To post, or not to post, a sermon? #cnmac11

One of the challenges I received through the Christian New Media Conference last month was from Bishop Alan.

Bishop Alan suggested it wasn’t necessarily wise or useful to post sermons online.

He also said that if we do, we should shrink the general point of the sermon to an abstract of 150 words or less, and remember that sermons are a live encounter with God – what people remember when they hear it preached it is what is important.

I can see his points, definitely preach to a specific community or congregation, and who am I to argue with a Bishop!… Except that a few thoughts have been niggling at me over the weeks since:

  • I can post a sermon on the blog faster than our techie team can edit the recording and post it on the church website, where there is no current way of having a discussion about it among members of the church;
  • By blogging it, I can then post the link on Facebook where a large group of my friends are church members. In the past there have been a few occasions where this has provoked further discussion of the an idea. It also opens up the sermon to those who may not have been able attend that particular service but are following say, a sermon series.
  • Similarly in the past I’ve had absent colleagues preaching in a sermon series checking up on me to see where I got a ‘story’ or idea to, either to debate a point or before taking it on the next week themselves!
  • If anyone else finds a sermon I’ve posted useful, either for their own walk with God, or to inspire them in their own preaching, then that is as it were, a grace-full bonus and up to them, and God. That’s how The Text This Week has built up a following (a resource promoted by our Reader Training/DDO tutor).

So I think I’ve decided that posting sermons is not a complete waste of time. All I need to learn to do is take that little bit of extra time that is required to write an abstract of it – which is probably not an unhealthy exercise for any preacher who wants to check their message is clear!

Oh, and having created original illustration for this post – another of Bishop Alan’s great key points – I better go and photograph the bottle of champagne I used as a sermon illustration for the sermon (see photo) I preached yesterday! 








  1. Richard Feynman on being taught how to draw and paint:

    I noticed that the teacher didn’t tell people much (the only thing he told me was my picture was too small on the page). Instead he tried to inspire us to experiment with new approaches. I thought of how we teach physics: We have so many techniques – so many mathematical methods – that we never stop telling the students how to do things. On the other hand, the drawing teacher is afraid to tell you anything. If your lines are very heavy, the teacher can’t say “Your lines are too heavy,” because SOME artist has figured out a way of making great pictures using heavy lines. The teacher doesn’t want to push you in some particular direction. So the drawing teacher has this problem of communicating how to draw by osmosis and not by instruction, while the physics teacher has the problem of always teaching techniques, rather than the spirit, of how to go about solving physical problems.

    So do argue with bishops, especially the ones who lay down the law regarding something that’s an art and not science. Nor dogma.


    • I like this quote, and think it’s quite helpful. It sort of makes the question “is a sermon a science or an art”? Yes, when we were taught to preach we were given a series of different techniques, but were then taught to use and adapt them as appropriate to different preaching contexts, subjects and to us, so that our sermons reflect our own personalities and styles as well as being based on scripture (perhaps scripture is the canvas from which we build)… which means that I think sermon writing is an art.

      What was perhaps less helpful was the way I seem to have given the impression that Bishop Alan was ‘laying down the law’. I don’t think anyone at #cnmac11 did that, just made suggestions for how and why we operate as Christians in social media, for us to discuss and debate – which is of course what I’m trying to do.


      • I totally get that – the only absolute in social media is that there are no absolutes; when people talk about abstract-only postings there are scores of bloggers who only write essays; those who decry “cat-blogging” miss the joy of being personal, and those who mandate blogs-as-conversations-with-comments can check DaringFireball which lacks them.

        As with other aspects of life – morality, religion – “hard and fast” rules of communication are generally founded from a narrow perspective, and best avoided in favour of doing what is most effective for the people at hand.


  2. I enjoy reading your sermons, especially when there has been some prior blog thinking, because then it is part of a conversation. But there is a question then about who is in mind as the sermon is written (sic) As I think about this a bit more, I wonder if the discipline of posting a sermon might divert from the growing confidence and discipline of preaching without a full script. I couldn’t post a sermon because I don’t (usually) have full scripts on the computer – some listeners might say that this means too many sermons are not as carefully organised as they could be and have not been cut enough, and they would probably be right.
    But preaching is an encounter; it is something that happens between preacher and congregation, and depends on the Holy spirit. Being able to speak to the people there without a word for word script is part of that (of course, I realise that what is posted may not be what is preached).
    So what sort of life does a sermon have after it is preached? As a blog entry? Stored as potted tongue on the computer for emergencies(I have some of those but I don’t think I’ve used them verbatim)? A a record of where you/I was in my thinking or what seemed to be needed to be preached to that congregation? Or is it in the lives and prayers of those who heard, when years later they say:
    “You know that sermon you preached when you said…” and you have absolutely no memory of saying anything like that. But that is what they heard that day, which is what matters.
    As to whether you can contradict a bishop – of course you can as long as you choose the right context and the right bishop!!


    • I think it is wonderful as a new Licenced Reader to read intelligent and meaninful sermons.
      There is so much rubbish on the internet. How so many Vicars have the audacity to think their sermons are worth a read is beyond belief (if you pardon the pun!). Do keep posting please!


      • Bless you, I have indeed continue to post my sermons, and now I am recently ordained I will do my best not to produce any that are beyond belief!


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