No one can question the dramatic rise in the use of sermon podcasts amongst Christians. It is a peculiar epidemic which has swept through the Christian world at an astonishing speed. The access to the most gifted preachers the western world has to offer is a great blessing to the church and no doubt for the cause of the gospel.
And yet there remains an undercurrent of negativity from many quarters towards such rampant use of podcasts. It has brought into question the relationship between the preaching of the word and the local congregation. It questions the way that the Bible is brought to bear on the lives of individuals. In one of the great ironies of the whole movement, preachers such as Mark Driscoll are lauded for their relevance to the hearers, despite preaching from a completely different context. Is this because if your hearers can put up with you speaking for an hour, you are able to say more things and thus appear to be more cued in to the listeners lives? Is it because most local preachers aren't thinking deeply on the context in which they are explaining the scriptures, and thus are preaching dry, dull sermons distant from the local situation and concerns? Is it simply a matter of giftedness, that if I could have Eric Clapton as my guitar teacher for free online, I probably would look less favourably upon the balding middle-aged failed rock musician down the road who charges $22.50 for a half hour lesson?
Should it concern me when I read blogs and notice that some people reflect deeply and often on what they have heard from Keller, Piper, and Driscoll and yet rarely mention their local minister? I understand why this happens. These men are great preachers. Personally, I learn a lot from these guys and they are inherently quotable. And it's not just because bloggers are particularly internet savvy and so more likely to listen to sermons online, the phenomenon of quoting from podcasts is common in conversations after church and in weekly small groups.
The jury is still out in my mind on how to approach the rise in Godcasting. Perhaps like so many things it is equal parts good and bad. Maybe it is an inherently good thing, and simply used unhelpfully.
Will it be long before we begin to hear public warnings as the word of God is preached in my local gathering, to beware of listening to too many online podcasts? No one wants to go there at the moment, because it looks as if the preacher is protecting his own little empire. And yet it might just be time to start reflecting upon the potential negative aspects of being overly pastored online. Then again, you might already be thinking "Unlikely. My minister is so culturally detached he wouldn't even be aware this might be a problem."