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Monday, January 16, 2006

Preaching the Virtues of iPod

Ipod I'm interested in your first impression of this story, from KRISTV.com.  Let me know...

HOUSTON -- A Houston pastor is putting a new spin on Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPods, telling his Baptist congregation that the simple gadgets contain a religious lesson: Life can also be simple.

"The reason the outside of the iPod is so simple to use and so beautiful to look at is because of the way they designed the inside of the iPod," Metropolitan Baptist Church Pastor Sal Sberna told his congregation Sunday during his second of four sermons on "iPod Theology."

"All you do on the outside is push the little button, drive the wheel and pick what usefulness you want out of your iPod," he said. "And so when Jesus talks to us about simplification, it must start on the inside."

Sberna said preaching about the hugely popular iPods has helped attract people who otherwise might not attend church. The tens of millions who own iPods translates to a huge potential audience for his Sunday sermons, he added.

"I am always looking for something that a majority of people can relate to," he said.

Sberna, who has two iPods, isn't shy about his vision of reaching a younger, professional audience with hopes of increasing his 4,000 member congregation to 20,000. He'd like everyone in his congregation to own an iPod with a goal of one day offering his sermons through podcasts.

"When I go to iTunes, I select all that I want. When I go to Jesus Christ, he gives me all that I need. It's that simple," Sberna told his congregation Sunday morning. "Why have you not bought one of these things. These are so cool. They cost a little bit of money, but they are worth the money. Let me tell you something about salvation, it's free but it's not cheap."

Apple brought in a record $5.7 billion in sales during the holiday quarter as it sold 14 million iPods _ nearly three times as many units as it did in the same period a year ago.

Sberna, 47, says he owns no stock in Apple, but has become a fan of the company's creative yet simple approach.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling did not immediately return an e-mail or phone messages left Sunday by The Associated Press.

"The first sermon on the iPod, I really didn't know what an iPod was," confessed 69-year-old Darrell Runyan, who has attended the church for 17 years. "Now I know. I think it's good."

Sberna said he uses his iPod everyday to listen to music, other pastor's sermons and audio books. He said iPods have become a part of daily life for so many, making the gadget a relevant reminder of Christian values, including living simply and refraining from judging others.

"When I am sitting here and I am rocking out with my music ... you don't know what I am listening to. That is between me and the iPod," he said. "That's between me and God. That's between you and God. All I can be responsible for is myself."

Runyan, who doesn't own and has no plans to buy an iPod, said Sberna's sermons are a "great approach to bringing the word to each one of us every Sunday."

"He is a very gifted pastor," Mark Walkingstick, a 60-year-old who joined the church last month with his wife, said of Sberna. "He has the ability and the blessing to be able to take a message from the word of God and relate it to everyday living. That's what he's done with the iPod."

iPods, which come in a variety of sizes and colors, can hold personalized libraries of hundreds of songs, photos and videos.

"That's such a neat thing about the iPod _ it can be intimately yours," Sberna said. "And that is the neat thing about God."

FOR DISCUSSION:  Well... what do you think?

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January 16, 2006 in Senior Pastors | Permalink

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I fail to see just what Sberna is worshipping, God or iPod. I also get nauseous when I read that people will use anything for Church growth, as if a large church means a good church. If Sberna wants to increase a congregation of 4000 to 20000, shoudn' the first 4000 be worshipping the right thing first?

Posted by: Paul | Jan 16, 2006 6:57:52 AM

Yeah, I don't have enough information, but it's possible that he's gone a little too far, taking a very decent sermon illustration and turning into an entire series, one that ends up being "all about me".

And there's a WHOLE lot of negatives you could use the iPod to show, like it's all about the "i" in iPod, in other words, "i" can structure things any way "i" want to. It's all about me. That's not following Jesus, it's following the "i".

And what kind of goal is that to go from 4000 to 20000? I hope his goal is to make disciples. I'm all for growing your church, but putting that kind of arbritrary number on it... I don't think so...

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Jan 16, 2006 8:55:51 AM

i think the metaphor of simple on the outside starts with what's on the inside - but then it's stretched to cover all kinds of things and loses its punch, i think. putting too many allegorical eggs into one metaphorical basket.

Posted by: rick | Jan 16, 2006 9:03:20 AM

I guess I'm not as cynical. I say whatever it takes to reach our generation for Christ. He may have been mis-quoted. We need to lighten up. I think it's pretty creative!

Posted by: Kevin | Jan 16, 2006 9:12:47 AM

Creative, yes. Worth spending four Sundays on, I don't think so. Shallow Christianity won't make a church grow Spiritually, though it may get the numbers.

Posted by: Deana | Jan 16, 2006 10:28:35 AM

Awesome use of a common earthly object to relay some great spiritual truths: Living a simple life; all we need we find in Christ; salvation is free, but its not cheap; and being responsible before God for your own life! Wow!

Sounds a lot like the way Jesus used to teach. Anyone remember the parables?

Its Monday folks...lighten up.

Posted by: Art | Jan 16, 2006 10:59:18 AM

Shallow? Worshipping iPod? All about me?

You've not heard the sermon (presumably), you don't know the true context and you don't know how it was received by more than a couple of the older congregants (who are quoted as liking it, by the way). Yet you draw these conclusions? How is that possible?

If you don't like a method, fine. But don't dismiss something that is working for someone else as "shallow", "worshipping iPod" or "all about me" until you have all of your facts. Todd asked what do we think about it - and that means we must engage our brains and think about the concept. It isn't an invitation to make such baseless allegations against that pastor or that church.

There's nothing wrong with disagreement. In fact, it can be quite helpful if you then say, "I don't like this, but I think it could work out well if..." or "I'm not sure about this concept, but I do think a different approach could be..."

Instead of just giving us accusations, engage in the conversation by giving options and concepts that you think would HELP. Anyone can sling sticks. Building with them is the harder part.

Posted by: Anthony D. Coppedge | Jan 16, 2006 11:41:59 AM

The iPOD, like computer or TV, can be used for good or bad, and abused. It's up to you.


Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Jan 16, 2006 11:48:02 AM

>>Creative, yes. Worth spending four Sundays on, I don't think so. Shallow Christianity won't make a church grow Spiritually, though it may get the numbers.<<

Why do so many people assume that using a hugely familiar item to capture poeple's attention and bring them to a place of hearing the message of salvation equals "shallow Christianity?" I have spent almost a decade serving in two megachurches, and what I find is that most people hear of the "point of entry" methods used by many progressive churches, but know nothing of their commitment to the discipleship process. The forward-thinking churches that I personally admire and learn a lot from have very focused and effective means of taking people from a weekend experience into a deep and growing relationship with Chirst.

Lesson: Do your homework and know what you're talking about before you form an opinion and express it.


Posted by: Mark | Jan 16, 2006 1:43:12 PM

Using commonly known objects as sermon illustration points is nothing new. After all, that's what Jesus did.

Why have I not bought one of those things? I have plenty of access to good Christian music, news, and talk programs through local radio stations. These radio stations do more than just load me up with the music I want, they actually expose me to music and information I may have otherwise been unaware of. Sure, there is Biblical admonition to live a simple, uncomplicated life in Christ. We are also admonished in scripture to be educated, well-informed, not to be overly isolated from society, to be part of the political system, to be salt & light. When we only pick & choose that which we want to hear, we may miss what God is trying to tell us altogether.

Posted by: Dubld | Jan 16, 2006 2:20:14 PM

I haven't heard the sermons so I amy be off base, but I am not sure that purchasing a $400-$500 gadget is the kind of simplicity that God is asking from us. The simplicity that is promoted in the scriptures would actually lead me to not purchase such an item. If he is saying we should be simple as the iPod is simple, okay. But it appears from the article he is saying that buying an iPod is a way to simplify your life. I would take exception with that line of thinking. I would also hope that he did not actually say he wanted to grow the church from 4K to 20K by preaching catchy sermon titles. I am going to assume that is not what he meant.

Posted by: jim | Jan 16, 2006 3:00:16 PM

1st you can buy an i-pod shuffle for $99. Second, everyone is judging this guy without hearing his message. I think it is cool. Check out their website http://www.themetonline.org/index.html

We don't need the church police questioning every pastor and church's motives. If we don't like it, then don't go to that church. I praise God for creative people like Pastor Sal Sberna. I learn how to communicate better by hearing how people connect with lost people.

Posted by: Kevin | Jan 16, 2006 3:45:34 PM

I stumble on this through a search and may be late on my post. As a member of Sal's church, please allow me to make one thing PERFECTLY clear. Sal is totally about evangalism. His heart to grow the church to 20,000 people is about bringing 20,000 people to know and have a relationship with Christ. The idea behind doing creative sermon series is that he is trying to reach what is a very visual and technical society. The days of reaching people by turning to Hymn # 238 are over. Sal does not preach anything that can not be substantiated by the bible. Last time I checked there is nothing in the bible about worshiping iPods. (at least not in my bible) If you are ever in the area of NW Houston the Met family would love to have you come and visit!!

Posted by: Jeff | Jan 19, 2006 3:37:14 PM

I think he's brilliant. And, him wanting to go from a congrigation of 4000 to 20000 is wonderful. That means he wants to bring 20000 more people to Christ. Take the thorn out of your own eye, before you try to pick the thorn out of someone elses eye. Go Pastor Sal! You're doing a great job!

Posted by: Roxanne | Jan 29, 2006 9:18:00 PM

If Salvatore wants to preach to 20,000 why doesn't he go on into full time evangelistic work. He certainly isn't a PASTOR . The scripture says " Feed My Sheep " .. I assume He meant all my sheep not just the Hip Hop generation

Posted by: Vic | Feb 8, 2006 3:43:43 PM

Pastor Sal's approach to the Word of God has caused great division within the congregation. If he wants to do his own thing rather than honor his original calling at the church he serves, then the right thing to do is turn in his resignation and start up a non denominational church.

Posted by: Bill | Feb 8, 2006 7:39:19 PM

Wow...you read these posts and the impression is...

1. A church that dreams to be large is not focused on discipleship...
2. The pastor's emphasis is on shallow Christianity...
3. Setting specific goals (number of souls you want to reach/disciple) is not spiritual...

Anybody thought to ask how many people gave the hearts to Christ during this series?

Posted by: Randel | Mar 13, 2006 2:44:33 PM

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