Video Church

To this date, I have made no direct comments on Mark Driscoll. I admit he was one of many that I had in mind when I wrote point #7 of this post, but I’ve never felt the need to devote any space to someone who is destined to be just another blip [click here for an explanation of this apparently offensive statement] in evangelicalism’s mindless pursuit of the new and trendy.

Then Paul Lamey posted the following quote at Expository Thoughts:

One thing I am certain of following my recent travels is that the multiple-site church phenomenon and video services are here to stay. Dead churches will be revitalized more and more by larger churches establishing services in them through the use of video. An entirely new form of church planting seems to be emerging that, along with traditional church planting, will help to add healthy new churches.

My irritation at that absurd notion is reflected in the comment I left (sorry, Paul):

There is no such thing as a healthy church where the pastor is only a visitor, and by video, at that. Church is not a place to watch a sermon. A pastor is not just a man who preaches. How can that man be accountable to the congregation? Who knows if he is “above reproach”? How can the congregation be accountable to him?

As the commenter above pointed out, among many thousands of people, are there really only a handful who should be trained to shepherd the flock? What is this clerical elitism? Is the congregation qualified only as spectators and stage hands?

Aside from that, it amazes me how people who live in big cities think everyone lives like they do. Video services may be here to stay in major metropolises, but there is a whole world out here where entire towns wouldn’t fill their megachurches, and there are many thousands of living, vibrant churches of 100-200 members (and smaller) that still meet in small, quaint buildings with steeples and pews. Many even use (brace yourselves) hymn books! They worship, sing, and preach without microphones, electric instruments, video, etc. I used to ring the bell in one of those churches–a real cast-iron bell with a rope.

Maybe those churches aren’t living and healthy by the standards of Pastor Rockstar Megachurch. But they surely don’t need any high-tech innovations or remote pastors to revitalize them. The Holy Spirit is at work there even when the electricity goes out.

I was fired up to post a big piece of my mind on this, but thankfully, I thought twice and reigned in my zealotry. It’s never a good idea to start spouting off in a “righteously indignant” state of mind. So I’m not saying anything. I’ll just keep my big mouth shut. However, I will direct you to the recently-posted words of Frank Turk, who is much more polite about it than I would have been, and right on the money:

I think it's a sham when people read blogs or listen to the radio or watch (A-HEM) TBN in place of actually belonging to a local church. Your TV isn't a substitute for a local pastor and/or elders and a local church. Period.

But what's up with these pastors who think that if the TV is a Jumbotron and it belongs to the church they have somehow "planted a church"? Yeah, I know there's more to it, but what ever happened to raising up disciples who are Godly men to staff these churches and let them preach and teach? The problem, if I may be so bold in speaking directly to Pastor Mark, is that somehow men think they are important enough that the work cannot go on without them.

The work could go on without the Apostle Paul: it can go on without you.

Just put some gargoyles up in the front, dudes, because you have found a way to beat out the medieval Catholics for missing the point and going "high church" without going all sacralist. Your sermons are not that good -- no matter who you are.

Let's repeat that: "Your sermons are not that good -- no matter who you are."

I’m still not saying anything about this, but let’s give Frank’s words a little broader application: Is broadcasting your mug into a church and calling yourself their pastor any different than buying a stadium so 43,000 strangers can call you their pastor?


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1. 07·03·21··20:36
Even So...

I have used #7 many times since then, including tonight at service (no lie, brother)...thanks for putting (and smaller) since we are "less than" 100...I, like you, could go on and on, and I want to so bad I want to get a plane ticket and, and, and...well, anyway, when are you going to come over and check out my nearly 40 post series, (neatly placed under my profile box)...Why You HAVE To Go To Church? It talks of many of these issues and their tangential items, like electronic church and so forth...sorry for the plug, but I took several weeks to go through this, and didn't see you for a while, and thought you might have a different mind about it, but upon reading this, I think you might enjoy and be edified by it, some posts more than others of course, but together, well, we have gotten a lot of response as far as hits are concerned...

2. 07·03·21··20:58

A different mind, JD? No, I'm with you all the way. I haven't been commenting on blogs as much as I used to, but I'm still reading.

I grew up in those 100+- churches. Even now, our church is only 200+-. I wouldn't trade our pastor for a TV even if John MacArthur was the star. There is no substitute for real men in the flesh.

3. 07·03·21··21:03
Carla Rolfe

I think you may be speaking for a lot more people than you might realize.

Just a thought.

4. 07·03·21··23:09
Pastor Way

Indeed! Have you ever heard of a virtual shepherd? No such thing. The shepherd(s) must be there with the flock in order to lead them and protect them. Jesus shows us in John 10 that the shepherd is there even sleeing in the doorway of the sheepfold to guard against hirelings and those who would steal, kill, and destroy.

Further, the very way elders are called and appointed in the New Testament shows us that they are appointed from within the congregation because the church knows them and their character.

There is more to pastoring than preaching, and even if these video venues have other elders on staff locally there is still the problem that the man preaching does not know the congregation or its particular needs. The church does not need preachers, it needs pastors. Men who do more that talk - men who make disciples and teach others to follow his example.

Your comments are appreciated!


5. 07·03·22··09:09

I agree with Carla. I know that Piper uses video at his two other campuses. But then again, he is being scrutinized as well.

6. 07·03·22··16:12

Great comments...Ah, the truth is so true! But it's fat-free so the sugar-addicted world gags...

This is all about the simple, indespensable Gospel model that precludes the media centered pablum we see all around us.

The living, breathing, earthy (meaning real, one on one, face to face), dirt-under-your-fingernails, sweat-on-your-brow, "One-Another" life that nurtures Holiness because it's the REAL gospel; lived out minus "gadgets and gimmicks." Real because it is Christ centered and thus, servant centered. Unconditional and Sacrificial love is our MO...

The life of the true believer is raw. That is, it's uncooked, unprocessed, and unfiltered by the world. It's about loving God and our neighbor, and in that we will be serious about making disciples of all nations.

We need Leaders who are there, face to face, hand on the shoulder close; ready to "preach the word...in season and out of season; [to] reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." (2Ti 4:2)

We need accountability that knows each of us in an appropriately intimate way; both as a comfort and a warning... Edifying and being edified.

What we have too much of is the disneyland gospel, complete with magic kingdom and lots of people dressed up as someone they're not...

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Heb 11:32-38)

7. 07·04·14··20:47

Yeah, I know ... late to the party.

I have a problem with "video churches", partly at least for some of the same reasons that you do.

I have a bigger problem, though, with Driscoll being relegated to "... someone who is destined to be just another blip in evangelicalism’s mindless pursuit of the new and trendy." That kind of statement makes Ken Silva look like president of the Mark Driscoll Fan Club.

What gives?

8. 07·04·15··09:46

When I say Driscoll will be "just a blip," I don't necessarily mean anything negative. Most of us aren't even blips. I only mean that he will have no lasting legacy. Everything he is admired for is personality-related. He is cool, radical, edgy, or whatever the current hip-ism is right now. The men we remember are remembered not for having new ideas and methods, but for lifetimes spent diligently teaching the Scriptures. They are not trendy or cutting edge. They just do the same old thing, week after week, year after year, seeking to be faithful and leaving "relevance" to God.

I know it's not fair to compare one man to another, but I think of a man like John MacArthur, going on 40 years of concentrated Biblical exposition. Dozens of serious theological books and Bible commentaries, millions of tapes & cds of his expositions distributed, not to mention inestimable impact of the Master's Seminary--nothing cool, trendy or cutting edge, just the same old Biblical preaching and teaching. What will Driscoll be remembered for, Confessions of a Reformissionary Rev?

When people start praising him for his Biblical exposition rather than his charisma and zeal, which I do not doubt, then I will consider him someone to be remembered. Whatever is cool and relevant today is boring and irrelevant tomorrow; today's new ideas are tomorrow's stale, day-old donuts; but the Word of God that was preached 2000 years ago is still living and active, and it's the only thing worth being remembered for.

I'm sure Driscoll is a decent guy, in general. By all reliable accounts, his theology is orthodox; but that's not what he's known for. He's known for his novel ideas, and that simply will not last.

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