“In an earlier age the pulpit has, as one Victorian preacher expressed it, been ‘newspaper, schoolmaster, theological treatise, a stimulant to good works, historical lecture, metaphysics etc. all in one’. But no longer was this so” John Briggs, "From Christendom to Pluralism" in Wright, David, Essays in Evangelical Social Ethics, 1978.
The above quote chimed with me as I'd been thinking a little about how people who go to church are formed and informed in their Christian experience. It seems that - as is so often the case - 'Christian' media is following the 'world' in that there is a growing diversity of information streams/media outlets (of which blogs are a part of) and which inform and shape the average Christian punter. Add to this mix of different media streams 'God Tourism' and one has to conclude that the local pulpit is one voice among many.
Pastor's therefore need to wake up to the fact that their sermon is probably not the only sermon many of 'their people' will listen to. They may have listened to a podcast, watched a DVD like the Nooma series, turned on the God Channel (personally I have a problem with the name never mind the content, but there again I am developing into a grumpy old man), watched clips of church services on YouTube, read a Christian blog or two, and bombarded their ears with CCM. Some of this will be good, some of it poor and some of it bad.
So how are pastors to respond to this? I'm not too sure... but have a few tentative thoughts.
Shepard's not gate keepers. I don't think and authoritarian stance whereby Pastors act as gate keepers barring peoples way is an appropriate response. Pastors need to be Shepard's both helping lead people through the new Christian media age and also equipers helping people grow in discernment.
Respect diversity. Pastors need to respect diversity - there are people in your congregation who every week like to swing from the chandeliers, but they also need moments of quite and thus during the week listen to Taise.
People also need to think about what they are listening to and experiencing. Too much rich food can give you gout, likewise junk food well it tastes great but destroys you from the inside out. A balanced diet is needed.