'Flying preacher' responds to critics after zip-line sermon goes viral

Pastor Bartholomew Orr of the 11,000-member Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss.
Pastor Bartholomew Orr of the 11,000-member Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss. | (Screenshot: Facebook)

A Mississippi megachurch pastor who zip-lined above his congregation to demonstrate the return of Jesus has responded to critics after a clip of his a dramatic entrance on stage Sunday went viral.

The viral Facebook Live clip of Pastor Bartholomew Orr, who has led the 11,000-member Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven for 30 years, has been viewed more than two million times since it was posted on Sunday.

It shows Orr descending on the stage of his church on a zip-line while preaching from the book of James.

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“That day is going to come when the sky is cracked and Jesus Christ comes again and every eye will see when he comes again. So here’s my question for you this morning brothers and sisters. The simple question for this right here is – Are you ready? Are you ready for his return?” Orr asked as he appeared to struggle slightly to land safely on the stage at the end of his zip-line journey.

Bursts of laughter could be heard as people reacted to his stage entrance but Orr continued preaching as he eventually landed safely.

“Brothers and sisters are you ready today for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because He’s on his way back. That is what James was dealing with,” he said in the sermon which is provided in its entirety on the church’s YouTube page.

Prior to Sunday’s sermon, Orr is shown practicing his entrance on the zip-line in another video where he dubbed himself the flying preacher and encouraged supporters to participate in the church’s Vision 2025 plan.

Responding to some critics who felt that his use of the zip-line distracted from his message and was a wasteful use of church income, he explained in an interview with journalist Roland Martin on Monday that he believes his message was heard and that the money used for the zip-line didn’t come from the church.

“Every year we do this soulful Christmas production. It’s a singing Christmas tree with drama attached to it.  We’ve been doing it now for about 10 years. The last four of those years we have had this flying apparatus, where we fly in angels, fly in Gabriel. We flew in some drummers one year when we were talking about drumming,” he said.

“It just so happens that last week I was up there when they were going through their flying school and I said ‘hey, I’ve never tried this. Let me try it. Tried it. Made a video, just a comical video because we are celebrating 136 years anniversary, wanted to get people involved with Vision 2025. And so I said ‘y’all come to church come see the flying preacher this coming Sunday. But that’s the flying joke to support Vision 2025,” Orr continued.

Despite what some critics have said however, Orr said the church did not foot the expense of his show to support the Gospel.

“The apparatus was already in place. No dollars, tithe money or church money [was used] because our soulful Christmas is sponsored by individuals and corporations … this is a free event that we put on for the public,” he said.

Orr also noted that his church had been looking at different ways to more effectively get the message of the Gospel on social media. He believes that, based on the reaction to the video, his decision to use the zip-line was a success.

“One of the things that we have been promoting is digital discipleship. How can we use social media in order to get the word of Jesus Christ out? As a pastor, I’ve seen so many people as it relates to being unprepared, not ready not only for the Lord’s return but even for sudden death and tragedies that happen. And so I’m preaching through the book of James, [a] great opportunity to grab people’s attention and say ‘hey, are you truly ready for His return?”

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