And yet as I have pondered the blessings of the “on-line sermon” I have also become aware of a few detractions.
The Minister has, as his first calling, the immediate needs of his own flock set before him. Act 20:28 says, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Lloyd-Jones discouraged the publishing of a sermon for reading for two practical reasons. First, he believed that each message belonged not to the whole universal Church, but to the immediate flock before the Preacher. The message was designed for their edification and up-building, and conversion, not for others. The sermon comes as a prayerful answer to the needs of a particular flock. It is a letter of love to them (as it were), from the Holy Spirit, by the agency of a personal pastor. Secondly, Lloyd-Jones did not like the printed sermon because it inclined the preacher to develop his sermons for publication and not for preaching. To him this killed the sermon as a unique specimen of divine agency. And this poses a real danger to the minister who has one eye on his flock, and one eye on publication. Invariably he becomes tempted to preach beyond his flock, and preach for the masses.
Likewise, with the “on-line sermon” I think there is a temptation for the preacher to forget who the Lord has set him among. It opens up the real danger of thinking too much of one’s own ability, and succumbing to the notion that our pulpit ministry deserves a wider audience. Now it should be understood that certain men do deserve a wider audience simply because they are brighter lights who’s gifts should be shared with as many as will hear them. However, there are many preachers on SermonAudio (for example) that ought not to be there in my opinion. Their sermons are more a demonstration of weakness in the pulpit than strength. Yet because the technology is accessible, for some reason they feel it ought to be used so others can hear them. This comes, I believe, from an overinflated sense of self, and one’s own ability. The truth is, the Christian Church has been furnished over the centuries with “blue collar” pastors (I use such a term respectfully). I include myself in this category. We are not an overly gifted sort, but we have been entrusted with the care of 50, or 100, or 200 souls with the tools we have been given. This makes us useful in hand of the Lord in a specific way. We are not the brightest lights in the catholic Church, yet we have been entrusted to care as shepherds over a specific flock. And the Lord blesses this isolated work. What makes us think that others, beyond our sphere need to hear our words? I wonder if ambition, pride, and the ready availability of publication creates in many, an unhealthy desire to go beyond what rightfully belongs to a very select group of hearers? I refer back to Act 20:28 “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.”
From this vast “publication of mediocrity” stems another problem in my mind; the dissatisfaction that arises from the discovery of the truly gifted preacher. How many times have I visited with a member of some congregation, and heard him laud the preaching of an “on line” preacher and lament that his own Pastor was not more like him. Imagine listening to Sinclair Ferguson or Maurice Roberts all week on the drive to work and then sit under the ministry of a blue collar preacher on the Lord’s Day? We should recognize that the “on line sermon” has the potential of creating an apatite in the church for only the best in the pulpit. “Why can’t our Pastor preach with more fire and passion? Why can’t he plumb the depths of a passage like Rev. _______?” At this point we find a depreciation of the ordained gospel ministry in our midst, and unwittingly, Christ’s own work among us. Further, it has the potential to encourage the hearer to find a better preacher than the one we have, or even consider staying home.
Am I suggesting we stop listening to the great preachers of our day? God forbid! We do however need to be able to identify some of the pitfalls of this technology as well as the blessings. Each congregation that has a minister, has him in Providence. As such, he is a gift from the Lord whether he has 1, 2, or 5 talents.
Just some thoughts to ponder.