Following on from the previous post about the dangers of MP3s, it seemed appropriate to pass on some suggestions for how to think about the vast array of online materials. Here are some things to avoid.
1. Don’t feed yourself garbage. Not everything online is helpful or right. There’s a lot of rubbish out there. The internet has led to the democratisation of publishing. In the past there used to be controls to filter out the trash. Not any more. Now any idiot can stick stuff on a website. Broadly speaking you knew what you’d get from a particular publishing house. We haven’t got that luxury online. And so we need to know what we’re going to be feeding on before we go ahead and stick our snouts in the trough. If we gorge on rubbish then it’ll have a detrimental effect on our spiritual health. You’ll find a few recommendations here. Select with discernment.
2. Don’t become a devotee. Every preacher has his strengths and weaknesses. Carson is great on theology, Keller on social analysis and Lucas on expository preaching. But they’ll also have their pet subjects. Mark Driscoll was accused of only preaching on two subjects; sex and Jesus. When asked why he said he loved them both! We need to know what we’re getting from the guys we listen to. It’s sensible to listen to a healthy variety of preachers. Mix it up a little. At the risk of gross over generalisation, the Brits are good expositors, the Aussies are good on theology and ministry and the Americans are good on apologetics and cultural engagement.
3. Don’t disparage the average. Don’t make unfair comparisons with your local congregational pastor. You’ll discourage him and grow dissatisfied. If you have an issue with his style, content or whatever, pray about it, reflect on it and with humility go and talk to him. Pray that he makes his critics his coaches!
4. Don’t treat them like the silver bullet. Audio sermons are not the key to unlock the secret of the Christian life. Jesus is. They’re really helpful, but then so are Christian books. And so treat them like Christian books. Listen to them, reflect on their content, make notes, evaluate them and respond to them.
5. Don’t ditch the quiet time. Don’t let listening to sermons become a subsititute for personal study of the scriptures. On the northern line commute, it may be easier to open up an audio file than open our Bible. That’s understandable. But don’t let downloading talks through our personal computer replace downloading God’s word through our personal study. Ensure you find another time to dig deeply into the Bible’s treasures.
6. Don’t become an irritant. Don’t spend your life irritating your pastor or your small group by endlessly quoting material that you’ve heard from one particular source. We believe things because God has taught us in the scriptures not because Tim Keller said it!
7. Don’t forget to apply it. Listen not to increase your familiarity with biblical truth but to stimulate your faith and repentance.