This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................. 2 COMMUNICATION IN SCRIPTURE ...................................................................... 2 ENGAGING IN MEDIA TODAY ............................................................................. 5 CAN MEDIA CREDIBLY FULFIL THE GREAT COMMISSION? .................................. 7 THE POWER & POTENTIAL OF MEDIA............................................................... 11 CONCLUSION ................................................................................................... 12 BIBLIOGRAPHY................................................................................................. 13
Present a study of communication styles & techniques displayed in Scripture and their relevance to TV and broadcast communication today. Present your views on the ability and credibility of using media to fulfil the Great Commission (Matt 28).
The church is in a crisis. We’re communicating more than ever before, but we’re also communicating less. Perhaps we missed Ray McLaughlin’s insight nearly 50 years ago: “From its inception Christianity has embodied a message-sharing function... Today the Gospel can be broadcast to more souls by one program than the apostle Paul reached in his entire life. Churches disseminate more Christian literature in one day than the Biblical writers turned out in fifteen centuries, even though qualitative differences are great.” “In this day when the most advanced technical and linguistic aids are immediately available, the church remains seriously entangled in its own communication lines... why, despite the great amount of time given by the church to communication, is it not communicating better?” (McLaughlin 1968: 19-21) The church stands before an amazing window of opportunity with mass communication more affordable and accessible than ever before. But history is clear: the mere possession of great tools does not create effective communication. If the church is to share the gospel effectively in the last days it will require a courageous wading through cultural sweat and dirt, with eyes and ears still fixed on God, the source of all truth and effective communication. Bridging the gap between these two worlds needs people with a firm grip on both.
COMMUNICATION IN SCRIPTURE
Before God created anything, he spoke. He communicated his intentions, and it happened. Communication is a crucial attribute of being made human and in the image of God, and since
Eden, he has never ceased sending messages to us. The Bible is a double-edged sword: an historic record of his communication, and a channel of the Holy Spirit for fresh, relevant direction to believers today. His passion for relating to us screams from every page. Looking through this amazing book I’ve identified seven primary channels that God has used to communicate to us, loosely ranked based on their level of intimacy, clarity and fidelity: Level 1: The Incarnation, Jesus Christ
God in human form (God with skin on) God came himself into our social context The clearest picture we have of what God is really like Involved in context, entering into real problems, issues and struggles of the people Identified with social outcasts, participated in social relationships Involved in work Spoke to particular needs, rather than presenting a message of universal abstracts Left a legacy of stories, parables, healings, miracles, challenging truth, authoritative teaching, and demonstration of power, love and sacrifice.
Level 2: The Holy Spirit
The incredible gift that Jesus promised upon his ascension Direct commands to Noah Appearing as a burning bush to Moses Further revelation and face-toface interaction with Moses The best connection that believers today have to God Sought company with Abraham and David At Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration (We could perhaps place God’s angel messengers in this category also.) An amazing spectrum of genres: narrative, poetry, music, wisdom, doctrine, instruction, personal appeal, logical argument, encouragement, challenge, defence, and prophetic revelation. God also used people like Moses & Elijah to demonstrate his power and mighty acts Not merely with people, but within and upon them In each case God was partially veiled and could not reveal himself intimately or else they might otherwise die.
Level 3: Direct Contact & Manifestation
Level 4: The Bible
A timeless and timely message from God to his people, transcending language and culture The only remaining channel believers have to reliably learn about Jesus and God’s work throughout history
Level 5: Prophets, Apostles & Leaders
Through each of the Old Testament prophets, beginning with Samuel and ending with John the Baptist God spoke vision and direction through the Apostles and New Testament prophets The exact process of Old Testament revelation is unknown, but likely involved prayer, meditation and Godgiven dreams and visions
Level 6: The Church
God leads his people into a warm community of believers The living voice through which God continues to speak to the world
Level 7: Creation
All creation declares the glory of God and his master craftsmanship The only channel that is universally experienced, by every human being
Søgaard refers to Jesus as the climax of God’s communication (Søgaard 1993: 13). Indeed he was the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Kraft comments that “The person who brings the message is a major component of the message they bring” (Kraft 1999: 15). Our interpretation of a message is affected by who the person is; in order for God to get the ultimate message across, he became that message.
(the human channel)
But Jesus also clarified a crucial communication concept – the human channel. He demonstrated communication via an intimate connection with God. Despite being a permanent member of the Trinity, he experienced the vast distance we have from God, and knew that relationships deteriorate through a lack of time and contact – they all require careful maintenance and work. So Jesus regularly left other duties to foster that relationship – he would “go away to lonely places, where he prayed” (Luke 5:16 and other passages1); he was utterly dependent; he listened carefully, and taught only those things he heard from the father. We need that same intimacy. It cannot be understated: without closeness at the Godend, our communication with others will fall far-short of God’s intention. As we pursue that relationship, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses to the world.
Luke 5.16, Luke 6.12, Luke 9.18, Luke 9.28, Luke 11.1, Luke 22.41
From God’s endless attempts at getting our attention, I see three themes emerge: 1. God wants to be understood God’s communication has always been incarnational. His incredible, timeless messages entered totally into the context of the audience, using their language and frame of reference. 2. God wants a response When God spoke, it was never gratuitous or superfluous, and passivity was never an option. He communicated for change, whether attitudes, behaviour or direction. God desires us to respond to him – an interactive exchange of words, prayer, submission and responsive action. 3. Communication is ultimately about love and relationship He would not communicate unless he desired relationship. He also demonstrated that true love elevates the needs of ‘receivers’ regardless of the cost to the sender.
ENGAGING IN MEDIA TODAY
Kraft laments that we “looked to the bible for our message. I am afraid though, that we have seldom looked to the Bible for our method” (Kraft 5). I believe these seven axioms should undergird our methods of communication: 1. The only source of truth is God The only way we can communicate lasting and eternal truth is to invite the flow of God’s communication through us. The Holy Spirit can then empower us to deliver what God is saying, without overriding our own personalities and styles. Just as modern churches are discovering anointed Spirit-led preaching, our media should learn the same lessons. Why do churches rarely (never?) passionately intercede for a television program or podcast?
2. Love should be the core of our communication “If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day but I don't love, I'm nothing. ... No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.” (1 Cor. 13:2-4 MSG) Without love the only things we transmit are emotional hurt, relational damage, and spiritual detachment. God’s heart and passion for people are deeply woven into God’s message. Sometimes love may require vulnerability or a significant personal/corporate cost to communicate the truth. But love should be our highest goal (1 Cor. 14:1). 3. Clarity and understanding happens best when broadcasting is incarnational Today, the majority of Christian broadcasts are merely snapshots of church life. However the language and culture of the church is sometimes vastly different to the general population. Broadcasting should aim to use the language, culture and personalities that would connect best with the people. That may mean: Removing traditions, vocabulary and personal preferences without altering the core message2 Learning the art and techniques of the television industry to be able to produce media of a comparable quality Understanding how younger generations think, communicate, bond and consume media (Tip: it’s probably quite different from their parents!) 4. Media ‘consumption’ should never replace relationship Relationships are God’s priority, and when people replace social interaction with a television in isolation, they have their priorities backwards. Of course, some broadcasts have the powerful potential to reach people with whom there is no relationship, but even these should seek to create meaningful relationships with (and around) their audience – perhaps connecting them
Søgaard (1993: 11) describes this as identifying the ‘constants’ and ‘variables’. The constants are our commission and mandate to communicate, the opposing evil forces, and the work of the Holy Spirit. The variables are our environment, the media form, and the relevant content. We stand strong on the former while holding the latter loosely (not the other way around!).
with local churches, groups of believers, or at least establishing some personal contact with the broadcasting organisation. 5. Media should evoke a response While Christian comedy or entertainment may have its place, ideally broadcasts should resist the status quo of passive consumption. People should be moved to respond in some way, whether changing an attitude, accepting a new idea, sparking a new habit, changing life direction etc. 6. Broadcasters should provide opportunities for response and dialogue When relationship is a priority, this creates a desire for establishing dialogue and not a oneway monologue. Audiences should be given opportunities to give input, respond with feedback, ask questions, and generally build a connection with the source of the media. With the internet and interactive media this is now easily achievable. 7. Broadcasting should be carefully and strategically planned and evaluated The use of media (and especially broadcast media) shouldn’t be initiated on a whim or passing fad. It should be given careful thought to obtain God’s heart for the intended audience, research into the best way of reaching them, and continual evaluation to ensure that the previous six points are part of the strategy.
CAN MEDIA CREDIBLY FULFIL THE GREAT COMMISSION?
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,*or ‘peoples’+ baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20 NLT) The Great Commission is one of the clearest challenges towards mission and outreach, and has become a central tenet of our faith. Sandwiched between incredible affirmations are three basic instructions:
Make disciples from all nations or people groups Baptise them (perhaps with water and the Holy Spirit) Teach them the words of Jesus
Teaching the words of Jesus is possibly the easiest point for media to fulfil, in fact churches have been doing it for decades, with pulpit preaching and teaching the most common genre in Christian media. This genre could definitely use some fresh creativity, but perhaps efforts should be better distributed throughout other areas. Baptism via mass-media is probably more difficult3. Teaching about Spirit and water baptism is easily broadcasted, but the acts themselves generally require community. Mass-media often fails to provide two-way relationships. But with some creativity and organisation, a media team could connect new believers into community where these events can occur and be celebrated. Making disciples is probably the focus of Jesus’ commission, but also the broadest and most challenging. Making a disciple involves a significant individual journey from one attitude and lifestyle to another. While media can definitely contribute to this process, it is key relationships within community that provide the best support. Discipleship could potentially happen in isolation (someone could discover a bible and learn the process themselves), but it is greatly enhanced with mature believers alongside to guide, encourage and mentor younger ones through the journey.
Although in 2008, Flamingo Road Church claimed the “first internet water baptism”, http://youtu.be/qThUe1RvXU
The table below rates various aspects of discipleship with the potential for mass-media to accomplish that task (a score out of ten). It’s also compared with a 1-on-1 relationship via telephone/email/video-chat, and a correctly functioning church community. 1-to-1 Remote Communication Church Community
Initial contact with the news of Jesus Wrestling with doubts & faith questions An explanation of the gospel leading to salvation Baptism in water Baptism in the Holy Spirit Early discipleship & mentoring Prayer support, encouragement, prophetic direction Forming a community of believers Engaging in Christian worship Deepening of faith and wisdom through teaching Developing and exercising of spiritual gifts Leadership and missions training OVERALL SCORE
8 3 8 2 4 2 2 1 7 9 1 9 56
1 6 7 5 5 6 6 3 3 7 2 6 57
8 9 9 9 8 9 9 10 9 8 9 8 105
While the scores a somewhat arbitrary4, it’s designed to reveal the fact that mass-media is not the ideal tool for every aspect of discipleship. A broadcaster would be wise to combine their mass-media strategy with a way of connecting believers into a local church, or at least providing a forum for discussion, encouragement and mentoring.
I have no solid data to back this information up, it’s based solely on my own experience of mass-media thus far.
For broadcast media to be effective, it needs to understand and overcome the pitfalls of past attempts: Isolation – relying solely on input from media can allow people to avoid community and necessary relationships. Cheap grace – when media is ‘consumed’ like a form of entertainment, the gospel can lose its impact of repentance, obedience and self-sacrifice. Cults of personality – people follow TV/radio personalities, even esteeming them beyond Jesus. Imperfect leaders don’t always handle this attention wisely. Fundraising – with some broadcast methods come incredible costs. When audiences are solicited for donations, motives come into question and the image of the organisation, of Jesus and His church are at risk. Constraints on creativity – content and style can be dictated by those providing the funding, people who may not bear the same interests or perspective on the communication methods. Preaching to the converted – it’s easier and cheaper to broadcast to Christian audiences, while those outside receive little attention. Diluting face-to-face evangelism – mass-media outreach encourages believers to fund the outreach cause but not get personally involved in the process.
THE POWER & POTENTIAL OF MEDIA
“’To not use TV *or other mass media+ as a medium for the gospel... is to make a conscious choice to be half-hearted in our attempt to fulfil the Great Commission.’ But being committed to using a medium is not the same as using it well, in tune with the greatest Creator of all.” (Jason Dulle cited in Schultze & Woods 2008: 49) Despite these issues, the potential for kingdom advancement through media is immense and our neglect of the opportunity would be tragic. Most pitfalls can be overcome with careful thought and planning. Christian radio can broadcast thousands of kilometres into spiritually ‘closed’ regions Pastors and leaders can be trained from colleges on the other side of the world Believers in China, Europe and Africa can communicate cheaply and instantly over the internet Satellite churches can access teaching from a central location to free up a staff time for deeper pastoral care A creative short-film by two teenagers can be witnessed by thousands globally on YouTube Billy Graham understood its power 50 years ago5. David Yonggi Cho discovered that when you can’t build fast enough, use media6. Today, media is decentralising away from the major
“Evangelist Billy Graham set an all-time attendance record at a crusade in New York City in 1957, but soon after he began focusing instead on TV evangelism. ‘TV is the only way to reach the non-churched,’ he said, and through the years, a higher proportion of his TV viewers reportedly made decisions for Christ than those at his live crusades.” (Schultze & Woods 2008: 49) Cho, who pastors the largest church on the planet, said “We wanted to prove to the world that you don’t have to have a building to grow a church. We were running over ten thousand in attendance before we built our first building... It is silly to build larger and larger church buildings. It is silly to spend more money on (branch church) buildings! You’ll never have enough. I really believe this, and I have already announced to my people and ministers that the next step is to go into total cyberspace ministry because it is a real waste of money to build larger buildings.” (David Yonggi Cho cited in Malphurs & Malphurs 2003: 8)
networks, while equipment is cheaper and easier than ever before. Choose a niche7, research it thoroughly, plan strategically and creatively, pray passionately, and love extravagantly.
We have a responsibility as bearers of the gospel to use whatever means necessary to reach our world of 6.4 billion people. Both broadcast and interactive media will have to play their part in the strategy, but the pitfalls of the past must be admitted and overcome. Only with an intimacy with the Holy Spirit and His powerful anointing can we communicate the truth with the power and impact he intended. Only then will we truly connect the nations with the one who passionately pursues them. Media is a powerful tool. Perhaps if we take our eyes off the glowing screen long enough to fix them on our creator, we’ll learn how to wield it with the wisdom and skill it deserves.
Now in “an era of technological democratization – erosion of mainstream network dominance, a proliferation of channels, less expensive production equipment – preaching to a niche audience has become key to almost all media success.” (Schultze & Woods 2008: 55)
Jewell, J.P. (2002). New Tools for a New Century: First Steps in Equipping Your Church for the Digital Revolution. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. Kraft, C. (1999). Communicating Jesus’ Way. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library. Malphurs, A. & Malphurs, M. (2003). Church Next: Using the Internet to Maximise Your Ministry. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications. McLaughlin, R.W. (1968). Communication for the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Schultze, Q.J. & Woods, R.H.Jnr. (Ed.) (2008). Understanding Evangelical Media: The Changing Face of Christian Communication. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. Søgaard, V. (1993). Media in Church and Mission: Communicating the Gospel. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.