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Most Americans prefer real-live preaching, LifeWay survey showscomment (0)

January 2, 2014

Most Americans still prefer a real-live preacher to a video sermon, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

About a third (35 percent) say they will only visit churches with a live sermon, according to research released Dec. 17, 2013. Three in 10 say a video sermon won’t keep them from a church, but they still prefer live peaching. The same number say live or video sermons are fine.

Less than 1 percent prefer to watch a video sermon.

“I don’t think anyone gets up on a Sunday morning saying, ‘Boy, I’d really like to watch a video sermon,’” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research and author of “Multi-Site Churches: Guidance for the Movement’s Next Generation.”

“But the fact that many churches utilize video sermons means other factors such as relationships, preaching approach, music, relevance and location can be more important,” McConnell said.

The sermon question was part of a telephone survey of 1,001 Americans conducted in September 2013 by LifeWay Research.

Video sermons are mostly used by multi-site churches, which hold services in more than one location, often called campuses. The campuses frequently have live music, prayers and a local pastor who does everything but preach.

About half of the estimated 5,000 multi-site churches in the U.S. use video teaching, said Jim Tomberlin of the consulting firm MultiSite Solutions.

Larger churches are more likely to use video sermons, Tomberlin said, noting that many large churches already project an image of their preacher on a big screen. So when they open a new campus people are already accustomed to seeing a video image of their pastor. 

Younger Americans are more likely to accept a video sermon. More than a third (37 percent) of those age 18 to 29 say it doesn’t matter if the preaching is live or by video.

By contrast, only about a fourth of those 45 to 54 (24 percent) or those over 65 (26 percent) say they are fine with both options.

Researchers also found that those in the Northeast are most open to a video sermon, with 40 percent saying they are fine with either an in-person or video sermon.

Ken Langley, president of the Evangelical Homiletics Society and an adjunct professor of homiletics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., is skeptical about video sermons.

The sermon is part of the church’s worship, and it’s incomplete if the preacher isn’t there, said Langley, who also serves as pastor of Christ Community Church, Zion, Ill. Langley said he sometimes makes changes to the sermon while preaching, depending on who is listening.

“You can’t do that when you are preaching to a camera,” Langley said.

But Tomberlin points to the example of Billy Graham, whose crusade sermons were sometimes filmed and broadcast. People still connected with Graham’s message even though they were watching it at home.

“God could still work, even if Graham wasn’t in the room,” Tomberlin said.


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