I’ve been sick as a mutt and laid out in bed for 3 days now, so what does a guy do who can’t do anything productive?
I’ve been wanting to toss down some thoughts about “web preachers” for a while now, so here goes…
It’s a huge and common occurrence these days for Christians to download sermons off the internet and have a list of favorite preachers that they listen to. There’s now a new phenomenon too; there are people are preachers whose main following is almost exclusively on the web. I call them web preachers. Web preachers are often ex-pastors, ex-missionaries, or pastors of small churches (usually 150 people or less) who are known for being either really intense (read “eerily emotional”) or saying shocking or even inflammatory things. I have many friends who are fans of a web preacher or two, and I often get creeped out at how fanatical people get about their favorite web preacher. Some friends got into one of the web preachers and I didn’t know much about him, so I checked out a few sermons and have tried to sauce him out a bit. After a few days of checking into this new and popular web preacher, I have come to some conclusions:
1. A web preacher who isn’t a weekday pastor is not any sort of accurate picture of a pastor; you shouldn’t expect your pastor to preach like the guy on the web. I mean, he doesn’t do ministry anywhere; he just posts (most likely his best) sermons online that advise people how to do the thing he doesn’t do (but usually claims that he used to do and is thereby an authority). Beyond that, people usually love web preachers because they’re so intense and utterly emotional. Web preachers sound intense and sincere often because they desire to cultivate strong emotion in their listeners, but this is often a simple and well-known rhetorical form of manipulation; you circumvent the reason via the emotion. Also, preachers most commonly attempt to compensate for a lack of content with an overabundance of emotion. If people feel what you say, they won’t analyze what your saying. This isn’t to say that good preachers shouldn’t target the heart, but the heart should be targeted through the mind and not in spite of it.
2. The gospel isn’t the ONLY issue in the scriptures. Web preachers, more often then not, are guys who are really intense about the gospel (great!) but don’t ever really address much else besides gospel issues (i.e. how many web preachers teach anything of substance about the end times or anything accurate about spiritual gifts? How many web preachers who do touch those subjects do so only to reveal that they probably should only talk about the gospel?) Web preachers who get the gospel right aren’t necessarily guys with good theology, they’re just guys who understand and are passionate about the gospel; that means they’re Christians, not theologians. I don’t know about you, but all this talk about “gospel focus” is starting to sound a whole lot more like excuses for immaturity and avoidance of difficult biblical issues.
Feel free to be offended at that. I’m probably talking about you.
3. Listening to 8 sermons a day almost never does anything good for a person. It’s not a replacement for academic biblical education, it’s not a replacement for personal study in the scripture, and it’s not a replacement for attending a solid church. You simply cannot properly process that amount of biblical content with any level of depth if you’re listening to it while working or doing something else. More often than not, I get a whole lot more out of listening to 1 sermon 8 times (while working) than 8 sermons once. When I’m working, I’m maybe listening at around 10% efficiency; my brain is simply on other things and my focus isn’t on the sermon.
I have a ton more I could say about web preachers, but my sickness has totally sapped all my energy. I’ve got to put my laptop down and go nap (and this is a 3 week old draft I’ve been slowly pecking away at so if I don’t post it now, I never will…)
Feel free to chime in and interact as always!
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “The Armchair Blog Preacher” Unger