I’m grateful for the Internet. Today, we can share the gospel with others around the world by the push of a computer button. We can also earn legitimate degrees via the Internet and find hundreds of resources to help prepare and deliver better sermons.
On the other hand, I also think the Internet can make preaching more difficult today. Here’s why:
- The Internet allows hearers to compare us with others. When I began ministry 34+ years ago, the primary ways to compare preachers were to read sermons, watch televised church recordings, visit other churches, or order cassette tapes. Church members had to work to compare their pastor with others, but now they can listen to someone else anytime they want. Few of us can live up to the numerous phenomenal speakers readily available on the Net.
- The Internet offers ready opportunities for plagiarism. That is not to say that my generation didn’t face this issue, of course. We did, but via sermon outline books and preaching magazines rather than the web. It’s just easier now to find a sermon online, adapt it slightly, and claim it as one’s own (and by the way . . . it’s also easier for listeners to discover plagiarism).
- The Internet invites the use of bad material. I suspect most of us can painfully testify of citing wrong data and using inaccurate illustrations we found on the Internet. It doesn’t take long for others to do a better Google search than we did and disprove our content. When that happens, our integrity – a non-negotiable for pastors – can be questioned.
- The Internet can encourage less reading. I’m cautious here, because I don’t want to encourage you not to read these posts. J Nevertheless, reading short posts and brief summaries is not the same as reading well-written books that not only inform you, but also model for you good communication.
- The Internet can invite preachers to avoid people. Most of us can be drawn into a web search – even a search we deem essential for sermon preparation – and then spend hours in front of a computer. Email, Facebook, ESPN, and any other number of Internet options can also keep us from the very people to whom we preach the gospel each week. We wind up preaching to a congregation we don’t really know.
- The Internet provides a platform for complaint. Again, I’m hesitant in making this point, as I don’t want to encourage this problem. Any disgruntled church member can now complain publicly – albeit anonymously if so desired – by setting up a website, airing concerns, and inviting others to join in the criticism. Not many preachers can just ignore that kind of public barrage while preparing next week’s sermon.
- The Internet gives our hearers something else to do while we’re preaching. We hope they’re following us in the Scriptures, but we know that’s not always the case. Frankly, those of us taught to emphasize eye contact when speaking to an audience sometimes find it harder today to speak to people whose faces are buried in their phone or their IPad.
So, do we avoid the Internet? That’s not my point. Use the Internet, but do it wisely.
What are your thoughts?