February 15, 2010
Rob Bell on the Dangers of Video Preaching
Video preaching is popular and effective, but is there a better alternative?
He once planted a church by teaching through Leviticus. He can use a rabbit carved from a bar of soap to illustrate the nature of suffering. Google his name and the term "Sex God" will appear among the top entries.
Rob Bell is the most interesting preacher in the world.
The winter issue of Leadership features a wide-ranging interview with Rob Bell on the art and impact of preaching. His candid answers and down to earth advice for pastors may surprise you. Check out the entire interview at LeadershipJournal.net. Below is an excerpt where Bell discusses the unknown dangers of video preaching.
Your NOOMA video series has been popular. What do you think about the increasing number of preachers and churches using video technology to expand their reach?
It's powerful but there's also a dark side. Video is not church. You put images and music on a screen, and people will listen. But it's also dangerous. You're playing with fire. I think video technology deserves to be scrutinized heavily.
Go a little deeper. What makes video dangerous?
I don't think we know yet what the long-term impact will be on disciple-making. In 10 years we may discover what particular kind of Christ follower is formed by video preaching. I see warning lights on my dashboard. It's unclear what video may do to the ways we conceive of life together.
In the New Testament, there are 43 "one another" passages, and during a Sunday morning service you might be able to practice three or four of them. And as the service gets large, you can probably do fewer. A massive group setting is also dangerous. You can come, sit, listen, and go home and think, I've been to church, even if you haven't practiced any "one anothers." And with video that only gets more intense. I'm not sure that's the direction we want to be heading.
We want to be calling people to deep bonds of solidarity with one another. We may gather in a massive group, but from the stage I often say, "This is just a church service. Church is actually about caring for one another, and serving one another, and speaking truth to one another in love. Don't get the two confused."
The evidence suggests that video can have a fast and broad impact. So what's the alternative?
There is something more powerful than simply beaming yourself into other locations, and that is raising up disciples. Over time that will go farther and faster, but right now it will be more work and slower. With technology today it's easy to spend all of your energies reproducing your own voice, but there is a longer view that says, what if instead of beaming video to those ten locations, we train ten people who can go there and lead? That's a very basic question that should be in the mix somewhere.
Is developing other leaders part of your calling now?
That's the reason we recently did "The Poets, Prophets, and Preachers" seminar, and it's why I've got seminary students I meet with regularly. Meeting with them also changes my thinking because they ask great questions. There's a reason Jesus sends his disciples out in pairs—everyone learns.
What do you teach these students about the spiritual side of preaching?
First, the public nature of preaching exposes you to a wide spectrum of feedback—from the really good compliments to really venomous criticism. Both can be dangerous because they lead to either pride or pain. We need to work at becoming the kind of person who is so deeply grounded in who we are, the work we are called to do, and the words we are called to speak, that the ambient hype that surrounds the preaching event doesn't get the best of us.
It's important to create a circle of trusting, loving people around you who will tell you the truth no matter what. They can help you think rightly about the criticism and keep you balanced. Preaching isn't just about the sermon, it's about becoming the kind of person who can actually handle the role. It's like a Ferrari. If you don't know how to drive the thing, you're going to crash into a tree.
Read the full interview now at LeadershipJournal.net.