Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Video-preaching: Is there a preacher in the room?

Mark Driscoll does it. John Piper does it.
Bob Hyatt critiques the idea of running multiple venues with one preacher.
The celebrity church must die. And doing anything – like video venues – that prolongs its life, even in the name of the lost, runs counter to the best interests of the Church in all its expressions, big and small, and its mandate to see more people not only reached, but gifted, trained, and sent.
I have to say I'd feel somewhat short changed just to watch a preacher on screen rather than actually in the room. I don't know anyone in the UK who is doing this, but I imagine someone will. It feels odd to me because it surely encourages us to be person centred, I can't see how it helps raise up future preachers. I know there are advantages in terms of coherence between congregations, and I know that Driscoll uses campus pastors to do everything else - and that those guys preach 3 months a year. But why not all year?

We need more churches, but let's build them around leaders who are qualified and able to teach. Podcasting and vodcasting preaching is (a bit) like reading a book. It's beneficial, but when I come to meet with my church we should be able to find someone from amongst us who can lay a feast from God's word for us.


  1. What's the difference between this and a church of x thousand where you need a projected screen to get a good view of the preacher?

    If there is a problem, it surely lies in the overall size rather than the multi-campus aspect. Either that, or there is a liturgical problem- James Jordan, big on liturgy is big on the pastor liturgically representing Christ, and so it's only really appropriate that the one who teaches you also prays with you and breaks bread with you - which can't be done multi-campus by definition.

    That aside, taking it to the extremes of Mars Hill Church Glasgow, Haywards Heath or Beijing definitely makes no sense; Driscoll is all about contextualisation and he cannot contextualise appropriately for Glasgow and Seattle at the same time.

  2. I'm not anti-big church, there is though a difference between man in the room but you have to see on screen because of the size of the room, and man not in room but on screen. Can't quite pin down what but there is.

    A lot probably is the relationship, the 'moment' of preaching, the eye-contact, the knowing the congregation...

    As I write it occurs to me that Paul wrote circular letters - but even then, I'm sure the local pastor read them, expounded them, engaged with them, applied them to the local church.

    Somehow, if I set up video preaching from my house for all the CUs in the South West something would be wrong... contextualisation would be part of it. But God gives us teachers... I struggle to believe that churches can't find people.

    If I have any crit for Piper it's why after nearly 30 years at his church it still looks like he preaches most of the time - where are the 25-35 year olds he's mentored who can exceed and succeed him. I know that he has plenty of time away and those guys just aren't put onto DesiringGod.org - but why not...

  3. I suppose to take the Mars Hill example each campus does have it's own band leading the worship and a pastor to introduce stuff, call people to respond, administer communion etc.

    And of course they do get an opportunity to preach 10 times or so a year, like now when Driscoll is on holiday.

    I think the question is, when a church gets big and moves to plant a new congregation/campus/church. How do the multiple meetings keep the same focus, the same values, vision and mission.

    Driscoll answers this by using the most gifted preacher on the church staff team (himself) to do the majority of the preaching across the campuses. One message means that the whole church (across all services and campuses) are all hearing the same teaching, and all called to be on the same mission... but maybe there are other ways to have this coherency of message across multiple meetings??

    On Piper... he is 62. So in theory some time around 65 he should step down as senior pastor and hand over to a younger guy... I guess he'll still be around as a Pastor Emeritus.

  4. And Driscoll preaches five times on a Sunday.... so I guess the question is do you just have five congregations... or beyond that do you have to find other gifted guys who can carry the load...

    Maintaining the unity of vision etc is a key point and I can see that would be difficult.

    Our old church (Arborfield & Barkham Churches - Hugh...) has four congregations, and essentially operates as a network of four churches - each with it's own staff and preaching teams, all overseen by the Rector. The Rector rarely, if ever, preaches at all 4 churches on any one sunday and there is a weakness is sense of unity and common purpose.. but each gets on with its own vision, with some shared benefits.

  5. When asked about this at TFA last year Mark Dever said something like 'as long as the preacher has a relationship with the people in the room it's ok...but the relationship is key, otherwise we'd stick a John Piper dvd on every week'

    That was the gist of it anyway...

  6. Going off for a moment from the main issue, I love how you finished:

    "but when I come to meet with my church we should be able to find someone from amongst us who can lay a feast from God's word for us."


  7. I've been to a few American churches where the preacher was on a screen. I didn't have any problem with it - I had my head in my Bible and a pen in my hand - I don't think I looked at the screen at all.

    But could I do it every week? Probably not. For me, it would feel to much like watching television - the problem there being I'm used to Sky Plus. I'd just stop listening because of my 'I can always reply it later' mentality.