When most people go to church, they expect the same handful of basic things. They expect to hear hymns and worship songs. They expect to listen to a sermon and hear or read Bible verses. They expect a cross, an altar and prayers. Most people do not expect to see their pastor zip lining on Sunday morning. That, however, is exactly what Pastor Bartholomew Orr of Brown Baptist Church in Mississippi did one Sunday morning.

Orr entered the church using a slow-moving zip line while asking his congregation, “Are you ready? Are you ready for His return?” The video of his dramatic entrance went viral and earned Orr the nickname “The Flying Preacher.”

“I didn’t expect [the video] to go viral,” Orr said. “I come out and someone tells me, ‘You know what, it’s at 250,000 views.’ We are like, ‘Huh!’… Now seven million folks, if nothing else, have heard the message, ‘Are you ready for His return?’”

The response to Orr’s use of the zip line, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been divided. One comment on the video of Orr’s entrance read, “Props are for stage acts and shows, not for getting [Christ’s] message out. I guess [Orr] will walk on water next.” Other commenters worried that the zip line had been bought with tithes and offerings. Orr, however, defended his use of the zip line. “It fit with the message I was preaching,” Orr said. “What better way to say, ‘He is coming back, [and] are you ready for His return?’ I am a prop preacher anyway, so I have used props. … It just goes to show you [that] you never know what the Lord might use to get His message out.”

Orr is not the only pastor to have ended up at the center of a social media debate over the use of unusual props, unorthodox actions or even gimmicks in churches. There has been no consensus among Christians on the matter, but perhaps this is an issue that does not need one. What works for one congregation, after all, may not work for another. With regards to those who find such dramatics unpalatable, well, there are plenty of other churches that one can attend.

 

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