by whit hazelton
Remember the tape desk at church? I bet your church had one. As a child, I watched the adults drop a dollar or two in the donation box for a recording of last week’s sermon on audio cassette. Maybe they had missed the service, or perhaps they had enjoyed the sermon so much that they wanted to buy a tape for their friend. I remember that the tapes were pretty popular. More than a few copies were made each week for consumption by a small congregation.
Today, many—if not most—churches are either live streaming their services, or making audio and video recordings of the sermon available for on-demand viewing on the church Web site. You’ve probably taken advantage of this convenience yourself. Also, you’ve probably found and shared great Christian content from across the Web, not just from your local church. Have you taken full advantage of YouTube for your development as a Christian?
Every day, an astounding 720,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, providing 1.9 billion users worldwide with an unlimited supply of easy-to-watch, easy-to-find content. Just about everything under the sun is available to watch—whether you want to see a dinner recipe prepared, learn how to change a tire, catch up on your favorite comedy show, watch the news, or enjoy a music video. But it’s also useful for Christian growth.
Have you ever heard The Man in Black read the Bible? You can listen to the unmistakable deep, calm voice of Johnny Cash read the entire New Testament, chapter by chapter, on YouTube. The words are also displayed on screen, so you can read along. Want to learn the lyrics and guitar chords of that new worship song? YouTube. Missed a recent Christian conference, but want to hear the speakers? YouTube. You’ll also find resources like The Bible Project, offering illustrated videos that walk through the narrative of the Bible, channels offering messages from renowned Christian teachers like John Piper, immersive worship experiences featuring bands such as Jesus Culture and Hillsong United, and much more.
At Christian Union Day and Night, we’re experimenting with a “devotional playlist” concept on YouTube. Thirty-minute playlists curated by our staff will provide ten minutes of worship music from top Christian artists, ten minutes of audio Bible reading, and ten minutes of guided prayer time.
The guided prayer segment subtly moves the viewer through “A TRIP” with God — two minutes dedicated to each of the following prayer topics: adoration, thanksgiving, repentance, intimacy, and petition. With quiet background music, the video gives audio and on-screen prompts to switch to the next topic. Longer devotional playlists are also being developed to facilitate devotions of one hour or more. These “devotional playlists” were recently tested as a component of The Great Experiment in November 2019. Participants were e-mailed a link to a fresh playlist each morning during the ten-day period of The Great Experiment. We recognize that while there may be no substitute for quiet time with a paper Bible, or other traditional ways of seeking God, it can be beneficial to worship God in different and fresh ways, maybe as a supplement to one’s normal devotional practice. Perhaps with some improvements and feedback from participants, we will create YouTube devotional playlists for other upcoming ministry initiatives.
Whit Hazelton is the marketing director for Christian Union Day and Night (www.dayandnight.org).