its insight into the fallen nature of man.  The Greek deities were outwardly beautiful, powerful, randy to the max, all of which the sinful heart craves — to be beautiful, powerful, adored, and to be able to gratify lust with no fear of judgment.

No, I’m not saying the church has converted Jesus into Zeus with its preachers into a menagerie of lesser deities.  But the church is, I think, unwittingly beginning to arrange its public worship in that pattern — remote ministers who begin to look and act like rock stars, whose presence on a stage is attended by technological whizbangery, who are followed by hordes of detached congregants who don’t honestly know them and so take nothing they say seriously.  At length, the minister becomes a psychological projection screen with “Jesus” as the purely imaginary proxy for the desires of a fallen race.

We shouldn’t have to learn this again, but the notion of reaching people — so goes the modern version of the ancient cliché — “where they are at” can be a hazardous thing.  Because “where people are at” is rushing down the broad way that leads to destruction and loving every minute of it.  It’s a tricky business to get near enough to the wicked and the damned so they can hear the voice of the Gospel without getting on that broad road yourself.  Virtual preaching in the church, I venture to forecast, will eventually prove to be a step too far.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

One Comment

  1. I agree, it’s far from the “ideal” way to preach and present the gospel. Church is much more than the sermon. Yet, part of me is cautious not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Abeit, not ideal, in some cases, it may serve a purpose to further the delivery of the gospel to those who might not otherwise be able to hear teaching of “truth”.

    I’d suggest enlisting the help of men who are “called by God” and “trained” to be ministers and send them to remote locations. IMHO, that would be a “better” option because it would serve more needs of the body of Christ. Yet, when not feasible, for a short-term solution, using technology may not be a “bad” thing (as long as it’s the truth that’s being preached).

    Posted on 18-Jul-10 at 13:38 pm | Permalink

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