Posted by: Hugh Griffiths | May 30, 2006

The message of the medium

This morning I came across a great post on Out of Ur, Christianity Today's leadership blog. It was written by Shane Hipps, previously an advertising and media professional for brands such as Porsche but now working in full time church ministry.

His conviction is that we need to be aware that media, and in particular, more recent technology-based media, are not entirely neutral platforms on which we can present our message. Shane's view is that "our media and methods have an inherent bias and a message of their own that has little or nothing to do with their content"

Personally, I love technology and can see the many benefits it brings. However, I am also aware that some of the directions the church is taking as a result as they apply these developments fundamentally affect some key aspects of Christian life and community. Some of these developments are certainly helpful, yet there are also inherent difficulties which also need to be addressed.

For example, some areas and my concerns are:

  • Christian TV/God-channels
    Easy access to good preaching and ministry is certainly welcome. But what about the inaccurate or wrong teaching that is also present? Does the the unreal, sanitised and selective presentation of 'media church' cause people to grow dissatisfied with their own church experience? Does it encourage 'stay-at-home' spirituality or 'pick-and-mix' theology not rooted in the church corporate?
  • Forums and online groups
    They are a powerful means of sharing and communicating with a wide audience – but they are no substitute for authentic Christian community. I am tired of coming across groups and websites run by people who have disconnected from real flesh-and-blood church. Usually hurt or disillusioned with their experiences of Christians or Christianity, they have substituted cyberspace for fellowship, independence for shared discipleship and ministry. Does participation in virtual communities become a rationalisation for failing to participate in the local church?
  • Blogs and websites
    Personal web pubishing is a major breakthrough which again facilitates much wider communication. However, individual voices can gain an independent platform which is not always helpful to the body of Christ – it's not only truth that can be spread quicker and more effectively than ever before.
  • Online resources and materials
    I am immensely grateful for the wealth of materials available online – sermons, articles, presentations, websites etc. These can be a huge source of help, encouragement and information. However, they can also be unsupervised by biblical leadership, unmoderated by discerning teachers and ministries, unsupported by pastoral care and unguarded by church eldership or apostolic oversight.

The Out of Ur article is well worth a look if you're interested in any of these issues.

Just so you know – while this blog is my own, it is not an entirely independent voice. From the outset, I have asked my three co-elders here in New Covenant Church to hold me accountable.

I want whatever I say, teach or publish to honour and glorify God and to that end I cannot afford to seize the benefits of technology without regard to its responsibilities.

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Responses

  1. Wow – Awesome post, Hugh. You are so right…It is easy, in a media-saturated society, to mistake what we see on a screen for real-life interaction in the Body of Christ. It really is true – we need flesh-and-blood contact with real people – and real-live accountability from Biblically-grounded leadership – in order to grow and mature to the full stature of Lord Jesus our God. You know, I am thinking…if a person is plugged into a healthy, functioning church body, friends and leadership will call that one into account, if they suspect a withdrawl into the “virtual church”. You are so right – and this can also be a form of escape, for whatever reason.

    I am also thinking this. Scripture says that we are to know those who labour among us. If we are careful to participate in those “media events” that we know are good, and keep a healthy balance by maintaining our friendships with real people in the Body – those with whom we can have regular face-to-face contact – then we can still greatly benefit. I love Roger’s blog – his posts have been of great help to me, personally…and this one totally rocks, too…but I know that both of you are a part of the same Church Body that I belong to. You are part of the same apostolic network that my church is. You probably know my elders better than I do. And you certainly interface with the same apostle. I can trust you to give us sound, Biblical ideas and teaching. But by the same token, if I started to blow off the Sunday meeting and not go to life group – and use the blogs as an excuse for my absence – it would DEFINITELY NOT fly with my leadership…and someone in my home church would be checking on me. This is a safe environment for the people of God…it is good.

    This is a great post, Hugh. We need to think about these things…Excellent stuff. =-)

  2. Hugh,

    Great post. I also request accountabilty. This is so important. I appreciate your blog and recommend it on mine. šŸ™‚

    I too have come across many people who say they don’t need to go to a “church” meeting. As we evangelise in our community, some people tell me they go to church via television. Technology is great tool to evangelise, teach and encourage.

    But I agree it can never replace the flesh and blood experience.

    Marcos

  3. I quite agree with what you say. One of my particular bugbears is things like the God Channel (a name in itself which I think is dreadfully pompous). In order for channels such as this to run, the channel has to pull in a profit. Often this is done by those who wish to appear paying to do so. These preachers in turn make money from providing expensive phone numbers to phone in on and advertising their own products. I’m not saying that this has caused corruption (although it would certainly lead to the danger of such things and in the past there has certainly been some scandalous activity uncovered) but it does lead to those on the channels being tempted to preach more what people want to hear rather than what they need to hear in order to maintain viewing figures. Not to mention that I find a good proportion of those preaching on the God channel cheesy šŸ™‚


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