Sunday Sermons, No Longer Unplugged

Many Christian clergy are turning to non-traditional methods to give their Sunday sermons a more contemporary feel. NPR's Michele Norris talks with Nick Fatato, senior pastor of the Boston Worship Center, who searches the Internet for interesting downloads, including songs, interviews, and video to use in his services.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Back in this country, Easter sermons are often a pastor's best chance to impress potential new members of his or her church, people who show up on Easter, but don't attend services regularly. In the past, preachers went to the bookshelves to help shape their messages. Many still do, but an increasing number have found inspiration from the internet in the form of religious podcasting or they call it Godcasting.

They download theological lectures, sermons from other churches, as well as short films and music. Nick Fatato is one of these savvy clergymen. He's senior pastor at the Boston Worship Center.

Pastor NICK FATATO (Boston Worship Center): You know, when I walk down downtown Boston, two out of five people have white things coming out of their head, headphones from iPods, and I thought there's got to be a way to do that, to get some information there. The church, traditionally, has been, you know, plays catch up with technology, and I just felt like we're going to jump up and try to grab it. It's a whole different way to come into community.

NORRIS: So is it a case where you keep your iPod on shuffle and you hear a piece of music, and somehow, a lyric or something, I guess a thought that that music inspired will find its way into your sermon.

Pastor FATATO: Yeah, exactly, I was probably at the gym because that's about the only time I have time to listen to my iPod, and I heard this song. It's called Dare You to Move. Ever since I heard that song, I thought, man, that's a message.

(Soundbite of Switchfoot's Dare You to Move)

SWITCHFOOT (Rock band): (Singing) Welcome to the fallout. Welcome to resistance.

Pastor FATATO: Switchfoot, I think they're a pretty hard-driving rock and roll band. That particular song, Dare You to Move, there's a part of it that just says, you got to live for something more than this, and I think all of us kind of think about that a lot, and so I started listening to the song, and actually, I was walking home. I jotted down a couple ideas, and it resulted in a three-part series. I called it Dare You to Move, and I would play the song each service, and then I would talk about how it led me to pieces of scripture.

NORRIS: So how did the audience respond to that guitar-driven rock and roll on a Sunday morning?

Pastor FATATO: Typically, if you throw a piece of video or a song, all of a sudden, everybody sits up because we're a visual and kind of a different stimulated world right now than just lecture. You know, coming up with this thing every week, it's a workout.

NORRIS: Hard to hit a homerun every Sunday morning, huh?

Pastor FATATO: That's right. That's right.

NORRIS: Well, and there are a lot of people that are going to be showing up on Sunday, and they're going to expect you to swing for the fences on Easter Sunday. Is there a lot of pressure on your shoulders right now?

Pastor FATATO: You know, I approach Easter a little bit different. What I try to do is try to do pretty much the same sort of thing that I do each week so that I can stand there and say if you do come back, this will be what you'll see next week.

NORRIS: So what have you found on the end of the keyboard this week?

Pastor FATATO: You know, again, I did a couple things. I found online this great video, this real kind of high-energy, edgy video on the Apostles Creed, so we're going to open our service with this video, which are just different faces from all over the world reading the Apostles Creed, and then the other thing I found was, I'm going to use a clip from, you know, now that THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA is out on DVD, there's a point in there, where the lion resurrects, and he says death works backwards, so I'm going to use that little clip from that movie, and then I also found a man-on-the-street interview that just says what is Easter?

We'll open that for the discussion and time of the sermon, so there's a number of different things that I located online that I think will be, kind of give some color to the service.

NORRIS: Do you have any concern that this is sort of taking the service and the sermon away from something that was really unique to the experience of being in a sanctuary, a man speaking to an audience, that this is becoming not much different than you would see if you were watching television or if you were going to a Broadway show?

Pastor FATATO: That's a great question. I personally went through kind of a journey on this. I'm in downtown Boston. I have a very young congregation, and there was all this stuff that was kind of coming about that I thought I could use, and to be frank, I really felt God was challenging me to just be able to use the spoken word because, ultimately, that's the most important thing, and so still, I still believe that's the centerpiece on a Sunday morning.

In fact, I think all the technology, whether it's a podcast or iTunes or we use, we do a blog and those kinds of things, if you're still not delivering a good solid message on Sunday morning, those things are all secondary.

NORRIS: Nick Fatato is a senior pastor at the Boston Worship Center. Pastor Fatato, thanks for speaking to us, and Happy Easter to you.

Pastor FATATO: Same to you.

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