If Jesus were alive today with the availability of modern technology would He podcast the Sermon on the Mount?
According to Mercer Schuchardt, associate professor of communications at Wheaton College, the answer is “No.”
My friend and preaching colleague, Ralph Walker, recently shared with several preachers an article in Christianity Today by Schuchardt entitled, “How Podcasts Hurts Preaching.
The author believes that “churches need to rethink the recent trend in making sermons available online.” He charges “There are profound consequences for doing simply what is possible and popular in our culture without considering what is prudent.”
Schuchardt believes that podcasting diminishes the value of the worship and the sermon. He compares it to the various choices of online entertainment and just “another element of ‘time-shifted’ media to consume.’” Furthermore, he believes that this technology may send a signal for members not to attend the worship, but stay home and watch on the internet in the comfort of your home.
So, should churches be podcasting, live streaming and posting audio and video of their services online?
From a Biblical perspective, we are commanded to attend the assembly of the saints. Willfully forsaking is clearly condemned (Heb. 10:23-29). In the assembly, we gather to partake of communion, as we remember the Lord’s death (1Cor. 11:17-33). It is an occasion to hear gospel preaching (Ax 20:7). It is an opportunity to share our material prosperity to support the Lord’s work (1 Cor 16:1-2). And it is a time we collectively sing praises to God and petition Him in prayer (1 Cor 14:15).
The assembly offers an opportunity for mutual edification and encouragement. A warm handshake. A hug. A smile. A pat on the back. An encouraging word from a fellow brother or sister. Who can quantify the value of spiritual fellowship in the assembly? Furthermore, I would agree with Schuchardt that you cannot duplicate the emotion and environment of the assembly by watching a podcast.
The Bible emphatically teaches the importance of the assembly. But is podcasting a poor idea? Or wrong? Does it, as Schuchardt charge “cheapen” and “downgrade the “significance” of the worship assembly?
I think not.
Ironically, the church where I currently preach at West Main has just begun live streaming our services. Already it is having a positive impact. Sunday one of our deacons received a message from a brother in Romania who was watching our service. Additionally, there were those from Great Britain and Indonesia who were accessing the podcasts.
Also, we had some members home with illnesses that prevented them from attending, but they watched the service live, heard the sermon and received spiritual benefit from their sick bed.
One of our members has relatives who have been transferred to Europe for work and are not close to a local church. They worship as a family in their home. Live streaming the worship and the sermon serves a very real spiritual need for them.
Some churches are using their online presence as a great outreach tool to spark an interest in the community. It gives them a “taste” of what we have, and provides a means to invite them to visit our services.
Of course, we will always have those shut-in, unable to attend, who can be benefitted by these podcasts, as well as their caregivers.
Like any expediency, it can be abused, misused or overused. The internet is not a substitute for fellowship. Podcasting doesn’t take the place of our presence at the assembly.
This technology, however, can be one more tool to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
What is your opinion of podcasting sermons? A good idea? Or technology gone awry?