One of the amazing things about the day in which we live is the ability to gather resources for Christian edification and spiritual growth. There are more books, articles, sermons, conferences, and lectures available today than ever before; however, as one professor recently said to me, what has all this knowledge and resources done for Christianity today? How many Christians out there are actually reading books, attending conferences, or downloading sermons? I think his assessment is fair and denotes the legacy of anti-intellectualism in evangelicalism that has spawned a contemptible attitude to theology and Christian education.
Part of the vision behind Blue Collar Theology is to correct this woeful state we are currently in through encouraging theological education in the local church, providing resources and ideas for fellow Christians, and placing an emphasis on doctrinal development for a robust theology. In this post, I want to offer the idea of building a digital library for you and/or your church–one that can be accessed by fellow church members on a regular basis.
This time last year I bought my first MP3 player, a little iPod Nano. Before that time, I had not downloaded a single MP3 song, sermon, or lecture. Although I was quite slow in catching up with the digital revolution, I have worked hard this year to intentionally download resources for my spiritual growth almost on a daily basis. At the current moment, I have nearly 500 MP3’s in my digital library which I try to work through on a regular basis. In recent weeks, I have tried to organize the audio according to various categories, such as:
* Audio Books
* Chapel Messages
* Church Planting
Granted, there will be some overlap in these categories, but they do help me organize my listening in order to either provide balance, or to give specific emphasis (e.g. church planting). As the library continues to develop, more concentrated categories will develop (such as emerging church movement, new perspectives of Paul, etc.).
So you might be ask, “Where do I begin to build by digital library?” Let me offer twelve places to that offer free downloads where you can begin:
1. Desiring God – all of Piper’s messages, all conferences, radio programs (it is just massive)
2. RTS iTunes – numerous entire courses available online (systematic theology 1,2, and 3; church history; apologetics, etc.)
3. Sovereign Grace Ministries – like DG, they have made all messages and conferences available for free (excellent resource)
4. Reforming My Mind – site run by Paul Schafer who does a masterful listing of all available audio on a given speaker
5. Faith by Hearing – great MP3 site with numerous categories for browsing and downloading
6. Andy Naselli’s Audio Compilation – expansive resource center of MP3’s from individual speakers to seminaries and other areas
7. Monergism Audio – over 1,000 MP3’s available to download from the Reformed tradition
8. Covenant Seminary Worldwide – over 20 entire courses available online (via subscribing to podcasts)
9. SBTS Audio – chapel messages, guest lectures, conferences, and professors’ presentations (very good stuff)
10. SermonAudio – tons of sermons and lectures from many popular preachers and professors
11. Mars Hill Audio – although not free (subscription required), this has become a very popular source for cultural analysis
12. ChristianAudio Books – every month, they offer a free audio book (with coupon) that can be downloaded
With all this audio available, Christians who are hungry to grow can feast on thousands of great sermons, lectures, conference messages, or interviews. However, Blue Collar Theology is not content to keep all these resources to oneself. No, we want to think of ways to make them available to as many Christians as possible. One of the ways to do that is to develop a digital kiosk in your church. Let me explain this idea a little more.
If your church has a welcome center or accessible room, you can make a computer available that is dedicated only as a “digital resource library” (like your regular church library). The hardware you would need is a nice sized hard drive, a docking station (for those with iPods), and/or appropriate USB/Firewire cords. In the same way a church librarian has a “card catalog,” you can create a digital MP3 catalog where all audio is categorized by topic, speaker, or genre. All users will be expected to sign a sheet every time they use the library, agreeing to uphold to whatever standards you set. One of the benefits of using a digital kiosk is also to see what people are interested in learning, who is spiritually hungry, and perhaps fuel healthy theological discussion in the future.
Some supplementary ideas would be to highlight a certain topic (e.g. justification), speaker (D.A. Carson), or genre (e.g. audio book) each month, giving attention to areas you deem more important. Also, if you preach on a certain issue or doctrine, you can point members to various sermons or lectures you recommend from the digital library. Finally, if you have a category well-developed, you can burn the MP3’s on a CD and hand them out as an encouragement to other Christians for their own personal study.
These are just some basic ideas of how a digital library and kiosk can fuel Blue Collar Theology. Would it not be a shame to think that some of the greatest sermons preached, some of the most glorious doctrines in Scripture, some of the most imminent saints today–go completely ignored and neglected among the majority of Christians today?! Perhaps if we could make them more accessible, more Christians would seize the opportunity that otherwise would not have been theirs.
What do you think? Got any other ideas how a digital resource library could be used in your personal lives? In local churches?