Guest Post by Clayton Coates: Flat Screen Pastor: Conviction or Convenience?

The following is a guest blog by Clayton Coates, Senior Pastor, FBC Coppell, TX There is a growing…

The following is a guest blog by Clayton Coates, Senior Pastor, FBC Coppell, TX

There is a growing trend that began in the late 90’s of launching a regional campus or venue using a flat screen pastor. The question that I have is, Is this a decision based on convention that contradicts conviction? This blog entry is simply the beginning of greater exploration into this topic.

Michael Novak is a noted philosopher and is noted for categorizing convictions is three major buckets.

  1. Public Convictions: What I SAY I believe…..and want others to believe I believe
  2. Private Convictions: What I Think I believe….but when the rubber hits the road, I actually don’t believe them
  3. Core Convictions: What I really Do believe….and this is AFFIRMED by MY ACTIONS.

It is my experience as a pastor, 16 years- 8 churches ranging in size from 200 to 24,000 in weekend attendance, that most people and pastors operate based on Private Convictions. Why would I make this statement? Because of their actions. The only thing you have to do to assess the convictions or someone or something (i.e. church) is to look at the actions….what they do.

Here are just 2 questions:

1) Do I believe in the incarnation? Well what does that have to do with a flat screen pastor? One day I was having lunch with Oz Guinness. I was at a church that had multiple venues on campus and had begun to launch regional venues streaming the messages from base camp. I was aware of the frustration that the venue pastor had on a weekly basis and the regional pastors as well. I had not come to terms with why I had such an unsettling in my spirit about this. I asked Oz what he thought and told him a little about my uneasiness. His response to me was, Clayton, It’s simple, it trumps the incarnation of Christ. He went on to further unpack that weighty comment. And in that moment, I realized what the uneasiness that I had was rooted in. There was a reason that God stepped out of Heaven and came to earth, in the flesh, to dwell among us. Yes, I am fully aware of the salvific significance of the deity in flesh, but there is also great significance in Christ dwelling among us in the flesh.

As a pastor, I am called to be physical representation of Christ in word and deep to the local flock that God has entrusted to me. In Acts 20:28 Paul writes, Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. He also instructs Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Core Conviction: As a Senior Pastor, Elder, Overseer, I am to be the physical overseer and communicator of this local flock that has been entrusted to me to God himself.

2) Do I believe in the Biblical model of mentoring younger men to be sent out to become local pastors?

There are many questions pertaining to the longevity of the flat screens. What happens if a pastor who broadcasts himself, God forbid, falls into sin? What happens when a flat screen pastor passes away? What happens when a flat screen pastor retires? Some churches have a teaching team but there is always a main senior pastor.

Biblically we see evidence of training, mentoring, sending out and accountability. This is evident with Jesus and the disciples all throughout the time of Christ’s ministry on earth and thereafter. We also see evidence of this in the life of Saul, post-conversion, Paul. In Acts 9 we read of Saul be blinded by a great light. He was then lead to Damascus where he neither ate nor drank for 3 days. Ananias was sent to him by the Holy Spirit to admit him into the Christian church by baptism (9:11-16). Immediately after Paul’s conversion, he went to Arabia for 3 years where he subjected himself to devout teaching and focused meditation under the careful watch of wise council. After this intentional time of growth and discipleship, Paul returned to Damascus where he began to boldly preach the gospel in the name of Jesus. All throughout the epistles and in a like manner, you find Paul raising up, teaching, training, equipping, encouraging, worthy men to be overseers of local churches.

Core Conviction: I believe that as a pastor, I am to model what Jesus and Paul modeled by raising up, training, mentoring and sending out other pastors to be the shepherds of a local flock….even if I believe I can speak better or have a more attractive following.

These are just two questions as I previously stated. I am not the keeper of all truth and wisdom, however, I have been known to not get off go until I am settled on the scriptural motivation. As I have talked to many guys who launch these remote and regional campuses, the reasoning is always based on convention, not conviction. Many say, that is just the message, I have a local campus pastor. I get that, to a certain level, but believe that is more of a convenient and quick response than anything else. There are events that happened in my immediate community this past week and it was my call by God as the local pastor to address those specific needs. If I had been broadcasting my message to another city, it would not have made sense to the audience. Sure, we know that God’s word never returns void so there is always something that the listener can hear. But to either preach in a generic way or to preach in an exclusive way is to fall short of my core convictions.

It may be cheaper, faster, and have more immediate results, but if any decision is based on convention and not conviction, the reward is never worth the cost.

Other topics to explore of this same nature- segregated worship (separate worship for kids, youth, singles, etc.): based on convention or conviction?


*** This is Greg – I published this blog post because I believe in a diversity of opinions and I’m a friend of Clayton. I actually disagree on this issue and am fine with using video for multi-site. When I sit in a live service, I look at the screens anyway. I, however, realize not everyone feels this way. I wanted to post Clayton’s side of this issue to encourage discussion. So, what do you think? Are you for utilizing video in regional campuses or venues? Why or why not?