Dallasblack.com: Pastors disagree over new Oxygen reality show ‘Preachers of LA’


Friday, August 16, 2013

Pastors disagree over new Oxygen reality show ‘Preachers of LA’

By: thegrio.com

Pastors disagree over new Oxygen reality show ‘Preachers of LA’
The next wave of reality television stars will be men of the cloth when Oxygen Media premieres its new docu-series The Preachers of L.A. in October.

Not everyone is singing its praises, however.

The upcoming show will follow six “mega-pastors” in the City of Angels as they live their lives, preach their sermons and tend to any lost sheep in their communities.

Offering a glance into the holy order, the series will focus on daily “struggles and triumphs” in the ministers’ personal and professional lives, as well as how they balance their commitments.

Call it an act of God or scandalous covenant, local pastors have a few words to say on the matter.

“I’m totally against it,” Pastor William J. Smith of Saint Tabernacle Church in L.A. tells theGrio. “When you put the church in the category of all these other shows – though I don’t watch them, I don’t have time for that foolishness – it demeans the church. It brings it down and it takes away the value of why it’s here. That’s why the church is in the condition that it’s in. Because the church has, in a sense, aligned itself with themes of the world.”

Smith argues the public already ridicules the church, thus this heightened display of attention will provide ammunition for their scorn.

“When one falls, we all fall or we’re all no good,” he points out. “Now, I’m not against prosperity because God wants these people to prosper, but there’s a way off course being flamboyant and boasting about our prosperity.”

He adds, “That causes people to look down on us. Our job is to preach the gospel, and to reach people. It’s not to match wits with the world.”

From the son of preacher man

Conceived by real-life pastors’ kids, Preachers of L.A. was created by Lemuel Plummer, executive producer of Vindicated and producer of The Sheards, and Holly Carter, executive producer of 106 & Gospel and The Sheards, as a means of building awareness of the faith community and the extent of a preacher’s path.

Pastors on the show include Bishop Noel Jones, Minister Deitrick Haddon, Bishop Clarence McClendon, Pastor Jay Haizlip, Pastor Wayne Chaney and Bishop Ron Gibson.

In the previews, the men are shown wearing tailored suits and sunglasses, tattooed, flanked by an entourage and driving around in fancy cars.

Growing up in the church, the producers wanted to portray unsung realities they witnessed, and the pressures placed on preachers and their families.

Regardless of benevolent aims, Smith says putting the church on this platform disgraces its stature.

“We should represent Jesus here on this Earth today,” he explains. “We have to separate ourselves from the themes and the limelight of what people are doing today as far as commercializing the Bible.”

The plus side of opening Heaven’s gate

While Smith may disapprove of such glorified exhibitions, other clergymen see a positive angle to the promotion.

Reverend Mark Whitlock of Christ Our Redeemer Church in Irvine, CA knows several of the pastors involved, and feels it is an opportunity for people to understand how difficult the life of a preacher can be.

He hopes there will be a “greater appreciation” for the job, however he does express reserves for the way reality TV can misconstrue a story.

“If people begin to see that the pain of a congregation, the pain of a community is reflected in the messages [of a preacher], and that in that pain there is a ray of light and hope, then we all will benefit from this television show,” Whitlock remarks. “I sincerely hope that the producers of this program don’t exploit these great men of God. They’re responsible for the souls of thousands, and television often is driven by commercials, by how the ratings are.”

Though many people consider the church an exalted force in society, Whitlock doesn’t think that precludes it from documentation.

Actually, he sees it as a necessary progression. If everyone else has a TV show, why not preachers?

“The church is a reflection of the community,” Whitlock comments. “The community has been displayed on every television program there is. I’m hoping that this reality television program offers reality that there is a higher power with sovereign authority over the community where we live, work and worship.”

He continues, “It really is about helping people to come out of dark places and those dark places include drug dens, funeral parlors, hospitals, unemployment lines, food lines, lines of poverty, homeless tents.”

Minister Billy Curl at the Crenshaw Church of Christ in L.A. agrees.

“It gives exposure to what is happening in the community,” he says. “The broader populace can get to see the world that we live in.”

Bow your heads and tweet

Well, if exposure is the task at hand, Twitter may be the Promised Land.

In addition to the TV airing, the team behind Preachers of L.A. will implement an extensive digital strategy to capitalize on the newfound attention, including a “Twitter Sermon” on September 3 where each minister will share anecdotes, advice, and scriptures with fans of the show.

No doubt the character limit will prove a challenge for these men wishing to expound upon the good word.

Later, episodes will stream via mobile, Hulu and VOD platforms, and audiences can catch real-time content synched with each airing, including chats, photos, and even those ubiquitous GIFs.

So it seems, the gospel just got hashtagged.

“We live in the YouTube age, we live in the streaming age, so this show is no different than the streaming of television,” Whitlock says. “Every Sunday is a reality show. For me, I’m hoping, as they take sound bytes, that those sound bytes will give a ray of hope, that those sound bytes will help heal someone, that those sound bytes will give them a greater appreciation for God.”

Adds Curl, publicity can be positive, as long as producers execute a measure of restraint.

“It’s is a good thing, however you have to be cautious,” he says. “It could be used for fraud or unwarranted types of solicitations.”

Go tell it on the mountain: the pulpit in close-up

Thinking of his own congregation, Curl looks to the Preachers of L.A. for messaging that will positively impact the community both morally and spiritually.

He hopes the producers will refrain from the “salacious” style of TV editing commonly used in today’s programming.

As for Whitlock, his only concern is casting.

“I haven’t seen one woman,” he says. “They failed to show diversity in the pulpit. They don’t have one Latino. They don’t have one Asian. For me, they could have chosen all of the ethnic groups that are reflections of the glory of God. Beyond that, no I’m not worried about it. If you had some idea of how many letters we receive on a regular basis of people criticizing our sermon, most people only focus in on a small segment of it. Our greatest task as teachers is just to keep them awake.”

Watch official trailer below:

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