How are sermons to be consumed?

I have been pondering how to make accessible a large back-catalogue of sermons. My home church, Hope, has accumulated quite a few, but even more large is the CICCU archive. I began by planning out how to make it more easy to use. Keyword searching and clearer passage lookup is essential to opening up the audio to be found.

(Technically, that would be implemented by running a batch automated transcription, serving those files up to Google using a sitemap which weights them very lightly so they do not show up on public search results, then using the Google search API to grab the results when users type in keywords and display the sermons and their actual content, hiding the automated transcription from the user. There is an example of this in action for the time being at the old Hope site. Do ask me if you would like more details.)

More pertinently though, the big problem is the tiny number of hits sermons on church websites get. Even with their fancy new site design, I doubt StAG gets that many more people listening to their sermons than Eden. There simply is not that large an audience for these resources, and there is just too much fragmentation between churches for there to be an effective way at promoting listening. There are a few churches (like All Souls, St Ebbes) which are famous enough to get good use of their facility, but most will never be able to reach a wide circulation. This makes it very hard to promote and encourage people to listen to sermons, because in general there and too many places to shop around.

To the best of my knowledge, the best places to go at the moment are The Gospel Coalition, All Souls, St Ebbes, and (just opened) L’Abri lecture library.

So, the two large problems are (i) how ought we, consumers of God’s word, actually go about hearing it preached? Is it right to give up on searching through the websites of churches we have heard of, and move on to podcasts, tweets, and other ways of finding teaching? Note that podcasts may increase the number of listeners, but do not at all solve the problem of making old material accessible. Or, is it better that we receive essentially all our teaching from the local church? (ii) For church technology geeks, is there a better way to aggregate and provide search to this material? There are seemingly insurmountable problems in terms of soundness and quality. Few archivists have the wealth of consistently high quality material the CICCU has accumulated.

I still have not thought of a thorough solution to these (nor, it seems, has anyone else). Overall, personal reading and discussion of the word with friends will beat out the words of preachers we have so little connection to. I have too great an affection for the local church to worry hard, but would still like to improve the access and use of good preaching.