Are video recordings of famous men, used in corporate worship services, the true preaching of God's Word...
(Tim) This post was a comment by son Joseph under a previous post titled "Beware of Despising Preaching." I thought it should be a post of its own.
* * *Let's start with a book of sermons by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. These are actual sermons that he preached and were recorded onto paper. You read one of them. Is it a real sermon? Yes. Did M.L. Jones preach it? Yes. Was it the proper preaching of the Word when he delivered the sermon? Yes. Did he preach it to you? No. Therefore, you have not been "under" the preaching of the Word. You have indeed read a written record of the proper preaching of the Word, and it is more than likely to be beneficial to you, but not in the way that you would be benefited had you been present in the congregation when he originally preached the sermon. And similarly, although it might have been infinitely better preaching, reading it is not going to benefit you as much as attending a real church where you are a member, submitted to the authority of the pastor preaching *to* you.
Now let's move to radio/mp3 sermons. The same thing can be said. You've heard an audio recording of a real sermon, but it wasn't preached to you. There is a big difference between the two. (I will ignore radio "sermons" that are "preached" to a studio microphone instead of a congregation as they are not even preaching in my mind.)
Now what about public video recordings (as opposed to private video feeds, which I will address next)? Here I would make the same argument. Watching a recording of somebody preaching is not the same thing as them preaching to you. And yet there is a big difference between audio and video, isn't there? One difference is that video makes you *think* and *feel* that the person is addressing you directly, much more effectively than audio does. Why?
Because he can look into your eyes, just by glancing at the camera once in a while. But who is he preaching to? He's preaching to the camera, and not you. So video recordings are all the more seductive to us, because we feel that we have been dealt with intimately by a man of God. And yet we never had to look him in the eye, and he can't see or respond in any way when we nod or wince or sneer or click "next" to avoid the sermon we don't want to hear.
The problems with video feeds are similar to all of the above instances. Who is Mark Driscoll preaching to when his tele-church in Phoenix tunes in? Would you really say that they have been preached to in any fundamentally different way than if we wrote down what he said and emailed it to all of them? Is it a question of medium? Is it that if we record it onto video, we can see his facial expressions and hear his tone of voice, and so it drives the point home better than if we were to simply write the sermon out on paper? Surely not. We can't make a utilitarian argument like that while we are Christians. Plus, the Bible was written and seems to be plenty effective.
Maybe it is the timing? If we hear and see him at exactly the same time as the people actually watching him in person, does that change anything? There is no difference. Who cares whether it is happening now, or last week or 2 years ago? We are watching it now. And that's the problem. What you are doing is "watching it". Nothing more than that. The Holy Spirit is pleased to use the preaching of His Word in our lives. Ask yourself if you are being preached to or are watching a sermon. The difference is the difference between a church and not a church.
Can books, mp3s, videos of sermons be helpful? Obviously they can. But that doesn't mean that you are being preached to.
Now let's move to Corinthians. We need to be careful here, because there are two things going on. First, Paul is writing a letter to a particular congregation. Second, he is being used by the Holy Spirit to write part of the Bible. So, could we say that when the letter was read to the Corinthian church that Paul was preaching to them? I don't think so, but even if you disagree, ask yourself this. When you read Corinthians at home alone is Paul preaching to you? Of course not. When it is read out loud to your church tomorrow will Paul be preaching to your church? Don't be silly.
Finally, let's look at the major objection, which is that there are generally men present who have been given the responsibility of shepherding the congregation that is being fed by a video. This is simply begging the question. If the right preaching of the word is not happening, the fact that Pastor Joe is in charge at the remote location doesn't impact anything. Regardless, the most important point has already been made in this respect. How can those men who are not preaching be considered to be taking care of the sheep? If they are to feed the sheep, why don't they preach? If they aren't capable of doing that, why would we think they can sit facing the same direction as all of those being "preached to" by a video and afterwards, care for those who are present? In other words, if he is the pastor, let him preach. If he isn't the pastor, then the pastor isn't present, and isn't preaching to those who are.
Wow. That was long, and I don't have time to read it and see if it makes sense. I've got to prepare to preach tomorrow to... you know... my church.