73 year old David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain church near San Diego, California. Last night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, he offered up a professionally produced two hour performance for about 7500 faithful. In this posting, I review what I saw heard and felt for anyone considering attending a future event.
I find it helpful to describe the flow of the evening. The event ran from 7pm to 9pm. The first hour was all music, introductions and the free will offering with no teaching. The second hour was split into three parts. For the first twenty minutes, he read chapter 4, The Two Witnesses, a well-written story from his latest book Agents of the Apocalypse. Then he briefly linked it to its scriptural source in Revelation 11:3. Over the next twenty minutes, he delivered a foundational evangelical message: Jesus is the one and the only way to eternal salvation. He wrapped up the evening with an altar call, music and prayer. About thirty people came down to surrender their lives to Jesus as Lord and Master of their lives – always a beautiful moment.
Any event you attend is a blend of style and substance. Pastor Jeremiah’s event was heavy on style and light on substance. With four cameras, 7 musicians in the band, 7 lead singers and a 3 person accapella trio called The Martin’s, the mood and style were outstanding. The Martin’s were particularly talented, singing a surprising number of old hymns like The Doxology. I loved it! The main band was also impressive. Led by Marshall Hall, he did a piano solo that was reverent and emotionally stirring. The night closed with Amazing Grace, one of my all-time favourites.
Dr. Jeremiah has one of those voices that you simply trust. He began the night by introducing his wife in person, his four children and each of his twelve grand-children in photos, right down to who is playing football and how well he or she is doing. It was over the top and I could have lived without fifteen minutes of that. He also promoted his wife’s two fictional books. Later, he ran two slickly produced videos about his book, each of which would have done well as movie trailers. His son David Michael runs his ministry and I’m guessing he is the brains behind the impressive marketing machine presented.
At the time of the offering, Dr. Jeremiah pressed the $100 gift level, offering a free bible of his to those who would do so. He pointed out the high cost of staging an event of this magnitude. The audience appreciated his warm words about his first visit to Canada to stage an event.
I believe Jeremiah and his team mis-judged the make-up of their audience. By the meagre altar call response, I would guess that the audience was 99% already believers. He was clearly disappointed by the response and intervened after the second stanza of Amazing Grace to encourage a greater response. Furthermore, his main message was primarily aimed at seekers. The reading from his book was about the end times and ought to have provided beef for mature Christians. However, most of the time went into the reading of his fictionalized story, which I loved but I’m not a fan of people reading at length at the podium. Few can do it well and his public reading skills were average. I was left with the impression that he was main goal was to sell books. That worked for me as I bought it and the study guide for the very reasonable price of $20 for both.
David spent a lot of time upfront emphasizing that he and his family are “real people” just like you and me. This landed on me as modestly defensive, perhaps as a means to ward off negative comparisons with other high-flying television evangelists. As Shakespeare put it in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
I also found his use of the the term “Dr.” a bit bothersome because I read in Wikipedia that it is an honorary title given by the university he attended for his bachelor’s degree and of which his father was once the president. Call me a bit judgmental on that one.
My net impression is that Dr David Jeremiah is following a well-planned script by his handlers and is no longer driven by his own personal purpose beyond the obvious evangelizing message. With more than forty books under his belt, I suspect he has a lot of content that he never hinted at. I would probably not go to see him again but I enjoyed the evening. What’s not to love when you are singing with 7000 other believers and raising your hands in praise and thanks to God almighty for the gift and grace of his son Jesus? The music alone made the entire evening a blessing! I’m sure the team learned some things from their first trip to Canada and I deeply respect anyone doing the Lord’s work in this way. Amen!