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Video Venues, Live Preaching, and Our Preferences

January 8, 2014, 0 Comments

backgroundresults2LifeWay Research has recently done a study on the reaction of those who do not attend church to the idea of video venues. There are at least 5,000 multisite churches in North America. It is a much higher number than the number of megachurches (those with attendance over 2,000), which stands around 1,650 according to Warren Bird’s report. LifeWay Research spoke with Jim Tomberlin (Multisite Solutions) and he believes about half of all multisite churches use video teaching. As a leader in a multisite church, it is a subject that I am intensely interested in.

According to the research that was just released, those who are not attending church are not positively disposed to the idea of the preaching happening by video format. Here is a quote from Ed Stetzer’s post on the subject:

In a telephone poll conducted during September of 2013, in which 1,001 adults were asked “If you were considering visiting a church, would it matter if the sermon was preached on a video screen or in-person,” 35% replied they would only visit a church in which the sermon would be preached in person. A further 30% said they would prefer to visit a church where there was a live preacher. 30% said it wouldn’t matter to them and exactly 0% replied that they would prefer or would only visit a church with video sermons.

Oftentimes, studies reveal information that are a bit unexpected. In this case, I’m not that shocked. I would highly suggest that you take some time to read the short report of the study HERE. It gives some of the details about how age and geographic region create some unique responses in the research.

There are several reasons why I am hesitant about it all. I want to say that I am not anti-video venue. Rather, with all methodologies, we must look for those issues that cause us to pause and consider the ultimate outcomes with which we would find detrimental.

Discipleship model. I just want to ask the question, “What does a steady diet of video teaching do to discipleship in the church?” As someone who believes in, uses, and produces discipleship courses with video elements, I am perfectly fine with the resource for small groups. So my question is about the whole life of the church family and their potential disconnect from its most public teacher. Are we unintentionally saying that no one else is fit for teaching and therefore we must rely on this one person to do it. My hope is that our discipleship model would not falter because of a misplaced hope in a singular teacher for the church.

Training future leaders. “How are you preparing others to serve in the preaching ministry of the church?” is the question that is lobbed at video venue churches. It is a fair question for them… and every other church. It is simply a function of the public nature of how this one preacher is teaching at multiple physical locations that causes us it to be a more obvious hazard; even if the hazard is only a possibility. Nevertheless, I take it as an opportunity to ask the question for all of us who are in the preaching ministry.

Ego. The charge that can be made against every person who stands in front of the group with a microphone and holds authority is that of ego… arrogance… narcissism. As the teacher at multiple locations, whether through multiple services, campuses, or through video, why are you doing it? If the answer is because you are convinced you are the best, then that is just a Pandora’s Box of disaster waiting to happen. Responsibilities and opportunities given to us should be motivators for training others to do the work of ministry.

Catering mentality. The church in our culture is overrun with a catering mentality. We have created systems by which a small and highly skilled group of professionals will take care of you. It is fun while you are being catered to but there is only one problem… it is not biblical. It removes the whole idea that every member of the Body of Christ has a God-appointed place of service. No matter how hard we try, people in our culture will consider a video-driven venue as a place of to be served and/or entertained. I have met a number of church leaders using video venues who have successfully navigated their church away from that mentality. Make sure you have a plan to do likewise.

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