Promo, Promoter, Performer, or Preacher?

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What does professional wrestling and preaching have in common?

As mentioned in a previous post I am a Professional Wrestling fan. I love the pageantry of it. I love the story that the wrestlers tell in the ring and the promos that they give to hype up matches.

Some of my favorite wrestlers were the best at giving “promos.” These promos were usually given days or weeks before a big match between two hulks of humanity. The Nature Boy Ric Flair, The Macho Man Randy Savage, Jake The Snake Roberts and Hulk Hogan were some of the best at giving a good promo. Entire YouTube playlists exist of nothing but famous promos from performers of the past. It was as if they were looking right at me through my television set hollerin’ and wooing about what they were going to do to their opponent. Their job was to hype up interest in the upcoming wrestling match. The better the promo, the more tickets sold at the gate, or so the thought was.

Not only did Pro Wrestling have great story telling and great promos given to draw me into the spectacle but they also had the greatest performers of pro wrestling that wow’d and aw’d me. Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Kenny Omega, Rey Mysterio Jr., Sting all of these performers have given so much entertainment over the years.

Of course you can’t have any pro wrestling without a Promoter. The Promoter is the main owner of the Pro Wrestling company or “Promotion.” His job was to make all of the rasslin possible. He promoted the matches that the performers would have that they hyped up in their promos. The performers/wrestlers would then tell their story in the ring for all of us fans to enjoy.

For many that attend Church in the West, those who are plugged into the popular Matrix of the Evangelical Industrial Complex, Church is very similar to Professional Wrestling. There is usually a Promoter, a group of people or a ministry based off of one person’s vision that establishes and maintains a Church or ministry. It has its own version of wrestlers or Performers that put on a show for the congregation. They get up and tell you a story in the style of a promo sometimes. The story often sounds like the following:

  • “You have a problem. There is something about your life that needs to be better.” 
  • “If you just apply this [insert verse or catchy idea], this part of your life will surely be better, if you really believe and work at it.”  
  • “Who wants to have a better [insert food, life, prosperity, relationship, health, feelings, happiness whatever the crowd wants]?”
  • “Let’s pray and ask our “Lord of the Bread” to give us all these things that we think he promised us” [1].
  • “Now go and make this happen in your life/expect this to happen your life.”
  • “Wooo! Cmon! Yes Jesus!” [insert more behavioral tactics designed to manipulate and inflame emotional responses]
  • End of Service

A story is told, feelings are hyped, a promoter can give a good promo, tell a good story, perform a good act for everyone in Church but there is one thing that they fail to be; a preacher.

A story is told, feelings are hyped, a promoter can give a good promo, tell a good story, perform a good act for everyone in Church but there is one thing that they fail to be; a preacher.

The main difference in a Promoter, Performer, or someone who can hype up the crowd with a good promo is this: all of these people might be telling you about Jesus (at the least we hope) they might be very entertaining and very good at finding new ways to motivate, encourage, provide good self-help measures on how to improve one’s life. However, if that is all that they are doing, they are not acting in the office and function of a preacher. They may be very good at giving a good promo with “Woos” as great as Ric Flair and can “Hulk Up” a crowd as great as Hulk Hogan, but they are not a preacher. The problem with this is that a preacher is exactly what we all need. A preacher is exactly who God expects us to be given as we enter His Church.

What makes a preacher a preacher, is when they give you a word.

What makes a preacher a preacher, is when they give you a word. The giving of a word is the key thing here. It is a word to keep, to possess, to go into your ear and to create something inside of you. It is a specific word. It is a word that creates faith in Christ where there was no faith in Christ before. “So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).” It is this word, “Christ was crucified on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins and was raised three days later for your justification. In the stead of and by the order of Jesus Christ, Son of God, I tell you that you are forgiven. “In the name of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. For Christ’s sake this is most certainly true.”

It is this word, “Christ was crucified on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins and was raised three days later for your justification...

This is what makes a preacher a preacher. When he hands over the goods, when he actually gives you something, specifically the forgiveness of sins through the preaching of this word, in absolution, in baptism and in the Lord’s Supper. It is true when Gerhard Forde said “theology is for proclamation.” It is also true to say that preaching is for proclamation. Specifically, this proclamation: “you are forgiven.”

Unless the handing over of Christ has occurred, the handing over of his forgiveness of sins, then you don’t have a preacher and the person speaking in front of you is not preaching. At best you have a promoter or a performer who can be sure to run wild all over your emotions and feelings with a good promo, but then again, you can find that at Wrestlemania. Why even bother with “Christianity” as it is presented in this most popular way? The real question that will start to mess with your understanding is “is this a Christian Church if they are not handing over the forgiveness of sins? Is this a preacher if he is not telling me I am forgiven on account of Christ? Is this even a sermon if it does not tell me that I am forgiven?”

Speaking of Wrestlemania; there is one example that I can recall where a Performer, a Wrestler, was as close to a ‘Rasslin version of a preacher if there ever was one. I know that I have read this point this before from somewhere else, so if you find it and recall it please give them all the credit for this observation. I am merely bringing it to mind to paint a picture for you here that is relevant with this post.

In 2018 at Wrestlemania, there was a Tag-Team Championship match where one wrestler did not have a tag team partner for the match. He proceed to leave the ring and picked from the crowd his tag-team partner; a 10 year old boy. As you can imagine the boy is horrified and scared out of his mind when he finds himself in the ring with an opponent who could easily defeat him and easily hurt him. However, the boy never sees any action in the ring, he is never touched by his opponent for his tag team partner is a monster of a wrestler who chose him. It is obvious to everyone that when the wrestler wins the match, he did not need the help of the 10 year old boy and planned to do all the necessary work on his own. The tag team that this boy was called to be on wins the match, and the title, courtesy of the wrestler who chose him.

This is the moment where this wrestler became a preacher. You may have seen some parallels to Christ in this story and his work for us surely. But it is when the championship belt is given to the little boy and he hears these words from the wrestler, “you are the champ.” We now have our wrestling preacher. For he hands over something to the boy that is a gift to claim as his own, unable to be earned by the boy and the wrestling preacher proclaims a word to the boy. It is a word that is true because of the work that is already complete and it is word that declares truth to this boy and the boy becomes what the word that is spoken says, “you are the champ.”

Infinitely more so, Christ is the end of the Law and has conquered all of our greatest enemies; death, hell and the grave and sends us a preacher to say to us and to say to you right now as you read this “in the name of and in the stead of, Jesus Christ, Son of God, you are forgiven.”

This is the difference between preaching and a performance.   

1] Lord of the Bread here is a reference to people who follow and want Jesus just for the here and the now things that he can provide them with…in John 6:26 Jesus calls out those who are following him of doing just this…they wanted their fill of the loaves. I do not recall where I heard the “Lord of the Bread” reference but the phrase is not my own.