The Spoken Word Vs The Written Word.
Or ... The Audiotape - Revolution or Curse?
"The Charismatic Movement grew on the power of recorded speech" - Derek Prince's biographer.
The main vision and passion of this website and indeed my life is to transfer the spoken, recorded word of Dr Ern Baxter into print. Therefore some brief consideration should be given to the purpose and use of the audiotape as compared to books and the written word.
Or in other words, why am I spending so much time transcribing tape after tape as I am?
The History of the Audiotape.
Derek Prince's biographer noted that the 'compact cassette' was first patented in 1964 and popularised in the early 1970's - right at the time the Charismatic Renewal was beginning to swell and grow across the world. It became standard practice for Bible teaching, conference ministry and prophecies to be studiously recorded and distributed throughout the churches involved in the Charismatic Movement. Wendy Virgo wrote in her book; "The Stoneleigh Experience" that Nigel Ring would be present throughout many of the Bible Weeks both at the Downs and Stoneleigh recording prophecies on his dictaphone to ensure they were not lost. Indeed in Derek Prince's biography it was noted that it became a joke among Charismatics as to how a man's holiness was measured by the amount of sermon cassettes he had lined up in his home.
In Other Words ...
Benefits of the Spoken Word.
1. It is Accessible.
Many busy church members who have careers or jobs do not simply have the time to sit down with a book and read it and absorb it. The cassette tape enabled the message to be heard in commuters cars, while a housewife was cleaning and cooking or even when one was gardening.
2. It is Affordable.
Many quality hardback books are becoming more and more expensive with the average Banner of Truth book ranging from £15 upwards. More scholarly commentaries cost even more - sometimes upto £75. The cassette tape has traditionally always costed at most £3. This means that anyone - practically anyone - can afford it and ensure the material spoken is preserved and heard again and again.
3. It is Ascendible.
The cassette tape often preserves the "live atmosphere" of a meeting that is not always possible in a book format. Particularly in the heady days of the 1970's when the Charismatic Renewal was at its height, thousands of tapes of the Dales Bible Week and other conferences would go flying around the world. When listening to a tape, you can almost picture yourself present and there, and something of the spirit of the meeting is preserved.
Cons To the Spoken Word.
1. It is Easily Forgotten.
While the audiotape is easily accessible, it is often possible to hear a particuarly moving quote or outstanding point and if one is involved in other activities, it is sometimes almost impossible to re-wind the tape and hear the quote again. Or when re-accounting the message to friends or family, it is sometimes very hard to remember the exact quote made.
2. It is Easily Lost.
Despite the advent of the CD, it is still extremely hard to identify and find material on the tape that one wishes, whereas in a book - the pages can be flipped and the quote traced and found.
3. It is Easily Destroyed.
Audiotapes unfortunately do deteriorate with time and re-playing. While we are very grateful for the CD and the added bonus it brings, it is unquestionable that it is a massive project to transfer much of the material from the Charismatic Renewal of the 1970's onto CD or MP3's. Therefore there is a significant risk that much material may be lost from that particular moving of God.
Yet Books ... !
My friend Jonathan has already referred to the vital place of books in the life of the Christian. Indeed there is much about concerning how as Christians we MUST read. Pastors even more so. C S Lewis wrote; "The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds and this can only be done by reading old books".
My favourite sermon of all time on this matter is by C H Spurgeon. It can be found here. This is the most memorable quote:
"Some of our very ultra-Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon, must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men's brains — oh! that is the preacher.
How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, "GIVE THYSELF UNTO READING."
The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. YOU need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying".
I conclude by noting that while audio cassette tapes have a vital part in the Christian world, and we thank God for them - I do not think that books will ever be rendered obsolete. Indeed I wonder whether there is any other way of preserving a preachers ministry properly without writing.