The new Preachers of LA series by the Oxygen network has created uproar amongst many churchgoers. I have seen a lot of tweets and Facebook posts from people angry about the show since it premiered last night. Most feel that the show is glamorizing ministry and putting lavish lifestyles on display with the assumption that this is what God wants, what God can do, and what God has provided. So why are people so angry? Everybody wants nice things, right? And what better way to get them if God does it for you?
There is nothing wrong with having nice things. Most of us would like to have more and live a richer life but that is not why we (should) go to church. We go to church because we love God, desire to worship God, draw closer to God and be in fellowship with other believers.
It seems that most people who are frustrated by the show are doing their best to get by day to day: trying to make ends meet, save enough to purchase things they desire/need, and care for their children. Therefore, these people (most of us) find it hard to digest their preacher/pastor living a lavish lifestyle, particularly when the perception is that these preachers are able to live this way because of people who give monetarily to support "ministry." Nobody likes to feel like they are being hustled or pimped by the prophet for a profit. People love God enough to give and trust that their money will be used to touch lives and souls with the Word of God.
So, dear pastors and ministry leaders: If you want wealth create business ventures. Many clergy do and are doing well financially through those ventures. But if you are going to build your own "kingdom," do not build it on the backs of hardworking people who really just want a more intimate relationship with God and believe that you can point them in that direction. Don't "floss" on the people; they don't like it. It's as if you're saying, "Look at what I bought myself with your money. Don't you like it? If you want it too, pray about it!"
Kanye once rapped, "I've been talking to God for so long, if you look at my life I guess he's talking back." And now he's on the Yeezus tour. He has deified himself. This show makes it appear that these preachers too are deifying themselves, on their own Yeezus tour, getting high on their own supply. However, Jesus said, "If I be lifted up." (John 12:32) Unfortunately, this show is lifting up people and making golden calf idols of their possessions. Unless you willfully left heaven to take on human form, lived out a nomadic ministry on the margins, was crucified for your ministry, died, was buried, then rose again -- sorry to say, it's not about you.
Nonetheless, there are some who defend the show arguing that preachers are people too, human and flawed. Yes, we are. But as someone once told me, "We don't show people our wounds, we show them are scars." We do so as evidence that the journey with God brings about healing and transformation. People need and want to be whole. The question Jesus asked was "do you want to get well?" (John 5:6 NIV)
Still others ask why should rappers and entertainers be the only people with Bentleys and mansions? First, Bentleys and mansions don't measure the quality of one's life. Secondly, entertainers are people selling something people choose to purchase -- music, movies, etc. As ministers of the gospel we are not selling God and faith. The Gospel is free. The Bible is not the best-selling book in history because it has a good price point. It's because people want to know God and know God loves them. Yes, there is a business side of ministry but literally for God's sake, keep it to yourself. You don't have to show off your stuff as evidence of how much money you make. It only perpetuates the negative stereotypes many of us are constantly trying to disprove through our work. This show is only making people who are leery about church say "see I told you so."
Sadly, this show is about lavish living and we will likely not see one that displays the many sacrifices made by every day preachers and ministers. Producers wouldn't care to show how clergy (often barely paid) help people in many ways: hospital visits, protesting gun violence, fighting for equitable funding of schools in low income communities, going to court with someone's son, fighting against predatory lending, etc. They wouldn't find a show about that kind of preacher exciting and worth watching.
Actually it is exciting, because it helps set you free from injustice, inequality and discrimination. Some people watching the show just want more stuff. They're shouting, "Just bless my shackles!"
Being rich and thinking money sets you free, gives you peace and eliminates injustice, is false. Assimilation is not liberation. You can have all the stuff you want and still not be whole. The true test of how you live your life and success is what will be written in your obituary. What will people say about you, and what you did with your life? I've yet to see an obituary list all the expensive items someone owned.
A final word: The Preachers of LA does not depict what life is like for most preachers in LA or across the country, for that matter. For those of us who are Christians and wrestle with what we want versus who God wants us to become, the question each of us has to simply answer is this: "Is what you're living for worth Christ dying for?"