Podcasting Church 101106

I’ve had an idea for a book in my head for a few years now. Since there is a challenge afoot, I started, November 2, 2010, to write that book. This blog will contain the very rough draft and I hope I’ll get a chunk of it out this month. No guarantee I’ll write everyday, but I hope this won’t be the last entry.

Why you should (and shouldn’t) podcast.

From time to time, I’ll hear someone say something like, “You shouldn’t try and get someone to believe in your faith.” That always struck me as odd. Inherent in the statement is two contradictory ideas. First, what any person believes is so important that you should let them believe it. Second, what a you believe is so unimportant that you shouldn’t care if someone else disagrees with you. For a Christian, this makes no sense. We feel like God Himself has asked us to tell people about Him. Because He’s so wonderful, it’s something that most of us want to do.

When the Good News was first taken around the known world, there were certain advantages that it had. The Romans had built a series of roads that were both extensive and generally safe. There as a common language–Koine (or Common) Greek that everyone spoke. There were pockets of Jews in most major cities, so people had heard of the concept of a single God.

Today, the internet is a series of roads that allow generally safe transfer of information. People tend to know English or are able to translate from it using tools like Google Translate. The proliferation of American media throughout the world means that many people are at least peripherally familiar with some aspects of Christianity.

Since the missionary call is so central to Christianity, it’s natural that new communication media be used to spread it’s message. This has always been the case. The codex form of book is thought to have been invented for non-linear (unlike scrolls) access to the scriptures as well as easy concealment from the authorities who were unhappy about the spread of its message.

When Gutenburg invented the printing press, the Bible was the first and most often book printed by it. Early films often included Biblical and moral messages. Radio and television often included recorded messages from nationally know pastors and local church services. With cable television, came public access further democratizing the delivery of messages which were in often local churches.

Now, many churches have internet campuses and most have websites. The barrier of entry is so low now that a recording of a message can become a podcast that can be heard anywhere in the world in minutes.

So should your church podcast? Maybe. This probably sounds opposite of where it might have sounded like I was leading you. It really shouldn’t. Let’s rewind to right before the invention of moveable type and the printing press. Making copies of books was so expensive in the old days that only the best books were copied. If I wanted a copy of a book, I had to have someone make a copy by hand. This could mean months or years of their life.

This changed with the printing press. A person could get a copy of a book in hours or days. This meant that less valuable books could be made. You don’t make a book on pregnancy when someone has to spend months or years copying it; you ask a few ladies who’ve been pregnant and call it a day. I’m not saying that’s not a valuable subject, but that it’s easier to ask other people than to get a copy of a book on the subject. After the printing press, it was easier to print books on different subjects and many would be printed because they could be, not because they should be.

We have that kind of problem today. Look for blogs on any subject. You’ll find them. They’re dedicated to disc golf and red-headed women’s eyebrows and toenail fungus and car spark plugs. It costs virtually nothing to make content. The democratization of media means the problem isn’t too little media. It’s too much.

Public access television suffered the same problem. Often churches, intent to get the message out, would repurpose their service without changing anything. It often was poorly taped with poor lighting and sound. Since these stations were mandated by law, but not funded, they often had substandard or older equipment so the quality of even well-made video still would often suffer. Whatever the cause, the message suffered by association.

I fear that new media could suffer the same fate in a decade when the how is much less prohibitive. There will be a time when technology will be as uncontroversial the codex book form. Since the cost of distributing media is so low, churches that do harm to the message may not hesitate to send the media out nonetheless.

This is a cautionary note, but it should be treated as such. Most people who will read this book should do their best to be creative in distributing the Good News. Love should compel us to tell others about how incredibly good God is and how much Jesus loves us.

If love motivates you and you’re willing to do a little more, to try a little harder, in the hope of reaching someone that no one else can reach, you should podcast. Like the book or the printing press or film or radio or television, the internet is powerful. It enables you to communicate with people that you couldn’t normally talk to in places and times that you couldn’t go.

If anger, hatred or judgmentalism motivates you, please don’t share that with a world that expects it. Please don’t reinforce stereotypes. Please don’t.

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