by Robert Earl Houston
OK, I gave it a chance.
Last night, I sat down and watched the first episode of The Preachers of L.A. I didn’t know if I was watching Oxygen or BET or MTV with the heavy bass riffs. The visual arts of the show are strong – but most of the Preachers of L.A. don’t live in or minister to the crowds they show on the Beach, in Malibu, Big Sur, etc.
Having said that I have three take-aways from the premiere episode:
# 1 – Why A Fight?
I was stunned by the interaction between Deitrick Haddon and Clarence McClendon. Especially the rift by Haddon about “what’s wrong with the church” when he is shown throughout the episode as someone who fell and seeks redemption. The church didn’t cause his downfall and to say “that’s what’s wrong with the church” to me, personally, seems either hypocritical or delusional. McClendon has been around a long time and just studying his body language you could see him as an older pastor listening to the rants of a young pastor, who didn’t want to listen and just wanted to keep talking. I agree with McClendon – enough. It seems like TV producers (most of them white) always feel its better TV when you have two African-Americans going at each other. It’s sad and like McClendon said “I should have never agreed to this.” A mancave should not become a batcave.
# 2 – Perception, Perception, Perception
I have met or know personally most of the preachers on this show and I don’t know if it’s necessary or helpful to display them in this manner. Throughout the show we saw Bentleys and Rolls Royces and Hummers and other luxury cars – there’s not a thing wrong with it. But it was so prevalent that it overshadowed things like Haddon’s rehearsal or Ron Gibson’s interaction with the gang community of L.A. – which I thought was the best portion of the program. Note to Oxygen – I don’t care about how many cars Noel Jones drives – all I want to know (and remember) is that he is a dynamic preaching vessel of the Lord – period. The same goes for Wayne Chaney – his PDA thing is HIS business and I don’t see how that added to the show – but it does set up a suggestion that they’re going to “go there” later this season.
# 3 – Voyeuristic Worship
Hollywood thinks that the sermon is the crescendo of the preacher’s messages. Rarely did I see any of the opening minutes of any of the sermons by Jones, McClendon, Jay Haizlip, Gibson, Haddon or Cheney. The energy of these preachers at the end of the sermon is similar, but the forthtelling at the beginning of the sermon which sets up that crescendo is at the beginning. It’s celebrating gravy instead of the meat. When Jones was preaching and he swung his arms and didn’t say anything, I suspect that earlier in the sermon he alluded to the motions, but it didn’t convey.
Again, I know many, many L.A. Pastors and most of them do not “roll” like this. The average church in America is less than 125 persons strong and most of them don’t have 2 or 3 revenue streams as Haddon was discussing – and that conversation bothered me personally. I’m not, personally, in ministry just to generate one or many revenue streams. I’m in the ministry because I was called to it – not to the fame nor fortune. If it happens, it’s by the grace of God and if it doesn’t it’s still by the grace of God. 99.9% of pastors that I know don’t sit up all night conceiving of new revenue streams.
I’m saddened by this series and personally, I think it’s a big mistake – but unfortunately when I saw it on Oxygen’s site and they had it marked episode 101 – that means they’re planning on more to come. We shall see.