Brothers, Stop Selling Your Sermons!
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.