We are dealing here with what is a matter of principle for me. Only in the context of its delivery is a sermon, strictly, what it is meant to be. If its context in the narrower sense is bypassed to give it a wider audience through print or radio or on a record, then for decades - so far as printing is concerned - I have thought I should insist that it appear only with the preceding and following prayers (both composed ad hoc), because for me this threefold middle portion of an evangelical service constitutes and inseparable whole. Even better, when it is possible on the radio or on a record, we should have the whole service, including the introduction, congregational singing, and the benediction.
Thus the sermon (which is not a lecture) should be kept in its context for the listeners when it is played again. I do not see this as a questionable procedure, but a good one. And I have been assured by many who play the records of that sermon how pleasing it is to them - even if only in imagining the real action - to range themselves with the prisoners, to pray with them, and ... to join in their singing.... At any rate my own view is that if we are to have recordings at all, then we should record sermons with as much as possible of their natural setting.
- Karl Barth, Letters 1961-1968 (T&T Clark, 1981), 37-38As a child of the technological age (and not one who is simply suspicious of it), I find myself agreeing with this. I don't want to condemn or abstain completely from listening to or publicizing sermons, but I do think that if we are going to make use of this medium we do well to keep some questions in mind so that the practice is kept in its proper perspective.
At what point might the publicized sermon usurp or transpose the role of preaching in the local church? How much does preaching taken from a congregational setting lose its meaning or open itself to misunderstanding and misuse? How might congregation-intended sermons change for the worse (or the better) when the preacher knows they will be heard by unknown and loosely connected masses listening in? What happens when preaching is not respected as a one-time event in the context of a community seeking to follow Jesus Christ together, and is ripped from the context of prayers, fellowship, mutual service and local mission?
(See also "All Theology is Local", posted almost simultaneously on another blog, but incredibly resonant.)