No One Prefers Video Preaching

One of the fastest growing trends in recent years has been the move toward video-venue preaching. On one hand, this is an effective way of improving the quality of preaching that people hear. It is not a bad thing to get more people under the sound of the best preaching that we can offer. If hearing better preaching leads more people to respond to the gospel, then it is hard to complain that the preaching was mediated by video. Haven’t we all celebrated the remarkable effect of Billy Graham’s televised preaching over the years?video sermons

There is, however, a concern that ought to be considered. People prefer live preachers. According to a comprehensive new study from Lifeway Research, less than one percent of people prefer a video-venue sermon. 

Of course this isn’t shocking. If any one of us had the opportunity to hear some famous musician live or via video, we would all prefer to hear the music live. Live theatre is a much more enthralling experience than is a motion picture, and the best, most expensive seats are always near the front. Why should we be surprised that people would rather hear their preachers up close and personal?

None of this is to say that video preaching is wrong or evil. Thirty-five percent of people say they will only visit churches with a live preacher, but that leaves sixty-five percent who will visit such churches. If they are hearing transformational, biblical preaching, than why would we complain?

My main concern about all of this is what it says about the nature of preaching. Most people think of preaching as an instructional or motivational event. If we can be instructed by reading a book or a webpage, then we could surely gain such benefit from a video as well.

But preaching is so much more than mere instruction. Preaching mediates the presence of God through his Word and by his Spirit. Preaching is an event in God’s presence wherein the preacher leads the people to a place of encouragement, conviction, and response. In my experience, this broader ambition for the sermon is almost always more effectively achieved in person.

2 thoughts on “No One Prefers Video Preaching

  1. Just like food. There is always a difference between food that is served from the kitchen and food that came out of microwave. You can taste the difference.

  2. But then, of course, the bigger question remains: what if people did prefer video-venue sermons? Better yet, what if they preferred no sermons at all? What would we do then? How does it help us to know what kind of preaching people like? Surveys are great. The only problem with surveys is that they are descriptive. This means that while they tell us what people want, they are useless in helping us determine what people need. But then, what are we supposed to do with this?
    If what we do with preaching depends on the preferences of the people in our pews, then citing surveys ought to be prescriptive. Let’s give them what they want and be done with it! Based on the less than one percent of people who prefer the video-venue sermon, we should disband all the multi-site churches. Why don’t we?

    But if our authority for what preaching is comes from the word of God, why not tell people what the Bible calls us to do when it comes to preaching. We should be honest to mention to our opinionated listeners that we do not really care about what they want or do not want, anymore than we care about what we like or do no like. But we do love them enough to tell them all that God thinks we all need. And, we will do it all in the best way by which truth could be communicated, all in love.

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