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.

February 15, 2010

Displaying 1–10 of 21 comments

derek

December 23, 2011  11:59am

Sorry, it was Barbara's post, not Nate's, that I was answering. Misread the thread format.

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derek

December 23, 2011  11:58am

I'm glad Mark spoke up. I'm joining the conversation very late, but since I found this link it means others will to, so I think the discussion is still relevant. "nate"'s comment is the kind I hear a lot from people who haven't actually bothered to listen to Rob preach. I mean, wow, if there's one thing I have grown to love about Rob's perspective it's that everything he talks about is centered on being more Christ-like. How people can listen to him and think he's not Gospel-oriented is stupefying. His Dust of the Rabbi sermon was one of the most insightful sermons I've ever heard, and it's entirely based on Jesus calling his disciples (this story is found in the GOSPEL). If Rob doesn't think we need to be out banging on doors or traveling to Africa to convert people (I don't know if this is his position or not, I'm simply going off of Nate's post), then maybe that's because a lot of us have plenty of work to do in practicing our faith before we try to tell other people to practice it, too. In the end, I believe, and I think Rob does too, that our ACTIONs and behavior as Christians can and should do far more to convert others than our preaching and attempts to "save" non-Christians will.

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still

February 20, 2010  4:11am

"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." That holds water. Dangers of video preaching? I am "playing with fire" more by shutting my eyes FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK to Jesus Christ's warning: "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me...I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (Matthew 25:41-43, 45) Just as I am "playing with fire" more with my deeds "outside the church," so too I am "playing with fire" more with the 90% SURPLUS IN MY TREASURY (net of the 10% tithing to the church) that ought to foot the bill in my preaching the good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom for the prisoners, restoring sight for the blind, releasing the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2). Who's afraid of video preaching?

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Dan

February 19, 2010  1:40pm

I wish I was a trendy hipster so that I could have an impact for Christ in this world, but I guess since I am just an ordinary masculine guy, I guess I don't have a shot.

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JJ

February 18, 2010  11:54pm

Excellent interview with Rob Bell - I went and read the whole thing. I think he offers some excellent thoughts on thinking through as church leaders how to help create an atmosphere, rhythm and expectations etc. for the pastor to "Thrive" and not just "survive" On the comment above about Rob Bell being a false teacher .... I have probably listened to 40-50 of his sermons from Mars Hill and this kind of criticism just makes me sad. His teaching is solid, biblical and Christ centered. He clearly proclaims and celebrates the saving work of Christ on the Cross. Keep up the good work Rob!

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Mark

February 18, 2010  10:34pm

I think I got it. "Stay thirsty, my friends"

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nathan

February 16, 2010  2:33pm

@Melody: Hear, hear! Spot on.

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Matt

February 16, 2010  12:46pm

"not sure you guys are getting the reference... not that it will make you happier, but still." yea well I'm not really unhappy, and not necessarily agreeing with Tim there who posted after me. Just saying, "Most interesting in the world." Just saying really? Wow that's big.

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Andy Holt

February 16, 2010  8:19am

All of these elements–video, church service, personal fellowship, and many others besides–can work together in the process of forming us into the image of Christ. Video is supplemental, not central, to our discipleship. And I think that's what Bell's getting at. As with anything else, we ought to be thoughtful in how we use a medium to share the gospel; and we also ought to temper our expectations of the results of such a use. Video preaching isn't going to save the world, but it can help.

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David England

February 15, 2010  9:45pm

I think you raise a very viable point, in the hinderence of discipleship. However it somewhat reminds me of the fact that Paul did a good amount of teaching through letters, and I tend to think that if he had the internet he would have used it. But it's true that we should be careful.

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