Sometimes you hear of a brother via an interview or you hear his name in a conversation. You want to know more about him so you visit his church’s website. After looking over the doctrinal statement (if one is posted), you notice the Bookstore tab. You say to yourself, “this will tell me something about the brother, right?” Certainly you can get a handle on where he is by what he recommends or encourages his people to read, right? Then it happens. You click the Bookstore link and what do you find? Not books, but sermons — everything from old series to other speaking venues to conference messages, etc. You expected a good assortment of books, and instead you get sermons for sale.

Now look, Carter and T (that’s Tony Carter and Thabiti, folks), I don’t know how you brothers feel about that, but to me it’s rather frustrating. First, because the tab read “Bookstore.” To go there and not find one book is misleading at best. Then to be inundated with sermons for sale, the whole thing for me is quite uncomfortable, but the selling of sermons is what bothers me most even when the tab reads “Online Store.”

Let me tell you why, and then I would like your perspective on it. Well, first of all, there’s the selling of recorded sermons, and I stress “recorded” because I am aware of and own many sermon manuscripts that are in book form. To me there’s a huge difference between recorded sermons and those written. Selling a recorded sermon seems dated to me. The cost of recording is minimal; posting the recording on the web for sale costs no more than it would to offer it as a free download. Most websites I have been to are churches where the brother receives a salary. So if this is a necessary revenue stream for the church, perhaps a little financial management is in order. Secondly, the work has gone into the message in order to preach it; there is no additional labor on the part of the preacher, unless editing is an issue. If editing is that costly perhaps it should not be offered outside of the congregation it was meant for. So in my mind, since the pastor is salaried, why charge for the message? It’s been paid for. Maybe I need some help in my perspective, so I’ll yield and let you brothers weigh in.

T: LOL. Hey Lou, I feel you. My biggest critique with selling sermons is that it feels like selling the gospel–which is free! I can’t think of a good reason why a brother would put his sermons behind a pay wall and call it “spreading the gospel.” Call it marketing your goods, building a business, etc. But don’t call it spreading the gospel, which is what every Christian should gladly and generously do. Our Lord says “freely you have received, freely give.”

Carter:  Lou, I understand what you are saying.  Yet, the church may be better served by some of these sermons not being freely available. If they are not preaching the gospel, limiting their availability is a good thing. Still, for the ones who are faithful and yet have not progressed to posting sermons freely, I would encourage them to do it, if for no other reason, so I can listen to them. I need all the help I can get.

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Louis Love

Louis Love

Louis Love serves as the lead-pastor of New Life Fellowship Church in Waukegan, IL, which he planted in 1997. Before the church plant, he served as the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and New Life Baptist Church. He’s been joyfully married to Jamie for forty-one years. They have three adult children and eleven grandchildren. Louis is a co-founder of TheFrontPorch.org and a contributor to the book “Glory Road: The Journeys of Ten African Americans into Reformed Christianity” (Crossway, 2012).

25 Comments

  • Avatar james says:

    To Pastor Love and Pastor Thabiti,

    For clarity sake, since we are on the porch, when using the term “brother” are we speaking of AA clergy or all clergy? For example, ethnically referring to a brother or in a Christian sense referring to a brother?

    (By the way, I’m not trying to setup for a whole “they do it too argument”. Just an honest general question)

    Specific question: Pastor Love, is this a preference and pet peeve or is this something you consider a sin?

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey James:
    In this case I’m referring to all who sell their sermons. Across the (ethnic) board, I’m uncomfortable with the practice. Although I’m like Carter, it’s probably a good thing that some of the messages are set behind this restriction.

    I would consider it more of a “pet peeve”. I think it’s probably not the wisest practice, but I would not label it a sin. I would counsel young men who I have the privilege of training not to do it. I think it is an unnecessary hindrance to the spread of the Gospel.

  • Avatar Ian Turner says:

    Just from one brother to another brother.

    Just weighing in here (on this “A and B” conversation). I think “brother” isn’t always an infallible “either/or” pronouncement of ethnicity or christianity, but sometimes colloquial communication, phatic speech (not to say this is how the pastor used it above). Not all communication is propositional (contra the logical positivists of the 1920’s; thanks John Searle, 1960, for setting us straight on this with Speech Act theory).

    Also, I think it isn’t necessarily “either/or” “pet peeve” or “sin.” Can’t there be a third choice (or a fourth?) like “pastoral concern?”

    I think Romans 14:23 adds some texture to the “either/or” binary approach to things. “Everything that does not come from faith is sin…” If they’re selling their sermons in faith or not, etc. If I’m writing this comment in faith or not, and so on and so forth.

    Perhaps there are often more than just 2 dimensions to things, especially as scripture shines light on this or that situation.

    But anyway, I’m just some iron trying to get sharpened, brother.

  • Avatar george canady says:

    As I was reminded the other day I am a part of the “beyond” mission of this site not to be confused with the other “brothers”. However, I am here to remind these guys that what effects my black brothers effects me because we are one. If we all think this way, how can an all white elder board exist in a mixed congregation?

  • Avatar James says:

    Hey Ian,

    I think you read waaaaaaay to much into my comment friend. lol

    Just because I gave two options doesn’t mean I believe these are the only two options. I never said these are the only two options. My question would have been too long if I wanted to use the whole semantic range on the word “brother”.

    For example: When I take my young ones to McDonalds and ask if they want a hamburger or cheeseburger and they reply they want fries: they know and I know that ham or cheese is not the only thing on the menu or their only option. Just the only thing I mentioned because of their usual preference.

    Same as with the pet peeve or sin. Pastor Love could have answered “neither” that would have been fine with me. That’s an argument from silence to assume that because I gave two options that I believe there are only two options. I never said that, friend.

    However, Ian you seem very knowledgeable and I am interested in where you stand on the selling of sermons? How would you assess the practice?

    To Pastor Love: I am very intrigued by your article. If you could discuss what would be your concerns overall in selling from a website or from a church, that would be most helpful.

    I grew up in an AA church with fish fries and chicken dinners being sold & then went to college and attended Anglo Calvinist churches where they were having garage & rummage sales. If you could share your thoughts they would be most appreciated.

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey James:
    I grew up in an AA church too where selling was the thing. I think an example from my early days as a Pastor of a traditional AA church would help you see where I’m coming from.

    A dear sister in the church who was one of the lead singers and directors of the choir approached me one Sunday. She was also a part of a singing group that traveled the city circuit of concerts, singing programs, etc. She requested the use of the church building for a chicken dinner sale in order to purchase uniforms for her group. I explained to her that it was not my decision as pastor but I did have a proposition for her. We went through the expense and time (all day) it would take for she and her group to sell chicken dinners for a net profit of approx. $200. They had five members in the group, therefore I suggested they save their energy for singing and each just simply give $40. Her face dropped, she had never considered giving, she only knew (from her upbringing) selling. She took my advice and she never (to my knowledge) engaged in the selling at Church again. BTW, she also became one of our most faithful Bible students which gifted singers rarely are in our churches.

    Needs for ministry are met by God’s people giving. This to me seems to be the biblical paradigm. Individuals selling personal items in order to give is also is encouraged, cf. Acts.

    Bake sales, Chicken, Chitlin, and Fish dinners, car washes, rummage sales (on Church property), etc. leave a bad taste in my mouth. I’d rather teach the folks to be sacrificial givers rather than motivated salespeople, cf. 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2nd Cor. 8-9. I cannot not hold to this while selling my sermons online, it’s a double standard.

    When it comes to sermons for sale, I’m like Thabiti. “My biggest critique with selling sermons is that it feels like selling the gospel–which is free! I can’t think of a good reason why a brother would put his sermons behind a pay wall”.

    I hope this helps James. Do you have any good reasons why a brother would sell his sermons?

  • Avatar Ian Turner says:

    Thanks for the response, James.

    Apologies if you felt I was reading in too much. I think part of it is just getting to know one another and know each other’s nuances more, which is a challenge across a digital barrier. I’ll consider myself sharpened brother!

    I assure you I am far less knowledgeable than it seems. What I do need to get more knowledge about is this: “knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1).

    But about selling sermons, I think a pastor should examine his motivation in doing it (Romans 14:23 connection) but at the same time assess the community impact of it (Rom 14:16 connection). If my motives are clear, but the community is writhing, I need to reassess. If the community acclaims it, but my conscience condemns my impure motives behind it, revealing that it is not issuing from faith, but an inflated sense of self-grandeur, I need to reassess.

    Wondering if there are other scriptures that shine light on this.

  • Avatar james says:

    Thank you for responding Pastor.

    You wrote “Do you have any good reasons why a brother would sell his sermons?”

    I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NONE!!! Matter of fact, my pastor disdained the practice so much that 7 years ago he made it one of our questions at ORDINATION!!! I was reading Warren Wiersbe’s “Answers to Pastors’ FAQ’s” and one of the things he asserted was “usually when entering a church before you take a fence down; find out why the fence was put up”. This article was extremely helpful. Factoring in my age and cultural background I have never known the selling of sermons to be anything more but self promotion. Helps me understand why the fence was up in the first place?

    Thank you for sharing your example. When I entered the pastorate, I did not use the tact, reasoning or patience you displayed in addressing the point of selling. I’m learning not to “kill a fly with a sledgehammer” now. So I appreciate your example.

    This article has been very helpful and so have the responses.

    One last question that is off topic. (If you feel the need
    to delete I understand, I don’t want to hijack such an excellent article and wonderful responses) This fall, Nicolas Cage is starring in another “Left Behind” movie. Eschatology is not a doctrine that is explored in AA churches much, at least not in my circle of fellowship (Ohio
    Baptist) Our Church is hosting a Bible conference on eschatology this fall. As Wiersbe emphasizes, not being
    on the Lord’s planning committee but being on the Lord’s welcoming committee. Would you guys consider writing an article on this subject? Where you guys stand? Why you guys stand where you stand? Ect. ect. Most AA churches I know our usually dispensational, I am not, but most are.
    I have not heard too many AA pastors or churches discuss eschatology. Your input would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you Pastor

    3rd John 2

  • Avatar james says:

    No apologies needed; We on the porch man:)

    By the way, I didn’t thank you for directing me to the conference notes, so let me say thanks again.

    I do have a question however. Say the community of believers or your local congregation is not opposed to you selling but the overall tone from local unbelievers is one of disdain how would you respond?

    Just wondering what our balance should be to losing are witness with unbelievers or having unbelievers dictate our actions.

    Thanks and congratulations on your son!!

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Oh my goodness, brother, eschatology?? I actually love the subject and wished it was preached/discussed more, especially in the AA church with so much unchallenged dispensationalism going on. I’m sure the brothers are reading this exchange and we’ll see what happens.

    Thanks for hanging out with me on the porch, my brother.

    By the way, where are you in Ohio?

  • Avatar james says:

    WHAT A BREATH OF FRESH AIR!!! I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO LOVED IT AND I ALSO AM A RECOVERING DISPENSATIONALIST! LOL

    I am in Dayton, Ohio and serve at Ebenezer Baptist Church. I am glad to hear you love the subject!! I need all the feedback, push back and understanding as possible. As I was preaching through Revelation last year, I started off as a dispensationalists but changed around chapter 4. I was listening to a preacher on 1st Thess. chapter 4 and he remarked “that’s a pretty loud secret trumpet”. PASTOR IT HIT ME LIKE A TON OF BRICKS!!! Then I was reading another commentary that said “last trumpet” in 1st Cor. 15 referred to church age trumpet??? Things didn’t add up. I had to change my hermeneutic midstream. The church was excited and understood!! So with this upcoming movie, just like Heaven is for Real, I know that it will illicit a number of questions.

    So I say again: ANYTHING YOU GUYS CAN ADD TO THE SUBJECT WOULD BE GREAT!!! Suggested books, authors, posts, your own sermons(hint, hint)

    Thanks again pastor

    This is soooooooo helpful!!!

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey James:

    Our 2013 Bible Conference was on Revelation 19-22. Here’s the link. Pastors Carter, Anyabwile and Jones, broke it off.

    http://newlifevh.org/ConferenceAudio2013.html

    Our audio works best using Internet Explorer.

    In studying Revelation, I’ve been helped most by Dennis Johnson’s “Triumph of the Lamb” and G. K. Beale’s Commentary on Revelation in the NIGTC series, just to name a few.

    This is also a good resource for commentary help:
    http://www.ligonier.org/blog/top-5-commentaries-on-the-book-of-revelation/

    If it enters your mind to start selling your sermons, make sure you only start with Revelation 4 and following 🙂

    Hope this helps.

  • Avatar james says:

    “If it enters your mind to start selling your sermons, make sure you only start with Revelation 4 and following :-)”

    HAHA!!!! THANKS PASTOR!!!! LOL!!!!

  • Avatar Ian Turner says:

    Hey brother.

    Thanks for the congrats! It’s awesome to be his dad.

    If the congregation isn’t opposed but local unbelievers are opposed… I don’t know.

    To be honest, I’d probably ask Pastor Love for counsel on what to do! But I suspect in response he’d forward me the link to this article, in which case I would be reading this very comment, opening up an endless feedback loop with catastrophic consequences!

    But really. If unbelievers were interested in the sermons, I would give them out free… or if I absolutely had to sell (no choice), I would reserve a section on the website for 20 or 30 free sermons (the rest being for sale), like Keller does here: http://sermons2.redeemer.com/redeemer-free-sermon-resource

    As a personal preference, however, there is something about selling sermons that just does not sit well with me (or is that the quesadillas I just had?). I guess I couldn’t do it with an unencumbered conscience.

  • Avatar James says:

    Pastor Love,

    Would you mind if I emailed you a copy of our conference schedule? It will be more of a teaching conference that will allow q & a. Your input and suggestions would be much appreciated. (It’s only a single two sided word document)

    Thanks

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey James:

    No problem, would be glad to help out anyway I can.
    church@newlifevh.org

  • Avatar johannesarcher says:

    and why are Christian song writers demanding royalties when their song gets sung in a Church on sunday ?

  • Avatar Holyname Neal says:

    I as a lay person don’t understand what you are asking.

  • Avatar Holyname Neal says:

    Thank you sir for being a up standing man of God, and No I don’t believe in selling sermons that the Holy Spirit has given to you to make money off of them, did Jesus not get on the religious people about selling in the house of God? them why would we do what Jesus told us not to.

  • Avatar DréAn says:

    Gentlemen, Since I started preaching in 2007, I’ve posted mine on my blog. Admittedly, I have purchased a few sermons for download from a respected preacher in the past. I thoroughly enjoyed them. What about churches that sell CD/DVD of the service that day?

  • Avatar Stanley Herrod says:

    Well ,I feel sermons come free from God and should never be charged for and i have been preaching for 28years and if anyone ever liked a sermon I preached and wanted the outline I would freely give them a copy with no hesitation. It makes me feel like pastors are accepting what the are told not to be given to and that is filthy lucre.

  • Avatar Mark says:

    Hi I am studying 2 Corinthians and have found that Paul encountered “false” apostles peddling the word of God. They would only preach when paid. Paul had to defend himself to the Corinthian church because he supported himself in order to preach. Those false preachers laid into to Paul because of who he was, what he was about and his motivation to disseminate the gospel. A modern equivalent is people charging for their summons. I really can’t see any moral/ethical ground for charging money for sermons other than covering costs of the editing and materials (eg CD or USB sticks). As preachers of the gospel we have no right to sell what God has freely given.

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