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Editor's note: There are more than 10,000 church podcasts at iTunes. People from our churches have weekly access to the preaching of Andy Stanley, Tim Keller, and Bill Hybels. As preachers, we should take into account the role of podcasts in the lives of our congregants. Will people tune us out because they have access to other preachers? How can podcasts hurt our ministries--or how can they help? And most iportant--how does technology change the function of local churches? We may come to very different answers, but these are questions that should be asked. The following article, from Church in a Circle Ministries, helps us ask the right questions:

I was asked recently if I hated sermons. My answer was “no.” I understand why people may see me as anti-sermon. If you read my blog regularly, you know I advocate moving away from sermon-centric, performance-based churches to multi-voiced, interdependent communities of empowerment.

The truth is, I actually rather like sermons.

A good sermon is a wonderful opportunity to learn. Some people have honed their knowledge base and their communication skills, and can convey complex concepts in a way people can understand, remember and apply. A well-structured lecture with new information can provoke me to think, and change, and grow.

Modern technology means we don’t have to travel long distances to hear great thinkers and gifted communicators—many churches are now podcasting their sermons online each week. Podcasts present a great opportunity to "flip the church" and practice "church in a circle."

I’m hearing more and more of groups of Christians who meet weekly to share a meal and love one another as a community. Instead of attending “regular church,” they listen to a podcast sermon on their own time and discuss it when they gather, going deeper and applying the truths they’ve learned to their lives and neighborhoods.

What these "podrishioners" are getting right is an emphasis on making the most of their time together. Singing and sermons shouldn’t take up so much of our time that we don’t have energy or space to do the "one-anothering" the Bible repeatedly calls us to.

I don’t hate sermons. They play an important role in teaching God’s people information and calling them to a shared vision. I’m excited to see people getting creative with how they share and access sermons and working toward sustainable, empowering ways of doing church in the future.

Kathleen Ward co-writes a blog with her best friend and husband, Kevin-Neil Ward. They’ve been married for 18 years and have four children, age 3–15. In her spare time, Kathleen likes to paint portraits, read books and learn to play piano—if only she could find some spare time!

Kevin-Neil Ward facilitates a Christ-centered, active learning community using principles and ideas he picked up through his studies in theology, counselling, life coaching, missions, organic church planting and business administration. Kevin-Neil is enjoying life in his forties and loves bike-riding and watching the Tour de France late into the night every July.

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Anonymous

commented on Nov 4, 2014

From my perspective, you are doing half of what the New Testament model reveals in Acts 2:46 where believers met in the "temple courts" AND in their homes. There is a dynamic of God's people meeting together in a larger assembly and in people's homes to go deeper.

Charles Waters

commented on Nov 4, 2014

I can accept your perspective of a larger assembly meeting at church and a small group Bible study in the home but this article doesn't express that perspective at all.

Steve Meadows

commented on Nov 4, 2014

This is precisely why the church is weak and suffering today. The early church was Gospel centered and the preaching was the focus of the church. Too many of today's church are therapeutic in nature, all the while moving further and further away from truth. II Timothy 3:16-4:5 is the answer to this dearth of truth where men choose to gather around them those that will tickle their ears. The only way to stop this obsession with a false dichotomy concerning the truth is to faithfully preach the Word. When churches are strengthened by the preaching of truth, by men who are called to that position within the local body, and the people respond to God according to truth, the church will be healthy, and the community benefits. Therapeutic churches make weak believers who have no impact on the culture around them. That is where we are sitting today in the American church. Weak believers equal weak churches which equals a weak communities and a weak nation.

Charles Waters

commented on Nov 4, 2014

Excellent counter point Steve. A podcast can't replace a pastor. Preaching is just one of the things a pastor does. I'd like to see a podcast go to comfort a family whose child was rushed to the ER because of a life-threatening accident. A podcast couldn't put an arm around a grieving widow whose husband of 60 years just passed away. A podcast couldn't pray with a child of God who has just been diagnosed with cancer. People need pastors who will love them unconditionally. A podcast can't love anyone. Podcast replacing pastors? Seriously?

Andrew Benedict

commented on Nov 4, 2014

Yes I second your thoughts. While a recorded sermon can give a new and fresh insight into a certain subject and can be a great tool for someone who spends a lot of time alone, travelling or someone who has difficulty accessing a physical church ,it can in no way replace pastoral ministry, certain aspects of pastoral ministry can never be replaced by virtual churches though they can assist in being effective.

Jeff Torrans

commented on Nov 5, 2014

I understand where you are coming from Charles. And I also see tremendous value in a podcast for the local church. Do we not want every Christian to be a "self-feeder" and if the content is relevant to their lives and scriptural then more power to them. The reality is that many pastors do not feed the sheep from the pulpit and in that sense a podcast can and does take the place of a significant pastoral ministry. I admittedly have far too many peers attending church in spite of the sermon given (not just once or twice but for years, myself included). They attend for the reasons you suggested that a podcast cannot deliver but they will leave eventually because "they will go where the podcast is." A podcast replacing pastors? Yes and sometimes necessarily so. Seriously.

Charles Waters

commented on Nov 6, 2014

Not every preacher is a pastor. I agree that a podcast might replace a preacher who isn't feeding the sheep but not a pastor. 1 Peter 5:2 a pastor feeds the sheep and loves the sheep. Maybe the title of the article should have been "Could Podcasts Replace Hirelings?" or "Could Podcast Replace Preachers?" but "Could Podcasts Replace Pastors?" seriously?

Anonymous

commented on Nov 4, 2014

These podcasts are from pastors preaching in the of kind of churches the writers are writing against. Isn't this selfish and biting the hand that feeds you?

John Heath

commented on Nov 5, 2014

There are many technologies we use every day to reach people or encourage friends and family, this is not wrong, and it's actually such an advantage to be able to contact missionaries, long lost friends etc, within a couple of seconds, where it would previously take weeks for them to be encouraged through the mail. But we do need to be careful that we do not replace active, present leaders with a podcast of someone on TV or podcast whom we've never met, and who does not know us. This can happen so easily when we've taken offense or disagree with our leaders. The Bible is clear that God places leaders in our lives to watch over our souls, correct us, encourage us, equip us for ministry. Let us use podcasts as an addition to real relationship with leaders, and not a replacement for leaders.

Mike Hogg

commented on Nov 5, 2014

It is interesting seeing the many perspectives. I Pastor a church and facilitate a home cell group. Niether is mutually exclusive. Last wee I called all of cell groups to the sanctuary to watch a podcast of the "I Stand Sunday Event" at Grace in Houston. We had a wonderful discussion and time of prayer afterwards for our nation. One of the speakers on the podcast made this statement, "We don't have a political problem, we have a spiritual problem and too many church spend too much time criticizing each other." I personally think God has allowed all of the technology so that the dictates of Matthew 24 will be achieved. I carefully research the media forms I use, but I use them all at one time or another. If Paul had remained closed minded, the church may not exist at all.

Mike Ingo

commented on Nov 5, 2014

Jesus taught in the "church" and in the "field." If there had been podcasts I am sure He would have used them as well. To me the whole point of my preaching / teaching is to make disciples. If people hear and obey the Scripture it will change lives; regardless of where they hear it. Discipleship is more than just sitting and listening to a sermon or even just reading your Bible; it is studying and applying the Scriptures that we may be more like Christ daily. I think Jesus said it best; "Whoever is not against you is for you."

Stephen Belokur

commented on Nov 5, 2014

We just recently had a large family leave our church to "watch church on TV" on Sunday mornings. These are the things our pastors have done for them in the past: Gone to visit the dad in jail, stayed in touch with him for over a year while he was in federal prison, got a calls in the evening and asked to go to the ATM and lend them money for what they needed which he did, got down on his knees to hug their children when they came into church on Sundays. Will a podcast do that? Will a TV preacher be available for personal encouragement anytime of day or night? Are all churches "sermon-centric, performance-based churches"? Don't some churches meet to lift up and glorify and worship God with the thought of the service being a "performance" abhorrent? Don't some churches meet to lift up each others burdens and affirm one another in the grace of God? I guess I'm just too old to ever understand the phrase "doing church." Let us exalt the Lord together! He is worthy of all of our praise and honor and glory!

Jerry Dodson

commented on Nov 5, 2014

God appointed pastors and teachers to be on the ground. If the congregation listens to a sermon and has a question about something the pastor said, how can they ask him to clarify? He isn't there. What about church discipline, which is the responsibility of the pastor and elders? I don't know why this couple is so anti-authority, but they are. If you look at their past columns, you will see the one about their suggesting that the congregation preach next week's sermon. This shows an utter lack of understanding of the training it takes to be an accurate teacher and preacher. Groups that shut themselves off from pastoral oversight are bringing the ignorance and judgement on themselves that they desire. I can't believe Sermon Central gives this couple a platform to disseminate error on a regular basis.

Douglas Hallman

commented on Nov 6, 2014

Say what you want, but electronic gizmos will never replace a pastor. First, the pastorate is a God-ordained office. He's given no indication that the pastorate will become outmoded until the GREAT SHEPHERD will appear. Second, a sermon on podcast might suffice for the day, but it won't visit the sick in the hospital, help comfort those mourning loss, help give direction to the wayward, be a friend to someone who needs one, marry lovers or give the eulogy and preach the Gospel at a funeral service.

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