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Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Video Conversation about the Pros and Cons of Video Venue Preaching


lindsey said...

I was a part of a video venue church during my senior year of college (2013). The church was held in the basement of our school chapel. We streamed the sermons from 12Stone church. My husband (fiancĂ© at the time) served as the “campus pastor,” alongside students who volunteered to lead acoustic worship every week. We shared coffee each week, prayed together, and took the Lord’s Supper at the end of each month. My school provided this opportunity because it realized the reality that a growing number of students might end up serving as campus pastors or worship leaders at video venues.

All of the “pros” discussed by Dr. Hancock and Dr. Luchetti are understandable and practical benefits to video venues. I very much enjoyed listening to Kevin Myers (senior pastor at 12Stone) each week - he is an excellent communicator. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the local Wesleyan preacher, who was often disorganized in his delivery. I did feel a sense of community among those who attended the church with me. Even though we did not listen to a person who was standing right in front of us, we did worship with physical people present, and that is oftentimes where the true community exists in any church.

One comment that struck me was the suggestion that video venue preaching could be a theological contradiction. The mark of our Savior is His willingness to walk among those He came to save. He is not distant or removed from those He loves. I serve at a church of roughly 700 people, and I have noticed that it is highly important for many congregants to communicate directly with the preaching pastor following the sermon. This may vary from church to church, but I do believe imitating Jesus in this way makes the preacher reflect the image of God.

Unknown said...

Being a pastor in a local church, along with seminarian, I can certainly see an allure to the video venue. The idea of having anywhere from 8 to 20+ hours of work freed up to do all other sorts of ministry every week is nothing short of delightful. Couple that with the removal of the pressure and anxiety of delivering a message once a week, and there is certainly a level of temptation that makes the video venue seem more and more appealing.
However, after having processed this idea through several classes, and I simply don’t know that the video venue is something I could actually bring myself to do. Along with the number of ideas presented in the video, I think one of the incredibly significant losses that we experience when introducing the video venue is that of shared experience. Simply put, when I’m preaching, I am sharing an experience with my congregation. It is as if we are going on a journey together where I am not simply a guide, but a fellow traveller. Throughout preaching, as we interact, it is as if we build the sermon together. Even considering the fact that most of my congregation’s interaction won’t go much further than body language or eye contact, the sermon becomes more of a dialogue than a monologue. Should we transition to video venue, the entire dynamic changes. The message becomes a monologue, or rather a dialogue between two people being overheard by another group. The experience is no longer shared, and a disconnect is made. While I certainly think God can speak through it, I think there is too much that lost in the process.
Further, while the appeal of the video venue to me as a preacher is the freedom to do more ministry, I believe it could be at the sacrifice of one of the most important acts of ministry I could do. In a class for undergrad, I had the opportunity to interview Steve Deneff, and he argued that the sermon is the only counseling most of our congregants will receive. Beyond being a word from God, it is a word from God for their lives, and I truly believe that the local church pastor is the best poised to give this, as they know both the heart of God, and the heart of the congregation. While not having to give a sermon may free me to do more ministry, the ministry that I do can fuel the sermon in a much more important way than if I chose against it. As I call upon my congregation, as I visit, as I sit with them in pain and victory, I not only know God, I know the congregation and can best represent God to them, and them to God in the way that I preach.

Lenny Luchetti said...

Lindsey and Jordan,
Thank you for jumping into the discussion. Lindsey, you cite my video-venue con of contradiction as the most compelling for you. I agree that the potential for theological contradiction (to communicate via projection a God who proves his love by being present) can, in the longrun, do more harm than good, especially if we agree with McCluhan that "the medium is the message."

Jordan, you talk about shared experience in a compelling way. I think my comments regarding contextuality align with your conception of shared experience. The sermon is a moment in time contextual event of shared experience. That's when preaching is at its best.

Good comments friends.

Unknown said...

There is so much I could share in response to this post but I would start by saying the arguments were solid across the board. I also appreciated the attempt toward objectivity although the bias of each presenter was clear. There is much lost with video venue preaching and the sacrifices that must be made in the name of “effectiveness” or “efficiency” are too great to be ignored.

To be clear, the regular preaching ministry at a church is in a different category than online video training, visiting a website to hear a message that was missed, or watching a celebrity preacher on a Thursday night. Instead, the issue at hand is the philosophy that weekly preaching on a big screen is to be preferred over live preaching at the same location. The argument goes that one primary communicator across all campuses allows for unified messaging, a shared experience, is more efficient, and even more effective. However, the unintended consequences are often the creation of a cult of personality, a mass produced message, and the notion that preaching is one ministry that ought to be left to the professionals.

Screens are dangerous things. They give authority and celebrity status to those that are magnified and create a passive experience for the worshipper. It’s impossible to engage a screen. Furthermore, true multiplication is not found simply by launching a new campus. True multiplication is found when disciples are made, leaders are raised up, spiritual gifts are deployed and new churches are started. I will always be an advocate for multiplication over consolidation. Screens tend to consolidate.

However, I’m also not one to throw out all forms of video venue simply because of the pitfalls. I believe there can be benefit to the notion of video venue as a useful strategy to move a congregation toward live preaching or as a supplemental strategy on specific weekends where a common message could be preached to unify the church. I also don’t claim to know the specific details of each church that uses video venue and the circumstances or situations that created that decision. But as a general rule of thumb and for the reasons listed above, I think video venue is a tool to be used sparingly and always with the end goal of live preaching in mind. Peace!

WICK said...

In our reading so far on preparation for preaching, there is such an emphasis on reliance on the Holy Spirit. We are constantly being reminded that without the Holy Spirit moving, our words are simply noises without power for transformation. With that in mind, I was a little disappointed that the conversation didn't include much in that realm beyond “Well, we know God can use anything...”
But I might just be saying that to find something to nit-pick at in the midst of a lot of comments I agreed with. It was hard for both Hancock and Luchetti to hide their personal opinion, even as they listed a few of the “pros” of video venue preaching. But even in the midst of that short list, important questions worth conversations were brought up. To hear Lenny say “it's better to have a projected effective preacher, than a present mediocre one”, let to so many questions. What makes an effective preacher? What do we mean by a mediocre preacher? Both of these questions can also be heavily influenced by the conversation mentioned in my opening sentence. If an effective preacher and a mediocre preacher both rely on the same Holy Spirit – which one will lead an audience to greater life transformation? Also – as brought about by later in the video – what if the effective preacher is a mediocre pastor, and the mediocre preacher is more in tune with the struggles of the people? Or are these qualities that are examined when we decide what we mean by effective vs. mediocre?
Really, there are so many other things that would be fun to explore: “hook-churches”? Allowing “mediocre” preachers time and space to develop? Who decides when and where those safe spaces are?

But overall the issue was well covered, and I think the points are well made. Even though God CAN use anything we offer Him, it sure seems that to authentically preach/proclaim/give flesh to the good news of the gospel – it should be done by someone physically present. Of course there are all sorts of seasons and situations where other means may be necessary, but always (as pointed out about online communities/messages) presented invitationally so that the listener/hearer is drawn to a response/life in community and relationship face to face with another.

Lenny Luchetti said...

Thanks for jumping in Jon and Wick. Your comments are substantive and move the conversation forward. I'm sorry if my mention of the pro of efficiency somehow may have communicated that I am in agreement with that pro. I was just trying my best to fairly represent those in favor of video venue preaching. You can easily sense that at this point, I believe the cons outweigh the pros of video venue preaching. But, hope you can tell that I'm still open to dialogue.

Jon, I appreciate your thoughts about using video venue sparingly, when there are no other viable options. Unfortunately, video venue has become the norm for churches who want efficiency and effectiveness at all costs.

Aimee said...

This is an assignment that I was very interested in watching and participating in. I have never been a fan of Video Venue preaching because I feel that it is impersonal and damaging to our culture. I realize that people are getting more and more attached to social media, their phones, devices, etc. but I believe many of us would agree that it is not a healthy relationship. I live in the Atlanta area and I have really struggled with Northpoint ministries – as Andy Stanley was mentioned several times in the video. I have wrestled through this and resolved as Paul says in Philippians 1:18 “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,”

One thing that I really value about the church I am currently attending is that there are so many different types of people, even within the small group I participate in called the “Young Singles.” The video expressed that the “church is a group of people that wouldn’t necessarily get along” – this is the cutting edge of growth. I have seen this to be true when I have participated in healthy churches.

For about a year, I attended a church that seemed to be more interested in size and getting more people in the doors by being “relevant.” The church I attend now is still quite large, but I feel the interest is much more focused on the depth and community focusing on spiritual growth of the congregation. The video stated, “A glowing screen will trump other forms of engagement.” This is a harsh reality we are facing as a society – in my opinion the church should be counter cultural in some ways by seeking to engage face to face and not succumb to the temptation to be “hip and trendy.”

The argument that the word became flesh and dwelt among us is a very enticing one. “If God became flesh and made His dwelling here, how can we do anything less as Christian preachers?” Boots on the ground, Sleeves rolled up & participating in the action that is bringing godliness amongst our humanity. According to Luchetti, this cuts against the incarnation.

Although there are arguments for YES video venue preaching: Effective, Efficient, and Enamorment. I agree more that we can still preach with words – use words that are concrete & that people “see.” Illustrations can be done using the imagination. Images should be limited during church services. I agree with the video that it is a great contradiction to the life of Jesus found in the Incarnation. The pastor’s job is to be contextual – tailored to audience. The pastor should know the congregation because he is involved in their lives. We have made pastors celebrities that do not even engage with the congregation anymore. This is the major downfall I have found when attending churches that use the video preaching or campus sites. It takes away from the congregation being able to engage with their pastor.

I appreciate Dr. Luchetti’s vulnerability when he said it took 10 years to figure out who he is as a preacher and find his “voice.” He said that we have experienced a call to preach – but many are stuck in a position that is not going to allow them to grow into their calling. Some other notes he made were the wrestling with the angel of God in light of the text that a pastor does in preparation for the sermon. I would also like to see a shift towards authenticity and away from the “Wizard on the wall” approach in ministry.

As a younger “millennial,” I would agree that a lot of young people want a break from the screens – they want to engage with people. I want what is “real.” Stop trying to impress me. I also find it refreshing to look at and engage with another human being. In church, I desire to encounter the Spiritual world. How does this actually draw you into the more physical aspects of life and take away from the spirituality that is church life?

Megan said...

I'm on staff at The Ransom Church in Sioux Falls, SD, and video, in one form or another, has been a part of our church experience for nearly the entire life of the church. The pros of video preaching for our multisite church far outweigh the cons.

It is true that only our top preachers are projected via video, but having a small teaching team to share the preaching responsibilities has also allowed our other staff pastors (myself included) to take significant leadership roles in shepherding our people. It means a congregation with 1800 regular attenders is taken care of by an entire team of people, and there is no one "superstar" doing the bulk of the preaching and the day to day shepherding. Our primary teaching pastor, the Lead Pastor, does still shepherd throughout the week, but he doesn't carry both alone, and I think that's been a very good thing. Yes, he'd love to do even more shepherding, and some of us would love to do even more teaching and preaching- but our culture is certainly not against finding creative solutions to that predicament.

I can absolutely see enamorment being an issue, but then again, I consider my own experience, and I am more comfortable looking at the screen than the live preacher when I attend services, just because it’s easier to see. I'm so used to it, I don't even think about it. At times that our teaching pastor is live preaching at another site, the experience is identical for me, and while we thought our congregation would care that the preaching wasn't always live, the experience is so seamless (and the screen such a mainstay) that no one seems to even notice. (Good or bad, it's true! :) )

Speaking of multisite, our entire multisite congregation is united under one message each week, with the ability to customize the service elements to the campus/community context through the rest of the worship experience. This brings a lot of church unity knowing we are one meeting site within a much larger Ransom family. The video reminds us that we’re one church worshipping in many places, and reinforces that we’re a part of something greater, which is a great picture. We'd never want to send a DVD, rather than a person, and so our teaching pastors rotate between sites to be sure we communicate there is no main campus, and that's gone over very well. Everyone gets a turn with video and live preaching.

We don't use video exclusively at every site or satellite service, though. We have lay shepherds live preach the same message from that week's teaching pastor in multiple nursing homes to honor the cultural differences in the use of a screen. But we do use video at the Juvenille Detention Center, Minnehaha County Jail, and State Penitentiary- we use video preaching and multiple lay shepherds to provide care within those communities. This way people in jail attend our church and participate in worship while incarcerated, and attend in person when they are released- this knocks down so many barriers to entry and has been an avenue for many, many hurting and unchurched people to feel at home walking through our doors.

We do aim to give our Campus Pastors a role that goes much deeper than campus "host." Our campus pastors really do lead their campus congregations, and are involved in the services themselves too, even though they may not be the teaching pastor that week, or ever. In some important ways, this takes the focus off the teaching pastor as if he or she is the “main event”, but is instead a part of a church team, and is just one piece of the whole worship experience. Context conflicts within message content are not as much of an issue for us as our congregations are very mixed at our sites, except for those in jail or nursing homes, but the campus pastors and lay shepherds again bring care in unique and direct ways.


Unknown said...

I found this video to be incredibly insightful and very timely. We have a new Senior Pastor and our leadership team has been discussing how we can utilize our website to create sort of a virtual experience to attract those who don't attend. We have found that many people feel comfortable going online to check out a church to see what its beliefs are before they visit for the first time. Also, there are some who simply aren't ready to "be the new person" yet, but will listen or learn at home.

I appreciated Dr. Luchetti's comments about the pastor's presence in the service. I think that this is something that we cannot compromise. I also feel and agree that's it's important to be able to look into the eyes of your congregation and adjusting what you're saying as you're saying it, knowing what your congregation has been through and is going through.

I also agree with Professor Hancock that what works well in one area may not necessarily work in another. It seems that you have covered all of the bases well. I have made some additional notes and have already sent the video to my leadership team. I hope that we can discuss these pros and cons as we look at how to move forward. At the same time, I am so on board with Dr. Luchetti's comment that it is so refreshing to walk into a sanctuary and see the screen turned off. In a day of cell phones, tablets, laptops and all of the virtual avenues that we utilize, it's almost a lost art not to be looking at some sort of screen.

Lenny Luchetti said...

Aimee, Megan and Kim, Thanks for jumping into the conversation. My goal, of course, is to help us reflect theologically, critically, and practically about the issues related to video venue preaching. You each offer helpful insights from different church perspectives. Good job.


Video Venue Preaching offers the opportunity to continue spreading the gospel message. That’s the great part of using this particular venue. It is not the traditional method of spreading the good news, nevertheless, it is another avenue to communicate the truth. The challenge is just how effective will the Video Venue Preaching venue be in creating disciples for Christ. Pastors across the world are faced with congregants who fail to walk out their faith in action. The Video Venue Preaching almost promote the congregants lack of becoming involved in active missions that we are all called to fulfill (Matthew 28).
I believe that the Video Venue Preacher has a chance to minister to a group of people who feel disengaged and do not desire to dwell within a church setting. Churches today are creating areas within the church to accommodate the non-traditional worshippers who desire a more contemporary atmosphere. For example, a large Evangelical church offers a venue café that is located in the lower level of the church for people who want to dialogue with their friends, drink a latte and hear a sermon on the Video Venue. What appears to often happen in this setting is that someone is constantly moving around and talking. The question in my mind become where is reverence for the Word of God, how much are you actually hearing.
I also wonder what impact will the Video Venue Preaching developing relationships, accountability, and spiritual growth. Church provides a context that fosters an opportunity for a body to grow together and effective change in the lives of members, community, and the world. I prefer the traditional worship center, however, I prefer that the Video Venue Preaching be made available to those who need to hear the good news as an extension of the church, not a replacement.


Unknown said...

I would also say that I am not totally sold on the video venue. I would most likely have to try it out for myself before I could make a decision. I do agree with Professor Luchetti, the video venue is defiantly efficient and cost effective. I lead a very small church, and if we had to open up another location I feel the budget would get hit so hard in this type venue. Again, Professor Luchetti makes another great point, we are living in a culture that is used starring at a screen.
One of the biggest cons for me would be the absence of the preacher, “the preacher is not piped in.” I think the preacher being piped in is a major importance of ministry. We defiantly need to be as incarnational as possible. I lean toward the contradiction argument and the importance of presence. The video venue takes away the incarnational presence altogether, at least between a congregation and their preacher. I agree with the pastoral instinct, being able to look back into the eyes that I am preaching to is very important. Many times as I have preached I have preached I have be able to discern what people are going through by be present with them. This impact can be taken away through video. Another, issue that I can see being a problem is how do we hold people accountable.? Sure in most cases there may be a campus pastor, or a lay leader available for the people. My argument with this would be, why wouldn’t that leader just lead that church and Shepard this congregation since he is already available. In an ever changing culture I do feel that the video venue will gain more traction. There is a service for everyone and some will like the video and some will not. However, if the video venue is reaching lost and hurting people and they are coming to know the Lord, then I say let’s not stop the gospel from going forth!


Dave Horn said...

In regards to the Pros discussed in the video teaching and the ideas expressed, I think that the critical element of video venue preaching is the Presence of the Spirit, not the presence of the preacher. Even if video venue preaching has to deal with multi-site churches, it ultimately is the move of the Spirit that is most significant. Being effective and efficient is important, but that being enamored should not be due to the charisma of the leader, but due to the move of the Spirit. According to D. Kinlaw in Preaching in the Spirit (1985, KL 777), “If we are going to work with Christ, we must be sensitive to His Spirit.”

I further believe that although the church must have a community of believers by people being in the same place at the same time to experience true community, being at multiple sites for several hundreds or thousands is simply economical. We need to have use of videography being supportive of community. I would further note that the use of video venue preaching seems much like television ministry, which was the type of ministry that God used to get through to me back in March 1993, when I got saved.

In regards to the Cons noted in the video, the ideas of contradiction, contextualization, and cultivation were reviewed at length. I agree that we must be present in the flesh and be among those that we preach to. As B. Hancock stated in the video teaching, “the minister is the vicarious presence of Christ to the congregation.” L. Luchetti noted the importance of this explaining a preacher who has shared life with his congregation. Often this physical representation may be more important to older believers who are not used to video media. Another point raised by Hancock is the idea of Christ, in the present day, using technology to spread His message. My response is that He used any means available to Him at the time of His ministry including sending out disciples, sending out the healed and delivered to testify, walking on water, borrowing a donkey’s colt, and using familiar items and settings to describe the Kingdom of God; therefore, I would expect Him to use technology. The culture of the church has changed and shifted, as Hancock noted, and it is good that pastors are now being “real” with their congregation. We have a responsibility as current and future pastors to be authentic with our congregations, and I do not think that video venue would necessarily prohibit this.

Kinlaw, D. (1985) Preaching in the Spirit, Anderson, IN, Francis Asbury Press
Luchetti, L. and Hancock, B. (2016), Video Venue Preaching: Pros and Cons, Marion, IN, obtained at:


Unknown said...

I first got the idea of Video Venue at a Rick Warren conference I attended in 1992 a year before I planted the church I now serve. Rick stated that a church must grow larger and smaller at the same time. That statement stuck with me and I began to wonder how a church could be large without losing the distinctiveness and character of a smaller congregation. I remember thinking that instead of building three thousand seats auditoriums it may be best to build several smaller auditoriums on the same campus as the church grew.
As our church grew from 14 to over 3000 members I have never abandoned that original idea and concept. It was not until I met Larry Osborne the pastor of North Coast Community outside San Diego, California that I saw how my dream could become a reality. Larry has one main campus with several smaller venues that have simultaneous worship services in different styles on the same site. Larry’s reality is my dream. It is also I believe an answer to some of the objections brought up in the discussion between Dr. Luchetti and Dr. Hancock. I believe video venue can make a large church become more incarnational by using this approach. When the worship space seats over 1000 people the congregation loses a sense of intimacy and its unrealistic to expect the pastor to have true personal connection to all the membership. Video venue allows a venue pastor to develop the necessary relationships throughout the week with congregants. In fact, pastoral care could be even more intensive and relational because the venue pastor has more time to give care instead of sermon development.
Additionally, when the church has different worship environments on the same campus the ministry has an opportunity to reach a more diverse population. Many people choose a church not just for the preaching but for the style of worship music as well. We are planning a hip hop church, a service with hymns and organ music, and a venue similar to the main service but in a smaller setting with an artistic flair. These venues will appeal to the various groups that are currently present in our congregation. We are having special worship events now to beta test these environments. Our intent is to have as many venues as we have leadership to support them.
With our video venue concept we are “cultivating” a new generation of preachers and worship leaders. Unlike most video venue ministries, all the preaching will not be done by video from the lead pastor. At least once a month the venue pastor will share the same sermon of the lead pastor live to their environment. Our church has planted six autonomous congregations over the past twenty years and this will be a leadership incubator to develop future lead pastors to continue our church planting mission and to provide a succession path for the lead pastor on the main campus.
Another benefit to having video venue on the same campus is the ability to have a singular children and teen ministry that services all the various venues. Also we will be able to have real synergy between all ministries and avoid the disconnection that is experienced when the separate worship environments are miles apart in different buildings or communities.
I have cast this vision for over twenty years and our church is committed to making this a reality. God has recently blessed us with a 160,000 square foot former Target building on 20 acres. We currently worship in 70,000 square feet of the space and are beginning to build out the additional 90,000 to launch the venues and more outreach ministry to the community. God gave us this amazing site for $400,000 because I believe we are called to be a model of how a church can use the video venue concept and be large and small at the same time.

Tyrone Barnette

Unknown said...

Prior to viewing this video, I was extremely unfamiliar with video venue preaching. The church I attend is small enough that we have one preacher in front of a congregation of at most 125 members per service. The only glimpse I have ever encountered about video venue preaching was at Blackhawk Church near Madison, WI. They had two sanctuaries of equal size where one played traditional worship music but the other played a “rock” style. The preacher was in the traditional venue while the “rock” venue watched him on a screen. Although interested, I could not get myself to go watch him on a screen while he was live right across the hallway.

What really scares me when considering this type of projection is the lack of focus on the context of the congregation. As Dr. Luchetti pointed out, he spends time praying for and thinking of the members of the congregation as he is preparing his messages. While I feel a more generic message could still be beneficial, I do not believe it would be as effective as a message tailored to the audience. I know there is no easy answer in this debate as we could look at the effectiveness of a world-renowned preacher’s generic sermon versus the sermon of a freshly hired college graduate, but you get my idea.

I also resonate with the “con” claiming that this type of preaching could hinder the cultivating process of young preachers. It took a few months of leading lessons for the youth twice a week before I really got comfortable. With this said, the young preachers out there need to gain experience if they hope to be effective one day. I’m afraid there are many young individuals not gaining the experience they could be because they are tucked behind a video presentation by a well-known preacher. Would the people rather listen to the well-known preacher? Maybe. Would it be best for the long-run? I don’t think so.

I loved this discussion and walk away remaining on the fence between the two options. However, I continue to lean towards live, physically present, preaching.

Bobby Pushwa

Unknown said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation on “Video-Venue” preaching. I thought the pros and cons you and Dr. Brannon discussed whee spot on. I live in Atlanta, Georgia and I’ve visited North Point Church several times. Most of the times that I was there, Andy Stanley’s message was piped in. Every time I’m there, I’m amazed at how many people attend his church weekly, just to watch a video. I’ve also visited 12Stone Church in Atlanta, Georgia. They have a similar setup. In my opinion, outside of the pros and cons Dr. Lenny shared, some other benefits are the fact that a video-venue model allows churches to extend their reach by creating a variety of environments, often driven by worship style, that attract different segments of their communities. A big disadvantage to a video-venue model is the lack of accessibility to the senior or lead pastor, which could cause a feeling of a lack of desired pastoral shepherding. This is very important in the African American church. In my context, members have a strong desire and need to be able to know, touch, and personally engage the senior pastor. Another disadvantage is that if the proper technology is not used, a video-venue model could create an environment that feels more like an overflow room than a multi-site.

I’ve also witnessed new church planters try and start off as multi-site video venues. I personally think that is a huge mistake because it gives the appearance that the planter is not fully invested in the community and it effects the evangelistic strategy and focus. The leadership within a new church plant or an existing church cannot be effective without an efficient evangelism focus. A comprehensive evangelism strategy is vital when it comes to how a Campus Pastor/Multi-Site Pastor envision God using them to multiply disciples, leaders, and churches. This cannot be accomplished if the pastor is only engaging the people through a video screen. Ultimately, I understand we live an a ever evolving culture and there are a variety of preferences within our society. I don't know if it's an either/or answer or a both/and answer. But what I do know is that whatever the method, it must always point people to Jesus.

Jeff Wallace

Lenny Luchetti said...

Wow, I love the diversity of perspectives. My goal, again, is simply to get us talking and, most of all, praying and thinking about the issue. What I'm after these days is the development of thinking pastors. Help your people wrestle with this issue not only practically and pragmatically, but theologically and pastorally. Great discussion!

Brian J. Jones said...

I worked in broadcast media (radio and television) from the early 1970’s through the early 1990’s as a camera operator, technician and on-air personality. The majority of my experience was in Southeast Louisiana. Jimmy Swaggart, a well-known tel-evangelist had a nightly program that was shown on WCOX-TV 2, where I was working in the early to mid-1980’s. At this independent cable based channel, we produced entire church services broadcasts at some local churches. The need to create programming that was of the same quality and production value as what Swaggart produced was crucial.

I have seen the willful manipulation through the use of panning, zooming and audio enhancements that bring about psychological and emotional responses from what is being shown. These can encourage someone to pay more attention at some parts and feel more connected which provokes certain actions (like giving of money). This misrepresentation could start its own set of problems for both the preacher and the hearers.

I own professional grade video and audio equipment and maintain the skills to produce various preaching “segments” which I post on You Tube™. I do this for two purposes; (1.) I have a large number of interested persons around the world that I am able to bring the Word of God to. These presentations are the means where I am able to preach, teach and reach those that, at least for the moment, I am not able to speak with in person. Some are in areas where it is illegal to have any kind of Christian presence, but through knowledge of how to work within technological proxies, I am able to provide. The messages themselves are only part of a well-rounded approach in giving Christian ministry.

I am not entirely endorsing this medium; I want to point out the one-dimensional aspect in this approach. Congregants reveal only what they want to reveal on camera. Nothing is known about their daily lives and/or how events (spectacular, mundane, once in a lifetime, or daily grind) are being coped with. So, the role of a pastor becomes limited in one-way and very dependent on God’s revelations in the other. So yes, as discussed in the video with doctors Hancock and Luchetti, there is an effective and efficiency in the use of the video venue preaching, but it also allows people to isolate themselves in an unhealthy way. As also noted in the video, healthy individuals may rely on this medium to avoid having to socially interact. This can lead to a level of deceit or worse, compartmentalized Christianity.

The discussion about maintaining the contextualization of the messages being delivered, in conjunction with the cultivation of future preachers, has similar overtones to those expressed when television was introduced. Concerns over the ideas that movie theaters would shut down and books would cease to be written because of the spoon-feeding that television seemed to give way to. Additionally, people feared the limited perspectives that could be inferred would take root and produce generations of mind-numbed zombies. Well, maybe that was a bad example, because maybe there is some truth to that. However, seriously, we have benefited from many accomplishments in many areas, i.e., literature, the sciences and the spectrum of opinions and ideas are quite vast on television. The creative abilities (which I include the sanctified imaginations as well in this broad category) do not show any danger of becoming extinct. They may take on new venues or forms but what some see as archaic and some see as futuristic, to the person watching, it all depends on who is holding the remote. In other words, whoever is in control.

Mike Voit said...

Prior to offering a few thoughts, I must openly confess that I have never actually experienced video venue preaching firsthand. Sure, I have engaged with a vast variety of sermons from preachers via YouTube, Vimeo and the like. Yet I have never participated in an actual worship service in which the act of preaching was broadcasted via video. I make this confession upfront because life has shown me that my pre-conceived notions or perceptions can often be significantly positively or negatively impacted by firsthand experience.

Whenever I have encountered the concept of video venue preaching, there has always been a theological/ecclesiological question raised in my mind. Ironically, Lenny brought it to the fore immediately in this interview and then proceeded to put words to the very same conundrum with which I have struggled. This conundrum has everything to do with the incarnation. The incarnation, or the enfleshment of God, is central to the Christian faith. The reality of the incarnation is that God became fully human so that by His redemptive action He might redeem persons in their entirety. Historically, this truth was so central to the early church that several theological disagreements prompted the initiation of councils to carefully define and articulate this central truth.

With the incarnation being one of the core convictions of the Christian faith, then it is no doubt central to the Christian community. Empowered by the Spirit the church now serves as an extension of the incarnation. In the words of NT Wright, the church now serves as an incarnational outpost of God’s kingdom; flesh and blood people proclaiming and enacting the Kingdom of God on earth. Incarnational ecclesiology seems to push back against the concept of video venue preaching. Just as the church as a community is the Spirit-empowered flesh and blood ambassador of God, so is the individual or individuals entrusted with the task of preaching.

Mike Voit said...

[Part 2]
While there are variety of cultural factors which play into the ongoing dialogue and debate, video venue preaching undercuts what I would call the “power of presence.” In one of his masterpieces, Henri Nouwen states that the greatest gift we, as humans, have to give one another is the gift of our presence. People being physically, mentally and emotionally present to people is incredibly powerful regardless of the setting. What I think our media saturated, screen-oriented Western world is discovering is that nothing can serve as a substitute for another person’s presence. It is in the presence of another that we are known and engaged in a way that no screen can ever reproduce.

Culturally, there appears to be a subtle, yet ever-increasing desire to unplug from all of the technology at our disposal. We westerners have become “people of the screen.” Engaging with a flesh and blood preacher, proclaiming the word given to her or him from the Lord, runs counter to what most people overdose on week-in and week-out. Regardless of the effectiveness of the preacher, the church is providing a context where people can unplug, reflect and simply be. Ironically, it is almost as if human beings simply being together affirms and allows each human being to be human. Perhaps in a way, this is what our presence bestows upon another.

Video venue preaching undoubtedly extends the reach of a local church. This reach is predicated on the effectiveness of the preacher that is piped in to the service during the actual preaching event. Now, the argument is made that it is better to have a highly effective preacher piped in instead of a mediocre preacher physically present. On the surface, this argument seems solid. What often goes unseen in our consumer-oriented, highly pragmatic culture is what goes on at the core of our being. A mediocre preacher may seem to be ineffective in relation to someone who appears dynamic and effective. Despite perceived effectiveness, I have this sense that something deeply formative is taking place within the very being of people when a preacher is physically present as compared to not being present. Spirit-empowered, flesh and blood presence is transformative.

Chris McFadden said...

I found myself particularly drawn to Dr. Luchetti's assertion that video venue preaching could be - in its essence - "counter-incarnation." I realize that this insinuation sounds hostile, but I don't think it's intended to be; rather, it's a commentary on the potential for spiritual deformation that could potentially play out from this practice. It seems to me that Lenny's criticism is dead on. If Jesus - the "God-Man" - came in the flesh in order to be God among his people, how can we presume to create barriers and walls for personal interaction between minister and people. I loved how Dr. Hancock added to this by defining the term 'vicar' as the office (or agent) of person that Christ lives vicariously through. What a beautiful picture of ministry painted through vocabulary! But this picture is completely lost when we separate the vicar from the people.

I thought that critically engaging the celebrity status that video venue preaching has the potential to lend to gifted communicators is also wise. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called "Holy Hell" about a cult leader from the 1980s - early 2000s that led a sort of "love and transcendence" community that lived and breathed on his teachings and commands. While the community did indeed thrive the leader was guilty of abusing and taking advantage of members of the group. It made me consider how relative power is to relationship; if people feel like they know you (even through screens) they may take your advice too far, even when you are earnestly seeking to reflect Jesus. Somehow you end up standing in the way.

I also think, though, that effective preaching is important. I'm not so sure that there is one metric for effective and that everyone must toe a certain line to be effective. The problem with the widespread content of effective communicators is that it creates a consumeristic tendency in hearers. I know - for myself - that I will never be as gifted of a communicator as Tim Keller. I don't have a chance! So when someone listens to my sermon in church and considers they could instead be listening to Tim Keller, I won't blame them for tuning in to their iPhone instead of me. However, going back to Lenny's first point about incarnation, it stands to reason that when that person needs a minister, when they need someone who has a real connection to God who wants to connect with them, a recorded message in any format will not do.