Wednesday, 17 January 2007

comedy, entertainment, or pets?

Watch out YouTube users .. something odd is happening.

One of my media-savvy friends, Liz Roberts, has alerted me to the report in Sunday's Telegraph that church leaders are planning to post videos of sermons online.

To hear that "The Archbishop of Canterbury is planning to use the site to broadcast his sermons in an attempt to make the Church more relevant to the internet generation" suggests to me that his advisers don't understand either 'relevance' or 'the internet generation'. Personally I appreciate Rowan Williams' deep, informed and reflective theology, but posting sermons on YouTube seems to me, in cultural senstivity terms, like building a large Victorian church in an Indian fishing village. Or have I missed the point about the genre?

A leading missiologist and practitioner of our time, Ryan Bolger, has research showing (no surprise to many) that people love Jesus, hate the church. And Stuart Murray-Williams identifies
Alarm that we are losing from our churches many former members who are not losing their faith but find church uninspiring, disempowering, crushing and dehumanising. In post-Christendom, institutional loyalty and inertia no longer prevents this haemorrhage of disillusioned Christians.
But it seems 'the church' is not able to hear its own voice. So now, one of the very features that people associate with the church negatively - the sermon - is coming to get them just where they thought they were safe ... in the YouTube playground.

18 months ago Ryan blogged about doing church for 'them'. The sermons-on-YouTube idea looks like doing it to them when they don't want you to.

A Lambeth Palace spokesman says of YouTube "It provides limitless access to what any minister has to say. You have to preach where people are listening." I want to edit that, and suggest that instead of preaching (modelling the old paradigm), you have to allow people to hear about dignity, faith, and wholeness of mind, body and spirit, in ways and languages they can respond to, not through models they have evidently rejected. I'm with Brian McLaren who says in his book More Ready than you Realize:

OUT :
Evangelism as sales pitch, conquest, warfare,
ultimatum, threat, proof, argument, entertainment,
show, monologue, as something you have to do

IN :
Disciple-making as conversation, friendship, influence,
invitation, companionship, challenge, opportunity,
conversation, dance, as something you get to do
Two questions remain for me:
to Lambeth ~ why should it be "what the minister has to say"?
and to anyone ~ do you post sermons under comedy, entertainment, or pets?

12 comments:

Lee hills said...

Great post. i would post it under comedy! I cringe at the thought of hundreds of sunday sermons spilling onto youtube. Like you say Why? On second thoughts how about posting it under horror?

Existential Punk said...

Thanks for being so honest and brave about saying these things! i agree and find it refeshing to read this. Thank you! Adele

Tom Allen said...

Agree that sermons on the net is generally bad idea. I have consistenly resisted recording sermons, never mind placing them on the net because each sermon should be for group of people present - and I rarely find they work in another context - as a great admirer of Rowan I have to say that The ABC and Youtube sounds like the ultimate cultural clash - they plainly have not understood what is happening there.

Gill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gill said...

Thanks Lee ~ ironically, people might actually view them there!

Rob said...

yep. totally agree.
strange idea coming from incredibly poor understanding of culture and quite bizarre advice from people that we would hope would know better!

Juliet said...

Thought the whole point about the net is that the stuff is up there available so that people get to choose what they look at. Gill said herself that " Personally I appreciate Rowan Williams' deep, informed and reflective theology". Does it really matter what website that appears on? Why deny other people the chance to benefit from reading or hearing that theology and making their own minds up about it? Culture clashes all the time, I like that tension. As someone who doesn't go to church, but does read "sermons", if thats what you want to call them, on the net, I'd be sorry if they weren't available. I don't care what site they appear on. People don't have to read or listen if they don't want to. But I do think it would be interesting to see the established church leading the way sometimes, instead of tripping over its feet running to catch up.

Mike said...

There may be a different way of looking at this--which may admittedly be very different than the motivations of some you mention here.

You can't dictate what YouTube is. Its a means to an end. Its different things to different people. Its whatever I say it is.

If there are 2 people from the congregation who wanted to be there on Sunday but couldn't, and they can watch the sermon on YouTube, then fantastic. That's what YouTube is, for those people, on that day.

You Tube isn't anything. Its a means to a million different ends.

Paul said...

Top post Gill. Rather than sermons on you tube I wonder what contextual mission would look like in second life?!

Gill said...

Juliet - interesting to hear your view - thanks.
Mike - the application you're talking about sounds fine to me too. The Telegraph article suggested a different motivation, and one that seems wrongly focussed - but Juliet's comment suggests otherwise perhaps ...

jd said...

I'm with Juliet on this one. As soon as you start placing limits on who can post on Youtube or the Net, you begin creating the next uninspiring church model. Check out RLP here:
http://www.reallivepreacher.com/
Not sermons, but ... I don't know, sort of funky talks. Any rate, if this guy isn't cutting it for you, why not do something better?
Having said that: really glad you opened up this can of worms.

Gill said...

Thanks jd. Sorry if I've given the impression that this is about limiting who posts on YouTube. For me it's about 'if you (the message-bearer) want people to hear you, find the appropriate style/medium/culture for the things you want to say'. Jonny Baker puts it well in his blog.

btw I very much like your thought-provoking post Who Knew? on good and happiness ...