Online Sermons, Consumer Culture and the Local Church

Time to read: 3 mins

The internet has brought us a world of instant gratification. When we want to contact someone, we WhatsApp. We order something online and it arrives the next day. We have a question, we Google it. Most of this from the portable computers we call our phones.

The same goes for sermons. If we want to hear a sermon on a particular text or topic, or from a specific preacher, we can search it out online and watch or listen to it there and then.

There are many positives to all of this. It’s a blessing to have so many tools at our fingertips. It’s brilliant that churches can broadcast sermons right across the world, particularly to places where church attendance, the Bible and preaching may be illegal. For us, it’s fantastic that we can access so many sermons easily, anywhere, anytime. We can listen to something specific or focus on a particular topic of interest.

However, we do need to be cautious. Not everything about our instant access lifestyle is positive. Are we in danger of approaching sermons with a ‘consumer culture’ mindset, and through this lessening our appreciation of the local ministry week by week in our churches?

Here are three questions to ask ourselves:

1 – How do we select what to listen to? Do we stop and pray that what we choose will be God’s message for us and listen to it carefully? Or do we use online sermons as a quick fix in the same way as we use Google or YouTube? It’s easy to pick a favourite text or a subject that interests us. We must be careful not to forget that through the preaching in our local church, God might have a specific message for us at a particular time? Of course, he can use online sermons to bless us, but if God has placed us in a local church, then the preaching there should be the primary way we learn and grow.

2 – Do we appreciate our ministers? When we listen to sermons online, it is easy to turn to a favourite minister, or to the current popular preacher. However, what about your pastor, or the minister preaching at your church next Sunday? They may not be as great a preacher, or as well-known or whatever, but they are still God’s servant, with a calling to preach the Word. They will have worked hard in preparing the sermon. Do you appreciate them, with their efforts and prayers for you? Do you pray for them, that God will help them and use their ministry in your life?

3 – Have we lost touch with the importance of the local church? God has called believers to gather together in smaller local assemblies for corporate worship and fellowship. These days, we can get great spiritual blessing elsewhere. The problem with this is that perhaps we no longer grasp just how vital meeting together is. Even if we have not stopped going to church, have we stopped praying for the services as we should? Even unintentionally, we can lose sight of the blessings of meeting with our brothers and sisters in Christ, of bearing one another’s burdens, of rejoicing together, of joining together in the worship of God.

Don’t get me wrong. Christians have always benefited from books and printed sermons. There has always been a place for conferences and so on. Watching or listening to sermons online is no different, and is a fantastic resource for us today. However, the local church and the local ministry, as Christians prayerfully gather together around the Word, has always been a central part of a genuinely healthy Church.

[A00115 – 11/07/2019]

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