Several months ago my wife and I attended Harvest Bible Chapel (James MacDonald) inPalatine, IL. We tried very hard to make sure we were at the main church on a day MacDonald would be there. We got there and found out he wasn't there, but Joe Stowell was preaching. Okay, cool. Feed me. Uh, it was Stowell on video from an earlier service.
Right now I'm ten minutes into Mark Driscoll's sermon "Jesus Took Our Wrath" and he hasn't started the sermon yet. That's actually not a strange thing for Driscoll, especially since he has about an hour and five minutes left. He is explaining how Mars Hill has been growing in leaps and bounds. Faster than they can accommodate. And they are looking for ways to make space, and space is hard to come by. Wouldn't we all like to have their problems. One quick solution that won't last for long is adding a fifth service on Sunday. As a pastor that sounds like a nightmare for my physical/emotional well being.
So instead of just killing the pastor and staff along the way, they have chosen to make some of the sermons video sermons. Driscoll will preach the first service, it will be taped and used at a service or two that day. That takes care of the killing the pastor/staff part, but I'm a bit concerned at the direction of good churches that I highly respect who are turning to this option. I wonder if this isn't an abuse of the gifts of modernity, rather than using these gifts in a way that truly benefits the church.
Let me just give a few thoughts as to why I don't like this trend. I don't mean to pick on Harvest or MHC or MacDonald or Driscoll, but they have triggered my thoughts.
1. There's a dynamic that isn't there when the preacher isn't standing in front of his people. Every sermon I preach changes because of how the audience responds, how I feel, the sense of "unction" and so on. I don't think these are repeatable things, and so the dynamic is lost. If I have the story right, Martyn Lloyd-Jones didn't like his sermons audio recorded (though they were) because he felt like you couldn't replicate the experience so it wouldn't be the same.
2. Video preaching is, it seems to me, a way of doing an 'end run' around the real need: more preachers/more churches. We are to pray for workers for the harvest, not for digital machines that can video-photocopy a sermon and reproduce it. If God's providing the people to join the flock, I want to believe that God is providing enough pastor/preachers who can shepherd the flock. I know the philosophy at MHC behind why they don't want to share the pulpit, but I'm not sure I fully buy it as the better option.
3. Video preaching seems like the result of personality-driven ministry. The preacher is so important and so beloved that no one else can fill their shoes well enough to preach in their place. I hope this isn't the case, but guys like MacDonald and Driscoll are very charismatic and certainly some are coming who would not if they weren't there.
What do you think?