podcastingAbout two years ago, I started messing around with podcasting sermons.  It seemed a convenient way to both play around with a new technology and archive sermons in an easily searchable format.  I bought an inexpensive recording device by Samson that easily plugged into the church’s sound system and started recording the services and posting my sermons on my own website and on iTunes.


It wasn’t the tape versions of the service that the church of my childhood had issued to all the shut-ins who couldn’t come to church, though that is an important ministry.  Podcasting sermons was a ministry for my generation.  Tired of all the sweaty (mostly male) preachers parading in front of their crystal clear podiums on religious broadcasting t.v., it was no wonder that the term “Christian” had left the taste of sour lemons in the mouths of most young Americans.  If the t.v. preaching pundits had the definition on faith, then the Jesus I followed, who had preached a message of social inclusion and an inverted power of the gospel, would have been ill at home with the first-shall-be-first message on mass media religion.


I wanted to crystalize for my friends, for the good people of my generation, who are marching in picket lines and standing up for social justice that their values and ideals paraded before a crowd of 5,000 around the Sea of Galilee and insisted that people be fed before they could be taught.  It was God’s agent, Amos, who called for justice to roll down like waters, and Isaiah who dreamed an end to the use of weapons of war.  It wasn’t that their ideas to save the earth were new, the problem was that they were ancient.  They had come around again but without the connection to the long tradition of change, and untethered to the life force of God that had surfaced them in the first place.


Podcasting sermons was a way to put a different voice into the mix of religion and media.  It didn’t begin as a service to my congregation, though a few of them have said they appreciate listening to them when they are out of town.  It was a deliberate attempt to put a few more voices around the social media table and share that broader minds makes for better religion.  The beauty of podcasting is that because anyone can do it and it is inexpensive to make, the voice of the people becomes theirs again.  There are no priests of production who intervene for the people, but rather a direct-access-get-it-when-you-need-it-say-it-the-way-you-want-it line to God and ideas about God available in 24k download.  


Now, I’m twice as likely to hear from a woman two states away as I am from a member who listened in because their daughter’s camping trip took them away from Sunday’s sanctuary.  The new employee tells me he listened to my sermons before accepting a position and sometimes forwards them to his sister who has stepped in and out of churches for so long she looks like she’s doing a waltz.  Putting sermons out there for the world to hear means that your parish has just expanded to the size of the internet and the woman in D.C. who contacts me and asks if there was anywhere close to her that she might hear a message like this, shows that tending lambs and feeding sheep is possible anywhere, even across cyber space.


I’m not likely to meet most of the people who visit our church’s website or listen to a sermon on iTunes.  That isn’t the point.  We don’t share the gospel for our benefit.  We don’t preach the Word to fill our pews.  We preach it because it compels us and because speaking Christ to our world is both our call and our command.  On our church’s website the sermon page gets the most hits.  Someone out there is listening.  I hope not just to me.  



Rev. Janetta Cravens Boyd


Rev. Janetta Cravens Boyd is pastor of University Christian Church in Seattle, WA, and interested in how social media is changing church culture.