There’s a ton of free Christian content online–but not all of it is good, or helpful to all theological persuasions. Here’s how to find the wheat amongst the chaff.
The Free Stuff
Everywhere you look online, there’s a ton of free content for Christian ministries.
LifeChurch’s Open full sermon series and small group studies (including youth) is free; Church on the Move’s Seeds is free; Southeast Christian Church’s Stuff I Can Use is free; Elevation Church’s resources are free; The Table framework for churches is free; CCV resources are free; CreationSwap’s photography is free; Finally, every youth minister in the world is lost without the free stuff from TheSource4YM…free.
There are also short-term deals and freebies that you can find. Earlier this month, Asbury Theological Seminary’s digital Seedbed resources were free for its birthday sale, and I downloaded dozens of resources. Last year, Beth Moore’s books were free on Kindle and I downloaded a dozen of them. And whenever I see a free theological kindle ebook promoted on Twitter, I tend to nab it regardless of what its theological persuasion is.
Do you download everything?
For those of you that know this website, you may be wondering: Why is a progressive Christian downloading and archiving all this conservative/evangelical content?
Simple. I’m hacking them for use in my own content.
For my almost-decade of ordained ministry, I’ve taken free Christian content and adapted it for my context. That is the benefit of a theological education: I’m qualified to take content and make the theological framework match the theological perspective I share in my ministry context.
Even if there is a mismatch between your theological lens and the free content, you can often reframe free Christian content for use in your ministry context.
So for others who are wanting to do the same thing, here’s two solutions of how to do it.
Solution #1: Just read it
Seriously, just read the books, sermons, and articles. You’ll be better off by filling your theological reading list with content written by people very different from you. Once you’ve read through, understood the arguments, you can take away what mattered to you. In my books, I keep notes in the back of what pages to go back and re-read or reference that I can then re-interpret for my context.
So reading the free content is the most holistic way to understand a different perspective from your own as well as glean valuable sections for your own work.
Solution #2: Reframe the free stuff
However, given the avalanche of free content online, it is easy to get overwhelmed or buried in a reading list. Yet I often use free content in my bible studies, to inform session outlines, and as talk illustrations with youth (during my time as a youth worker). To do it, I take from them what I need without the baggage of the theological perspective that I may not share.
It is not unlike taking a portrait out of one picture frame and transferring it to another so that the entire piece changed the room where it was used. If the framework is problematic, the components are usually okay on their own.
Here’s some examples and methods:
Stories and Illustrations
- Stories, case studies, examples, and illustrations are perfect sermon or bible study fodder because they do not always have a single lesson or point. A good preacher can adapt story foci in ways that can be used in a variety of contexts.
- How to: These elements can be found by searching any digital content for specific keywords. You can search for “story” “case study” “example” “reminds me” “application” “illustrates” amongst other words. Those searches usually yield lead-ins or following sections of stories or examples that can be taken out and used with a different frame. Try it on a search in the kindle app: you’d be surprised how many sections come up with these lead-ins.
Sermon series & Bible Study Series
- Sermon series on a topic or a study series on a book of the Bible usually have some sort of framework. Seeing what directions people take a topic can yield new direction for your own thinking–even if you take it completely the opposite way!
- How to: Most churches that do sermon series publish their titles and scriptures, sometimes a paragraph of direction for that series. This can be a helpful trajectory or framework that could be easily adapted by other churches. Seeing how others have approached a topic can yield ways to approach that topic in your context.
What other segments of free Christian content do you find? Let me know in the comments!
Citing your sources:
- You must must must keep the citation. There are so many sermon illustrations and notes that I cannot use because I don’t know their origins and I want to make sure to honor their contribution.
- How to: Evernote web clipper will keep the citation. Kindle notes will keep the citation. There are even apps like EasyBib or Zotero that are great. Even if you copy and paste into a new document, remember to note where it came from and give proper citation.
Pushback: This sounds wrong…
I don’t have any qualms with repurposing free Christian content in this way. Like LifeChurch says in their “why we give it away for free” blog post, they give it away to empower others to bring people to Christ, and that we do better together than we do apart.
People of all theological persuasions bring people to Christ. While we differ on a great many things, we should celebrate one another’s successes. For progressives to be able to use some conservative evangelical content to bring Christ to people who wouldn’t touch anything with “Zondervan” on it…well, that’s a win for us all, right?
When Church Marketing Sucks examined this topic of free Christian content, here’s what they concluded:
That’s not the kind of thing any sane company or organization would do, and that’s exactly the point. The Church is not a normal organization. We should be extravagant with one another and with the world.
Not all Christian content should be free, I agree, but it is a reflection on our extravagant God who applauds the waste of perfume on Jesus’ feet that we should also be extravagant with one another. By not turning up my nose on the heartfelt work of others, but giving them new life in a new form, I think that’s a collaborative spirit indeed.
- How does this usage strike you? Is it any different than the way how preachers have borrowed from one another in the past?
- What other ways do you make the best of free Christian content online?
Thanks for reading and sharing–and your comments!