Saturday, October 5, 2013
I'm Only 5' 8" Tall
My standard response? "Umm. You are aware I'm standing on a step stool in the videos? Right?" Everybody has a good laugh.
For the longest time, I thought the reason people thought I was bigger in my videos than I am in real life is because the camera adds 20 pounds to a person (being about 40 pounds overweight I certainly don't need that), and because people actually forget that while standing on a step stool I'm two-feet off the ground. However, as I continue to process all the Lord showed me (and continues to show me) about myself as a result of sitting under three days of high impact preaching at the Herald Society conference, I've come to realize people think I'm bigger than I am for reasons other than the optical illusions created by video cameras and YouTube clips.
There's no way around this. There's no way to avoid coming across as arrogant to some. So be it.
I believe some people upon meeting me in real life are actually a bit deflated because I am not the "bigger than life" street preacher they thought I was from "watching all of my videos." When they come face-to-face with me, they realize I am who I am: a 50-year-old, mostly bald, overweight, short, tired looking.....guy. Nothing more.
"I watch all of your videos." I often hear. As of a couple hours ago, there were 442 videos on my YouTube channel. "I watch all of your videos. I'm so encouraged by what you do. I wish I had the courage to do that. I remember the time when you..." Sometimes I wonder how much time they spend watching my videos when they can be doing something more productive like going out and sharing the gospel with people.
I don't for a single moment question the genuineness or sincerity of the people who approach me, shake my hand, pat me on the back, and say these nice and very encouraging things to me. I'm truly blessed to be able to encourage people through the videos I post and through other aspects of the ministry the Lord has given me. And it's nice, every once in a while, to receive an "attaboy" from a brother or sister in Christ.
"Would it be all right if I got a picture with you."
"Would you mind signing my Bible."
"Are you going to open-air preach sometime during the conference? I really want to see you do that. That's one of the reasons I came to the conference."
Again, I am not demeaning anyone who has asked me to do these things. It's encouraging to be respected, even admired, by other Christians. But it's a double-edged sword. What is often a blessing can also be a curse.
To those outside the open-air preaching subculture, you might be thinking right now, "Is he serious? Do people actually say and do these things when they meet.....an open-air preacher? Come on! You're kidding. Right?"
I understand. I get it. After all, how can some of the most unpopular people in the worldwide Evangelicalism community have a following? But it happens. It happens a lot, and it happens a lot to people other than me.
"I'm of Ray!" "I'm of Tony!" "I'm of Jeff!" "I'm of Sye!" "I'm of Jon!" "I'm of JeremiahCry!" I'm of Cross Encounters!" "I'm of The Way of the Master!" "I'm of...(fill in the blank)!"
This really happens.
This will offend some, but it needs to be said. There are groupies in the open-air preaching subculture.
There are those who can't wait to see their favorite open-air preacher's next Facebook post, Tweet, or YouTube video so they can "like" it and share it with others. I've had articles and videos that I've shared through social media that were "liked" so quickly by people that I know they didn't have time to read the article or watch the video. They "liked" it simply because I posted it. They assumed that because I posted it, well, it must be good.
Let's face it. Okay, I'll face it. Sometimes they're wrong. There have been times, too many times, when I've written an article or posted a video I shouldn't have written or posted. Yet the same people "like" and share them, and add shouting comments of "Amen!" and "Praise the Lord!" without batting an eye to the fact there is something wrong, noticeably wrong with the content.
And how have I responded? Sinfully; by going back multiple times a day to see if there are any more positive strokes coming by way of supportive comments, and checking to see how much the view count of the article or video has jumped in the last hour.
Did you hear that? That was the sound of the number of "likes" I have on Facebook, followers I have on Twitter, and subscribers I have on YouTube dropping because some have just discovered another hole in OA-Man's cape.
A few weeks ago I disabled the comment feature on both my YouTube channel and this blog. The reason was simple. I wanted to give viewers and readers fewer opportunities to sin. I also wanted to give myself fewer opportunities to sin. It's working on my end. I hope it's working on the other end, too.
Tonight, I decided to go through my YouTube channel to see which of my videos are the most popular. Sadly, as I suspected, the most popular videos are the ones with the most negative content. If my preaching was particularly fiery or my rhetoric seemingly harsh, or if the hecklers were particularly nasty and profane, or if the people in the video seemed particularly interesting or unusual, these were the videos that drew the most attention. I saw that it has been less the content of my message that draws people to my videos like moths to a flame. It is more the characters in the video--characters like me who, to some, seem larger-than-life.
I'm only 5' 8" tall.
So, I made a decision. That 442 video count I mentioned earlier in this article, is now down to 115. I went through the videos and deleted any that I knew had negative content (angry exchanges with hecklers, etc.). If I couldn't remember the content of a particular video, I deleted it. I deleted all of the videos that solicited the most negative comments. I deleted all of the videos that seemed the most self-serving, the most self-promoting, the most provocative, and/or the most "entertaining."
From now on, if I post a video on YouTube, it will be screened by others before it is viewable by the public. And if those reviewing the content of the videos request a video to be edited or if they deem it in some way inappropriate or likely to be taken out of context, then the video will either be edited or it won't be posted at all. To help myself in this effort, I'm simply going to use my video camera less while I'm on the streets. I will continue to make audio recordings and, if their content passes muster, I will share them on our Pulpit and Streets Sermon Audio page.
Being popular is nice. And being popular is a curse. I'm only 5' 8" tall, and I'm done contributing to people thinking I'm bigger than I am. It's too much of a stumbling block in my life and it obscures my focus on my primary mission--to preach the gospel.
If the tongue is like a small fire that can set an entire forest ablaze, the pen can cut, wound, and kill like a military-grade sword.
I decided to go through this blog and review the content of the more than 270 articles. This blog is now leaner by more than 50 articles. Others may be removed later. I've removed every commentary critical of others. The only exception is what I've started writing about Bethel Church in Redding, CA. They are simply too dangerous to the Body of Christ and to the souls of lost people not to speak up, call adherents to "signs and wonders" groups like this to repentance, and to warn the Body of Christ of Bethel's unbiblical activities. I've also removed articles that contained videos I deleted from YouTube.
There is a time and a place to say difficult things and deal with issues that are uncomfortable for many Christians. I will continue to write about such topics. And I will never shy away from writing about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel, no matter how offended unbelievers may become. But this blog will take on a decidedly more positive tone, starting now.
I have to do all these things, and likely more. I have to take these steps. I have to do whatever I can, with the Holy Spirit's help, to set myself apart for service to and the glory of Jesus Christ. Whatever is causing me to sin, I have to cut it off and throw it far from me (Matthew 5:29-31). I've got to treat any temptation, any sin that comes between me and my Lord the way Samuel treated Agag (1 Samuel 15:32-33).
After all, I'm only 5' 8" tall.