LONGMONT — Web sites offering completely manuscripted sermons and other preaching resources are popping up on the Internet.
SermonCentral.com, PreachingPlus.com and the newly launched PreachingStandard.com, with two local pastors as contributors, say they help church leaders sharpen their preaching skills with the research to back up the word of God.
So are these online tools strengthening ministry leaders? Or are these Web sites cheapening a pastor’s individuality?
“In a few cases, (ministry Web sites) have been abused by those who didn’t have the self-disciplines to spend time in the word and reflection to prepare a fresh message,” said the Rev. Alan Ahlgrim of Rocky Mountain Christian Church in Niwot.
“What we fail to realize is that, almost without exception, every leader, every speaker draws on resources from far and wide.”
Ahlgrim and the Rev. Rick Rusaw of LifeBridge Christian Church are contributors to PreachingStandard.com, an online ministry Web site created by Cincinnati-based Christian supplier Standard Publishing.
The site, which is offering a 30-day free trial membership, went live Nov. 30. An introductory one-year subscription costs $40.
The Web site promises four new sermons each month, eight “illustrations” such as an anecdote or joke, book reviews and news articles that a preacher can search by topic, contributor or Bible passage.
Darrell Lewis, vice president of marketing for Standard Publishing, said the site is meant to inspire and mentor pastors, not spoon feed the pulpit.
“This is a place where someone can look at what we consider a distinguished group of preachers and follow their sermons, what they’re reading, what they’re using to keep up to date,” he said. “It’s really just a research tool, like how a student would use the Internet.”
But plagiarism can occur with Web content, whether it be a high school term paper or a Sunday sermon.
Lewis, Rusaw and Ahlgrim stressed the online ministry sites should be cited just as any research. All three said they would be surprised if anyone would outright plagiarize a sermon posted online.
“The intent,” Lewis said, “is that the Bible is obviously the foundation for what they’re speaking about.”
PreachingStandard.com, unlike other online ministry sites that allow anyone to post their work, uses the anthologies of a select group of 19 pastors from all over the United States and Canada.
“A pastor will bring their own personality and perspective into it. They know what works for their congregation and how it needs to be presented,” Lewis said.
Rusaw, who posts his works on two other ministry Web sites, said he spends eight to 15 hours on a message and plans his sermon topics up to six months ahead.
“If I read other people’s works too much, I end up not being too original,” Rusaw said. “For me, it’s about my own journey.
“People are looking for authenticity today.”
Ahlgrim said Web sites like Preach
ingStandard.com can serve as a catalyst for young pastors and time-
pressed preachers in small communities.
Both Ahlgrim and Rusaw said these ministry Web sites are a reflection of media-savvy ministries.
“The standards (for sermons) are way higher,” Ahlgrim said. “We are competing with the finest communicators in the country. It’s unbelievably challenging.”
Rusaw agreed: “The message doesn’t change. That message of grace or hope or relationship with Christ doesn’t change. The way it’s delivered is changing.”
Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.