Fort Mill Times

Spiritual, digital worlds finding harmony

Oversleep and miss Sunday morning church services? Have to work during the 11 a.m. sermon? Enjoy the message and want to hear it one more time?

With many local churches, enjoying the sermon after Sunday morning services is easy to do, thanks to podcasts and audio downloads available on iTunes or directly from the church's website.

Robert Caudle, media director for Lakeshore Christian Fellowship, said that since his church began offering the weekly sermons online a year ago, the need for a CD version of the sermon is virtually nonexistent. Weekly sermons are available on the church's Web site, www.lakeshorecf.com, as a podcast, downloadable on an iPod, or it can be downloaded as an mp3, useable for other types of media players, such as the Microsoft Zune.

About 70 percent of the people downloading the weekly sermons from Lakeshore's Web site are already church members who are downloading the sermon because they enjoyed it and want to listen to it again or share it with a friend, Caudle said. The other 30 percent, he added, are members who have moved away and can no longer attend church or just people from around the country who enjoy Pastor Gil Dirmann and want to hear his weekly message.

Caudle himself said that there are several churches around the country from which he regularly downloads sermons. He uses iTunes to "subscribe" to the church's weekly podcasts, which iPod users can also do with Lakeshore's weekly sermons.

"Obviously, nothing replaces attending a church because you have people to share with. You're never going to replace the importance of being part of a body of believers but as a second thing, anytime you can get the word in at the middle of the week or if you're having a rough week, you can just pop it in and listen to [Dirmann's] message," Caudle said.

Other local churches offer online audio of weekly sermons, including Saint Philip Neri, Grace Church of the Carolinas, Fort Mill Baptist Church and Pleasant Valley Baptist Church.

Skip Torrence, minister of music and children at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, said the church has offered sermons online for about eight months. They average around one or two downloads per hour, he said.

Until recently, Torrence said that the church's Web site was rarely used. Now, the church offers audio versions of the sermons online as well as registration for church events, such as Vacation Bible School. Using technology as a way to reach the community is the wave of the future for churches, Torrence said.

In addition to podcasts and audio downloads of sermons, he soon expects to see many local churches offering live streaming video of their sermons every Sunday online.

"They seem like it's taken a little while for everyone to get used to it but the ones who do go online love it," Torrence said. "It's convenient. If they have to work on a particular Sunday, they can go online and listen at 2 in the morning if they need to. For people that can't make it to church for whatever reason, they are at home sick or were sitting in the sermon and missed a point, it's there."

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