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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Small-screen sermonizing cheapens power of churches


Joel Osteen’s services are also streamed online on Lakewood Church’s official website. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Televised preaching does not, at all, fall in line with original Christian teachings.

While it does reach and inspire a massive audience, one of the primary perks of attending a church is that it helps one create relationships with the community around them. This is nullified if one stays at home and reaches out to God through the television.

Televangelism is something that has been rapidly growing across the U.S. since the 1950s when televisions began appearing in more and more households. Now, churches such as Houston’s Lakewood Church and its primary minister Joel Osteen have managed to turn their services into multimedia, internationally broadcast spectacles.

As someone who was raised Catholic, I couldn’t help but notice that televised services seem like some sort of show or performance. The opening of a Sunday service at Lakewood on Aug. 7 consisted of a 30-minute band performance and accompanying light show so impressive I forgot that I was watching something occur in a place of worship.

The Hartford Institute for Religion Research classified Lakewood as a megachurch, meaning it has an average weekly attendance of 2000 or more people. Osteen’s website states that 7 million Americans watch his services weekly and 20 million monthly. Sounds like a rock star who has found his perfect venue.

It also seems like the common style of televised preachers is “pray/hope for good things and you’ll be rewarded, and everything that you wanted will become a reality.” That’s nothing similar to many biblical teachings.

As much as there were miracles and good things happening in the Bible, there was just as much — if not more — struggle and strife in it.

Here’s my general gist of church: believe and attend. This is so that you’re covered in the afterlife and don’t end up hanging out with Satan for your post-life existence. It’s not about raising your hands high enough and singing as loud as you can every week so that all your wishes in life come true.

Unless someone is physically unable to attend church, there isn’t much of a reason for them watch church on television. All pastors must be good at their jobs, otherwise they wouldn’t have a congregation at all. 

Church services have the power to unify people and spread positive values and outlooks on life. But it is hard to perform your purpose when you deliver the message to people through a television.

Assistant opinion editor Thomas Dwyer is a broadcast journalism freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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