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.