Several years ago I was wondering around the library in Munich, Germany. Frankly, I was looking for free Internet access so I could e-mail my wife back in The States more cheaply than the Internet Cafe that I had been using. Of course most of the books were in German and clearly out of my league. But as I got to the Religion section, I found a book of Martin Luther's tracts that he had written and printed. The printing jobs were beautiful by the way. While most of the book was Luther's German tracts, the introduction was in English. The printing press was a new invention and the tract was the new media for religious expression. I had not thought of the tract as important to the history Reformation as a movement but the book made the case for just that. Notice how many times in the following article on Luther the word tract is used.
This week I took a class with Dr. Powell on Introduction to Reformed Theology. I forget the context, but during the class he said, "A call to preach is a call to write". He mentioned that on his own church's website he publishes sermons both audio and text. I usually think of preaching as a spoken communication art. But I could see how a pulpit ministry would be enhanced by having printed copies of select or all sermons. Perhaps the tract is not a dead medium but a solid one, perhaps it just needs a new face. In Luther's day, person could speak in a new way to influence many. The blog allows the small pulpit to speak to a wider audience. Luther printed his tracts, should every preacher have his website and blog? Has the pulpit ministry made a turn?
My wife and I attended Calvary Chapel of Monterey Bay and the sermon tape library was taken very seriously. The pastor preached through the Bible expositorially and so when someone missed a Sunday people really wanted to listen to the part they missed. I think part of the success was that the medium of cassette tapes was still in vogue. Tapes are less popular today but still used. MP3 files are not quite reached a critical mass as a medium, there are a few people out there with i-pods. The medium that has the most players is probably the CD, but I have not seen a rapid reproduction machine for CD's like we have for cassette tapes.
Dr. Powell said his comment is not exactly original, but a variation on the theologian Turretin's comments on the apostle's call to preach was a call to write down the New Testament books.