TV screens make lousy pastors


You want to get a good conversation going in a crowd of church folk? Talk about preaching—specifically methodology. This is what Owen Strachan did Thursday night on Twitter:

Mike Cosper (pastor at Sojourn) provided a really helpful response: his take is we’re less okay with video’d in music and the like because they’re not part of our everyday life. They break the illusion in a way that a video sermon doesn’t.

And that, at least to me, is part of my concern about video preaching.

While I know a number of guys who’ve gone the video venue route, it really troubles me. We’ve got a problem in North America with consumerism—we take and take and take… and we’re all guilty of this. Some of us just want to take and others want to make it really easy.

As much as we hate this behavior (even when we’re guilty of it ourselves), video preaching can encourage this more than we realize. It risks setting us up to be consumers of information, rather than worshippers of God. And because of that, because it “feels” natural—because we’re so used to life with screens—it allows us to ignore conviction more easily.

A TV show might make me feel something, be it happy, sad or encouraged, but that feeling fades. Usually before the end of the credits. This should never be our response to the preached Word of God. God’s Word is meant to cut us to the core, to search the darkest corners of our hearts, and to reveal the hope of Christ to us. And while there are certainly times and places where video preaching is effective and even necessary, it rarely has the same impact as when someone we know cares for our souls is telling us the truth while in the same room with us.

Imagine you’ve done something really wrong and a friend is compelled to confront you on it. He can do one of two things: he can send you an email, or he can approach you in person. Which is easier? Email. Which is harder to ignore?

The person standing in front of you. 

My point is simply this: how you choose to communicate says how much you care. Being in the room says something that a video screen simply can’t.

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  • Ben Thorp

    Whilst I mostly agree, I would pose a couple of questions from this:

    1. If Paul were alive today, how would he “send” his letters? Would video be an option?

    2. What is our theological understanding of the nature of preaching? Is it an interaction between man and man, or between God and man? Is it an interaction of the head, or of the heart? I would contend that it is primarily an interaction between God and man, through His Word, merely facilitated by the preacher.

    I think your key point is “it rarely has the same impact as when someone we know cares for our souls is telling us the truth”. I’m not sure that being in the same room is necessary, but it is more difficult for us to believe that the preacher is someone that we know cares for our souls when it’s done by video. However, that part is best achieved in a bunch of other ways on a bunch of other days….

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