Online Sermons Causing Low Church Attendance? By BRANDON SHOWALTER

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Declining church attendance is partly
because of basic economics and a
Christian media-saturated world, which
has unfortunately communicated that the
time and place for worship does not
really matter, according to author Skye
Jethani.

In a Friday Signposts podcast interview
with Russell Moore, president of the
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of
the Southern Baptist Convention, Skye
Jethani, author of What’s Wrong With
Religion: 9 Things No One Taught You
About Faith, explained why he believes
that amid the many conversations among
Christian leaders about declining church
attendance, the economic factors are
being ignored. Moore engaged the
author having seen a string of tweets
Jethani has posted outlining some of his
thinking on the subject.
“Every time there has been an
adjustment in communication
technologies it has deeply affected the
church,” Jethani said, adding that
another major adjustment is currently
underway with digital communications
and the plethora of podcasts and
Internet resources tailored for
Christians.
“In the past there was a high demand for
the teaching of Scripture and having it
taught to us and there was a limited
supply,” he noted.<br
The most intelligent person in town
would have the job of equipping people
with a biblical education and people
would show up to one place on a specific
day and time to receive it since there
were such limited options.
“Today, I think the economics are
reversing,” Jethani continued, “where at
any moment I can get access to
phenomenal Bible teaching from a
hundred different sources through my
smartphone, through YouTube, through
podcasts.”
The older model that has been in place
for 500 years since the beginning of the
Reformation made sense at the time, but
in light of such a massive supply,
“showing up on Sunday for sermon does
not have the attractional pull that it once
did,” the author said.
This is especially an issue for
denominations and churches that tend to
focus on preaching as the centerpiece of
Sunday morning, and less so for
sacramental traditions where the
celebration of communion is the
pinnacle of the service.
He went on to say that he does not
intend to undermine the importance of
sound teaching but urged the church to
consider these factors.
Moore pressed Jethani further,
disagreeing slightly, observing that
church people today do not seem overly
saturated with substantive Bible
knowledge.
Moore elaborated that today not only do
many people forego church completely
but many Christians attend sporadically,
perhaps once a month or once every two
weeks and have no qualms about it. And
he posited that if one were to visit a
typical evangelical church today one
would not find so much solid exposition
of Scripture, but talks full of practical
tips about how to live a better life mixed
with moralism and psychotherapy.
Jethani agreed that plenty of “fast-food
Bible teaching” exists, but maintained
that the technology has nevertheless
shifted the mindset of many. The
thinking now is that if one wants to
access anything close to good biblical
teaching, church is not necessarily the
place to get it, he explained.
“But we need to factor in the availability
and the saturation of that content
[online] when we think about why
people aren’t showing up,” he said,
drawing an analogy between shoppers
who visit bookstores and how Amazon
has changed the marketplace.
Moore noted another mindset among
many Christians have about going to
church: that it is primarily about the
downloading of information rather than
a spiritual experience. Listening to
worship songs in the car is
fundamentally different from
congregational singing, he argued.
“I think we’ve lost that sense of what
makes the gathering itself different from
simply equipping me for the rest of the
week,” Moore said.
Jethani concurred, noting that this
mentality is an “unintended
consequence” of an otherwise noble
evangelical commitment to utilizing
whatever media is available for the
furtherance of the Gospel.
“Over the last 100 years as we’ve used
radio and television and the Internet,
and what we have inadvertently
communicated to people is that the
medium does not matter, and all that
matters is message.”
This also happens even in some church
gatherings where parishioners show up
to a specific place to watch someone
preaching on a large screen that may
have been recorded at another location,
and have little communion with those
around them.
“We’ve dis-incarnated.” Jethani
lamented. “We should be people of
incarnation.”
How, when, and where one accesses the
message of the Gospel does matter, he
reiterated.
While preaching on broad themes has its
place, Jethani continued, “there is
something really beautiful and
prophetic, even Christ-like when a pastor
steps out from within a community that
he belongs to and brings God’s Word to
bear on the immediate realities of that
community. That’s what a shepherd
does.”
Such a thing connot be acheived online.
“That takes relationship, that takes
incarnation, that takes presence, it takes
an awareness of what these sheep are
facing in their lives.”
He also advised that churches take an
active role in recommending what media
resources and podcasts are theologically
sound.
Source from Christian Post

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