so you think you can preachA “Reality” Revolution

Over the last few decades we’ve been reality competition shows act as breeding grounds for America’s next generation of pop stars, dancers, survivalists, figure skaters, small business owners, and now (interestingly) even presidential candidates.

The idea, at its core, is an admirably democratic one. Television audiences around the country can view and vote for the individual that they think is most worthy of whatever title or prize is being doled out by the show. The genre is not without its critics, though, with many (perhaps rightly so) pointing to obtrusive meddling at the hands of producers and the fact that these types of shows tend to attract the wrong sorts of people as some of the reasons why Americans should tune out.

Despite these calls, the shows are more popular than ever today, with new flavors popping up each season. One new variation, So You Think You Can Preach? has, in particular, been generating quite a great deal of buzz in the religious community. Is a reality television show really the most effective way to select a new minister for a congregation?

The Rise of the Televangelist

The connection actually isn’t all that far-fetched. Certainly, preaching has always involved a bit of showmanship – Jesus may not have been able to draw the kinds of crowds he did to his sermons if he hadn’t been wandering the countryside raising the dead and turning water into wine. The Puritanical ministers of early America were famously fiery in their rhetoric, and were able to mobilize entire villages against a person/group of people with just a few twists of their tongue. The advent of the “megachurch” has only continued this tradition, incorporating (and often televising) ministers preaching to crowds of hundreds interspersed with impressively produced musical numbers and other spectacles.

“Televangelists” like Joel Osteen, utilizing their superhuman charisma, are able to reach thousands of people. Their sermons are zapped around the world, and they deliver their services in churches that look a lot more like the Staples Center than the small parish where your grandparents were married. The reality television will certainly self-select charismatic individuals more suited to this megachurch environment, and it is most than likely that a highly charismatic individual will end up winning the competition… but is charisma really the most important factor in selecting a preacher?

The Danger of Charisma

As history has taught us, charisma can be both a powerful tool for good and a deadly weapon. While Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. utilized their charismatic prowess to mobilize multitudes to peaceably campaign for justice in the world, Adolf Hitler used the same personal magnetism to mobilize a nation to rise in war against the rest of the world.

Clearly, we would be wise to be wary of charisma in all situations, and should make an effort to ensure that we are as pleased by the content of the message being delivered  as we are with the passion with which it is being delivered.

Keeping that in mind, it does beg the question… the medium of television isn’t exactly lauded for being one in which thoughtful, long-form messages can be effectively delivered. It is rather more hospitable to short-bursts of pithy, rapid-fire communication. While speedy content isn’t necessarily evil content, it is certainly hard to imagine that an individual’s ability to analyze some of the larger spiritual questions that we face as a society in-between commercial breaks for steam mops and auto insurance.

So You Think You Can Preach?

Without having seen the show, it is perhaps unfair for us to assume that it is an inherently inappropriate way to select a minister. Certainly, we can imagine less appropriate methods of selection…

It raises a number of challenges that we face at the Universal Life Church every day – how can we build an effective faith community and foster helpful, philosophical discussion on a medium (internet) that isn’t always the most hospitable for those kinds of interaction? As our lives become increasingly intertwined with our technology, it is crucial that our religion move with us into the 21st century.

So You Think You Can Preach has not, as far as we are aware, been picked up by any networks. Its creator has indicated that they are still in the process of filming their pilot, and that the first round of auditions will be held in Detroit on October 3.

If any of you are interested in auditioning, you must be between the ages of 16 and 35 and submit an application video. The show’s target audience is apparently Christians, so it is likely that you won’t have much success unless preaching specifically to that denomination. Reportedly, the producers have already received 1000 applications.

The winner will receive $25,000, a new car, and the chance to “open” at at least two yet-to-be-named megachurches.

What do you think? Will you be tuning in?

25 comments

  1. Michael Le Master says:

    well there statement that was said (the best one that is the best whatever) was inaccurate maybe if there are looking for a new place to worship but not in to election field, yes we have a preacher in the race but he is a politician also and he is doing very nice as well, but the top leader in the race has won nothing or his time in the hollywood crowd IS NOT the reason he is doing so well, and to make this short it comes down to ONE thing only , he is NOT and i say that again NOT a politician which is why he is so popular he cant be bought he says what he feels, being politically correct means nothing, and the PEOPLE come first which is the race is not like what was said.

  2. Pastor Brenten Stevens says:

    I believe this is shameful yet is in line with my speaking against super churches . People need a higher power something non moving always stable a reason for being here at all . To produce a television show of this nature just degrades the ones who believe small churches that reach out to each community using money donated to feed the hungry weather it’s folks in a bad way or the street drug addict , alcoholic so on they are the few true light of God . So many super churches do not do these things they are a closed circle . While in the missionary service in the very early 80 just down the highway from our missionary service was another missionary service . Amy Grant was just beginning to become a bigger musician in the field of Christian music . After a while that group demanded the majority of her income based on their belief they owned her rights , pretty much claiming Amy was owned property . Amy as many of you know departed late one night on a private aircraft to escape these so called Preachers . Good for her ! Not long after that our group of leaders brought in a sexofender of children from Houston Texas , I’ll with hold names . I was young 20 and was approached by this man interested in same sex contact . I was being kind and rejected his advance , later on a few months he was in a van we used for our vast garden we grew much of our own food , while driving to the main buildings I feel a tug on my hand looked and his privates were exposed in his other hand attempting to pull my hand over to his private parts while I was driving a big dangerous vehicle . Repeating from him , I can’t do it by myself can you please help me —– . I flipped out slammed on the breaks abandoned the van and ran through the pine trees to get help from the elders . One thing after the other they attacked me viably for wanting the law / sheriff office to take a report I was sexually attacked ! They refuse my request would not allow me phone access and eventually threw me out of the service because I was a threat to their preshous reputation . They are still a operating mega church filled with lies and decete . Training new minds on how to gather groups to their mega church claiming they are pastors of gods chosen few . Not one single person gave one dam about the sexual assault !
    Now some of these very people are attempting to start a television show So You Think You Can Preach ! Oh my God !! It’s all a huge lie another sub government teaching young men and women how to preach from a book ! Not for your love of God nor Christ but to use that book to gain huge piles of money to influence political pundndandts alone . They prey on week minded lost indivdguals for one reason taking cash and if you miss a few donations they throw you out of their mega church —- now that’s godly ! None of this is about helping lost people nor guidance ita entirely a private government with an a government ( study current Republican Party candadtes ) please folks do not support mega religious foundations they are Not leaders they are salesmen . Talk about evil walking the earth ! Stand with your smaller churches where the man standing if front of you speaking versus out of The Book yet put that book down and witness by example not money . The biggest reason for huge losses in church attendance is all the lies being pushed in people’s ears as truth when it’s totally driven bu power and Greed . No I’ll not watch such foolishness nor support any mega churches . This is sac religious actions , as stated from that book watch out for falseleaders as even more today than then religion I’d bought and traded like the stock market and all the followers are being duped . Reject this ridiculous program any good actor can preach from a book but they never get on the street level , get dirty , hug the un bathed lots souls on the street they target communities with the most money .
    Pastor Brenten Stevens

    1. Emma says:

      Its difficult to find an honest preacher whether it be in church on or off social media. I saw a special where many ministers preaching today r actually athiest. They have their own private website. We must be very careful as to who we choose as our spiritual leader. The platform they use does not matter, only their heart does.

    2. Pastor CJae says:

      Pastor Stevens,
      To a certain level I agree with you, However, if this program can bring the word of God to others to become believers through the chances of Television is it pertinent to just automatically dismiss it as some sort of battle of the fittest? I think if controlled by Good Religious leaders that are about God and NOT Greed it could be an effective way to build on the Religious Panel to draw broken people and others to God… I would wait before judging the program and then assess it’s effectiveness based on their World Contribution to being Godly. It says their are all kinds of Ministers. Now you cannot tell me that they are there for the sole reason of gaining money but to spread the word of God…All need to remember I Timothy Chapters 1-4 and II Timothy Chapters 1-5 of the Ministers responsibilities and that ” all ministers are teachers, and that we are held to a higher standard with God” to what we preach… If those things go on that will be between them and God… We cannot judge any method of reaching the People for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ… Not everything is Cynical in nature and we have to give every chance to help others find God that we have at our disposal as Ministers. Where is your compassion for those who are genuine of heart and trying to help others follow Christ. That too is a sin and we do NOT want to be doing that due to a horrible experience in One Church… I too had a horrible experience with Elders of a Massively Large Recognized Church but those people are going to have to answer for their misguided mistakes unless they asked for forgiveness and then God has forgiven them. You too need to be forgiving. This is no forum to pressure other to see your side due to a past event. I will Pray for you Sir for those pains and that you also able to see a greater light of enlightenment instead of hanging on the Darkness of the Past.

      Pastor C.Chambers

  3. Susan Jenkins says:

    No, I will not be tuning in. This isn’t a competition sport, it is a calling. To preach the word of God and to preach what God has placed upon your heart. This disturbs me

    1. Pastor CJae says:

      Well Said Susan. You are absolutely Correct. It is NOT a completion sport but a SERIOUS CALLING… Regardless, where we got ordained we have to take our calling and teaching seriously. If this is to come, I certainly hope that they also remember that face. The Ministers I mean when they step on the Television stage. None of us are to be placed on some sort of podium for the sake of being made a joke of in our Ministries. It disturbs me as well. As I stated above. We need to use all the tools to help Minister the Word of God. We too as Ministers cannot be angry at everything due to one incident. That isn’t compassionate either. Do we need to expose the false preaching’s? Yes. Do we need to be angry at those who are genuine due to one incident. NO. We have to always keep an open mind about all attempts to reach the people. I do not like the idea of the program but I do agree we need exposure to bring the word of God. I hope the television understand that point of view. I can only Pray they do.

      1. J. Edwards. says:

        This is just another battle. We are not called to be entertainment. I do not believe this will be the best venue to bring people to the Lord. This will just give people a reason to harden the heart a little more. This will be shoved down their throat they will say. They need to seek. Knock and the door will be opened. Seek and you shall find.

  4. mushishikin says:

    18-35? that leaves me out. I’m 50. lol. But, on a more serious note: Reality TV is the lowest common denominator of TV- electing its ‘stars’ like an illiterate mob-ocracy might elect to re-write the 1st ammendment to suit which ever group shouts the loudest. Reality TV and the 24 hour news channels have quickened the pace of the ‘short-ciruiting’ of our collective patience and reasoning. Yes indeed, it may give us a ‘Joel Osteen’ or it may give us a smiling, happy version of Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.

  5. David says:

    We are all seeds

  6. Lesley Nyberg says:

    No I will not be watching, you are making a mockery of God’s word by making a entertainment show out of it. Shame on you, this kind of disrespect is what is destroying our country.

  7. Victor Morales says:

    It is rather difficult to reach a decision, those that truly feel the Call, let them do their thing.

  8. Rev. T. Everett says:

    I will not be watching this show if it ever airs. I believe you are called into ministry. If your doing it for money, car and fame your in it for the wrong reasons.

    1. The Rev. Dr. Marion Ceruti says:

      Dear Rev, Everett,

      I agree with you. This kind of show is not necessary. We can direct our efforts at serving God in much better ways than this. If someone thinks they are called into the ministry, I recommend that the individual spend substantial time in prayer, meditation, study, and soul searching. No one should enter the ministry for financial gain even if it is easy to get ordained legally.

      God has given us various gifts. One is to be able to speak publicly about spiritual matters. We don’t do this alone – He helps. We especially don’t need TV to preach.

      Blessings,
      The Rev. Dr. Marion Ceruti

  9. Mary Tynes says:

    I hope the show will do more that run a speaking contest. If, like other reality shows, it films them non-stop and reveals their true character and motivations, it could be interesting. It would open conversations about what a pastor should and should not be. Could be very educational and those who have had bad experiences in church might see a preacher of good character, realize they aren’t all bad, and return to church.

  10. Mike Silva says:

    You cannot slave for God and for riches.Either you will cling to one or the other and /or forsake the other. Stop being undecided.Make up one’s mind completely.Do not be lukewarm.(undecided) Either be hot (zealous)for the LORD, or be cold (the love of many will “cool off” in the end times). For you are but a mist appearing in the night.You do not know what tomorrow will bring.

  11. Pastor Alonzo mays says:

    Praise God

  12. Rev. D. Grabowski says:

    Reality shows are a cheap trick. The production companies and their execs don’t have the actors or writers salarys and the actual staging expenses of a regular show. Yes they are popular so they also command big bucks from the sponsors which again makes the production company a ton of money for a cheap show. We do not need preachers to tell us how to find God or be be spiritual. We need ministers in the true sense of the word to offer and bring healing of the mind, spirit and body with love and compassion

  13. kim cooper says:

    Just another space on T.V not to watch

  14. Rev. Elizabeth Arsenault says:

    No I will not be watching. To me it is a mockery of what we believe. We want to do God’s work, not entertain the masses. We are humble people who love others, to help others with no other reward than a smile and a thank you and knowing they are ok with us as we are. I will not watch at all and I would never, ever enter a contest like that. Shame on them. You know this is Satan at work. It is as plain as the nose on your face. Terrible.

    1. Randy says:

      I’ll disagre with you slightly. There’s no reason we can’t be entertaining in our ministry as it makes it easier for new comers to feel welcome , but we must make sure that everything we do is for the Glory of God and not our own amusement or glory.
      I was raised In a southern Baptist church the one complaint I heard amongst the youth was it was to stiff and rule oriented . so there are games and things that can be incorporated to help alleviate that but we must be mindful at the same time that the word and its message isn’t taken out of context .
      example of a game could be take an old monopoly board cover all the spaces put an apostle on it or a city or a time ex the exodus from Rome when you land on a square you must find atleast one biblical fact or quote about it and read it aloud . the goal here is to help kids and adults learn what’s in the bible and to get better at searching the bible for answers. there’s no winner as there’s no score the object is to gain knowledge of christa teachings and to help those involved learn more about their bible and how to use it

  15. cldegraaff says:

    Having seen documentary film on the making of a “reality”show and seeing how much cutting and pasting and manipulation went into it, I find the whole concept leaves me feeling nauseated and faintly unclean. There is very little that is real once everything is edited and I think it an abysmal way to find any kind of spiritual leader.I must agree with @mushishkin’s earlier comment about reducing things to our short attention spans and lowest common denominator. Horrifying idea.

  16. Rev Peter says:

    There are times when I like living in the UK and this is one. Luckily we don’t have supper churches, unfortunately we are also finding our congregations are dwindling, this however would not be helped by TV shows but by The Church of England getting it’s act together, admitting when their wrong, removing this idea that you can only be ordained if you have money and spent 10 years in university, this is church for the rich and privileged and we find it a lot in the UK, the cense of community has been lost and the bigger the church get’s the further away the congregation get’s. I have to ask the question at what point did Jesus go down to the Sea and say I’m looking for people to follow me, can I see your doctorates and if you pass I’ll give you a new donkey and lot’s of money and your own TV show.

  17. erik wood says:

    Elijah !!! No matter the content . Or how it is presented be a shame to anyone . So long as God is the subject .

  18. Ramon says:

    Puro mercantilismo, no puede ser que sigamos en la senda alejados de Dios en multitudes siguiendo a un mortal que sólo tiene mucha inteligencia para convencer a los incautos, pero no es conocedor de La Palabra como tal.

  19. ron schulte says:

    Why cap the age at 35???? in some cases you aquire a wisdom in your 50 and 60s. Seems a little bias to me.

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