Monday, March 23, 2009

The Preacher on Television

"Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete." (2 John v. 12)

In the apostle John's second letter, he writes a warning to the church congregation to guard the truth by holding firmly to the teachings of Jesus Christ. There had been influences, possibly both within and outside of the church congregation, that had been teaching false doctrines. John goes as far to say, "if anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching (the teachings of Jesus), do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works." (v. 10, 11--words in bold are added for clarity)

The word truth is the dominant theme in John's greeting to the church. If the church was to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ, it faced the task of guarding the truth from corruption. So it is today.

Over the years, I have come across many professing believers who have told me that they do not attend church because they are content with, "Watching the preacher on t.v." As much as it is up to them, they are content and satisfied to have Sunday morning service right there in their living rooms. So, from the comfort of their recliners, they turn on the television and eagerly await the message from their favorite preacher.

There can be many compelling, biblical arguments made as to why this type of church participation is unbiblical. But, today I would like to simply write about some of the dangers that this approach to church attendance presents.

The purpose of John's second letter directly involves this issue. In fact, in his closing remarks he mentions his intent to visit the church face to face. Instead of relying wholly upon ink and paper to deliver his message of truth, John desires to visit the church and lead it as its elder (or pastor). The church was not to simply be content with his letter. In order to make their joy complete, John would visit them face to face. Personal. Confrontational. Pastoral.

The television today has a smorgasbord of preachers to choose from. And though many may teach from a biblical standpoint, there are many who preach nonsense, watered-down truths, and even false teachings. For example, I have heard of many who love to listen to Joel Osteen-- the smiling Texan. They cling to his every word. They are wooed in by his prosperity preaching and his self-empowerment messages. But, Joel Osteen would tell you himself that he refuses to preach on the subject of sin. He refuses to include such negative comments. He would say, and has said, that this is just not his gift.

This is not in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. In fact, there can be no clear gospel presentation made unless the truth of the sinfulness of man is preached. There can be no power of salvation unless the gospel is preached (Romans 1:16). In my humble opinion, Mr. Osteen is well short of preaching the plain truth of the Word of God. And for this, I discourage others from listening to his messages.

The danger of the television preacher and the Lazy-boy church pew is that there is no accountability for truth. The listener is left alone to decipher truth. In John's second letter, the entire congregation is charged with the guarding of truth. Simply put, we are more easily deceived when we are disassociated with a church congregation. (It must be honestly mentioned here that not all local churches abide by biblical teaching. But, that is another devotional for another day.)

Furthermore, the television preacher cannot meet with us face to face. He cannot pray with us in our times of need. He cannot visit us in the hospital. And when a false teaching arises within the church, he cannot correct, rebuke, and train us in all righteousness as Scripture teaches.

Understandably, there are many people who cannot physically make it to a church service on Sunday morning. However, this does not excuse us all to attend church on our own terms--apart from the clear teachings of God's Word.

Nothing can replace being active in a church body that desires to live in accordance with the teachings of the Word of God. Worship. Encouragement. Prayer support. Challenges. Loving, caring interaction with brothers and sisters in Christ. The pastor is present not only to preach, but also to personally shepherd the members of the congregation. This is what Scripture teaches...

Just ask the preacher on television.