The church I serve has begun to put videos of the sermon up on youtube each week. The program has raised some interesting issues.
First, there are the aesthetic questions. We’re using an inexpensive camera (Zoom Q4n) and trying to be as unobtrusive as possible so there is one camera angle with a bit of fisheye to the image. The camera allows an AB or XY microphone arrangement so we tried both to see what would give us better sound. I also quickly learned that a dark jacket works better against the background of the sanctuary. Watching myself also has me thinking about how I move when I'm preaching, what I do with my hands, etc. etc.
The more important questions have had to do with the shaping of the sermon itself. I preach from the lectionary. For those unfamiliar with a lectionary, it is a list of 4 scripture readings for each Sunday of the church year in a three year cycle. The readings include an historic passage (usually from the Old Testament), a Psalm, a gospel passage, and a reading from the letters in the New Testament. The passages are chosen to fit together (in the eyes of those who put the lectionary together) and are intended to go through all of the major themes of the Bible over the three year cycle. More liturgical churches read all four lections each Sunday. Because we’re in the free church tradition, we have no such expectation. Indeed, using the lectionary at all is a choice I make. From the 4 readings, I choose two passages for each Sunday and preach on the second one. It seems important to me that we, who call ourselves Biblical Christians, read at least two passages each Sunday. (many more conservative churches don't really read any passages from the Bible, instead just proof-texting during the sermon to prove whatever preconceptions they already hold). Again, being in the Free Church tradition, I am not compelled to use the lectionary and indeed, there are times when I stray from it. Still, for me, it is a discipline that forces me to preach on passages that I might not choose otherwise and to wrestle with themes that are uncomfortable for me. Of course, I do still pick from among the four readings.
All of that said, I try to choose passages that I think relate to the context of Cambridge Drive Community Church. And I try to construct a sermon that speaks to the issues with which we’re living at the moment. A sermon out there in the ether is divorced from that context and may or may not speak in the same way to someone watching in a very different setting. While Cambridge Drive is by no means homogeneous theologically or otherwise, I can reasonably expect that someone might watch one of these sermons who comes from a very different place culturally or theologically than those sitting in the sanctuary. And the folk in the chairs in our sanctuary know me well enough to know how to take things, when I'm joking, what struggles the passage imposes on me... To what degree do I try to generalize my sermon for those outside? Should I avoid context specific remarks, knowing that doing so might make the sermon less effective for those in the congregation while making it more effective for some hypothetical watcher from elsewhere? Do I downplay the relationships I have with my congregation to make a sermon more general or do I just allow the outside to overhear what is going on here?
I spoke with a friend this morning about those questions and she asked whether my sermons have changed since we began videoing them. I responded that I'm not sure... but I am certainly being more thoughtful about what I say and how I say it.
In any case... the sermons are now up there for any to see... Here's the link to the channel
And here's the sermon from February 5 for an easier look...
Let me know what you think...