Welcome to all my new, fellow televangelists. Look at us now—who would have thought? Not me. For us rookie internet preachers, let’s think together how we can stay faithful to the task before our faces hit people’s screens. How can we be helpful in this unique era?
I have a few practical tips for preachers whose broadcast ministries, like mine, are fresh off the ground. Now that I’ve preached a whopping three times to a less-than-ten-people room, my advice won’t be profound. Please alter your expectations. I only want to remind us of a few obvious things, knowing that it’s safe for us to hear them (Phil. 3:1).
1. STUDY THE SAME
Is your week more crammed and cloudier than before? Mine is. Some Zoom calls show up like a thief in the night. Others, we know the day and the hour. Remote learning with my kids often means remote re-learning for me. Firing up a glue gun for a pet rock isn’t what any of us had in mind during Passion Week. Our habits and schedules are no longer the same. And herein lies the danger.
It might be tempting to cut back on sermon prep because it’s “just a livestream.” Careful, brother. The mission hasn’t changed. Study the living Word the same way you did before preaching to an empty sanctuary. Keep your hands to the plow. Aim your affections at the Scriptures, and stack those commentaries on your desk. Give Christ’s sheep the meal their hearts, souls, and minds need. Put in the work. Put in the prayers.
2. STAY DEPENDENT ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
We all know by now that livestream sermons don’t feel the same as preaching to the assembled church. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to see that one brother, in person, falling asleep while I’m preaching. In the oddness of this season, we’ll be tempted to just do this new work, make sure the production is ready, and hit “live.” But remember, we’re still doing ministry. This is still for the church that Christ purchased with his blood. A slick production that’s not in step with the Spirit isn’t worth its views.
If you feel funny preaching to a camera instead of people, or you are uncomfortable preaching to an empty room while your wife works the iPhone tripod—good. Seek the Spirit’s help. He’s experienced at helping preachers send a message to other Christians when neither party can see each other. Exhibit A: the existence of the New Testament epistles—remote ministry from Paul, Peter, et al. He can take your words and minister to the church in ways that we would never ask, think, or imagine.
3. IMAGINE ALL THE PEOPLE—YOUR MEMBERS AND THE REST
One of the best ways to preach with unction and affection is to think of your members. Picture that married couple who’s probably sitting on opposite sides of the room because they were already on the brink. Remember that new believer who’s struggling with addiction to alcohol. Preach for them. Look right through that camera’s lens and be like Paul in Colossians 2:5 when he says, “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”
Your livestream is probably getting pumped to places like Facebook and YouTube; church members are sharing the feed and their friends may tune in because they literally have nothing else to do. Seize the moment. Preach to the lost. There are people watching your sermons who never would have gone to your corporate gathering. But here they are. Evangelize the stream.
4. GET SCRIPTURE ON THE SCREEN
Church members will be late to the livestream. Whether it’s technical problems or toddler problems, people will show up after you’ve started and may have no clue where you are in the Bible. If you say, “Look with me at verse 14,” and they weren’t there to catch what book you’re in, they’re moving upstream without a paddle. Or, imagine a non-Christian tuning in. They don’t have a Bible handy. They may not own one.
Consider putting the Scriptures on the screen while you’re preaching. Whether you’re using ProPresenter’s lower-thirds or not, get creative. Maybe you’re low-tech. Tape a piece of paper to the front of your music stand that says: Psalm 23. Whatever your tech capabilities allow, commit to getting Scripture on viewer’s screens.
5. LEARN WITHOUT LUSTING
You’re going to see the streams of other churches. Watch and watch out. It’s good to learn from others; we already do this in a variety of ministries. There’s no shame in wanting to improve your livestream. Our church is learning on the fly, too. But make sure you learn without lusting.
Kill any envy or idolatry you see budding in your Slack threads or text messages. You won’t be able to livestream as well as the mega-church or as the famous podcast preacher. They have the gear, the staff, and the know-how. That’s okay. Jesus put you at this church, for this time, with this budget, with this gear, and this team. So, whatever you do, do it the best you can (Eccl. 9:10). Preach the Word in this season. And whatever you end up livestreaming, do it all for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31).