By Jeff Brumley
One of the most pressing needs of struggling churches — good preaching — has inspired a Baptist pastor to launch a company providing a streaming sermon service.
“This is something I have been thinking about for years,” said Jim Somerville, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.
The thinking behind the paid resource, A Sermon for Every Sunday, began as more American churches began to struggle with declining memberships and revenues.
The ecumenical project is aimed at home churches or congregations served monthly by itinerant clergy. It’s also meant for Sunday school classes, Bible studies and individual use.
“I’m thinking about small churches that might not have a pastor or they might have an interim and their preacher is away on Sunday — I want to give them something good,” Somerville said.
That something is a website where a sermon can be rented for $1.99 or purchased for $4.99 from the video-on-demand site. Sermons will be 12-15 minutes long and posted each Sunday beginning Nov. 30, the first Sunday of Advent.
The opening sermon will be delivered by Will Willimon, a United Methodist bishop and former dean of the chapel at Duke University. Baptist Amy Butler, senior minister at Riverside Church in New York, has been contracted to preach as well, Somerville said.
He added he’s unaware of any similar services except those offering mostly audio sermons.
A Sermon Every Sunday is designed to emulate the practice of highly successful multisite churches, whose members worship at satellite campuses and the sermon is beamed in from a central church site.
“I have done some research and multisite churches are growing in America at 14 percent a year,” Somerville said. “That’s a model that seems to actually work but is not available to every church.”
Many of the sermons already recorded were captured at the most recent Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis. That gives customers access to some of the best preaching in the nation, Somerville said.
“I had been to the festival for several years and thought, why couldn’t that come to a church the same way it does for a multisite church?”
Somerville said he has a couple of partners in the new venture, which is not directly a ministry of First Baptist.
“I’m just trying to put it out there and see what happens,” he said.