This is the fourth of a five-part series of an interview I conducted in March 2006 with the pastor of a small Baptist church in Kentucky about how ministers use the media at a local level and the art of oratory in preaching. Rev. Darrell Belcher is the past or Echols General Baptist Church in Echols, Ky.
Sam Ford: Do you find preaching on radio and/or television more restrictive than a regular sermon?
Darrell Belcher: I feel equally comfortable doing radio as I do delivering a message live. When you are with a congregation, you don't have any time limits or anything like that, so you can deliver live better than on radio because you don't have to figure out how to squeeze a message into 15 or 20 minutes. You don't have time to stop and deliberate on something and then start back. You just have to put it out there fast and get it out there. In front of a congregation, you have time to play with things a little bit while you are preaching.
Sam Ford: You mentioned previously about envisioning the radio audience and how big it is, as compared to the congregation at your church. How did that work, while you were delivering a radio sermon?
Darrell Belcher: You have to remember that congregation you are preaching to. You can't go in there and deliver an old, dead, flat sermon. You must be as enthusiastic in there as you are with a live audience that is responding to you, if you want to keep them interested. Some ministers would bring their notes and would quickly read them off on their radio programs. I preached mine just like I was preaching to a real, live audience. People react differently if they are listening to a sermon that someone is reading. They can tell if you are reading it or if you are really preaching it.
Sam Ford: Issues of faith aside, what do you feel separates a "good" preacher from a "bad" preacher, solely in terms of delivery?
Darrell Belcher: The first major difference is the calling that you have from God. It is definitely a calling. It's not something that people just pick up a bible and does. You have preachers out there who have studied it as a vocation, but there's some who are out there like myself who have a calling to do that. We have the personality for it. We communicate well with people. It's all in communication. That's all it is.
Sam Ford: What do you feel your strengths are as a preacher?
Darrell Belcher: The thing about it is, and a lot of people don't like to hear this, but when you preach a message ,you have got to be able to entertain your audience also, to keep their attention. It's the difference between an old, flat, dull message, and one that really inspires somebody. When you get into a congregation of people, you can feel where they're at. That motivates you. If people are really upbeat in the congregation, and if you can tell they're really in an upbeat mood, you preach a more upbeat message and get a good response. You have to have that certain ability to entertain people. I might stop right in the middle of a sermon and say something funny because it catches the audiences attention. If they're half-asleep, that perks them up. I've caught their attention again, and I've got them for the next few minutes. Now, they're expecting you to say something else.
Sam Ford: What do you feel your weaknesses are?
Darrell Belcher: I think it's my speech. I have always been really critical of my speaking ability. I always want to be a better communicator. I am always afraid I haven't communicated well enough.
Sam Ford: Have you ever recorded and sold audio recordings of your sermons? If not, would you?
Darrell Belcher: No. No. For me, and this is just my thought, if I were to sell my sermons and start making tapes and different things and selling them, I would start seeing it turn more into a business than a religion.
Sam Ford: Does money become a major issue in the world of preaching? Does it determine why people end up at large churches versus small churches? Why do some ministers concentrate on radio or television more than others?
Darrell Belcher: Money does become an issue in pastoring. There are a lot of ministers who wouldn't consider pastoring a small church like I pastor because it doesn't pay enough. They want to stay in some of the larger churches where they would make as much money as if they had a high-paying job. I have preached at both. In a small church, it's more of a family feeling, and you know everyone. In a big church, you are the pastor, but you don't know your church. There is little one-on-one association in those chruches, so it's not personal. I prefer the smaller churches.
As far as radio and television, some preachers focus on shows, and they are oriented toward money. A lot of it has to do with prestige, too, and vanity. I never was interested in having a big name or anything like that. I knew and realized when I was younger that I had the opportunity to be affiliated with bigger churches, but it wasn't really for me. I would rather be on a personal basis with everybody.