There’s a dangerous trend among Christians today, according to one Christian: Podcast sermons are increasingly replacing real pastorship.
“What is dangerous is not listening to podcasts, but thinking that pastoring and shepherding is taking place through this means. There is more to pastoring than the delivery of sermons,” said Trevin Wax, blogger and managing editor of the Gospel Project at Lifeway Christian Resources, to The Christian Post.
Wax expressed his concern this week in a blog post warning of the dangers of podcasts becoming pastors. He addressed the rise of “celebrity pastors” and the many Christians who consider such pastors their most influential shepherd despite only having connected with them through podcast sermons.
Having sermons available through podcasts isn’t necessarily a negative thing, the blogger noted. In fact, Wax said he was thankful for the opportunity to “glean biblical insights from the podcasts available from many popular pastors today.”
But he wants to make this clear to Christians: “A preacher on a podcast is not a pastor.”
A 2007 Barna Group study on evangelicals and technology revealed that digital sermon consumption is popular among Christians. The study found that 38 percent of evangelicals and 31 percent of other born-again Christians had listened to a sermon or church teaching via podcasts. And, at the time of the study, 23 percent of all adults said they downloaded a church podcast in the past week.
Earlier this year, Dr. Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a discussion on “Faith in America” that when he asks young evangelicals in ministry who has been really influential upon them, they mention “a disembodied voice that they have heard on a podcast.”
“Ten years ago, most people would have given me the name of a local pastor who had mentored them and worked with them,” Moore noted, calling the new trend “a very dangerous thing.”
Sharing those same concerns, Wax highlighted the consequences of letting podcasts become the only means of contact with a pastor.
Wax explained to CP in an email, “What would you think if I said that the most influential pastor in my life was Charles Spurgeon? You'd think it strange to say that he was an influential pastor to me because he has been dead for more than 100 years. Can I benefit from Spurgeon? Yes. Can I be grateful for the gift of technology (books) that makes it possible to glean insight from him? Yes. But to think of him in pastoral terms is woefully inadequate.”
Relying on iPod pastors is much like saying Spurgeon “pastored” him, he clarified. “We are to be shepherded by flesh and blood people in community with us in local churches. Podcasting (or reading for that matter) cannot replace hands-on pastoring,” Wax stressed.
Shane Hipps, author of Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith, elaborated on the idea of technology and the church in an interview with Christianity Today. He said Christians can’t escape or resist technology because it’s everywhere, but they should try to understand it before blindly trusting it.
“Christians are quick to critique it (technology) or adapt it or reject it without understanding it,” he said. “My interest is to have deep discernment, to understand the actual power of these things, and then decide whether or not a technology is useful.”
Wax echoed this when he wrote that it’s not necessarily wrong for a church to adopt technology, but it needs to think through “the ways in which a new technology will change the culture of our church.”
Overall, Wax is not anti-technology, but he told CP that any new technology should be considered in light of the ramifications. The church should consider the consequences our technological advances “will have when it comes to fostering community, upholding the Word, and promoting the Gospel.”