I finally watched the first episode of the highly controversial Preachers of L.A. to see what all the fuss was about. A week later I watched the second episode out of curiosity since it’d made such a stink that Bishop T.D. Jakes condemned the show during a sermon. When episode one ended, I walked away quite disturbed.
The premise of Oxygen’s latest reality show is to show the real lives of five L.A. preachers. Many of the preachers are born-again sinners. Between the five of them, they’ve participated in gang banging, adultery, fornication, fathering a child out of wedlock and drug addiction. Their response to critics begs for the public to see their humanity. “We are not perfect,” they say. If people see how God reformed a pastor’s life, they’ll turn to Him to do the same in their own lives. At least that’s how they justify it. Despite backlash, the first episode debuted with 1.1 million viewers.
Oxygen is smart. The success of Mary Mary opened the door for Oxygen to take it a step further by showcasing actual preachers. They aren’t just any preachers, though. These pastors own mini mansions, drive Bentleys and proudly sport Louis Vuitton bags. One Bishop walked on stage to do an altar call with a Louis satchel across his shoulder. You wouldn’t be able to ignore the pastors’ riches if you tried.
To be clear: I am not opposed to the prosperity of those doing the Lord’s work. Those ideas are not mutually exclusive for me. Rick Warren and Joel Olsteen (and I hate to be the one praising the white guys while constructively critiquing the black ones) are great at what they do according to the people who follow them. Both Warren and Olsteen allegedly refuse salaries from their churches because frankly: they don’t need it. They’ve sold millions of books gaining riches from outside entrepreneurial ventures. But still, people are uncomfortable with pastors living anything but modestly. I am not one of them.
The problem lies in the way the money is on display. One of the Bishops proudly declared he wouldn’t preach at a small church if they couldn’t afford him and his entourage. When another minister challenged his mindset the two nearly came to blows. And these are pastors.
If the purpose of the show is to bring non-believers or sinners to Christ, I don’t see how this will be achieved. In fact, it may do the exact opposite. From the opposing comments I’ve read online, folks are completely turned off by the show glorifying fancy living. Many feel the pastors are “pimping” their congregations. Words like “pimping” and “con artists” and “false prophets” being thrown around doesn’t sound like people marching to the altar in droves to get saved.
I don’t doubt that some of these pastors can preach. I don’t doubt that they are doing great things in their communities. And I certainly don’t doubt they have a testimony. Unfortunately, all of their good deeds were overshadowed the minute they traded in their privacy for reality TV cameras.
T.D. Jakes was so riled up about the show he informed his congregation during a sermon that he “had money when he came to Dallas.” He reassured the church that he doesn’t need their money to buy his shiny suits, nice car or home because he’s made his millions from production, movies and books. While I tend to agree with Jakes that the show is “junk,” he is by no means the moral police. He will forever get a side-eye for his defense of Bishop Eddie Long after accusations of sexual molestation.
Pastors are the head of God’s churches. Yes, it’s God’s church and not the pastors. Exerting time into filming a reality TV show isn’t my idea of a spiritual leader. The number one priority of any pastor is bringing people to Christ through ministry. When cameras are constantly rolling, the focus is now on the pastors and not God. This can be damaging to the very goal they’re claiming to want to achieve. I’m tolerant of many reality TV concepts. But, I like my reality TV and spiritual leaders separate.