Each year in June the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) convenes for a meeting of business and inspiration. The Pastors Conference kicks off the major events with what is usually great preaching on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesdays the business of the SBC is conducted with some preaching mixed in. In 2010 the meetings were held in Orlando. Like thousands of others, I watched the sessions on-line for free. I was even able to use Twitter to interact with others around the country. (See The Good, The Bad, The Ugly & The Funny at SBC Pastors Conference via Stream and Twitter
Some of the sermons would certainly be worth listening to again or sharing with others. I was not sure about the distribution of these until I came across this tweet from Micah Fries:
micahfries – don’t know what’s crazier – that we can’t get copies of SBC sermons online for free or that the place to purchase them is known as SBCtapes?
Southern Baptists often discuss whether our organizations are stuck in the 1950′s. Fries’ tweet does seem to suggest that we have made it out of the 50′s…but only to the 70′s. SBC Tapes??? The name of the distribution company conjures up turning over cassette tape to hear the remainder of its contents.
To their credit SBC Tapes does provide the sermons in CD audio and DVD video formats. So, even though it makes me chuckle I could live with this. What does trouble me is that the pricing and other constraints make it appear that the content of these sermons is a closely guarded secret. We can’t possibly want people to hear again what was preached or have anybody accessing them without paying a stiff price. Consider these things that I learned from the website distributing the sermons:
1. To listen again to Matt Chandler’s sermon, I would have to pay $9 for a CD or $17 for a DVD. That’s for 1 sermon. Through such modern contraptions like internet websites or iTunes, I can listen to hundreds of Chandler’s other sermons for free.
2. To get the package of all 14 Pastors Conference CDs, I would have to pay $106. The DVDs – $210. Seriously, I’m not making this up.
3. Shipping adds another $2 per CD/DVD (max $10).
4. The website indicates that this is a private ministry. Ministry??? It does indicate that over 50% of the money for Pastors Conference sermons goes back to the Pastors Conference. No such statement exists for the SBC session.
5. Anybody interested in hearing the Executive Committee report again? I seriously doubt it, but if you did you could get part 1 for the $9 or $17. Part 2 would cost you the same. If I was truly sadistic and wanted to watch again both parts of this report, it would cost me $38. Yes, $38.
6. Once you order an item, it takes 3-4 weeks to get your order to you. Are they being shipped from China on a boat? As somebody who does business on line, a CD can be shipped for less than $2 and arrive in 3-4 days.
6. The SBC consists of several million members with about 20,000 actually attending the sessions. Shouldn’t we try to make these sessions as available to our members as possible? Who is actually buying these?
7. Once you do buy a CD, you still are limited in its use. Read this notice from the website:
Please help us protect this revenue stream by not duplicating or uploading any of these messages without SBC Tapes written consent. The Pastors’ Conference thanks you for your honesty and support.
Notice that the sermons of these preachers is now a “revenue stream.” Notice also the switch in nouns in these two sentences. In the first sentence, the revenue stream is controlled by SBC Tapes. In the second sentence it is The Pastors’ Conference that thanks you for your honesty and support.
For those of you with influence in the SBC, this system needs to be thrown in the garbage heap right away. As Fries suggests in his tweet, make them available on-line and without cost. This can be done without incurring any additional charges. No objection to this should exist unless the goal is “revenue streams” rather than ministry.