There was a time when you had to attend a church to listen to the weekly sermon or become a regular member to hear a choir whose music you really love.
These days, thanks to iPod, you don’t have to actually be there.
A website called GodCast 1000 (godcast1000.com) has been launched to help users “put God on your iPod.”
It bills itself as the largest free directory of Christian music, sermons, video and Bible study on the Internet. It lists more than 500 digital audio files that can be downloaded from the website to a computer or iPod.
On the Internet, the smallest city storefront and the biggest suburban mega-church can compete equally for viewers and listeners. In fact, the church doesn’t even have to be in the United States.
“One of the most popular sites on the directory is preachtheword.com, which are sermons by Pastor David Legge, who is preaching at his church in Northern Ireland,” says Lee Raney, president of Christian.com Media Group Inc., which started GodCast 1000.
“Thirty years ago, a pastor like [Legge] would have to be as big as Pat Robertson to reach people through television and radio,” Raney says. “Now any church can start a podcast and reach people anywhere in the world.”
A sampling of the wide-ranging content on GodCast 1000 includes:
* “Hardcore Christianity,” which features a preacher who wears dark glasses and a backward baseball cap;
* “Jesus Geek,” the spiritual musings of a Christian home-schooling father;
* “Pod Bible,” a daily reading of the Bible by people of all ages;
* Offerings from dozens of Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran and nondenominational Christian churches across the country.
The Rev. Shaun Olsen of the Family Worship Center in McKinney, Texas, an Assemblies of God church in suburban Dallas, says he turned to “godcasting” for the first time last year to reach members of his congregation who travel.
The church’s podcast includes the entire Sunday service.
“We also have hundreds of missionaries attached to this church who are serving around the world in India, Pakistan and South Africa, and that enables them to listen to the service back home. We’ve gotten a great response, especially from the business community.”
Churches are also using podcasts to reach regular worshippers in new ways, says Raney, who adds that churches that aren’t technologically savvy can get help through the website’s Sermoncast program, where sermon tapes and CDs can be converted for a fee to a format that can be downloaded.
Raney, 35, who has both a master’s degree in business administration and a theology degree, said he once considered entering the ministry but decided that helping churches spread the word online would be his path.
“Godcasting is growing very fast right now,” he says. “It’s a business with an emphasis on telling people about Jesus Christ in a variety of ways.”