I recently read that a Hollywood producer is talking to Dallas pastor Ed Young Jr., about creating a reality show centered on his family—sort of a “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” without all the adultery, divorce and NBA stars.
Ed’s a good guy, an effective preacher and a creative genius (and one of our contributing editors), so if Hollywood wants to put him and his family in prime time, I can think of a lot worse subjects. (At least it would put on display a lot more positive example than the spiritual train wreck that composes “Preachers of L.A.”)
The problem is with the whole notion of reality shows. They aren’t that real. Ed Young—with a nice upscale suburban Dallas home and a congregation of 20,000 people—is not the typical American pastor (no more so than Willie Robertson and his clan are typical Louisiana good old boys). TV doesn’t look for real reality in its programming—after all, if most of us live out reality day after day, why would we want to watch it on TV?
If Hollywood wants to create a show about a real-life pastor’s family, just come on down to any small town in America and pick your pastor. Chances are, he’s not that good looking, and he’s a little chunky around the middle—no skinny jeans for him, thank goodness—and he’s probably preaching to a congregation of 200 rather than 20,000. He’s not all that fashionable—that JCPenney suit is beginning to show some wear after four years of regular use—and he’s worried about how he’s going to put his three kids through college on a modest pastor’s salary.
Just imagine that some producer did create a series called “Preachers of Main Street.” Your stars might be Bob, the 50-year-old veteran pastor of old First Baptist Church; Pat, the 43-year-old pastor of Main Street Bible Church; and Tommy, that flashy young 28-year-old, who just came to Community Pentecostal Church. I’ll guarantee there will be a lot more time spent filming at that Pentecostal church—watching people clap and raise their hands and get slain in the Spirit will be a lot more interesting to see than watching those Baptist ushers passing the plates or the deacons grabbing a last-minute smoke on the back steps before the 11 a.m. service gets underway.
Can’t you just see that episode where Bob meets with the finance committee to discuss how to pay for the new air-conditioning unit to replace the one that went bad? Pat is sitting with an 80-year-old church member in the last days of a battle with cancer, quietly reading Scripture and praying for this elderly saint. Then there’s Tommy, trying to plan a spectacular Easter event on a budget of $150. That may not make for great reality TV, but it sure is reality in the lives of typical pastors.
Then again, despite all the challenges pastors face in real life, there’s also something immensely satisfying about living out God’s call in your life, having the chance to impact lives for the better, be part of guiding folks toward an eternity with the Father. That reality may not make for great TV, but it can make for a great life.