This is a guest post by Rob Bentz. He is the author of The Unfinished Church: God's Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress.
Vitamins vs. Meals
I love to listen to a Timothy Keller sermon. I’m challenged by a Matt Chandler message. I’m intrigued by a Rick McKinley teaching. These three pastors teach God’s Word faithfully, focus on the power of the Gospel, and do it through the most culturally relevant means available—the podcast or via online video.
When I listen (or watch), I get to learn from their fresh insights into biblical texts. I have the privilege of hearing their thoughts on culture-shaping issues of our day. And finally, I get to consider how the text becomes applicable to my day-to-day life.
These are all really great things. All are helpful for my personal faith journey. Yet, listening to a podcast or watching an online sermon is the equivalent of taking a vitamin—instead of enjoying a healthy, well-rounded meal—purely supplemental for my walk of faith.
We Need More
I need more. You need more. We need more than a weekly listen of a great podcast from our favorite preacher—we need the church! You and I need the people of God. We need the consistent face-to-face interaction with other Christ followers. We need other men and women on the journey. We need other believers to speak truth into our lives. And they need us to do the same.
At its core, the church is a group of called-out, redeemed Christ followers—recognizing each other’s place in God’s unfinished church—living in authentic, honest, forgiving, grace-giving community. It’s not something that can be downloaded to your desktop or uploaded to your iPhone.
Listening to Jesus
Jesus himself beckons you and me to engage more deeply. He invites each of us to be part of a unique community that he is creating—not stand apart from it.
Consider the words of Jesus in John’s gospel,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
Jesus tells us that love is the signature of the Christ follower. Love is our mark in a world crying out to be loved and to see love in action. Love is the one primary thing that God gave us to represent Him. How can we model this if we are participating in a podcast church without anyone to love us or anyone to be loved by us? How can we grow in love if the only person we engage with is the individual in the mirror?
The role of the podcast sermon in our culture is undeniable. To avoid it or downplay its value would be silly at best—ignorant at worst. Yet, the most inspiring and intellectually challenging pastor’s sermons cannot take the place of the people of God in my life and the people of God in yours. They are a mere supplement for the Christ follower’s real experience of God’s church.
Rob Bentz (MDiv, Reformed Theological Seminary) is the pastor of small groups and spiritual growth at Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Rob has written numerous articles for various ministry websites and is currently a featured blog writer at ChurchLeaders.com. He and his wife, Bonnie, have two children and live in Colorado Springs. He is the author of The Unfinished Church: God's Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress (excerpt).