The word “Televangelist” was first used in a 1958 miniseries produced by The Southern Baptist Convention. It gained widespread use and notoriety in the 1980’s as millions of dollars were poured into television ministry. It was during this time that I entered the ministry.
I must admit, I too felt the inner desire to “preach to millions” on TV. The slick productions and celebrity status of theses televangelists was very appealing to a young preacher’s flesh. I got my first opportunity in 1998 when I was invited to share my person testimony and a brief message on TBN at one of their Colorado studios. I approached this with the expectation that I would be preaching to a large studio audience. I was in for a surprise.
When I arrived at the facility, I noticed that the building was very small and there were only two vehicles in the parking lot. Upon entering the building, I was taken by complete surprise! There was a small lighted “set” and a lot of electrical equipment, cameras, lights, and what seemed like a million miles of cables. Other than myself, only three people were present: the host, the director, and the cameraman.
I was quickly briefed by the host, given some technical direction by the director and seated on the set. The lights came on and everything beyond them faded from view as I was completely blinded in the brightness. The host began his well-rehearsed introduction and began to ask me a series of questions. My answers were less than stellar as I fumbled to find the right words to say.
During our first commercial break the host informed me I would be standing at the small pulpit and sharing when we returned to broadcast. Suddenly the director informed us we would be returning to the air in 30 seconds. My heart was beating so loud I was sure the microphone would pick it up. I spent the next 20 minutes preaching to…no one. I could not see the director or the cameraman due to the bright lights and the host was seated behind me so all I could see was the small red light on the camera. It was the most difficult message I had ever preached because I was used to preaching to people.
Our current state of medical affairs has turned many local shepherds into Televangelist as they struggle to find a way to stay connected to their sheep in these trying times. Facebook Live is truly alive with preachers sharing their messages online, many for the first time via this medium. From what I observed, many of them are struggling to preach to “no one” just as I did all those years ago. It truly is “harder than it looks.”
Let me offer the following five things that can help shepherds stay connected with their sheep during this time of physical separation:
1. Practice makes perfect:
Preaching to a camera, which no live audience, is difficult if you are not used to it. In 2018 we began putting all our messages on Facebook Live. Now, every week I do a 30-minute teaching from my office with no live audience. The more you do it the more comfortable you become.
2. Get feedback:
Have your staff and members call you to discuss what you taught. This will help your mind pick up on the fact that “real” people are listening to your broadcast.
3. The telephone is your friend:
You and your staff should be in phone contact with everyone at least once a week. People are scared and isolated right now. They need to hear their spiritual leaders reassure them that we will get through this because God is still on the throne. This will also help you develop messages based on what your people need to hear during this time of struggle.
4. Get technical help:
As the old saying goes, “If you have a computer problem, find a 14-year-old to fix it.” Do not be arrogant, ask for help from those who know more than you. This gives them a sense of ownership in this new ministry opportunity and makes your broadcast more pleasing to watch.
5. Keep going:
Once this is all over, I encourage you to continue your online presence. This is a great way to stay connected to those who cannot always make it to a physical location and to those who want to “try out” your gathering but are too nervous to just show up. The current technology also gives us the opportunity to have our messages online for generations to come.
A professor of mine used to say, “Every preacher has at least one book in him.” I say, “Every preacher has a Televangelist in him.” If you are not online, I encourage you to move in that direction, even if you are from the “old school and think this technology thing is useless. Like it or not, the most important real estate in the world right now is the screen of your cell phone or tablet. That’s where the people are and that’s where we need to go to take the message about Jesus. Every week, I see names of people joining our online teaching who do not attend a gathering. We are reaching those who are not being reached by traditional means. If only one is found it will be worth every effort.