Monday, July 17, 2006

Pulpit Masters update--it's really happening

Last year 0n July 19 I wrote about a new reality show that was in development. Given the working title, "Pulpit Masters," it was being produced by Original Productions, the same folks who have given us "Monster Garage," "Monster House" and "Plastic Surgery Before and After." Now, 900 auditions later, the final 10 will have their preach-off aired on The Learning Channel beginning July 23 (HT: Gene Bridges). According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the show is called, "The Messengers."

Actually, it probably isn't fair to call it a preach-off. Let's call it an inspirational speak-off. According to the Religion News Service, "Each episode revolves around a field trip. In the first episode, contenders spend 24 hours 'homeless' on the streets of Los Angeles' Skid Row. Then, they deliver speeches on the topic of charity. A studio audience votes for the best speakers and eliminates one." The promotional trailer indicates that the same emotionally manipulative techniques that characterize other "reality television" shows will be employed (given the state of modern preaching, maybe "preach-off" is an apt description).

Bobby Schuller, grandson of Robert who built the Crystal Cathedral, is one of two experts who will evaluate each message before the studio audience votes each week. He is positively full of hope about the new show:
Politicians and even preachers are giving shallow messages. They tell people what they want to hear.... What we value as a society is becoming more and more shallow. For some strange reason, the leaders in our communities are movie stars. But now, the culture is recognizing that a vacuum is there and we need to change our perspective.
There definitely is a leadership vacuum in our culture and I agree with Schuller's assessment of politicians and preachers. But the idea that depth and gravitas can be delivered from an entertainment company via an entertainment medium by wannabe movie stars is at best laughable. The irony seems to be lost on the expert.

Note: July 15 marked the first anniversary of this blog. When I entered the blogosphere I wasn't sure what I would find. The friendships and encouragements that have come my way are far beyond my expectations. Thanks for allowing me to participate in the conversation with you.


Christopher Redman said...

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Tim 4:3-4)

Pulpiteers is what America wants today!


Becca said...

Congrats on your one-year anniversary, Dad!! :-)

And that whole "inspirational speaking" show idea is so sad. :-P

Elias said...


just wanted to say that there are probably lots of people like myself who would love to know your thoughts on Caners/White debate. The fact that you will not be participating is a big deal.


Sam Hughey said...

It's really not surprising to see religious entertainment on Television. TBN has been doing it for years. However, we should not overlook religious entertainment found in Baptist churches on any given Sunday. Exciting one's emotion in order to exact a response is a very common practice for the free-will theist advocates. And how about Singing Christmas trees, sirens and flashing lights coming from a quarter of a million dollar children's baptistry, puppet ministries, etc.

Bobby Schuller was asked:

Q: But megachurches have been accused of focusing on positive thinking at the expense of theology, of "watering down" Christianity. Isn't The Messengers, after all, religion-lite?
A: If you're (looking for) institutional religion, you're not going to find that on the show. But I don't think that makes the show religion-lite. It's deep spiritually, because all (the contestants) come from different spiritual and religious world views. They're not trying to convert people but are engaging in conversation. For me, that is a lot deeper than somebody just giving me hellfire and brimstone.
The first problem with this is he didn't answer the question. The second problem is that a refusal to directly answer such an important question does not fall into the characteristic of a good speaker which Schuller mentioned as presenting a clear message.

The essence of this show is summed in Schuller's own statement, They're not trying to convert people.

Sam Hughey

p.s. Tom, South Woods is praying for your wife (and you).

J.D. Rector said...

Tom: I can't help but snicker at your comment that Schuller "... is positively hopeful about the new show." Shazzam... what will they think of next in the realm of religious broadcasting? As I overheard a teenager say in my church this weekend... "Whatever!"

You and your wife are in my prayers! Thanks for your insightful comments and "positive" edifications.

J.D. Rector

DOGpreacher said...


Thanks for the blogsite, Tom. I have gleaned much from your posts and from the comments as well.

GeneMBridges said...

They tell people what they want to hear

The very fact that he said this, coming from that particular source, gave me a hearty laugh over my Saturday morning breakfast. Then, the horror it all set in.

Keep in mind also that the Religion section of our newspaper that same day included a 2 page spread on the Jehovah's Witnesses, who were holding their "Bible convention" in Winston this past weekend. It is one of 76 they hold around the nation each year. Be warned, they are going door to door now inviting folks to their conventions instead of doing one on one evangelism. Folks, let this remind you to take time to teach your people some theology lessons on the Trinity and basic Christology to equip them.

Anyhoo, the article writer, one our local reporters, lamented that "fellow Christians" were "at odds" with Witnesses, and she quoted two "practicing Roman Catholics" favorably, because they had attended their convention and saw they were serving the same God as we do. Yeah, I guess those 2 "practicing Roman Catholics" forgot about the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds. So, this is all to say that this is the town in which I live, and it is fairly typical. I lay the blame not at the feet of "SEBTS in Exile" as the folks at Wake Forest Univ. Divinity School like to call themselves; rather I lay it at the feet of all the "Bible believing" churches here that aren't teaching doctrine to their people. Thank the Lord for the few that are, several of which I am pleased to report are SBC churches, but most here are doing the very thing that the article on this contest describes.

Jeremy Roberts said...

It would be interesting to see something like this with preachers a lot of people watch on TV in order to figure out who is the "Pulpit Master" Charles Stanley, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, John Hagee, and Rod Parsley.

Will McKay said...

I agree with Jeremy... maybe at next year's SBC convention we could see a 16-man, single elimination tournament, WWE meets TBN?

I would walk to San Antonio to see that.

Tom, we don't know each other, but I thank you for publishing your thoughts this year. I have benefited much from reading your posts.


scripturesearcher said...

Sound and a lot of showmanship -
signifying almost nothing.

Where are the faithful expositors of the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of our living God?

Oh, they are around, all over the world, but you have to look for them!

Tim said...


They are the ones being pummeled concerning their adherence to God's Word, sawn asunder for calling a nation to repentance, having their heads chopped off for the clear definitions of the king's sins, being fed to wild beasts because of their love for Christ. You are correct sir........we must seek them out. Thank God He has kept for himself those who have not bowed the knee to FOX, uh I mean Baal:)

John said...

I remember when I was in college (Samford) hearing about Baptist associations holding preaching contests of their preacher boys. I thought it was inappropriate then. And even more so now. Preaching is not something to be judged with scores of 1-10 like figure skating.

As I heard Mark Dever say, in preface to his rendition of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," "Let us not listen as those who sit in judgement over sermons but as people who will one day stand before the judgement seat."

Toothpick Spider said...

Dude, I am pretty sure that show is intended to make fun of religious fanatics. Kinda like "So you think you can dance", or "America's got talent". It is highly unlikely that this TV show will put preachers in a flattering light.

Byroniac said...

Toothpick Spider:

I (politely) disagree. I think the creators of the show have no desire to make fun of religious fanatics (i.e., us). Why? Because we're so "yesterday" as it were and they have simply moved on to what they perceive audiences really want: feel-good inspirational messages at least implicitly referencing the (widely believed) basic human capacity for goodness and self-direction. Truth will not be found anywhere or missed.

Am I thinking of some verse that mentions itching ears? (2 Tim 4:3) Why, yes I am.

martyduren said...

Little One-
If gas keeps going up we all might be walking to SA next summer.

Will McKay said...


That might make for a nice reality show: "The Rambling Bloggers," and their two month journey to San Antonio by foot. Along the way they stop at various gas stations and purchase inordinant amounts of regional cola.

Can it give "Pulpit Monsters" a run for its money?


John NT said...

I find it atrocious that the comments here about Bobby Schuller are so prejudgemental. He should be allowed to be his own person without constantly being compared to his famous grandfather. I've heard the guy preach, and not only does he have an incredible gift of speaking, his messages are abundantly filled with the Good News of Christ's gift of salvation, and our need to acknowlege and abandon our sinful nature.

The abundant positivism of his grandfather's "christianity light" messages is replaced with messages of core biblical doctrine and hard-line scriptural truth. If the show were really looking for the next Billy Graham or JFK, they should look no further than one of their own panelists. And the rest of us should keep an eye out, because in the future, we'll have wished we started listening go Bobby years ago.

In the mean time, shame on those who would rather compare in order to justify their prejudgement. Give the kid a break, give him a listen, and give him the benefit of uncompared objectivity.

wayner said...

Dear John NT,

Check out the Issues Etc. website for an analysis of a sermon by the younger Schuller. Once you do then I think you will realize the problem some have with his preaching. Here is the link for the streaming version The download link for MP3 is to the right of the streaming link.

wayner said...

Dear John NT,

I just noticed that there is another analysis of a Robert Schuller sermon available on the Issues Etc. website, here is the link

Just a note to others on this blog...Issues Etc. usually has a sermon analysis around the middle of each month. Even though Lutheran in perspective, I believe most on this blog would agree with much (if not most) that is said.

Byroniac said...

Just to clarify this a little. Robert H. Schuller (Dr. Schuller I) is the grandfather and original founder. Robert A. Schuller (Dr. Schuller II) is his son. The grandson is Robert V. Schuller, who is also panelist for TLC's "The Messengers."

It is possible, but not likely, that Issues Etc has done any examination of the youngest Schuller. I don't know his age, but I think he is around 24 now. It seems possible that he may be more theologically conservative than his grandfather and father as well.

These links on Robert V. Schuller were interesting:
TLC:: Bios
Robert H. Schuller...
The OC Gathering (Bobby Schuller sermons) which is from the Crystal Cathedral page.

I would recommend listening to his sermons (which I plan to do) before forming any judgment. And I pray for the best.

wayner said...


Thanks for the clarification to my post. You are quite right. The analysis on Issues Etc. was done for sermons of Robert A. Schuller, II. Thinking and typing don't always mix well with me.

BTW did anyone watch the first episode and give their impressions of it?