Not a televangelist

For the entire span of my career plus the time I spent as a student pastor an in intern, I have had to grit my teeth and smile each time some faithful member of one of the churches I serve tells me how wonderful they find this or that televangelist to be. I’ve heard about the gigantic choirs from people who wouldn’t think of volunteering to sing in the choir. I’ve heard about the magnificent cathedrals from people whose donations to the church each year are lower than my monthly amount. Actually, I don’t know how much anyone else gives to the church, so that last one is pure speculation. Maybe I’m wrong about how much they donate. I’ve heard about how powerful were the sermons that people hard on television from folks who don’t understand how much can be done with video editing.

I have always tried to smile and to listen carefully to what the person likes about the particular television preacher whose show they watch and about whom they feel compelled to report to a pastor who has served small to mid-sized congregations with limited budgets. I’ve never served a congregation that had a sound booth and an operator, something that is common in congregations. I’ve also heard my share of complaints about the sound system as if somehow I was responsible for people not being able to hear. I’ve tried to do what I can to respond to the concerns I hear. I’ve tried to serve all of the people, even those who are convinced that somewhere there is a preacher who is far better than I.

And I have made hospital calls and nursing home calls and performed weddings and funerals - things that televangelists don’t do, except in the case of very famous people whose funerals are broadcast over the television.

I have never wanted to be a televangelist. I love the work I do and I love the people I serve, even when at times they try my patience a little bit. I have had a very good life and a very good career and i have been treated well by the congregations I serve. I’ve met some real saints of the church and been inspired by their leadership and dedication. I’ve worked alongside some of the finest people one could ever hope to meet.

And now, suddenly, for the last three and half months of my career, I’m a livestream preacher whose congregation, for the most part, watches me over their computer. And I’ve spoken to enough people over the phone in the time I’ve been doing the livestream services to know which members of the congregation should consider getting new speakers for their computers or at least a headset so that they can hear. I’ve heard both the complaints and compliments, so I know that not everyone is having the same experience with the services. And I still don’t have a sound engineer and I don’t have any formal education in broadcast technologies and I am trying to put out the best possible product of which I am capable, but I do have my limitations, only part of which is expressed in budget.

I have no complaints, however, about the budget of the church I serve. The members of the congregation are generous. The people who help form the budget proposals are responsible and faithful. The congregation that votes on the budget is astute and prudent. The budgets we vote are followed carefully and have served us very well. I have never wanted to serve the richest congregation or the biggest church or the congregation with the most exclusive address. I am very happy with the congregation I have been called to serve.

No, I don’t want to be a televangelist.

I don’t want to attack them. I don’t want to criticize them. I don’t want to have them go away. I just don’t want to be one. I want to be a pastor who serves people. And although I never expected things to be the way they are, I’m up for the challenge of figuring out new ways to serve people in the unselling times in which I find myself. I’m game to learn how to conduct a livestream. I’m willing to study the problems with sound and ask questions and learn what I can do to make it better. I’ve watched more than a few videos on video lighting and sound production and how to make things better. I know that there are congregations who have 128 channel mixers with separate audio board operators for the house sound and the livestream sound. I know that there are congregations that livestream with up to six or eight cameras, each with its own operator. I don’t want to imitate them. I don’t want to compete with them.

I’m well aware that our people watch hours and hours of video that is professionally shot and mixed. We are not running a television channel. We are trying to be a community of faithful people, serving in difficult times.

So don’t expect our video production to be state of the art. Don’t expect our audio to be so inspiring that it exceeds any experience you could have in person. I don’t want to fill up the surround sounds of the home theaters of our members with an experience that exceeds a theatre. I want to be faithful to God. I want to serve without fear. I want to offer healing and hope to those who have been pushed to the margins of society. I want to be a partner with the people who are serving in the missions and feeding the hungry children and preaching hope in the most impoverished corners of the world.

I’m perfectly comfortable with amateur video and audio, even if it is the end point of my preaching career. I’ll take the criticism and I’ll smile and I’ll even smile through the comparison with the people who spend more on each broadcast than our congregation spends in a year. And I’ll freely admit that I’m not very good at this televangelism business. I’ll leave that to others. I never wanted to be a televangelist in the first place.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!