As if Preachers of L.A. wasn’t enough, Oxygen recently unleashed Preachers of Detroit. As I writer who is called to “preach” in atypical arenas, I have to comment. Without going into a debate about theology, I will say this:
It’s never a good thing when those who call themselves Christians are pitted against each other and seen fighting—either publicly or privately. Proverbs 17:14 warns us not to avoid quarrels, and 1 Timothy 3 sheds light as well.
When examining if someone is a leader approved by God, we can go to Scripture: 1 Timothy 3: 2-3 breaks it down for us, showing that Christian leaders are to be above reproach, faithful to their spouses, “temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” So, any preacher on the show who is quarrelsome and not gentle either should either step down until he/she can be filled up with God’s presence so that s/he can be an example of God’s nature, or remove her/himself from leadership. Similarly, any preacher who loves money should step down until that stumbling block is removed. Christian leaders are not like the rest of us. Yes, they are just human, but God calls them to a higher standard because they are leaders. They are the ones who everyone looks to be examples and to offer advice. If they act like people who don’t even follow Christ, what’s the point?
Fame is dangerous. Although I’ve only experienced a small level of fame throughout my life, I know that it can destroy you. I know that people interact with you in a different way when you are on TV. They begin to idolize you, and this is dangerous, especially for Christian leaders who are called to be servant leaders. Yes, you can be a servant leader and be famous, but the very concept of fame and how people treat you if you’re famous works against you serving them. Often, they end up serving you. This is not how it’s supposed to work in God’s Kingdom. Even Jesus Himself said that He came not to be served, but to serve. (Matthew 20:28)
God doesn’t need TV to bring people into the family of God. I’m opposed to the idea that Christians should unequivocally use TV to advertise God, their churches, and ministries. Yes, God can absolutely and does use TV to reveal Himself to people. But the Spirit also uses dreams, books, our prayers, and our relationships with people. What I’m speaking against is the belief in some Christian circles that TV exposure is automatically good because it means that you can reach more people. Every “good” thing isn’t necessarily the thing that God wants for us. We should ask God if we should be on TV or not. If we get the green light, then we should do it, but if not, we should “just say no”. Cause yes, you may “reach” more people, but what message will you reach them with? Will it be the one that portrays you as a materialistic preacher who doesn’t care for the poor, as Scripture mandates, because you flaunt your $150,000 car while members of your own congregation can’t pay their bills? And what will happen to these reality TV messengers? Will they survive the scrutiny and pressure that results from putting their lives on film, for the world to critique? Reality TV has destroyed many a person’s lives and marriages.
Reality TV is especially dangerous because TV shows do better, ratings-wise, when they have drama and conflict. So, producers will conjure up drama so that they can create trailers that shock people and lure them into watching. I have been on reality TV; I have seen producers do this firsthand. Preachers of Detroit is being used to create conflict, and to highlight division in the body of Christ, unintentionally or not. And the entire world is watching! This happened a little with Preachers of L.A., but with this new show, they purposefully brought in people with different theological views, and then created these staged “discussions” to produce scenes filled with disagreement and conflict. These preachers are going in wanting to increase their impact, but they’re really being set up for ridicule, notoriety, and welcomed criticism. This makes it all the more important that it’s God who called them into the lion’s den, because then deliverance is possible.
Preachers of Detroit should show the reality of God’s Kingdom. This show has the opportunity to show the real battle that we face: the cross versus sin, the Kingdom of God, versus the kingdom of this world. I’m afraid, however, that it won’t. If the show isn’t about advancing God’s Kingdom, then it will advance the kingdom of this world. This kingdom pits people against each other for entertainment and profit: women against men, the rich preachers vs their poor congregants, traditional Biblical theology vs liberal theology. Despite the preachers’ intentions, the opportunity for God to bring light to our world’s dark places will be diminished.
I’m not against reality TV. I’m not against Christians being on reality TV. (It’s a Mann’s World on BET is okay to me.) I am against Biblical truths being portrayed as empty platitudes, out dated thinking, and oppressive ideology. If I’m going to watch women and men of the cloth show the reality of their lives as those who claim to take up their crosses daily, then I want to see some taking up of crosses. I want to see people laying down their lives for the sake of their neighbors. I want to see them living how Jesus and the prophets lived, which was radically different than the secular world around them. I want to see death, so that I can see the resurrection and new life that only God can bring. I want to see real power. On TV. I want a show that ushers in the life-changing power of the Kingdom of God—the power that delivers people from alcoholism and addiction, heals them from cancer, and brings economic and spiritual renewal to communities. That would be entertaining. That would bring in even higher ratings. That would be real reality TV.