The Downside of Video Preaching

Video preaching is a powerful tool to get your message out to the masses. It has gained popularity among multi-site churches (a church with multiple campuses) as a way to remain "one church, in many locations." If you are not familiar with video preaching, usually a church with multiple campuses will have a live service where the senior pastor teaches at one location and the rest of the campuses watch the same sermon on video. When used correctly, video preaching can expand influence tenfold by the church communicator. But as time goes on, some church leaders are debating if video preaching is the best way to do ministry.

I used to be the biggest advocate to video preaching. I would make the case that the Church has always used technology (like video) to advance the Gospel. Great examples are the printing press, electricity, and flight. Honestly, I still believe that to be true. I was such a believer in video sermons, that back in the day when I worked for the church, I ran a video only service. I led my leadership team to help change that service from a live speaker to video sermons, and it worked with many benefits. I have even coached other pastors on how to change their live services to video preaching.

So what has changed for me? Nothing really. I still believe that video preaching is working as a communication tool across America. You can't deny the data. But over time, I have begun to see that we are losing something with the trade off in video preaching. I have seen the side effects of video preaching and feel that those of us in the multi-site groups are not really talking about what we are losing.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a pastor friend whose church has been experimenting in video preaching for their two campuses. After giving all the great things I experienced with running a video venue I asked, "So, do you want to know the downside of video preaching?" After a while of silence he replied, "Um, yeah, sure." Here is what I told him.

The downside of video preaching:

Video preaching can make Quality the King. When you choose video preaching, your competition is Hollywood. Sorry to say it, but it's true. We are a movie saturated country. Now-a-days, people expect a lot of things that come from a screen. Bad camera work, low lighting, mis-focus, poor presentation can be a distraction for viewers. Now don't get me wrong, I believe that every church should strive to have the highest quality on Sunday to honor God. But when quality becomes King, then our perspective changes. The downside to making Quality the King is people tend to focus too much on cue sheets, presentation, the feel of the room, worship sets, chair placement, first impressions, burned out light bulbs, political correctness, signage, and the list goes on! Making Quality the King causes churches to desire to get the best possible communicator to lead the pulpit, by human standards at least. Which leads me to my next point.

Video preaching can feed the "Rock Star" mentality. There can be a false assumption that comes with video preaching which is you need a rock star to run the show. I have sat in many staff meetings and heard well meaning pastors say, "In order to pull off our video service we need someone who captures attention," (in other words, a Rock Star). I have even caught myself saying that back in the day. Unfortunately, it's also true. Well, when Quality is King that is. More times than not, I have seen people get passed over to speak Sunday morning because they didn't have the "look" that is needed. The downside to the rock star mentality is that instead of examining a persons character, heart, lifestyle, reputation, or knowledge of scripture; we'd rather look at their speaking ability, stage presence, or their story telling. Unfortunately, Jesus most likely wouldn't qualify with today's standards of video teachers. I believe that many churches would pass over a small town nobody, who sleeps in the fields with his follows. Also, I have very rarely seen a rock star pastor share their talents, which brings me to the most important point.

Video preaching can break down leadership mentoring. This is the main reason why I have changed my opinion of video sermons. There is a false assumption that video preaching gives you a greater impact, which is wrong. Pouring into your leadership teams gives you the greater impact. Jesus spent more time with his disciples than his "pulpit" and there is a reason. As I develop LeaderBuild, I see the power in moving away from a few highly "qualified" leaders to building many "called" leaders. Building quality teams out pays Long Ranger Approach every time.

My challenge for all senior leadership.

Almost every senior pastor I have ever met would agree that leadership development is important for the health of the church. I have even seen lead pastors require their staff to disciple people into leadership. But unfortunately, I have very rarely seen lead pastors mentoring people into their own positions. If you are a senior pastor, I would encourage you to consider reproducing yourselves at ALL levels, and that even means preaching. There is nothing more powerful in leadership than equipping and empowering your staff to do the ministry... like Jesus did. And so you know, I do believe that your "presence" is important as a lead pastor throughout the church, but have you considered rotating around to different campuses while your team covers the empty lots? Imagine the impact if you pour everything you have learned and experienced with preaching into a group of people, like a preaching team.

So should we get ride of using video altogether?

NO, PLEASE! Don't get me wrong, I love using video because it connects strongly to people of this generation. Specially when used for church-wide vision casting. My hope is after reading this article you get the point I'm trying to make. Video preaching isn't the the problem. It's the unhealthy mentalities and false assumptions that can come from video preaching. In the end, my encouragement is to take a closer look at your mentalities and assumptions when it comes to video preaching.