Should Churches Podcast Their Worship Services?

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?

Click this link for podcasts of my sermons from the West Main Church in Lewisville, TX.

12 Comments

Filed under Worship

12 responses to “Should Churches Podcast Their Worship Services?

  1. I think it is a wonderful idea to podcast and live stream. Of course, it doesn’t have to be either / or. You can attend a service and listen / see others via technology. I think Jesus is pleased with our use of technology this way.

    As you well state: “can be one more tool to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”.

    Be blessed. God is with you.

  2. rlb

    As you put it “Like any expediency…”. It is a tool that has value and benefit not to be abused. Thanks Ken!

  3. Russ Gage

    Thank you Ken!

  4. Emily McDonald

    I agree it is another tool to spread the Word. And SO appreciated by folks who are elderly, handicapped, or sick to benefit from almost being there!

  5. James McJunkins

    It is a good thing IF not abused.

  6. All good things can be, and are, abused. That’s a personal struggle each of us face. But if we used that criteria, that we should not do/use something because it can be abused, then I guess we shouldn’t do anything. I haven’t started Podcasting our sermons yet, but I do three live Bible studies online, which are all recorded for Podcast downloads. Plus, a few of us preachers started a video/live Bible Talk Show online (BibleQuest.tv) consisting of a Tuesday and Wednesday edition. Each are also recorded for watching On-Demand. The internet tools at our finger tips are an addition to the traditional ways we can and should use to spread the message of Christ. Great article Ken, as usual.

  7. Norman

    Good, balanced, objective thoughts.

  8. Philip North

    I am in total agreement with Drew De Grado. One thing I think would be beneficial here to include in the podcasts, though perhaps not at every podcast. Since nothing, as said, can substitute being at the assembly, announce just that. This would be an encouragement, along with upholding Hebrews 10:25. Great article, Ken!

  9. Steven Moore

    My parents really enjoy watching your sermons during the week. Thanks Ken from both of them. Great idea. Steven

  10. Cindy Burns

    What is your opinion of podcasting sermons? A good idea? Or technology gone awry?

    I think podcasts can be good on occasion if one is ill and unable to come to services. However, I think it will encourage some to just stay home all the time which would definitely be wrong.

    I have noticed over the past several years, since preachers started using Power Points with their lessons, that many people no longer bring their bibles to church or follow along with them during the lesson. I think this is a side effect of some preachers printing out some or all of the scriptures referred to in their lessons. I became guilty of this myself, until I realized one day what I was doing. I also have a bible program that I’ve been using on my phone, rather than carrying my bible with me. I’ve recently realized that I no longer remember where to find scriptures and even some books of the bible, and I’m so disappointed in myself. I didn’t even realize I was losing these skills I had learned over the years since I’ve become a member of the Lord’s church. Now I’m planning to start using my bible again.

    I’m afraid that podcasts or live streaming sermons and/or bible studies may bring some bad habits to many people, even though I’m not sure what they might be at the moment, other than missing services on purpose, etc. I’m also concerned that over the years we might end up losing books, as everything is becoming available on the internet. I can see where bibles may be hard to come by, as technology improves.

    Just a few of my thoughts and concerns in answer to your questions. Thank you for your daily lessons!

  11. Sharing our services online is a wonderful outreach tool!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s