Sermons on the ‘POD'
Religious leaders are keeping pace with new technologies, using them to reach a wider audience.
The advent of digital music players also gave birth to “podcasts” - audio files that can be downloaded from the Internet. Mike Norton, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Live Oak, has been podcasting his sermons and other messages for the past nine months.
“I do it as an avenue to get stuff out there,” he said. “The word ‘podcast' is new, but the technology itself isn't. The technology has just been brought together in a more automated fashion.”
His interest in podcasting began at a conference, where a pastor friend mentioned how the technology was being applied by large ministries. “My interest just blossomed from there,” he said.
This led him to establishing Gaming Ministries, which targets sermons and devotions to a network of computer gamers. Norton distributes three different podcasts: “Dev 4 Gamers,” or “Devotions for Gamers”; “God in Tech,” a discussion of the uses of technology in the church; and his weekly sermons. All are available online at www.gmpodcasting.net.
Because users can “subscribe” to a podcast, it has a key advantage over posting a sermon or devotion on a Web site. Each time Norton creates a new podcast, subscribers receive the new file automatically when they connect to the Internet.
Norton said he has received tremendous feedback. His daily circulation was in the hundreds before Apple Computer's iTunes software began supporting podcasts. Since then, his subscriptions have increased by 80 percent, and he has received e-mails from people all over the globe, including England and Brazil.
“I get a lot of e-mails from people wanting to get involved,” he said.
When his father-in-law had a stroke on New Year's Eve, he received many e-mails from subscribers saying they were praying for them. “We weren't able to do as many podcasts, but everyone was very supportive.”
Norton isn't the only person in the Yuba-Sutter area's religious community with an interest in podcasting. The Church of Glad Tidings in Yuba City is preparing to podcast sermons.
Currently, a computer user can listen to sermons on the church's web site - www.churchofgladtidings.com - but the sermons can't be downloaded.
While the church has been distributing copies of sermons for many years - as cassette tapes and, later, CDs - the movement toward podcasting is a recent development.
“We're going to add it for the convenience of people who don't want to sit in front of a computer,” said Lou Binninger, the church's community liaison. “It's so that people can catch up on a sermon if they missed it.”
While podcasting allows anyone with a computer and Internet connection to hear a sermon, Norton said he doesn't see this as an excuse not to attend church services.
“We're using these tools to reach out to people,” he said. “Fellowship is one of the largest aspects of belonging to a church, and we don't want to forget the essentials, which are to meet and greet people in person.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Josh Kendrix can be reached at 749-4707. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.