Online Sermon Audio

I started writing this as a post on the Shepherd Conference thread regarding the lost audio of the conference, but then I thought it deviated too much from that thread, so here we go:

I’m not a pastor/preacher. I’ve preached two sermons. One was an utter disaster. The other found an appreciated hearing among the good people of the Untied Church of Christ in General Macarthur, on the island of East Samar in the Philippines. Long story.

Anyway, a conference is not a sermon, so this question may not apply to the conference audio in question, but…

I guess I question the wisdom of recording/publicly airing or making available sermon audio. This is not something I have a strong opinion on and welcome dissenting opinion. (I’m probably wrong actually.)

A sermon is not a book or an essay. It is intended to be spoken and heard. It is a message, a proclamation that “goes out” to the ears of the listeners. It has its effect on their hearts and minds. The Holy Spirit uses it. Sometimes - as in the parable of the seed - the effect is not wholly “good.” But after it is spoken and heard it passes from existence.

Unless you record it and publish it. Then it is present for posterity, for a long time, though not - I would argue - eternally. Every message, every communication, has its context. The context for a college biology book is different from that of a love letter. The context of a sermon is different from a college or seminary lecture or a TED talk. It is a specific pastor preaching to a specific group of people who live life together and share a lot of experiences, assumptions, etc. Someone who listens to it at another time or place does not have that context. This doesn’t mean the sermon is contentless or meaningless. But it does seem to change the content.

So is it wise, is it prudent, to publish it “for all time.”

This is different than recording for personal use of the pastor or congregants or especially members of the church who are unable to be in attendance. And I realize also that Covid made it prudent, at least temporarily, to hold church services online via streaming. Thats a different question than mine.

I only ask if anyone has thought through the wisdom of routinely publishing weekly sermons delivered to local church bodies. To me it seems questionable and is growing toward ubiquity.


I personally find it hugely helpful, finding pastors I trust on issues and listening to their exposition of a passage. I like to read. I enjoy reading commentary on Scripture. But I have more commentaries than I have time to read, in actual practice. I generally will teach/preach at least once a week, and much of my preparation involves listening to men I trust exposit the text. I respect the honored tradition of our reformed forefathers, laboring half a work week or more on occasion to craft a message, but the varied responsibility of a jail chaplain simply doesn’t afford me that kind of study time. I wish the inmates I care for all had thriving connections to solid local churches with pastors who put serious time into the word and into the flock. But almost none of them do, and none of them have easy access to that in jail anyways. They have me, and my local volunteers. And so many of them, I like to think, are huge beneficiaries of countless recorded sermons at second or third hand.

Edited to add, obviously I know my “flock” somewhat better than the aforementioned recorded preachers, but the applications in jail are somewhat truncated, just as the potential for care is truncated and limited in an ER as opposed to family practice doc.


I’ve thought off and on about not having our audio online. Then we started live-streaming. And it happens just often enough that people who can’t be at church get to at least watch, that I think we’ll keep doing it. But we don’t save the video or put it on FB or Youtube or anything like that.

I know there are tradeoffs. People do tend to get their teaching from other pastors today in a way that is unhealthy. Nevertheless, I think on the balance that it’s good to have the audio of the sermons available. I would rethink this in situations of heavy persecution, obviously.


I don’t want our people to make a practice of using sermon audio as an excuse to forsake the assembly, granted—but I love that the Christian message is public and not secret. “For this has not been done in a corner (Acts 26:26).” So I like sermon audio. We don’t hide what we teach, it’s right out there.


We intentionally don’t livestream, but we do make sermon audio available so members can listen to it again, or hear if genuinely unable to attend (shut-in, illness, travel.) We’ve found that there isn’t a good way to privately distribute sermon audio that isn’t cumbersome for the average church member, so technically anyone can listen to it instead of attending church. I suppose our hope would be that over time, the Word preached would convict someone trying to use them as a substitute for church.


I’ve given some thought to this over the years. Definitely seems to be pros and cons.

One thing I really don’t like about recorded sermons is that they can become a cop out for actually ministering one to another. There’s a difference between sitting down with a brother or sister and bringing the word of God to bear through living, breathing, conversation, as opposed to “you should go listen to this sermon.” The ministry that is supposed to be happening as we break bread together in our homes is replaced by internet sermon consumption.

It’s just another example of how the information age has in many ways been an enemy of church life. I don’t think it’s irredeemable, but we should be aware of all these dynamics, and be zealous to protect the interaction of the saints.

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A few additional concern:

  1. In some situations a pastor, especially a rising star, can be tempted to address their sermons, and possibly their ministry, beyond those in the pews of their own church. It is tempting to put the attention where the most ears are available.
  2. Congregants regularly listening to sermons from celebrity pastors are prone to underappreciate, or even denigrate, the preaching of their own pastor. Often it isn’t the content that is at issue, but it is the dynamic and polished presentation skills.
  3. Likewise, inexperienced ministers will be prone to adopt the styles and conventions of celebrity pastors. Sometimes a young minister may not have the skills to put together a solid 45 minute sermon every week, and he would better serve his congregation with a 25 minute sermon while he is expanding his skill set. Also, it can lead to a conformist preaching style where everyone is copying the big names.
  4. Last, and most important, I think the whole culture of celebrity pastors has some pernicious elements. When conflict bubbles up, congregants are quick to pull from their favorite celebrity pastors and use their words, positions, style, etc. to attack their own minister. Also, it is another in a long list of ways that the church follows secular culture, raising up superstars to devote ourselves to.

Any thoughts?


I guess I don’t see a massive difference between sermon audios today and the printing of sermons in the reformation and post-reformation eras. It’s part of helping the sermon have a greater impact…not just beyond the flock but also in the congregation. Perhaps especially in the congregation.

Where I serve the members of the congregation regularly listen to the Sunday AM sermon throughout the week. I’ve never been a part of a church that itself, the membership, makes such good use of the sermon recordings, on a regular basis. That’s on their own, without the pushing of the elders. The congregation really prioritises the word preached each Lord’s Day, then seeks to use what was preached Monday-Saturday. I think that’s a good thing, and audio files are a huge help in this effort.

All the things @CWD mentioned are true, but I think they could equally apply to our preaching of sermons or our congregations’ reading of others’ sermons or our involvement in blogs.

From my perspective, pastors should deal with our own hearts and egos in preaching (and have a transparent relationship with our elders so they can see our sinful ambition) and develop a biblical affection between shepherd and flock, and the potential issues of sermon audios dissipate significantly.


All well-stated.

As to point number 2, something I’ve been very grateful for over the past several years is to learn more and more clearly the sharp contrast between “preachers” and pastors. Ivory tower theologians who condescend to give an oration once a week, versus shepherds loving sheep with dirty hands.

When compared to the celebrity preachers, my pastor’s preaching is mediocre at best. But I have come to love and esteem the work of faithfully, pastorally, kneading the word of God into one’s own sheep higher than I do the work of preachers who powerfully unfold the word of God in the realm of the abstract only.

That isn’t to say that I believe there is no place for “itinerant” preaching and teaching. I am very thankful for books I’ve read and sermons I’ve listened to over the years. But I am as convinced as I’ve ever been that the faithful, hard, dirty, unimpressive work of no-name pastors is where the Lord finds delight.


This piece has a lot of overlap with the megachurch phenomenon. It’s clear to me that churches of > (say) 1000 are going to have a really hard time fulfilling the Bible’s vision for a local church. It’s clear that the megachurch model was very much the exception historically (Spurgeon and …?).

So what, then are we to do with those who are very, very good preachers? If I understand correctly, Piper’s church tried to church-plant-as-crowd-control, but people just kept coming to hear Piper preach, so they moved to a multi-campus model, which has its own Biblical problems IMHO.

Technology, including the automobile and the microphone, poses lots of questions for the Church.


When I read the Old Testament, as a repenting dispensationalist, I try to draw analogies between my context and the context of the Jewish church, to keep it real. The people of Bible times really were very similar to us, and us to them.

When I read the prophets, there is some “foretelling” of the future that it’s hard to find an analogue for today, but it seems to me that most of prophetic literature is what they call “forthtelling.” It’s preaching. It’s preaching to the conscience of God’s people. I’m reading old sermons.

The office of pastor today combines aspects of the old priestly office and the prophetic office, while also differing from both. The analogy is not perfect because there are discontinuities between the Old and New Testaments. Work with me, here.

Read William Perkins’ short book The Art of Prophesying. Banner of Truth publishes it. It’s not only a book about preaching, but about pastoral ministry and biblical interpretation.

My pastor knows me and the congregation I am in. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt as if he were speaking directly to me, but in reality, it may never have crossed his mind. That’s because preaching today is the gift of prophecy. God acts in preaching through the Holy Spirit to apply His Word to us personally. It’s no dead letter, but living and active. That is true both of preaching inside the church and street preaching.

I don’t know what all was entailed with being a prophet during Old Testament times. We know that prophets ran schools and trained other men. Did they have congregations they regularly ministered to? I’m not sure, but it’s not far fetched to me. We know at least Ezekiel was a priest as well as a prophet.

The prophets are inspired and our pastors are not. There is a lot of context that we miss as we read the sermons of the prophets, since we are not the original audience. In principle, I don’t see a problem with reading or listening to other mens’ sermons.

I say this though my practice doesn’t match what I’m saying. I have the Sermon Audio app but havent used it the past few years. I listen to Spurgeon, Sabie and Cox, my own pastors and elders.

That’s Joseph Spurgeon, but Charles Spurgeon chases my daughter around sometimes.