Free Sermon Resources?
Today’s sermon was all about giving generously. At my church, “we don’t preach on tithing,” says my pastor. Today’s sermon was, in part, about tithing. But it went deeper than that.
A frequent argument I deal with from atheists and other detractors of Christianity is the ludicrous notion that Jesus wants Christians to give up all earthly possessions and live penniless. They aren’t approaching the text from the perspective of stewardship. All gifts come ultimately from God, and God wants us to wisely use these gifts for his glory. The ultimate summary is Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”
The idea is to judiciously use what we have for the good of the kingdom, not to sell everything and live in abject poverty. The trick is that the more we have, the greater the obstacle to true intimacy with God. Or as Jesus famously put it, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:25).
The Eye of the Needle was actually a place in those days. A camel could get through it, but it took a lot of effort and often wasn’t worth it. Jesus isn’t saying that is impossible for a rich person to enter heaven, just that it is going to take much more work than for a poor person. A rich person is expected to give more generously with both time and financial resources to further the cause of the kingdom. Obviously, a poor person doesn’t have as much to give and therefore as much won’t be required.
Bottom line: you can’t be sure of anything in this world except for God. So don’t put stock in material goods–moth and rust can eat and destroy them. Build up treasure in heaven, where nothing can get to it. Material wealth isn’t the same as true security, and we never really possess something we aren’t willing to give to God.
My pastor also stressed a point that I’ve never quite heard put in this way: Since we are no longer under the law, we ought to give more than what is required by law from our heart’s desire to help people. Under law, which we ought to exceed in every way, here is what is required of us to do with the needy:
If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, “The seventh year, the year of release is near,” and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” (Deut 15:7-11, emphasis added)
That’s a nice sentiment. It would be lovely if every Christian gave freely of all of his resources, without thought for recompense. As I’ve stated before, the needs of the flesh are more immediate. People just don’t seek the heavenly things first, not even Christians.
If I were to take over a small but growing church as its only pastor, and I decided to spend most of my time ministering in the community to grow the church and foster community, what about Sunday sermons? Or, if I were weak and/or inexperienced in that area, and needed a little help in that area? What if I had a rockin’ sermon but it just needed an illustration to spice it up and make it more memorable? Is there anything like that available online?
Sure, there’s plenty. PreachingToday.com, WingClips.com, SermonIllustrations.com, SermonCentral.com, and SermonSpice.com all have videos, PowerPoint templates, and archived sermons from some of the big name preachers (a few of whom aren’t heretical!). Despite the fact that these all advertise free sermons, none of them actually have free anything. The usual M.O. is a taste of what they have, but you have to sign up (between $9.95 and $61.39 per month) to download or use anything.
I should note that, so far as I can tell, BibleCenter.com is totally free, but doesn’t have as big a selection of material as the rest (probably on account that it’s one guy doing everything; I can relate to that!). SermonNews.com has only a $39.95 lifetime membership fee. Those sites are the most reasonable I could find. I hope that there are others, perhaps lurking below the top page of Google rankings, that offer 100% free sermons, sermon illustrations, videos, and PowerPoints. But the top ranked ones just don’t.
On top of the monthly cost, a few are brazen enough to ask for donations.
There’s nothing wrong with making money per se, and if you’re good at something then you should make money doing it. I’m a pretty good writer, I think, so there’s no reason I couldn’t charge for some material on this site (indeed, I’ve considered it). But that’s probably not in my best interest, and it definitely isn’t in the best interest of serving the kingdom. I have the mentality that this is a labor of love, not that I should necessarily make money doing it (although that would be kind of nice; I do have a donation tab if anyone feels blessed by my efforts and led by the Lord to contribute).
Here’s the bottom line of this rambling post. I’ve been considering a project that would give away free sermons, sermon illustrations, PowerPoint templates, and videos that are on par with the sites that charge, updated just as frequently (daily in at least two categories)–only everything would be free.
The site would be completely reliant upon voluntary donations and pay-per-click advertisement. I’m not sure how viable such an entity would be, or if I could get any contributors. We could probably pay for some contributors (the really big names; preferably non-heretical), but mostly we’d have to rely on pro bono contributions. As much as possible, PPC income and donations would go to server fees, DNS registration, and social network advertising (as funds allow, run a Google Adwords campaign, Facebook/MySpace/LinkedIn campaigns, and pay for higher listings from major search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo!).
All of it would be licensed under a Creative Commons License (non-commercial/attribution/share alike). That way, we would encourage others to share both the original and derivative materials to make a larger impact than we alone could make.
Maybe I’m just dreaming again, but this is something that the Lord laid on me a while back and I’ve been kicking it around on the back burner. Maybe it’s time to bring it forward to the front burner and see what can be done about it.