Pastors disagree over new Oxygen reality show ‘Preachers of LA’

theGRIO REPORT - Call it an act of God or scandalous covenant, local pastors have a few words to say about Oxygen's new reality show 'Preachers of L.A.'

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

“If people begin to see that the pain of a congregation, the pain of a community is reflected in the messages [of a preacher], and that in that pain there is a ray of light and hope, then we all will benefit from this television show,” Whitlock remarks. “I sincerely hope that the producers of this program don’t exploit these great men of God. They’re responsible for the souls of thousands, and television often is driven by commercials, by how the ratings are.”

Though many people consider the church an exalted force in society, Whitlock doesn’t think that precludes it from documentation.

Actually, he sees it as a necessary progression. If everyone else has a TV show, why not preachers?

“The church is a reflection of the community,” Whitlock comments. “The community has been displayed on every television program there is. I’m hoping that this reality television program offers reality that there is a higher power with sovereign authority over the community where we live, work and worship.”

He continues, “It really is about helping people to come out of dark places and those dark places include drug dens, funeral parlors, hospitals, unemployment lines, food lines, lines of poverty, homeless tents.”

Minister Billy Curl at the Crenshaw Church of Christ in L.A. agrees.

“It gives exposure to what is happening in the community,” he says. “The broader populace can get to see the world that we live in.”

Bow your heads and tweet

Well, if exposure is the task at hand, Twitter may be the Promised Land.

In addition to the TV airing, the team behind Preachers of L.A. will implement an extensive digital strategy to capitalize on the newfound attention, including a “Twitter Sermon” on September 3 where each minister will share anecdotes, advice, and scriptures with fans of the show.

No doubt the character limit will prove a challenge for these men wishing to expound upon the good word.

Later, episodes will stream via mobile, Hulu and VOD platforms, and audiences can catch real-time content synched with each airing, including chats, photos, and even those ubiquitous GIFs.

So it seems, the gospel just got hashtagged.

“We live in the YouTube age, we live in the streaming age, so this show is no different than the streaming of television,” Whitlock says. “Every Sunday is a reality show. For me, I’m hoping, as they take sound bytes, that those sound bytes will give a ray of hope, that those sound bytes will help heal someone, that those sound bytes will give them a greater appreciation for God.”

Adds Curl, publicity can be positive, as long as producers execute a measure of restraint.

“It’s is a good thing, however you have to be cautious,” he says. “It could be used for fraud or unwarranted types of solicitations.”

Go tell it on the mountain: the pulpit in close-up

Thinking of his own congregation, Curl looks to the Preachers of L.A. for messaging that will positively impact the community both morally and spiritually.

He hopes the producers will refrain from the “salacious” style of TV editing commonly used in today’s programming.

As for Whitlock, his only concern is casting.

“I haven’t seen one woman,” he says. “They failed to show diversity in the pulpit. They don’t have one Latino. They don’t have one Asian. For me, they could have chosen all of the ethnic groups that are reflections of the glory of God. Beyond that, no I’m not worried about it. If you had some idea of how many letters we receive on a regular basis of people criticizing our sermon, most people only focus in on a small segment of it. Our greatest task as teachers is just to keep them awake.”

Follow Courtney Garcia on Twitter at @CourtGarcia