Occasional Paper

Media and Technology: The Rainbow, the Ark and the Cross

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Prefatory Note

This Occasional Paper was produced by the Issue Group on this topic at the 2004 Forum for World Evangelization hosted by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization in Pattaya, Thailand, September 29 to October 5, 2004

Executive Summary

The media was widely used in biblical history.  Noah used the Ark, Moses used the staff, Nehemiah used the city wall, Jesus used mud for healing the blind and God used the rainbow, the dove and the cross.  The media has been a symbolic means to signify spiritual meanings in the past.

However, in the cities and most societies of today, the media becomes the central shaping force and the demise of our cultures and values.  Media sets the agenda in a society.  Media propaganda in the forms of advertising and political persuasion is shaping the minds of the young.  The rise of communication technologies such as the Internet and digital media creates new threats and opportunities for evangelization.  Globalization is slowly minimizing local media and culture and with this there is a loss of indigenous identities of the people.  Western media and technologies are dominating the international flow of information.  The Church needs to examine media and technology as it pertains to world evangelization.

How can the Church break the strongholds of the marketplace of ideas using the media, besides using the media as evangelistic tools?  Does the Church understand the nature and impact of the media?  How can Christian media focus on reaching the unreached people, the people at-risk, the youth and children in megacities, and the marginal people in diaspora?  How can the Church target the media to specific people in context with specific needs?  Does the Whole Gospel mean more than a conversion process?  Would it include the redemptive mandate (the Great Commission), the expression of love (the Great Commandment) and cultural development (the Creation Mandate)?  What are the implications for using the media for spreading the Whole Gospel?  How can we nurture Christians who are called to become leaders in the global media?

How can we cultivate primarily indigenous contents besides translating imported materials?  How can Christian media be grounded in biblical theology?  How can the Christian community as a whole support and relate to Christian media efforts?  How can we pool resources for the media in partnership?  Would Christian media be communication among people than mere transmission of information through machines?  How can we use the best narratives and stories for media contents?  How can we upgrade the qualities of Christian media to a professional level?  How would the Church choose appropriate technologies instead of chasing the most advanced media hardware?  How would folk media be used with modern technologies?  How can we build synergy with a diversity of media?  How would interpersonal ministries be integrative with media ministries?  

This paper is a result of collective wisdom of the members of the Media & Technology Issue Group who participated in Forum 2004 for World Evangelization in Pattaya, Thailand.  This group affirmed the use of the media for the Whole Church to bring the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.  This paper describes the present context of media culture and reviews the uses and abuses of Christian efforts in the media.  It explores biblical and theological reflections on this issue, and provides case studies and an annotated bibliography.

1. Why Media Concerns Us

We are living in a media-driven world.  Advertisements and propaganda bombard us everyday.  Should the Church remain defensive or offensive in dealing with the media?  Should we educate the Church to use the tools and strategies of the media for effective communication of the gospel and spreading the word of the Bible?  Should we encourage the Church to embrace contemporary technologies for effective communication?  Media is capital intensive.  Should we mobilize resources for Christian media to demonstrate our love for reaching the unreached?  If we believe that we have the Good News of eternal hope, should we organize the most advanced communication technologies and media for advancement of evangelization?

Can we redeem the secular media towards Christian values?  Can Hollywood and other media production centres be converted for humane values and moral virtues?  Can we use public media channels for Christian programmes?

Most Christian communication efforts today are targeted toward Christians only.  Many Christian communications are so eternal that they do not address relevantly the local culture of the people in need.  We may need to re-examine our models and strategies of communication for greater effective witness of our Faith.  The age of mass crusades seems to be fading.  The new generation is very personal.

They need people who can build relationships with them and communicate clearly.  Music seems to be an effective art form for the young.  We may need to present the truth of the Bible in contemporary and inspiring ways.

The world is moving toward globalization.  There are micro and macro technologies that are available at relatively low cost that can reach the people globally.  The impact of globalization can be turned into a positive thrust where Christian leaders can form global partnership and pool resources for integrative communication.

We need the means to get the gospel to listeners with minimal offence without limiting the power of transforming individuals.  We need to search and expand our paradigms of communicating the gospel.  We need to communicate propositional truth, relate culturally, develop community through relationship building, use story, and concern for the oppressed.  We need to communicate Christ in culturally relevant and sensitive ways.
Who Raised These Media Concerns?
The Media and Technology Issue Group at the Lausanne Forum 2004 was well represented in terms of geographical spread and professional orientations.  We had in the Forum, and the subsequent network, pastors who minister in small rural and in big urban churches.  There were engineers and global technology network providers, for satellite, broadband wireless, and Internet connectivity.  There were writers, teachers, programmers, webmasters, designers, and children and youth workers.  There were media education and literacy project leaders. There were media professionals in the general media market and media information businesses. There were media directors of large and small denominations.  There were theologians with a keen interest in the media and communication technologies.

There were missionaries, trainers, and professors of communication.

They came from Nigeria and Ghana, India and Israel, Peru and Argentina, Singapore and Hong Kong, US and UK, Norway and Belgium, Germany and Austria, Korea and Thailand, Australia and Sweden, and many other places.  They had one goal in mind: to explore the strategies and practical approaches of using the media and communication technology for the whole church to bring the whole gospel to the whole world.

Myths, Uses and Abuses of the Media

1. Is media simply an evangelistic tool?
Much of the so-called Christian media is aiming at conversion of individuals to believe in the gospel, using the media as a tool.  This functional view of the media sees people in a decision-making scale (such as James Engel’s) in terms of readiness for conversion.  This view sees the process of communication a linear one, with sender-message-receiver mode of operation.  The media is an encoded message and drives for a decision by the receiver in response.  It is a stimulusresponse mode of communication.  It calls for an immediate decision.  Researches of the effect of media after half a century have demonstrated that this stimulusresponse mode of communication may often be ineffective and non-conclusive in driving for immediate decision-making or lifestyle changes.

This functional mode of media operation follows the mathematical transmission model of communication by Shannon and Weaver half a century ago.  It centres on the sender and highlights the importance of the message.  The receiver is supposed to generate a feedback to provide clues for effective communication.  Much of Christian media efforts assess effectiveness by citing audience or listeners’ feedback response, such as call for further information.  This view treats the audience passively.  The audience becomes an object to be targeted and converted, without any relationship building between the sender and the receiver.

Much of the Christian media programming, though geared toward nonChristians, are in fact listened or viewed mostly by Christians.  These programs are full of Christian jargons, trusting that the word of God will never fail in stimulating a response.  Many of the messages conveyed in evangelization using the media in this functional mode stress the misery of non-believers and the need for redemption by Jesus.  This world is portrayed to be fallen and degrading.  Only God can redeem us from the destiny of Hell.  The mode of evangelization finds limitation in reaching the contented, elite, and prosperous people of the world.  It also stressed human depravity without going back to the original fact that man and woman are made in the image of God.

When Christians use the mass media in evangelization aiming at reaching the maximum number of people, the tendency is to broadcast without specific targeting towards a certain demographic or psychographic group.  Furthermore, many of these Christian efforts employ media primarily with very little face-to-face contact with the audience to complement the mass media efforts.  In this way, the Church remains very much virtual and mediated.  Much Christian resource could be wasted in this broadcast of messages because the effect of media alone is limited.  Technological reach does not guarantee psychological or social reach of the audience.

2. Can media ministry stand on its own?
The fact is that Jesus preached to 5,000 people and nurtured a small group of 12 disciples.  He calmed the sea and cooked breakfast for his disciples.  He spoke with authority in healing the sick and raising the dead.  In contrast, Christian media today often stays in the virtual or mediated world with very limited interpersonal contacts are facilitated.

Media is powerful, especially the mass media.  Media celebrities can be very famous. Tele-evangelists are prone to fall because of the glamour of media power.
Without the integrity of personal living, media loses its credibility.

Interpersonal ministry brings credibility and human relationship to the media ministry.  Interpersonal ministries can be psychological counselling, group activities, rally events, and education programs.  Interpersonal ministry can acquire stories for media distribution.  The two in fact can reinforce each other.

3. Indigenous versus imported media
The world is dominated by media of the North and developed world – whether Christian or secular.  When you look at the satellite feeds, Internet journalism, and print around the world, there is an imbalance in communication and media flow.  Herbert Schiller is a strong critique of this media domination from the North countries.

The same is true among Christian media.  American and British media sources are mostly available for churches in developing countries.  Translations and dubbing versions are common.  The JESUS film, James Dobson counselling series, and Basic Youth Conflict Seminars are examples, just to name a few.  In a way, it is a blessing to share Christian findings and media resources.  These usually have the whole world in view.

However, delivery across the world does not guarantee cultural and psychological acceptance.  Technological global distribution, such as satellite feed and Internet network, does not mean that people can access the meaning of the messages.  In contrast, the way God has communicated has respected the culture and context of the hearers (Hebrews 1:1-2).

That is why we need to cultivate indigenous communication with Christian communicators.  Local talents can address their own people more relevantly and meaningfully.  Each culture has a rich texture of icons, history, heritage, and beauty. Christian communication is not coming to destroy culture, but to enhance and purify it.  Women and men are called in Genesis to nurture the land, to name living things, and to manage the Garden.  This is the Heavenly Father’s world.  The Creation Mandate is a cultural mandate.  We all are called to nurture the land, but we have fallen from this cause and have gone astray.  The redemption of Jesus Christ enables us to regain this freedom and dignity.  Culture is to be respected and cultivated.  The whole gospel means that we evangelize so that people can receive the free gift of redemption offered by Jesus Christ in obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-28), we express God’s love in response to the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:39) and we care for others in fulfilment of the Creation Mandate (Genesis 1:26-31).

God generated linguistic and, thus in due course, cultural diversity when He stopped the building of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11).  Then on the day of Pentecost the disciples witnessed that the numerous languages, generated when the builders of the Babel tower were scattered, were acceptable to God and that everyone heard the message spoken by the disciples, through the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Book of Revelation (7:9) reveals the diversity of ethnicity as a great multitude is gathered around the throne of Grace singing their praises to God.  God created and respects cultural diversity.  For this reason the Christian community should also respect cultural diversity and encourage local and indigenous efforts in Christian media.  Any imported media can serve as a support and a supplement to the local production.  One should not have to learn a foreign language or understand a foreign culture to be able to understand the Christian faith.

Christian sharing or fellowship is important.  Reading or looking at imported Christian media can be regarded as one way for Christians across the world to experience a form of fellowship.  But if those importing the media have no production of their own, then they have nothing to share with the others.  Local productions need resources to be produced.  Allocation of resources becomes a major issue.

4. What is Christian media?
Is “Christian media” defined by the producer being a converted Christian?  Or does it mean that that message is consistent with the Biblical truth?  Can Christians produce bad media?  Can non-Christians produce good media with Christian values?  Christians usually describe the non-Christian media as “secular media”.  Is there a problem in naming media in this way?

Jesus told His disciples to learn from the children of this age, since they often are wiser than the disciples. Francis Schaeffer in his work, Art and The Bible (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1973), thought that non-Christians could produce better art works than Christians, simply because Christians had a limited framework for art as a tool for evangelization, whereas non-Christians used the arts as means of expression.

If we believe in common grace, if we consider that God’s grace is directed towards all people even before conversion to Christianity and if all truths are God’s truth, then non-Christians can indeed produce great works of art, including art which reflects Christian values.

The term “secular arts” may convey the meaning of moral decadence and ungodliness.  It is true that the world is full of damaging media and unrighteous works of art.  We can see this as we review television programmes.  Not all media and art produced by non-Christians are secular or morally degrading.  There are jewels among the straw.  Christians need to have a discerning eye to see the difference.  Christian media professionals can form partnerships with non-Christian artists who have a desire for godliness in them.

The world of art should not be seen simply as black or white.  Jesus mentioned the parable of the wheat and tares (weeds) testifying to the mixture of good and evil in the world (Matthew 13:24-30).  Christians can produce bad media and nonChristians can produce good media.

The mission of Christian media people or artists therefore is not simply to produce good programs.  They should also rekindle the conscience of non-Christian media artists to produce good programs with Christian values.  There is the example of Cornelius who is described as “a righteous man” (Acts 10:22) and we should encourage others who are seeking to function righteously and in so doing show them who is the Righteous One.

5. Should our messages be offensive or identifying?

Should we confront people about their sins in our media programs?  Should we adapt to the worldview of the audience in communication?  How should we dialogue with people of a secular culture?  Should we identify with their struggles and seek to point them to the Unknown God (Acts 17)?

Jesus used stories and parables.  He used picture language such as the sparrow and the sower, the mustard seed and the sycamore tree.  He used language which could be easily understood by the hearers to communicate heavenly truths.  So the language and the symbols could be everyday, ordinary and simple, but the message conveyed spiritual truths.  This is the challenge to us today.

This is about both affirming and challenging the local culture.  It also relates to the question God would ask of a culture.  God often confronted sin and failure by asking questions: Adam, where are you?  What are you doing here, Elijah?  To Jonah – Have you any right to be angry?  When relating to and sometimes identifying with the local culture we need to be careful not to compromise our message in order not to offend.  The gospel is in fact a message that will offend!   God sent His Son to die for us for the redemption of our sin.  Are we in contempt of His wonderful grace?

6. Christian Media: Private or Public?
Are Christian media limited by the confines of the Church?  Do we simply use the Church or a Christian school as a channel of communication?  Or do we seek to use the marketplace in competition with all the other messages?

If Christian media uses public channels, does that mean that it is in the marketplace?  If Christians buy time from the general media, does that mean we are reaching the public with the Christian message?

The question is not about the channels we use, but whether our Christian media messages address the contemporary concerns of the people we are addressing.  Jesus talked with fishermen about fishers of men.  He talked with the Samaritan woman at the well about living water and to a Jewish leader about being born again.  Paul addressed the Athenians with an idea they already had in their minds, the Unknown God.  He addressed the Jerusalem Jewish leaders about the Light on the road to Damascus.  Each message is in response to the current needs and concerns of the people, with spiritual insight that goes beyond the immediate.

Whether we produce a program for a small rural audience, or we produce a message for a global network, the way we listen to the yearning of the day determines our success in communication.  Christians need to listen first, they need to be a receiver before they can become communicators.  God heard the painful cry of the Hebrews and he sent Moses to lead them out if Egypt.  God heard the cry of Hannah for a son and He gave Samuel.  Are we listening to the agony, the pain and the current concerns of those we are seeking to address?

Being capable of using global technologies, such as satellite and Internet network, does not mean we are reaching the people.  Access to media does not mean that communication occurs.  Communication is a coming together of at least two parties for mutual sharing and influence.  Are we willing to be influenced by the people whom we serve?

7. Is all media neutral?
Is media, as a communication technology, neutral?  Much Christian effort in the media centres in the functional use of the media for message transfer.  Little effort is spent on examining the media technology itself.

Each medium has intrinsic logic or built in characteristics that will frame the message it contains.  For example, print is linear, line by line, and thus it suggests a logical sequence of thought.  Although we have James Joyce with his stream of consciousness, most writing and print is sequential in thought.  Advertisements and music videos on television tend to juxtapose images and sound without logical sequences.  It is similar to a dream experience, with jumping from place to place.  Radio is quite personal, addressing an individual.  Radio has the power to involve imagination by using sound effects, such as in the program The War of the Worlds by Orson Wells adapted from H.G. Wells’ famous novel.

As for the Internet, it is often mistreated as a mass medium.  People advocate cybercasting (using the Internet as broadcast medium and send out messages to a wide distribution), Internet channel of marketing (using Internet as a promotion tool), and group emails, as being in this line of thinking.  In fact, the strength of the Internet lies in participation, interaction, non-synchronous (not real time) and synchronous (real time) communication, and a mixture of words with sight and sound.  Internet provides an equidistant world enables instant responses.  It is the true medium for the Global Village.

Therefore no medium is neutral, each has a built in design.  Each medium is biased, some towards the visual and close up (such as with TV), others towards interactivity (Internet), and some towards sound effects (radio).

The best media strategies are those that will examine the fitness of the medium to match the lifestyle of the audience or user.  There can also be a mixed media strategy for complementary functions.  Print media can provide depth whilst television provides the intimate close up drama.

After we have examined some myths, uses and abuses of the Christian efforts in the media, it is appropriate to examine the narrative form of the media.  The narrative form of the media is like a language system, it can be used fluently or otherwise.

2. Media Specific Concerns

By media specific concerns we mean the media form and the narrative format will affect the message intended for the audience.  Media semiotics (language of media) is important for communication.  Some of the concerns we will address now are:

  • Is the audience active or passive in the process of communication?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses in using the media for evangelization?
  • How do we treat the cultural context of communication?
  • Have we undertaken a theological inventory of the content of Christian communication?

1. Is the medium the message?

Christian communication tends to be based on propositional truth.  We use the media to contain the message, without paying much attention to the media form itself.  However, each medium has a way of shaping our consciousness when we habitually use it.  Harold Innis had explored how the history of communication parallels general history.  He demonstrated that communication media such as the clay tabloid of the Babylonians and the sheep skin scroll of the Romans did have different effects on the landscape of communication and the power structure of their days.  He argues that human history is shaped by the history of communication media.

Marshall McLuhan brought the case further.  He stated that “the medium is the message.”  What he meant was that the form of the medium dictates the content and the impact of that communication experience.  For instance, the printing press encourages a linear and logical mind.  The radio provides a thinking medium experience.  Television is a medium that renders the viewer passive.  As Christian communicators, we have to take the media forms into consideration when organizing our messages and the meaning we want to convey.

The narrative form is also intrinsic to the medium form.  For example, concurrent stories and different points of view can be better expressed in film or timebased medium than in print.  Radio is better to suggest an expanded space than television.  Television can take advantage of close-ups and intimacy in a way that wide-screen films are not able to do so.  Epic films cannot be portrayed sufficiently through a small television box.  The Internet is good for interactive stories, multiple points of view, hyperlink of information, and instant messaging.  The mobile phone is good for short messages and sound bytes.  It is difficult to read a theological treatise using a mobile device.  Words on screen cannot be too long and need to be divided into subsections.  The medium determines the form and content of the message and thus it is part of the message.

God uses people as the media.  The lives of the Christians and the witness of the Church becomes the message.
2. Is the audience passive?

Christian communication sometimes follows a linear path from the sender to the receiver through mass distribution.  The audience is construed to be passive receivers and object of influence.  However, communication researches reveal that the audience is in fact more active than expected.  Audiences sometimes make use of the media for friendship, for information, for entertainment and for other objectives.  Audiences also experience various degrees of gratification or satisfaction from the media.  Audiences choose to engage with those media events with which they want to engage.

If that is the case, then Christian media must address the issues of why does an audience need the program we are producing?  In what way are we satisfying their needs?  Why are we relevant to them?  What are they looking for when they get connected with us?  Are they gratified or disappointed in the engagement with us? This audience orientation is quite different from the producer orientation found in most Christian media; no matter how noble is the cause.

Furthermore, will the audience be allowed to engage in dialogue with Christian communicators in Christian programming?  Martin Buber suggested the notion of “IThou” communication, meaning that we are not talking to objects in an “I-It” fashion.  Rather, each person is a subject, and we are communicating in an inter-subjective way. Both parties are subjects.  This is akin to the Christian notion of fellowship (koinonia).

In sharing the gospel to non-Christians, we are sharing our lives and they are also sharing theirs.  It is a life-to-life relationship.  Are we prepared to do that or are we reaching anonymous people with media tools without having life interactions with them on a person-to-person basis?

3. Is media good for bringing about the conversion of the hearer/viewer?

Do we expect people to listen to our radio or audio programs and be converted to Christianity?  Is a Christian film meant to be evangelistic and is it produced with a view to the audience making a decision after viewing?  As there are many Christian efforts hoping for the audience to respond, we need to examine carefully how people make decisions; especially in response to life-changing information.

Everett Rogers has undertaken research on the decision making process of adopting innovations (new ideas).  He examined responses to medical, agricultural, and religious ideas.  Different people adopt new ideas differently.  Early adopters are more metropolitan, affluent, and open to change and diversity.  Change agents are innovators and exposed to new ideas all the time.  Opinion leaders are respected people in a community and they tend to scrutinize new ideas.  Late adopters are difficult to change because of an immense inertia.  Therefore. media should use different strategies to target different people groups.  It is important to reach the opinion leaders, because once converted, they will bring the whole community to accept the new idea.

On a personal level, decision-making is a psychological process.  There are a few phases in this process.  It begins with awareness, interest, evaluation, an attempt to try out, then some careful thought, and finally affirmation.  Awareness is the stage that brings to a person’s attention the new idea.  Interest is when one expresses interest and seeks more information.  Evaluation is the process of assessment with a view to adopt or reject.  The attempt “to try out” is to adopt the new idea as a pilot. Careful thought is the psychological phase of unrest, especially if this is a big decision.  Affirmation is the period of reinforcing the decision to adopt and to see the positive side of the consequence.  Most Christian media focus on the ‘try out’ period.  Most assessments of media effectiveness focus on this adoption period.  However, the media itself has a role in each of these periods and can bring a different effect. Christian media must take into account the objectives of each stage in bringing the intended effect.  Paul on Mars Hill did not reveal the whole gospel; he did not even mention the name of Jesus.  He was simply bringing awareness to the people to create interest.  Later in house gatherings, he would provide more information and suggest adoption of the good news.

Media is best in creating awareness, interest, and information for the seeker.  Media does not function effectively for adoption and try out, unless it is interactive media and not just one-way transmission of information.  Likewise media communication does not work well in generating careful thought, but it is very good in affirming the decisions made.  One-to-one personal contact is preferable for enabling adoption and conversion.  Personal counselling is good for assisting a person to think through the issues.  Group dynamics is also useful in helping people to think through issues and to come to the point of affirmation.  Thus media can couple with interpersonal contacts to achieve best results in evangelization.  Media alone ministries usually suffer from lack of interpersonal and group contacts.

4. Does the Christian message transcend culture and context?
Christian communication needs to take the cultural context seriously.  The incarnation of Jesus Christ demonstrated the importance of engaging with the here and now. Christians must respect the culture of a people.  Paul mentioned that he tried to be adaptive to various people, in order to gain them for Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).  Culture is not something to be erased, in the name of savageness versus civilization.  This is exactly what some early colonial powers did to ancient civilizations such as the Incas and Maya.  Culture is not something to be surmounted in mission, like a hurdle.  Culture is to be respected and cultivated.  Christian communication is not to overcome culture but to engage in dialogue with it.  Our God is a transcendent God, but He is also an immanent God that cares for human suffering.  The Christian message therefore must bring eternal hope to the people in their context.  Only when we are engaging in contemporary culture can we communicate effectively with the people of today.

Biblical Foundation for Media Narratives

God the Communicator by Arne H. Fjeldstad 

The God of the Bible is the God who communicates with the human being.  As Johannes Henrici points out: ‘Communication is deeply rooted in God’s nature and it is this nature he imparted to humanity when he created us in his own image 1   Communication is a God-given capability given to the created human being and is “the only way to be fully human.”2    In principle, to be a human is to be a communicator.  Communication – the ability to express oneself – remains God’s gift to humanity.

This basic understanding of communication as a result of God’s creating act in history deepens our understanding of God’s own desire for a relationship with His created beings.  God wants us to communicate with Him and He with us.   Throughout history, as reported in the Bible, we can see how God has communicated through His prophets and then through His Son and how He calls us to respond.  Hearing the Good News, living by it and witnessing to it, is the basic calling for all Christians.

The reformer Martin Luther underlines this fundamental link between creation and communication: “he claims that to be created in God’s image has to do with relationship and communication …That means I am created for dialogue: God’s communication with me takes the form of a conversation.  This is the basic theme in all of Scripture: God is continually seeking man (sic) out to talk with him, from the story of Eden until the proclamation of the new heavens and the new earth.  In the same way the concept of covenant is based on two-way communication.” 3 

God moves into the receptor’s frame of reference, namely, the culture and the language.  “He goes beyond the predictable and the stereotype in his communicative efforts.” 4    He uses the language and thought patterns of those with whom He speaks.

I have been a journalist in mainstream media for more than 30 years.  I do think journalists oftentimes in a special way can understand the issue of Gods passion for communication.  News reports, articles, presentations or audio/video programs demand a lot of work and oftentimes becomes a “baby” for many journalists.  There is an act of “creation” in the very process of communicating a message, directing a program or writing a story.

God has revealed His passionate heart by choosing a significant method of communication, namely incarnation.  The almighty, supreme God is really a “God who bends down and, lowering himself, speaks that we might hear and understand This ‘bending down’ means that all God’s communications are incarnational: God reveals Himself in and through the ordinary situations of human life…. And that leads us into history and culture, into created life as well as its vulnerability and brokennes. 5 

God’s heartfelt desire to communicate His eternal message of love and redemption has profound consequences for the basic understanding of every Christian’s calling to communicate – in any way possible – the good news of salvation.  We are called to be “ambassadors of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Paul’s life and work are significantly marked by his skills as a highly effective and successful communicator.  Paul’s success as a communicator not only in preaching and teaching the gospel, but also in manifesting the truth in daily life brought him into persecution, imprisonment and torture.  His methods were dynamic, focused, pastoral and passionate.  The apostle related to the needs of people in a particular place and situation.  He never lost track of the essential message, the gospel.

All of this comes together in the fact that Paul lived out a holistic theology in his ministry.  “Paul showed in many ways and in various situations that he was concerned with people in their total life, and with the effect that the gospel could have on the whole of life.  He was, before everything else, the evangelist, calling for the heart and mind to be put right with God. … practical application of Christian truth was more important to Paul than apprehension of all the content.6 

Communicating the gospel in today’s world also needs to be carried out in a holistic way, with an evangelistic focus, and a pastoral heart authentically caring for people to be reconciled with God.  As Christians the Lord Jesus has commissioned us to be his communicators.  Our task is to communicate the good news about Jesus Christ in any way possible to every human being (Matthew 28:18-20, John 20:21).  This task was given both to the Church as a whole and to every Christian, to the craftsman as well as the journalist.

This understanding of every Christian as a communicator is based upon God as the Creator of the universe.  Yet, it is organically woven together with our commission to share the good news of the gospel with other people.  Dr. Charles Kraft reminds us “the messenger himself/herself is the major component of the total message. … We are a major part of the message that we seek to communicate. 7  Our challenge is to “embody Christ” in our lives, so that not only our words but also our deeds may converge into a holistic testimony of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

In other words, our testimony is our story, our life is our story, and our story must be woven together with God’s story.   Dr. Leighton Ford has pointed out, the story of God “… goes on forever, weaving its way through countless human lives, countless human stories. We are all part of that great narrative, as we join our stories to His. And we expand that narrative as we call others to join their stories to His. 8  The heart of all communication is that it takes place in a person-to-person encounter. It is never only a ‘transmission’ of messages.  Communication is to be involved, and must “result in Christ becoming flesh and blood in ever new settings.  It is the very nature of the Good News that it will sound differently in Addis Ababa and in London, because it is the Good News about the Word that became a human being.

The gospel is the same, but its form will differ according to the situation 9 

This “holistic” and “organic” view of every Christian as a communicator and inevitably a “missionary” is a result of “the two mandates of creation and mission.”  Dr. Vinay Samuel writes, “As humans made in God’s image we are empowered with stewardly responsibility for the earth and for the gospel of the kingdom. It is in the exercise of that stewardship we affirm our identity as God’s children and also fulfil our humanity. 10 

Yet, we need to keep in mind that communication is an intrinsic part of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Some comments have already been made, but let us just note also how God in the Old Testament uses signs to remind His people about the relationship and the covenant: the rainbow for Noah, the blood on the doorframe at Passover, the circumcision to set apart Abraham’s descendants.

Jesus Christ is proclaimed as the essence of communication.  He is the Word.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men… … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:1-14 (see endnotes 1 to 4 for comments.)

Again, we need to keep in mind a holistic approach:  Jesus is not only the spoken Word, but the Word in action.  The Kingdom of God is near, He said – and it truly was and is today, through the Holy Spirit.  Not only because Jesus Himself was dwelling among us, proclaiming the gospel, but equally so because He acted to heal, feed, comfort and even restore to life.

The Holy Spirit is the Communicator as well.  The Bible calls Him “the Counsellor” and “the Spirit of truth” who will convince of sin and “guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”5

Even more so, to enable us to carry out the task of communicating the Gospel, we have been promised the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is this Spirit that can change the Babel of confusion into the Pentecost of genuine understanding.

Martin Luther is taking this even further when he explains the 3rd Article of faith in this way: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith 11 

Our challenge is to work in the power of the Holy Spirit to reach out to the human heart.  We are called to be Spirit-filled communicators linking our personal stories to God’s ongoing story in this world.  We are called to be humble, honest and transparent communicators always ready to listen, to answer questions and to share the most important story ever told – the real story of our Lord Jesus Christ that can change a life – forever.

Further Biblical Reflection on Media Narratives

The Bible is full of teaching on how to communicate the gospel and it provides us with examples of how to teach such as the use of parables.  In Mark 4 we have a record of the story of the Sower.  Jesus told this parable to the crowd around Him.  He did not interpret the parable to the crowd.  He only explained it to the disciples.  Why did He not tell the meaning of the parables to the unconverted?  Is it not they who are the very people that need to be enlightened?  Instead, He was explaining the meaning of the parable to the disciples, who had already been converted?  How come this paradox exists?

In parables people listen but need to ponder on their meanings.  Parables are stories with a moral lesson.  Parables are open to interpretation, but have a precise meaning. The story allows people to ponder possible meanings.  Christian communicators are not to give solutions or answers to people too soon.  It is important for people to ponder and slowly come to understanding.  Too fast an understanding may create blossom without roots which will not survive persecution or trials.  This is precisely the point made by the parable of the Sower.

In 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5, Paul was saying that though we live in this world, we do not battle as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not of this world.  Rather, they had divine power to demolish strongholds, taking captives of every thought to the Lordship of Christ.  In building media ministry, many people tend to focus on the hardware and the technical skills. They are necessary but not most important.  Christian media though is made of metal and stone, in fact dependent on spiritual power to bring people’s heart to obedience to God.  That is the reason as to why we are in the world but not of the world.  We should not think too much of the material level of media technology, though they are indeed very useful, but the essential battle is the warfare of the mind and heart.  It is a spiritual battle for the changing of the mind of people, bringing them back to God.

The same is true for Christian communicators themselves.  Though we are earthly vessels, easily broken, our inner strength comes from the indwelling of Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 4: 7 ff, we know from Paul that we have the light of the knowledge of Christ as the treasure in jars of clay, to show the all-surpassing power is coming from God, not from ourselves.  Christian communicators must not rely on themselves, the technologies, the skills, and the abilities to evangelize.  Only Christ in us will give us strength and the ability to finish His work.

In 1 Corinthians 11:23 ff, Paul reminds us that we are in a covenanted relationship with Christ.  There is a covenant community.  There are genuine choices for people to join this community or not.  There are blessings and curses in these choices.  The blood and flesh of Christ are symbolized by the media of the cup and the bread.  Media are symbols for spiritual relationship.

The Bible is also a medium of the truth of God. The writing of the Scriptures was inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by people under His inspiration.  It is a roadmap to understand the creative and redemptive plan of God.  Christian communicators must learn to understand the Bible as the Word of God.  It is the core of our communication.

On broader terms, Christ Himself is the Medium, the Mediator, and the Communicator for the Kingdom of God.  His life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection are all vital factors for our spiritual hope. The cross is the symbol of God’s redemption and our eternal hope.

Practical Applications and Outcome for Media Narratives

Derived from the media specific concerns, the worldwide church can adopt the following strategies:

  1. Media programming must be targeted toward specific people in a concrete context with specific concerns. The Church is not to communicate with in a vacuum without a target.  Rather she is to communicate with compassion, empathetic to the pain and struggle of the people she serves.  Christian media is primarily not for the Church, but for the people in the marketplace.  The Church must break the four walls of her building and get involved in the current issues of the day.  She must listen first before she can speak intelligently.  She must understand the Word of God in order to communicate with authority and conviction.  The Church is the mediator between God and the world.
  2. Christian media can aim at building a relationship with nonbelievers instead of a mere drive for conversion. It should attempt to connect rather than condemn.  Media messages can be communicated through stories and precepts.  Stories provide an open space for people to ponder.  Precepts provide propositional truth as foundations for faith.  We need both the stories and the statement of truths thereby bringing the challenge to the audience to think and affirm.  Christian media should attempt to ask questions rather than giving answers to questions which people are not asking.  In this way the Church can be in dialogue with the world rather than functioning in a monologue, hoping others will pick up some truths.
  3. The objectives of Christian communication are to build life, to build long-term relationships, and to nurture the whole person into maturity in Christ. The Church must learn to bring the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.  For an individual person, this is a long journey, made up of many decisions of faith, not just one time conversion.  For different individuals, the message can be customized and made intelligible for the specific audience.  Christian media is to build covenant community rather than lay judgment on the non-believers.  It is the Church’s task to invite, to explain, to provide choices, and to warn the world of the imminent judgment.  It is up to the individuals to respond and to make choices.  Persuasion through propaganda is not our task.  Speaking prophetically as servants of God is the positioning for Christian communication.
  4. We must be wholesome in communicating God. God is the wholly Other.  He is holy and unique.  He is almighty and eternal.  He exists before all things. All things are made by Him.  We should examine the theological content of what we are communicating to ensure that it is making known the Holy One who is also the Judge of all.   The Church should not merely communicate a therapeutic God for all human ailments, a magic wand that will fulfil all human dreams, and a supporter for all human endeavours. He does things according to His own will.  We are supposed to listen and wait for His calling.
  5. As each medium has intrinsic logic and narrative style, Christians should consider carefully which medium is best for what audience. We can also provide multiple media in a planned integration for optimal results and influence on the audience.  Media should also not be functioning alone.  It is better to use media and interpersonal contacts together to bring about an impact on the audience and to nurture their growth.  The model of decision making testifies to this media-interpersonal combination for effective witness.
  6. Christian communicators must conduct intensive audience research. Researches include audience profiling, their demographics, psychographics, and lifestyles. We also need to research on the characteristics and limitations of the new and emergent media.  The appearance of a new media will also affect the media ecology and functioning of the existing media.  We can also conduct content analysis and narrative style research of Christian media.  In this way we can understand our bias, our relevance to the target audience, and our theological depth and limitations.
  7. Christian communication must respect culture. Culture is not something to eradicate or undermine.  Rather, it is something to be respected and cultivated. Christian communication does not operate in a cultural vacuum. Communicators must be sensitive by not bringing their own cultural biases to the audience in a different cultural setting.  Rather, they must learn to appreciate the foreign culture and connect it to God.  Culture is not merely a hurdle of mission and communication.  It is also a friend to provide a context for faith and obedience to truth.

3. Mission Specific Concerns

When employing the media for mission, we need to pay attention to the narrative form and technological competency and we need to clarify the mission objectives to be achieved through the media.  Mission concerns include the process of ministry development, integration of mission outreaches, and assessment factors for effectiveness.

  1. What is the role of the media in integrative mission?

How would the media enhance the processes of evangelism, discipleship, cross-cultural mission, church planting, training of leaders and other dimensions of Christian mission?  As delineated above in the diffusion of innovation model of decision- making, the media is effective in the phases of awareness, interest, and affirmation of the adopter.  Media is less effective in the phases of try out and cognitive dissonance.  Therefore the media can integrate with interpersonal ministry to bring optimal effectiveness in evangelization.

For discipleship, the media can only play a supplementary role in providing motivation and information. The process of discipleship would involve mentoring, guidance, and feedback to the learner.  Interpersonal contact and walking together as guides can achieve better relationship than just media.

For cross-cultural mission, relationship is primary.  Christian communicators need to listen first before saying anything.  It is important to understand the cultural background, historical heritage, signs and icons of the respective culture.  Otherwise cross-cultural communication will not only be ineffective, but it can bring clashes and conflicts.

Church planting can make use of the media for motivation and biblical learning.  Some courses for leadership training can be done as media modules.  However, Church planting is a people oriented process.  The leader needs to be with the people, demonstrating the way and nurturing the new disciples.  Therefore, the media best plays a supplementary role.

As a church seeks to train the trainers, it will need to decide if the trainers can learn from media packages, this will be ideal.  In most cases train-the-trainer programs can best be interpersonal, using media exercises as modules and subject of class discussion.

The process of ministry development and of using the media needs to be carefully planned.  The role of the media is different at different stage of the process.  Media use can be integrative with other group and interpersonal contacts to bring holistic ministry to the audience.

  1. How do we assess the effectiveness of media ministry?

When assessing the effect of the media, it is insufficient just to see output of programming hours, or to see the final results in the number of conversions.  Mission is a people-oriented task.  The decision in faith and the growth of the lives of the people are progressively quantifiable.  One can assess the learner in terms of awareness and interest in the concepts of biblical truths, the understanding of the basic concepts of biblical truth, the willingness to adopt and try out, the ability to overcome cognitive dissonance (the mental state that one experiences when making an important decision) and the tendency to stay affirmed in faith.  Reflection, emotion, imagination, action and formation of character and transformation of the person, are some of the phases in a persons response by which we can measure effectiveness.

This cycle repeats as the learner digs deeper into the commitment of faith.

If one conceives the gospel broadly, beyond the personal conversion process, the media can have social and cultural renewal effects.  The media can help to bring about improvement in self-determination of the people, gender equality, human capital (nurture of human potential), social capital (cultivation of social networking), and cultural capital (nurture of creativity and cultural heritage.)

  1. How important is cultural sensitivity to media communication?

For media mission, it is important to evaluate the cultural context of the communicator.  It is not necessarily constructive to bring the culture of the communicator to the audience.  Nor is it advisable for the audience to be expected to adopt the culture of the communicator.  This is called assimilation.  The best way is to see life changed and Christian hope adopted without changing unnecessarily the home culture of the convert.  One can see why Jesus asked the transformed demoniac who came out of the cemetery in the place called Gerasenes (in Mark 5, or Gadarenes in Matthew 8 ) to stay and witness to the friends at home (5:19).  He would be culturally relevant to his friends.

  1. What is mission partnership?

Media mission calls for partnership.  Media ministries are capital intensive and so it is advisable to pool resources to ensure production quality and a wide distribution network.  In forming partnerships we need to ensure that there is no tendency towards cultural imbalance. This requires a critical examination of the production and distribution of media programs.  Local and indigenous programs are strongly encouraged.

  1. Are we serving the poor?

Media mission needs to serve the poor.  Jesus and the Old Testament prophets mentioned the needs of the poor, the orphans, and the widows.  These are the people with little ability to defend themselves.  Christian media should aim to empower them to help themselves.  Furthermore, many third-world country media are poor in the sense of limited production capability and original content.  They depend very much on imported technology and program translation.  Perpetual reliance is not a good media ministry model.  Developing nations should not be dependent on Western technology and resources on a long-term basis.  This is why appropriate technology and local productions are important, rather than trying to get the most advanced technology and import slick programs from the outside.

Media mission needs to be sensitive to the digital divide, economic divide, and information divide.  Poverty comes in many ways.  Knowledge can be powerful.  Lack of knowledge and information could prolong social poverty.  Media should aim to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, economically, socially, and technologically.

Biblical Foundation for Media Mission Concerns

Paul a Communicator of God’s Grace Arne H. Fjeldstad

The apostle Paul’s life and work are marked by his skills as a highly effective and successful communicator.  Paul’s success as a communicator not only by preaching and teaching the gospel but manifesting the truth in daily life brought him into persecution, imprisonment and torture.  His methods were dynamic, focused, pastoral and passionate.  The apostle related to the needs of people in a particular place and situation.  He never lost track of the essential message, the gospel.  The message of the gospel does not change, but the way it is presented is dependent on some different factors.

Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:16), but he was a devout Jew.  So from his life and from his sermons, it can be seen how the gospel presentation changed to fit the needs of the people.  I will highlight five passages, four from the book of Acts, which will consist of two occasions in which Paul preached to a Jewish audience and two times in which he preached to a Gentile audience. The fifth passage will be taken from 1 Corinthians.

These passages will remind us of some key communication principles.  First, that the gospel presentation changes according to the knowledge the respondents have of God. Second, the audience’s point of responsibility to God is related to their cultural and religious history and present context.  Third, we will see how Paul is directly rejecting people’s religious beliefs and presents the gospel as the alternative, but does so within their understanding of creation.  Fourth, Paul actively uses beliefs from the other culture to expand their religious context and build a bridge of understanding. Fifth, Paul demonstrated that the power of the gospel is not dependent upon skilful oratory or humanly convincing arguments, but the power of the Holy Spirit and His work with us.

First, let’s see how the newly converted inquisitor of the Christians had been changed by his encounter with Jesus:

“Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.  At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.  All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?  And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”  Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 9:21-22)

Here Saul is seen just after his conversion experience.  Already he is doing what would become his habit throughout his ministry.  He would go to a city and first go to the synagogue to preach the good news to the Jews. In this short passage is found “All the great superstructure of his future teaching” 12  to the Jews. “He knows by experience that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews.” 13  Here is only found the core of Saul’s ministry to the Jews, but this was nothing to be brushed off because he was “confounding the Jews… by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”  Lenski says, “These proofs were conclusive, overwhelming, and silenced the opponents.” 14   How did Saul prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ?  He reasoned with them from the Scriptures.  Even though this is not stated in this passage, it is stated in other passages where Paul is seen reasoning with the Jews in the synagogues (e.g. Acts 17:1-3).  To assist a Jew to know that Jesus is the Messiah, one would have to go to the Scriptures.

This becomes even more evident in the second passage from Acts 13, when Paul is travelling to Pisidian Antioch:

“…On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.  After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.  ”Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: ‘Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!’ ” (Acts 13:14-16)

In this passage the cultural group is the same as before (but note also the possible inclusion of Gentiles who fear the God of the Jews), but this time Paul’s message is recorded.  He starts with one of the most important facts of Jewish history, the Exodus.  He then proceeds to tell the history of Israel and leads them up to David.  From here he introduces the Messianic promise (“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised” Acts 13:23).  He goes on to infer that all the Scripture points to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 13:27).  It is important to note that with this group of people, Paul uses Israel’s history, the Scriptures, and the Messianic hope contained therein.

The third passage is found in Acts 14:11ff.  The cultural context is now Gentile.  Paul and Barnabas are in the city of Lystra, and Paul heals a man who has been lame from birth.  The people see it happen, and from their pagan background, naturally they assume that Paul and Barnabas are gods (Zeus and Hermes) and begin to worship and make sacrifices to them.  As the people were speaking in their national tongue (the tongue that their patron god would expect), Paul and Barnabas did not know what was happening until it was almost too late.  But when Paul realised what the people were doing he responded,

“… they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: ‘Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.  In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.’” (Acts 14:14-17)

This presentation of the gospel was presented in a very different way in the other two passages that have been discussed.  As Kent observes, “Paul’s speech to the pagans was appropriate to his audience.  He made no appeal to Scripture, but built upon the knowledge they had from the natural world.  He stressed the evidence in nature of a supernatural Creator, and showed the folly of idolatry.” 15  Although Paul did quote the Old Testament in verse 15 (Ex. 20:11), he did not appeal to it as an authority but used it because it conveyed the truth he was trying to get across to these people.

In the fourth passage we will see how Paul preached to the Gentiles who had no knowledge of God as revealed in the Scriptures.  Paul is in Athens and the idolatry of the city is breaking his heart.  As he preached in the synagogue and spoke in the market place, he was approached by Stoic and Epicurean philosophers to come and present this new teaching to the philosophers on Mars Hill.  When he arrived he said,

“Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:22-25ff)

Here Paul is seen preaching to a group of not only Gentiles but to some of the intellectual elite of the city.  Again he does not seem to appeal to the Scriptures but to the evidence in nature, of a supernatural Creator and the natural need of man to worship the things that point to God.

There are several key issues that should be noted:

A. Paul talked to people in the marketplace and joined a public meeting, left the synagogue, and was ready to take the initiative to present the gospel.

B. He spoke to them in a philosophical way, in their own terms.  He started with connecting to their own cultural and religious situation.

C. He deliberately used quotes from their well-known writers and expanded their very concept of a god ‘made of gold or silver’ in human image.

From these four examples, two of the reasons Paul changed his presentation of the gospel can be seen.

One reason why his presentation changed was because of what the respondents knew about God.  For the Jews, Paul preached to them about the “God of the covenant,” the God of their father’s who had brought them out of the land of Egypt.  The Jews were God’s chosen people.  God had used them to give the Scriptures and the oracles of God to the world.  They knew that the God of their fathers had revealed Himself through the prophets in the Scriptures.  In the Scriptures they not only had the Law, but they also had the promise of the coming Messiah on whom they waited for deliverance.  It was this Messiah that Paul preached to the Jews and to the Gentiles who had become “God-fearers.”  This promise of a coming Saviour who was moral and just appealed to the Gentiles.1

But for the other Gentiles, it was different.  The Jewish Messiah seemed to them to be just that, the Jewish Messiah.  They had no Scriptures from God to depend on, they did not have the covenant relationship which the Jews had.  They were not the “Children of the Covenant”.  But they were not without a witness.  They were the “Children of Creation”.  The fact that God’s hand could be seen in nature and the fact that they craved someone or something to worship pointed to a God who desired that kind of relationship.  They knew that there was a God, but they needed guidance.  This was the God that Paul preached to them, the God of creation, the God who had made them and everything around them.  He was the God who sent the rains and the harvest.  Paul used what they knew about God and changed it.  He modified their concept from an impersonal essence to the personal, living God of the universe, and introduced them to the God of the Bible.

The second factor that changed the presentation of the gospel was the level of knowledge the respondents had about God and thus the expectation of the response they should have had to God.  The Jews were the covenant people of God.  Paul could have used the argument of creation with them as well as with the Gentiles, but Paul had a deeper point to touch with the Jews.  They knew God, they had His word, they were responsible to Him through it.  Paul knew that the Gentiles were not bound to God by the covenant, but they were bound to Him because of creation.  Romans 2:12 says, “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the law; and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.”  Paul started his preaching at their point of responsibility.  The Gentiles were responsible to God because He is their Creator, while the Jews were responsible to God because they were in covenant relationship with Him.  But the God-fearing Gentiles were another case.  They were not Jews but in some cases they became proselytes, followers of the Jewish religion.  They now had knowledge of God and the Messiah and they looked forward to the day when the Messiah would come, because He did not just come for the Jews but He was coming to be “a light to the Nations” (Isaiah 49:6b).

So Paul could preach to them just as he did to the Jews.

Another factor that forced Paul to modify his presentation is found in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.  The Corinthians lived so close to Athens that they were easily swayed by skilful oratory.  Paul was trained by the best; he was a skilful orator with a rhetoric that would have been hard to match, but Paul knew that these people did not need that.  He said,

I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power…” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).

Paul knew that if it were only his words that convinced them, it would not last.

The gospel must connect with reason and fit the needs of the audience.  The apostle Paul himself was prepared, and indeed did, embody masterful skills as an orator, and a  theologian as he himself noted in 1 Corinthians 9:

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel,  that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

For us the challenge remains: are we ready not only to say, but to capture the opportunities given to us as wholehearted, unselfish and courageous as the Apostle Paul – no matter the consequences?

Further Biblical Reflection on Media as Mission
Christian communicators need a listening ear.  Philip met an Ethiopian eunuch on the road.  He listened and found that the man was reading the book of Isaiah.  He asked a question, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

“How can I,” the Ethiopian replied, “unless someone explains to me?”  So he invited Philip to come and sit with him in the chariot.  Philip was able to explain the gospel to the Ethiopian (Acts 8: 26-39).  It is important for Christian communicators to listen and ask questions first instead of trying to give unsought answers to supposed questions.

Christian media should go to the marketplace, beyond the immediate region and into the distant parts of the world.  Before Jesus departed He said to His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).  Christian media so often is limited to the confines of the Church or a Christian bookstores or Christian media channels.  However, Christian media should be distributed in the marketplace, in general or secular channels and beyond the country or society, into the uttermost part of the earth.

Christian communicators are ambassadors of peace.  We are representing God to reconcile people with Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).  Media is bridge building by nature.  Jesus is the Mediator between God and us, as explained in the Letter to the Hebrews.  The Bible is also a medium for people to understand God.  Therefore Christians are ambassadors of peace, to make peace between God and people everywhere.  As a corollary, Christian communicators are also making peace between people in various situations.  The world is experiencing a clash of civilizations, as Samuel Huntington has conceived it.  Christian media can bring reconciliation among people alienated and at enmity.

Christian media is to build relationships.  In John 14: 6-7 Jesus proclaimed that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  If we knew Him, we should know the Father.  Jesus is the means for building a relationship between God and everyone on this earth.  Media is not best at stimulating immediate decision-making or effect.  Rather, it has a cultivational effect for the long haul.  Most of what George Gerbner did in media research was to find out the long-term effect of television on children.  Christians should also aim at the long-term impact and on relationship building.  People need to connect with one another.  They can connect with us and through us to Christ.

Christian media can be full of grace and truth.  In John 1:14 it states that the Logos (the Word) had become flesh, and now dwells among us, full of grace and truth.  Many Christian media events are full of truth without passion.  Others are full of grace without knowledge. We need both grace and truth for media ministry.  By grace we mean that Christian media should regard the audience as the primary focus and we should be concerned about them and their needs.  Survival or selfinterest of the communicators or of a Christian media organization is not the primary interest.  By truth we are stating that we should be communicating the truth of God and the historical narrative of Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures.

Practical Applications and Outcome for Media Mission Concerns

  • Affirming culture before confronting it

It is a fallacy to see the culture of the unconverted as needing to be eradicated.  In fact, there are godly and ungodly elements in every culture.  By God’s common grace and the image of God ingrained in humans, all people are capable of creating some Christian values.  Contrarily, because of our fallen human nature, we are also capable of creating ungodly culture.  Therefore, Christian media mission should try to understand and affirm the best part of a culture and confront that which stands against God and His expectations of us.  The process of media communication is first affirmation of the positive elements in a culture, then identify those elements which should be eradicated or transformed, and then convey the Christian elements which would enhance the culture to be reflecting more Christ-like features.

  • Mission to the poorest and the best

It is important that we care for the weakest in society, the orphans, the widows and the poor.  However, serving the poorest among the poor is not the only mission.  If that were the case, then a country will remain very poor and dependent on the outside for constant relief.

It is equally important to cultivate the best of the best.  Jesus had disciples who were fishermen.  He also had followers who were professionals and intellectuals.  Christian media mission should also cater for the best of the best in a society.  In this way, the country or society can grow on its own and build self-reliance.

There is an aesthetic principle in reaching the universal in the media.  There is no way that we can target the media for all people.  We can only specialize.  Then how can we reach the universal?  By reaching the opposites in particular, we can reach the universal.  The implication is for the Church to help the poorest and the elites of society at the same time.

  • Develop appropriate strategies

Media strategy for the rural people is quite different from a strategy for those living in the cities.  The JESUS film and other technological innovations may be successful in one setting without any effect in another.  Rural people have closer bonds and are more communal.  Urban people tend to be more individualistic and professional. Media missions should have different strategies for each of them.

Media strategies for cross-cultural mission, for a multicultural setting, and for developing countries will all be different from one another.  Christian media professionals need to do vigorous research to understand the psychology of the target group, their culture and language, religious affiliation, sufferings and hopes.

  • Media Mission is Holistic

Verbal communication has limited effectiveness.  Non-verbal communication and lifestyle evangelism are important also.  Dialogic communication, that is communication in a two-way process between two subjects, is good for most occasions, while didactic communication can be appropriate when the communicator is an opinion leader.  Christian media professionals need to have a wide tool-box for seeking the appropriate approach to different people.

4. Model Specific Concerns

Models of Media and Evangelism

Media and technology as pertaining to evangelism is an important subject for the Christian Church.  Media is a capital-intensive undertaking.  Technology implicates many ethical issues.  For the Christian Church to be effective as a witness of the Kingdom of God, soul-searching on the media as a cultural process is a necessity.

The following comments will explore the various views of the media and evangelism that are prevalent in the Church today, viz. the functional, cultural, technological, covenantal, linguistic, developmental, and communicative views.

  1. Functional Model: This is the most dominant view on media and evangelism. The gospel is taken as propositional truth and faith statement whereby someone will proclaim and the audience will respond. Evangelism is a communication process for diffusion of innovation.  In this case the innovation is the gospel for the unreached people.  The decision-making process will involve a few steps: awareness, interest, knowledge, commitment, cognitive dissonance (mental instability when making an important decision), and affirmation.  Media is taken to be the message carrier and the affirmation tool to reduce cognitive dissonance.  Media is simply a tool for evangelization. The communication process is linear and transmissional.  Interpersonal contact is seen to be a “follow-up” reinforcement. Media content in this functional objective is highly predictable, picturing the darkness of life before becoming a Christian and the beauty after converting to Christianity.  The gospel is reduced to faith-propositions.  Conversion is summarized into number of decision-makings. It is an objective and mathematical notion for subjective commitment.
  2. Cultural Model: This view takes the context and culture of the people of interest seriously. Evangelism is taken to be a counter-culture process.  It is a struggle between the secular or worldly values and the heavenly or Godly values.  Media is both the cultural context and the change agent.  Christian effort in the media is a cultural redemption process that the secular values need to be renewed.  Culture must be engaged.  Sin is both personal and structural.  There are elements of culture that need to be affirmed.  But there are also elements to be criticized and renewed.  The Creation mandate of Genesis that God commanded humankind to cultivate the land and bear fruit is taken literally.  Culture is not only something that is to be surmounted in mission efforts, but a legacy of humankind to be nurtured.  Media is a culture-creation endeavour. Redeemed persons need a redeemed cultural environment to survive and blossom spiritually. 
  3. Technological Model: Technology has its inner logic. It drives for efficiency and productivity.  The technological system has a la technique principle that is dehumanizing, using Jacques Ellul’s framework (The Technological Society, New York: Vintage, 1967.) Technology becomes an oppressive system that imprisons humankind.  Evangelism is a liberating force that re-awakens the humanity within a person.  Media in evangelism, therefore, can be a critical process for the technologically oppressed to understand and break the bondage of media.  Media education or literacy programs can be a liberating process for the restoration of human dignity.  Media education programs involve three stages: awareness, criticism, and expression. Media producers for evangelism must be conscious of the mechanical and dehumanizing forces of media technology and not be too dependent on technology itself.  The human soul and community of faith should take precedence over media and technological excellence.
  4. Covenantal Model: God used the media as signs for covenants. Circumcision was a sign for Abraham making a covenant with God. The rainbow signified to Noah that God would not punish men again with the flood.  Baptism is a sign of becoming a member of the Church.  Even Christ is a medium, the author of Hebrews coined it the Mediator between God and man.  In this covenant tradition, evangelism can be a covenant-making process, between God and the faith community.  Decision of faith is not only a personal choice, it is also a communal endeavour, such as the case of the Passover blood in the story of the Exodus.
  5. Linguistic Model: Evangelism is the process of communicating truth with a view to the hearer responding in faith. Media in its narrative form acts similar to a language system in communication.  The language and narrative nature of the media must be explored for effective communication.  Truth is absolute but the communication of truth is cultural.  Media semiology (research on media content treatment and narrative form) is an important study for communication of meaning. The form is as important as the content because the medium is also the message, using Marshall McLuhan’s perspective.  Communicating faith through story-telling is cogent for mission.
  6. Developmental Model: Evangelism is a liberation process for the poor and the oppressed from their imprisonment. Jesus’ inauguration reading of the Isaiah scripture is taken literally.  Communication and media serve as developmental tools for liberation.  Media gives voice to the voiceless, and power to the powerless. Communication through the media bridges the “power divide” between social groups and can restore human community.  A social system with open communication, even with a flow of information, and self-determination tends to usher in better social development.  Media endeavours that enhance these factors bring about liberation and social development.
  7. Communicative Model: When Jesus met the mad man who resided among the tombs and cutting himself up, Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” Evangelism brings human dignity and consciousness of the soul to the demon possessed.  In this perspective, evangelism is to restore the deprived person from an object (my name is Legion, for we are many) to a subject (healed and to tell the story to kinsmen), a person made in the Image of God. Communication is neither a sender-receiver relationship, nor a broadcaster and audience positioning.  It is an Ithou relationship of Martin Buber’s conception.  Media is called to enhance intersubjectivity (both parties involved in communication are people or subjects) among the communicators.  It facilitates a communication process that enhances communication, communion and community.
  8. Agenda-Setting Model: The prominent issues of concern of a society are called the social agenda. The social agenda prescribes the social climate of a society.  The mass media has an agenda-setting capability.  Christians can engage in the mass media to set the social agenda.  Public opinion is a public space for shaping values and culture.  In forming public opinion, “the spiral of silence” inhibits the minority view, according to Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann.  Christian media can be prophetic and it can challenge the dominating view.  In mass media, there is a struggle for control and gate-keeping.  It is a game for monopoly.  Christians should strive for a wider public space for genuine debate of social issues.  In today’s world, the Western media controls most of the global media, thereby controlling culture.  Christian media can engage in protecting the marginal and social outcast.  In the tradition of the prophets in protecting the orphans, widows, and sojourners, the Christian media must strive to give voice to the voiceless.

In addition, the mass media needs the actual lives of the communicators to confer credibility.  The fall of many tele-evangelists could undermine the credibility of all Christian communication.

  1. Digital Model: While digital media shares some of the concern of the mass media, it also has unique issues of its own. The pitfall of Christian communicators is to imagine that digital media obeys the same pattern as the mass media.  There are myths as cybercasting, information as knowledge, object as learning and access as communication.  Communication is in fact a social process rather than a mechanical one.

Information technology enables a global network to be in place and ushers an effectively equidistant world.  Space is annihilated through time.  In contrast to mass media, digital media is interactive and participatory.  Furthermore, it can be convivial for celebration among the people. It is similar to the postal service and the telephone.  The narrative forms of the digital media encourage linkage of information as lexicon of knowledge, multiple points of view, multiform story with different paths and endings, and strong human-technology interface.  The digital media is unique in the media landscape in that it is both high in presence (realistic sight and sound such as in the cinema) and interactivity (such as with a computer game.)

As information technology is dealing with speed: transmission, fidelity of viewing, and data processing, it also has the issue of the information rich and the information poor.  Christians need to bridge this digital divide through accessible technology, range of online options, and fidelity of information for the handicapped.

Also connectivity does not guarantee connecting among people. Connecting is a social process.  The same is true for information and learning, knowledge and wisdom. Raw data is not information.  Information is not knowledge.  Knowledge is not wisdom.  Wisdom is not character building or in itself life changing.

Furthermore, one cannot take the virtual community as a fully-fledge Christian community.  Christian community must be enhanced by a face-to-face encounter. Digital and real life must be interwoven for genuine Christian communication to take place.

  1. Folk Media Model: Folk media include traditional arts and handicrafts, such as puppets, shadow play, stone and monumental arts, clay and cement, silk broidery, painting and sculpture, and others. The popular use of the electronic and digital media by the Christian Church in developed countries does not mean to undermine the effective use of the folk media as communication platforms and tools. For the folk media, one must respect the integrity of matter and material.  In search of stones, in Scott Peck’s term, is to respect nature as it is and listen to its message of humankind.  Folk communication depends on folk culture.  One must attempt to understand the cultural heritage of a people for effective communication.  The folk media is a tool for this journey.  One needs to search for the signs and icons of a people and her cultural tradition.  There are ungodly beliefs embedded in the folk media that needs to be redeemed.  There are also godly beliefs that need to be retained and amplified.  In dealing with folk media, Christians can engage in the process of acculturation, disculturation and enculturation.  Acculturation is a blending of two or more cultures. Disculturation is to remove the evil elements of a culture.  Enculturation is to embed the good values.  Most of the time it is both an affirming and a critical process.  One seeks to affirm the good and criticize the bad.  One must respect a folk culture, understand it and appreciate it, before one can be critical of it.

Evangelism is more than proposing a formula of faith statements for people to adopt.  It is a life-joining experience with God.  It calls for a change of life-style and culture. Commitment of faith is both a personal and a community vocation.  The media and technology, in particular the mass media, folk media, digital technology, and biotechnology, have spiritual implications that are conducive or obtrusive to the cultural task of evangelization.  This paper is an introduction to the pertinent issues that deserve a broader discussion and deeper understanding. 

Biblical Foundation for Model Specific Concerns

The Concept of HEART LanguageArne H. Fjeldstad

God reveals Himself through personal, passionate and indeed untraditional acts of communication.  In this He reveals His heart to us to establish, nurture and develop real communion and fellowship with us.  Real communion with God leads to communication that in its turn gives rise to more communication.

God has commissioned us to communicate the gospel of salvation and eternal hope into every language, every culture and every “reality” that has not yet heard and received the good news.  Being faithful to this commission, through communication we need to establish relationships to touch the core of the human being: the heart.  Because, as the apostle Paul writes in Romans 10:10: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified.”

However, as communicators we know that only sending the message, or giving out information, is not enough.  Communication is what is heard, not only what is said or written.  Cultural patterns of a society fundamentally influence the form of communication.  Existing beliefs and value systems are a major factor in building communication.  Personality and experience modify the form of the message.

Our goal must be to penetrate to the very core of the human being, the heart.  We need to establish knowledge, or maybe even better, an integrated understanding that can be transformed by the Holy Spirit to a growing, vibrant faith.  We need to have the same goal as Paul, who writes in Colossians 2:2-3: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

How, then, can we be effective communicators aiming at the heart – to give the Holy Spirit a foothold with a human being? In the following, I would like to propose to you a ‘grid’ or maybe we could call it a set of criteria to help the ‘quality control’ of our communication efforts.  I have chosen to call it ‘HEART language’ –  based on the first letter of each word.

Communicating in a postmodern era challenges our Christian testimony to be real and embodied in our own personal stories of lived life.  It must be passionate, incarnating Gods heartfelt love and desire for relationship with every person.  A new model for this communication approach can be the HEART language.

The purpose of the concept of HEART language is to communicate Christ with a holistic approach, an evangelistic focus, an authentic content and a reconciliating purpose aiming at a transforming outcome (result).  We need interactively to communicate Christ crucified to the core of the human being, which the Bible says is the heart.

The HEART language can be identified with five characteristics; each connected to one of the five letters in the word:

HOLISTIC approach: Communicating God’s love for the whole human being.

EVANGELISTIC focus: Communicating the eternal good news to the whole world.

AUTHENTIC content: Honestly including myself to communicate the objective truth.

RECONCILIATING purpose: Communicating God’s redemptive and restoring  purpose for all relations.

TRANSFORMING result: Communicating faith in God’s promise to make me a “new being in Christ.”

In essence, the HEART language is about revealing and communicating God’s heart for us. Henri J. M. Nouwen points out what HEART language is all about: “In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men an women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, that cares, that reaches out and want to heal.  In that heart there is no suspicion, no vindictiveness, no resentment, and not a tinge of hatred.  It is a heart that wants only to give love and receive love in response.  It is a heart that suffers immensely because it sees the magnitude of human pain and the great resistance to trusting the heart of God who wants to offer consolation and hope.” 16 

HEART language is basically and ultimately about God’s love to us, as we may experience it in an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  The purpose is to experience a true interaction – from one heart to another.  In a Christian context, it is ultimately to allow the Almighty God to communicate all that He wants to give of love, wisdom, faith, strength, admonition, and whatever it might be, in a truly transforming way. Very often God allies himself with the feelings He has created in us to reveal Himself to us.

Henri Nouwen challenges every Christian leader to “know the heart of God.”  The Christian leader of the future is the one who truly knows the heart of God as it has become flesh, “a heart of flesh,” in “Jesus.  Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation or despair begin to invade the human soul this is not something that comes from God.  This sounds very simple and maybe even trite, but very few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits. This unconditional and unlimited love is what the evangelist John calls God’s first love.  “Let us love,” he says, “because God loved us first” (1 John 4:19).” 17 

HEART-language requires a servanthood attitude from the communicator.  Only then may we truly communicate effectively to glorify God and serve his redemptive purpose, to “reconcile the world to himself in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:19, NIV).  Used with this purpose the HEART language may serve as every commissioned Christian “diplomatic language.”  God has commissioned every Christian to be His ambassador and called us to communicate His appeal through us: “Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:20b-21).

However, HEART language may also be misused for commercial purposes.  Much modern marketing aims at stirring up emotional reflections to promote sale of commercial products.  One may recognize much similarity between, for example, popular TV-shows. Heart language shaped in the image of for example the electronic media with the purpose of being only humorous, entertaining, articulate, rich and timely gives no real satisfaction or outcome.  Yet, it is also true indeed that within the concept of HEART language using whatever communication tools available to glorify God and proclaim Christ, the communicational methods in use may very well be humorous, entertaining, articulate, rich and timely!

(Click on table to enlarge)

This table may also provide some key questions to help evaluate the communication process as well as the outcome of it.  The concept of HEART language is intended to help people ask key questions in the process of defining the goals, tools, type of content and methods suitable for communicating the gospel to a new generation.  Ministers, missionaries and others working with ‘Generation X’ people will find it useful to ask questions like,

“Does the ministry communicate in a holistic way, and not only to the mind?”

“Are we honest about the purposes of our activities?”

“Are we promoting healing, between God and man, humans and nature as well as between human beings?”

“Are we communicating the ‘good news’ (Greek: evangelion) in a creative way?”

“Are we sharing about experiences in our life with Christ in a passionate way?”

“Are we being authentic and do we promote accountability?”

“In what ways are people encouraged to experience reconciliation in Christ?”

“How are we witnessing about transforming relationships with Jesus Christ?”

In essence, the HEART language aims at communicating the essence as well as the fullness of Christ embodied in living relationships. It also promotes a true “freedom in Christ” (Galatians 5:1) to dare to move humanly made fences and build bridges for the sake of the gospel wherever possible. “With hearts enlarged with love, communities of fence movers do not fear dialogue with those who differ from themselves.  As Christians, our affection for Christ often results in the use of love language.” 18 

The Bible has many references to the heart as the core of the human individual. God is the God who “searches every heart” (1 Chronicles 28:9, NIV), He is the One who “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21, NIV).  The Lord “does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).  A man’s heart is important to the Lord. Jesus confirms this when He affirms the essence of the Old Covenant.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NIV).  It is a matter of being true and whole in the relationship with the Supreme Lord of the entire Universe.

This is by no means only an intellectual or cognitive attitude.  To have the heart in the right place in relationship with God implies faithful obedience and a servanthood attitude.  As it is written,

“And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12, NIV).

God also looks to our hearts for true repentance (Psalm 51:17) and He wants to renew our hearts so that we may love him wholeheartedly (Ezekiel 36:26).  It is with our heart that we believe and are justified (Romans 10:10).  In Christ He has let the light “shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6, NIV).  The apostle Paul prays that the Lord may make the love increase and overflow and that the hearts may be strengthened so that we may be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus returns. (1 Thessalonians 3:12f)

All these references (and many more) underscore the importance of keeping the heart close to the Lord and letting him be in control of our innermost being, the heart.  The postmodern reality challenges us to communicate the good news from heart to heart, in the same passionate, intimate way as God revealed His innermost desire for us by having Jesus die on the cross.

The next table aims at relating the concept of HEART language to some key questions that can be used as a ‘test’ when one wants to communicate the gospel within a postmodern frame.  Asking key questions may help to stay ‘on target’ in the communication process.  However, normally only some of the question may apply in each situation.  Furthermore, to ask what the desired outcome of the communication process will be may help to avoid misunderstandings in the midst of the process.

The first concept focuses on a holistic approach to communicate Gods eternal love.  While modernism compartmentalized knowledge and exalted the individual, postmodernism exalts community and reunifies what modernism has dissected and torn apart.  “In our transition from a modern evangelistic enterprise to a postmodern evangelistic enterprise, our challenge is to discover how we can embody the gospel story in a way that appeals to the community-oriented postmodern mind.” 19
The buster generation finds hope, help and sometimes healing in the community.  As Christians we need to build real communities emphasizing the same values in a Christian context.  Above all, a humble approach filled with respect for people with a different appearance is needed.  While presenting and representing God’s unconditional love we must not hide or deny His holiness and desire to transform us into His holy people.

Secondly, we must honestly maintain an evangelistic focus.  The ultimate goal is conversion, to lead new people into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and introduce them to the community of forgiven sinners.  While maintaining a holistic approach, allowing all kinds of initiatives and ideas that may communicate God’s love the core content of the message must never be diluted.  The core message is that Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, and that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6; NIV).  The message should be recognized by its essential focus, encouraging attitude aiming to exalt Jesus as Lord and Saviour.  A polluted gospel will lose its effectiveness and have no everlasting impact.

Thirdly, we always need to remember that each messenger is him – or herself a part of the message conveyed.  Interacting with “Generation X” challenges our own authenticity because falseness in our own appearance may affect the authentic content of the gospel.  We are challenged to accountability, to a genuine, transparent life.  At the same time an admonishing attitude is deeply needed for a generation that is in pain and feel like they have been “trashed.”  Yet, an artistic attitude and willingness to try out new ideas are always welcomed as long as they grow out of an authentic desire to understand and communicate.

Fourthly, this generation is longing for reconciliation and restoring relationships.  The gospel can really be ‘good news’ when and if it is presented in a humble, vulnerable and real atmosphere of love and care.  Unlike generations marked by modernity and cognitive disbelief, the story of the gospel lived out through real life may be relevant and appealing in a different way in a postmodern culture.  The gospel can bring forth redemption and restoration by the work of the Holy Spirit and supported by an authentic, real community.

Finally, the real Story has the power to transform lives as it has done for almost 2,000 years.  Embodied in the person Jesus Christ, the Story is true, tested, trustworthy, touching, transparent and transferable to new people’s lives.  Yet, it can, it must be embodied in our lives and especially in the Christian churches and communities.  Only then will the message prove to be timely and relevant today.  The gospel will continue to transform many people’s lives by the power of the Spirit, making them a new being in Christ and thankfully worshiping the Risen Lord.

The essence is always to keep in mind that “I am a part of the message.”  These questions are therefore questions for self-testing, before, during and after communicating the gospel in a sermon or in a private conversation.  If they can be a help to stay humble, authentic, enthusiastic, relevant and transparent when sharing both the personal story as well as “the Story with a large S,” the Story of God (Leighton Ford) an important purpose is fulfilled.  As his son, Kevin Graham Ford, writes,

“But my generation demands a different apologetics–an embodied apologetic, a flesh-and-blood apologetic, living and breathing argument for God.  The old apologetics of previous generations assumed that the barrier to conversion was intellectual and the way to remove that barrier was to answer all cognitive doubts. But Xers live in an age of intellectual ambiguity, when cognitive answers carry considerably less weight.  The question my generation asks is not “Can Christians prove what they believe?” but “Can Christians live what they believe?” 20 

We are God’s chosen storytellers, to embody Gods passionate heart for each person.  We are chosen to demonstrate God’s loving heart in a painful, alienated world and to a generation who feels hurt, alone, and without hope.

The concept of HEART language aims to help to communicate God’s love for the whole human being in a holistic way, sharing the eternal good news with an evangelistic focus, authentically including myself to communicate the objective truth, always longing to be God’s ambassador to bring about restoring reconciliation, and faithfully praying to be able to experience the transforming work of the Holy Spirit making an alienated generation ‘new beings’ in Christ.

Some Biblical Challenges

Christian media concerns for the poor.  The inauguration reading of the Scripture by Jesus was good news for the poor, liberation for the oppressed, freedom for the captive and sight to the blind (Luke 4:18-19).  Who are the poor among us will be the key question?

  • Christian media utilizes many forms and approaches.

The communication of God in human history was through many forms, many media, many types of people and many eras of time (Hebrews 1:1).  Christians need to be flexible in the use of the media.  We are encouraged to use multiple media in partnership.  Each age has its own media of favour.  In the past, the city wall was the marketplace of ideas.  Later the Temple corridor became the town hall. For the Greeks, it was the Council Chamber.  When newspaper became popular, the newspaper column was the platform of exchange of ideas.  The radio talk shows gradually took over.  Then came television talk shows.  Nowadays, the Internet seems to be the public space for communication.  Christians must be open to a mix of media for communication effectiveness.

  • Christian media envisage the New Heaven and the New Earth.

In Isaiah 65, the prophet envisaged a time and space where there would be no babies dying young (still die), no old people younger than one hundred years of age (still die in old age), people built houses and could live in them, and wild and tame animals living peacefully.  This is a picture not of heaven, but a heaven on earth.  Christian media communicators should have a vision of a better society, on a biblical foundation.  People are not just claimed for conversion and staying in the Church, they should be salt and light of the World and engage in social and cultural renewal because of an eternal hope.

  • Christian media can be prophetic.

The prophets had a two-prong message.  In times of difficulty, they saw the glory of God and the resurrection of the dry bones.  In times of complacent injustice, they confront the people of their sins.  In a word, the prophet both empowers and confront, declaring the freedom of human and the sovereignty of God.  No earthly power is long enough to suppress human dignity forever.

  • Christian media can be priestly.

The priests are media makers, using sacrifices and symbols to signify spiritual meanings.  The priests are concerned about the covenants between human and their God.  In every covenant, there is a sign of media, signifying the blessings and curses.  Christian media can be artistic and symbolic, signifying the unseen and spiritual.

  • Christian media can be kingly.

Kings confer meaning and titles to others. In the beginning, Adam was called by God to name the living things.  Naming has become a battlefield today.  How do you name a baby, embryo, cell, or living thing, will decide how do we treat it?  Christians should be very sensitive to the culture of naming, conferring values to this world.  Evangelism is not simply conversion of individuals, but also redemption of culture.

  • Christian media can be pastoral like shepherds.

The shepherd David created songs to sooth the soul.  Music is a key element for reach people, young or old.  Many of the classics in music are expression of a godly spirit.  We are called to heal through the media.

  • Christian media can be redemptive, calling people back to God.

The Bible is not full of role models for fathers.  Only the Parable of the Prodigal Son portrays a loving father, always patient and forgiving.  Redemption is the message of the Cross.  Christian communicators are called to bring people to repent of their sins and return to the Creator and Redeemer God.  There is no other way in heaven or hell, except to believe in Jesus.

  • Christian media can be educational.

 Jesus is the master teacher.  Teaching is to create space where obedience of truth is practiced (Parker Palmer).  Teaching is to draw out the best from the students.

Teaching is to adapt to the learning style and level of the students.  Teaching is servant leadership.  Christian media can be educational.  Education can bring selfesteem to people.

Practical Applications and Outcome for Media Model Concerns

For models of Christian media we can see the importance of strategy.  A model of communication is a framework that can guide a ministry.  It is a positioning of the media organization.  If media ministry involves much capital, human, and skill resource, one cannot be too careful in designing strategies.

  • Media as transformation of persons

Media can provide information.  Media values can build characters in formation of a person.  The ultimate aim of Christian media is for transformation of individuals.  Media is not only an information tool.  It is a life-saving information for character change and life transformation.  The Church is not only to attract new comers to enter the Church and stay there.  They have to nurture Christians to go back to society as salt and light of the World.  We are not to create passive congregation, but the future Daniel and Isaiah who served among kings, Nehemiah who built the city wall, Esther who saved her ethnic kinsmen and Joseph who fed the people in famine.  We need to provide vision, vocation, identity and mission for active Christian lives.

  • Media as transformation of society

If human dignity is oppressed and the World demand absolute sovereignty without the respect for God, God listened and sent His servant to lead the people into an Exodus.  The Moses story tells us that society needs to be transformed.  God listens to the cry of the oppressed and injustice.  Walter Brugguemann in his book Prophetic Imagination describe the prophetic mission of deliverance of people dehumanized and based on the sovereignty of God. Nehemiah built the city wall with the Jewish people.  By a city wall, people would get protection, identity and space for child rearing and worshipping God.

  • Media as covenant building

Media is used for covenant symbols.  The rainbow after the flood in days of Noah, the circumcision when Abraham was justified by God and the Passover lamb at the eve of the Exodus all symbolized the deliverance of God.  God has been forming covenant with believers into community.  It is a matter of choice, with blessings and curse.  The covenantal form follows a Hittite tradition.  It begins with two parties joining together by swearing oaths. It tells a historical clause of the relationship between the two, such as God has delivered His people out of Egypt into the promise land.  Then it frames the demand and call for obedience. It delineates the blessing and curse as a consequence of inside or outside that covenant community.  It seals with a sign.  Christian media can build a ministry based on this covenantal model.  We are to call for people in obedience to God.  We are to build communities.  Media can be signs for this contractual agreement.  In our Internet and media effects, how can we achieve demand, choice, warning, and sign?

  • Media as agenda setting

Jesus cleansed the Temple in the marketplace.  Paul went to Mars Hill and declared the unique God.  Daniel interpreted the dreams of the King in front of all dignitaries.  Nehemiah built the city wall of Jerusalem for all to see.  Noah built the Ark for many years as a sign of God’s imminent judgment in the form of a flood.  The media is always used in the public arena. Christian media should be in the public marketplace of ideas.  We need to give signs to the age, to dialogue and argue with the people of our times.

  • Media as Counter Culture

The prophets were using the media for counter culture messages.  Jeremiah went to the porter’s place to see the clay being moulded and remoulded, calling for repentance of the people.  Ezekiel told the vision of the resurrection of the dry bones to rekindle the sense of hope for the people in exile.  The three friends of Daniel were untouched by the furnace fire to symbolize the sovereignty of their God.  Christian media can be used for counter culture to awaken the numbness of the people.  Jesus used the parables to do just that.

  • Media as Indigenous Expression of Faith

The fact that the Bible was inspired by God and yet written by so many people from different contexts, testifies to the significance of cultural diversity.  Even the Gospel story of Jesus was told in four versions: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  These facts encouraged the diversity in expression of faith.  Christian faith is not supposed to be monopolized into one version, East or West, North or South.  Through indigenous culture one finds the genuine expression of faith.  The gospel is eternal, but the transformation of lives and cultures is contextual.

  • Media as Cultural Heritage

In a familiar passage about the holy communion, Paul reminded us that the New Covenant began with the event: “the day that Jesus was betrayed…”  Our faith story is always a historical narrative of Jesus.  Paul also reminded Timothy, in his last breadth, to remember that Jesus was a descendent of David and He had risen from the dead (2 Timothy 4).  Christian media must not lose sight of telling the story of faith, the historical narrative of Jesus and the witnesses of the martyrs and saints throughout the ages.

  • Media as Technology

The Tower of Babel was constructed as a sign of human pride.  It was built with a certain level of scientific knowledge (tar for mortar) and technology (baked bricks).  The construction of the Ark by Noah involved technical knowledge and it served as a warning sign.  The temple and tabernacle constructions were made to specifications by creative and skilled craftsmen.  Media requires skill, technique and a sense of art.  The artist Bezalel was filled with the Spirit of God to craft the artefacts of the tabernacle.  Technology and technique can be used for godly purposes.  Artistic skill of men can be used by God for His good purpose.  Christian media should respect technique, technology, and use them for evangelization.

Summary Implications of Media and Technology for World Evangelization

  1. The Church needs to understand the true meaning of being church (salt and light), of expressing the gospel (holistic and redemptive) and of being in the world (people in culture and context). The Church is a people called out by God from darkness into light.  They are also sent back into darkness to serve as salt and light.  The marketplace is where Christian witness is called for.  Christian media should aim to make the gospel known in the marketplace.

The gospel is holistic in the sense that Jesus cared for our body, our mind and our spirit.  We need to target our media to the wholesome need of people.  The gospel enables a restoration of humankind back to the creational mandate of God in Genesis.  We were made in the image of God and we are still called to cultivate and rule the earth in servant leadership.  The gospel is redemption by Jesus through His work on the Cross.  Through Him we are a new creation and should be having our mind transformed.  Christian media must be critically aware of the ungodly culture and provide programmes which could assist in the transformation of the person – character and mind.

The world is not a hazy fussy picture.  We should not see people like trees, (like what the partially healed blind person at first saw).  The world is filled with people, who have real lives, who are suffering and who have hopes and aspirations, yet so often are dehumanized by social and cultural distortions.  We need to reach people as they are.  The fact that we are using the media should not shun us from incarnating, that is, reaching people face-to-face in their own environment.  Only as we do this will our media have credibility.

  1. The Church needs to examine the form and content of media and it should spend more effort to understand the language of the media, the technology of the media, the strength and weakness of the media. Media narrative is different from media to media.  A Christian film must be a film of good quality before it can be described as a good Christian film.
  2. The Church is in want of dialogue and communication. While the Church is eager to evangelize and preach her propositional truth or faith story, the world is not asking the faith question.  The Church must learn to listen and hear the pain of the contemporary people.  We must learn to dialogue with the world in order to gain some.
  3. The Church needs to build relationship with people. The fact Jesus walked in sandals and among the people in concrete time and space will give a good example for Christian media people.  We need to build a relationship with people in the real context in which they are living.  The fact that we are using the mass media or global media should not prevent us from living a godly life and in touch with people in face-to-face terms.  The interpersonal engagement and the media can reinforce each other.
  4. The Church should not be afraid to confront the people of the day. If our God is a sovereign God, our media should confront the dehumanization of all people and the imprisonment of the soul.  If our God is a Saviour, our media should have the message of hope for those who are in exile or who are outcasts.  The problem is not the need for courage, but often it is the need for creativity.  We must relearn the art of telling parables and stories.
  5. The Christian message is for the godless and the godly. God has a plan and doing great things for us even before we were born and before we became Christians.  Christian media should have a relevant message for those who do not know there is the one true God and for those who are seeking to know if there is a God with whom one can relate.  We also have message for those who do know about God.  The spiritual journey is a life-long journey.  A faith-decision is for many a process and requires a number of steps.  The disciples of Jesus forsook their fishing activities and followed Jesus.  After Peter witnessed the casting of the net miracle, Peter told Jesus to leave him because he, Peter, was a sinner.  When Peter arrived at the empty tomb where Jesus had been laid, he saw that the headband and the wrapping cloth were separately placed, but that Jesus was no longer there.  Peter then believed.  Faith often requires a series of decisions and often experiences.
  6. The Gospel presentation needs to be adaptive to people. Jesus talked about fish with Peter, about water with the Samaritan woman and told Nicodemus that he had to be born again.  Paul related directly to those with whom he spoke.  When he was speaking to farmers in Lystra, intellectuals in Greece, or Jewish leaders in Jerusalem he customized the presentation of the gospel truths.  Christian communicators can learn from this presentation customization to reach the people in their own context.
  7. The Church needs to take culture seriously. Media is a shaping force for contemporary culture.  Christians should not forsake the marketplace of ideas.  We must engage with the culture of the day, to affirm and confront, to encourage and to curse.  Since God created the world and called us to be responsible for His creation and the society, we as men and women create, we should nurture society and its culture.  One way we can do this is through our media presentations.  This is taking culture seriously.
  8. The Church tells a timeless story in the here and now. The Christian message is eternal, but the understanding is contextual.  Christian media should have a multiple sense of time: past, present and future.  We must draw examples from history, spiritual and secular.  We need to be aware of the concerns of our contemporary society.  We also need to envision the future, as the eschatological hope of the victory of God.
  9. Christian communicators may have a painful road to success. t maybe difficult to notice medical malpractice except when somebody has died unnecessarily.  It is hard to assess the quality of a counsellor’s advice except by a decline in the number of clients.  However, a communicator is widely exposed.  All his or her media works are open to criticism.  Everyone in the audience can be taken to be an expert, expressing like or dislikes.  This expression of criticism may be painfully heard by the communicator.  Communicators want to please the audience by gaining market acceptance.  However, the examples of Jeremiah and John the Baptist are suffice to note that at the end of the day, we are called to be obedient to one master – God – and not the market.
  10. Christian communication should have special compassion for the poor. Jesus cared for the poor.  The prophets declared war against people not tending the needs of orphans, widows, sojourners, and the poor.  We should be sensitive to the economic divide, cultural divide, information divide, digital divide and other differences in the community such as the generation gap.  We need to enable the poor to grasp those truths which make them strong within themselves.  There is power in the in truth.  Christian media can bring encouragement and self affirmation to all who are impaired.
  11. Credibility of Christian media lies in the witness of the Christian population and both the message and personal lives of Communicators. It is not the professionalism of the technique, nor the moving story of the content.  It is not the coverage of the market or all the media technology.  It is the lives of the Christians and Communicators which gives credibility to the media message.  Jesus was not honoured for his sermons. It was His life and ultimately His willingness to accept crucifixion which drew the loyalty of the disciples.  It is our lives which authenticate our message. We need God’s redemption daily before we share the message of redemption to the world.
  12. New media for a new generation. The current generation of children are the first, in several parts of the world, that will grow up with the Internet as something which has been well developed and part of everyday life.  The Church needs to be on the forefront of this development as it seeks to educate, to nurture and to present the gospel.  Challenging children and youth will require us to use their media of choice in communication.

Christians should be sensitive to emergent media.  The growing range is already enormous: holographic images and films, interactive and customized newspapers, solar energy digital paper books, intelligent music composition and accompaniment, virtual secretaries, architectural walkthroughs and virtual reality, smart games, self-determining robots, portable storage chips with sound and information, imagination on demand, wisdom on demand, cultural equivalence transfer, brain implants, the interflow between imagination and reality, implanted memory, created past, time machine and other fanciful media.

We should not condemn new technologies outright, but to see the potential uses and abuses of the new technologies.  We are not called to use the newest or the oldest technologies, but to use the appropriate technologies for a particular social context as led by God.

5.Media Cases

These selected cases of media are presented here for their indicative value and are by no means exhaustive.  They serve to illustrate the principles discussed above as positive examples in certain aspects.  We are not endorsing a particular media effort, but we are examining the possibilities of using the media for Christian communication.

Case One:How to reach the educated urban youth of India?

By Joseph Vijavam of India, Mahalife.com

Anyone travelling in India is greatly impressed by the overwhelming changes in the social habits of the youth caused by the consuming power of the Internet.  Within a couple of years, the skylines of all urban areas in India have changed drastically with hundreds of billboards displaying dotcom advertisements at every major intersection.  Major magazines and newspapers are filled with advertisements of online shops, resources, communities, etc.  Most of these advertisements are targeted at youth in the age group of 20-40 years and appeal to their tastes and preferences.  It is obvious that the Internet is fast becoming an integral part of the lives of young people in countries like India where technology has jumped several cycles of growth and advancement.  It has bridged the gap of ready access to information and made available the information deposited in western societies to those in living in developing countries.

Given the facts above, Mahalife is an online ministry that is Indianised in content and flavour while being world-class in terms of its presentation so that it gets the attention of our target population whose next alternative is only a click away.

Mahalife.com is a rapidly growing ministry that is attracting young people especially for online and telephone counselling.  We are truly amazed and blessed to see what God is doing through this website.  Many young people are reading the gospel, seeking counselling and responding to the gospel message from the safety and convenience of their homes.  The content and presentation style make it user friendly, relevant and attractive to Indian youth.  By working in collaboration with several youth ministries in India such as Youth for Christ, Discovery Ministries, Person to Person, etc., we are able to quickly connect seekers with a person in their city or town who can build a one-on-one relationship with them.

Outcome:  Mahalife.com reaches isolated seekers with the message of the gospel of Christ in a context that is familiar to them and relevant to their situation.  Those who respond to the gospel by accepting Christ’s free gift of salvation are connected with believers who are gifted to work with young people, and thereafter they are encouraged to become a part of a local church.  With a hit rate of 80,000 young people per month, amounting to over 1 million over a period of one year, Mahalife will reach at least that many young people in India with the Good News.  Over 1,000 people are expected to seriously seek Christian counselling and wanting to connect with believers directly through Mahalife over a period of one year.  Our past experience helps us to project these numbers. 

Case Two: ERF: How to nurture Christain faith in Post-War Germany?

By Ingrid Heinzelmaier, Germany

ERF history – a short summary ERF is an interdenominational media ministry, financed by free-will giving.

From 1959 (when the association was founded) to 1961 (when the first program was on air) it was an adventure with an uncertain future.  Now on October 19th of 2004, ERF will have been working for 45 years.

Today we have

  • over 125,000 subscribers of our monthly ERF newspaper, “Antenna
  • approximately 60,000 daily listeners

(we know this through an intensive media research for ERF radio, a week of phone-in, letter and email research in December 2003)

  • approximately 200 staff members
  • we have program production in 10 languages and we finance productions in 35 languages world-wide.

ERF radio serves a 24 hours channel – with different program sections for different audiences.  For instance, the morning programmes target an older age group of listeners with a moderate mixture of music.  (We are still working on developing the right balance!)  From lunchtime on we offer to our listeners a mixture of actual information with modern music.  We also have a web-radio www.crosschannel.de for young people and hope to be on digital satellite with that also from December 2004.

ERF TV produces two weekly TV series “Courtyard to Heaven“ (Hof mit Himmel); “Thank God“ (Gott sei Dank) – both feature personal stories and give Christian responses to the questions of everyday life.

ERF’s main intention is to lead people to Christ and to invite them to a renewed commitment to Christ.

What is special about ERF and its growth?  

ERF is a “mission enterprise,” clearly depending on God (hopefully not only by our way of financing!) and responding to His command to reach the people of every generation with the Good News.  It has grown under God’s gracious power through its commitment to:

  • Striving for the best use of men and women to present the best message to the world.
  • Standing for an optimum of authenticity confirming the best message in this world.
  • Striving to put the best message in this world into the best possible package.

Another aspect of how to put the best message of the world into an appropriate package is through interaction.  We do this by phone, email, letters and open house events.  More than half of the 10,500 people who requested counselling in 2003 did this by email!

Program producers, secretaries, program directors – phones and emails are important ways of interaction.  About a dozen experienced and trained counsellors are engaged in contacting those who seek assistance.  All these counsellors have theological and psychotherapeutic training.

Case Three:How to produce a children’s Christian Internet site?

By Harry Bryans from Belgium www.hikidz.org

The HiKidz website for children aged 6–12 years was initiated by the Grain of Wheat Foundation, Scripture Union and Crusaders and God is uniting an increasing number of associated ministries in this “Kingdom Project”.  Together we can provide children with the best materials through one major website in a relevant and engaging way.

The pilot version: A low budget pilot website in English and French is currently online at www.hikidz.org.  This is only the first phase of a more sophisticated, interactive and extensive site which we hope will be completed in 2005.

Funds are currently being sought to enable a vital redesign and restructuring phase with a professional Christian consultant and developer.  The final site is to offer both a “Flash” animated and a “non-Flash” version.

The scope of the site: The HiKidz website provides children with a safe world of fun, entertainment, information, interactivity and an opportunity to discover Christianity and a Christian world view touching every area of life.  The children are also encouraged to respond personally to God’s love and call on their lives.  The site aims to provide many helps to grow in personal faith and have the opportunity to interact through 21 different sections, most of which are now open with some content.  A weekly CyberMag is sent out in English and French as an animated email to all who register on the site.  Other regular emails are also envisaged for teens, parents, teachers and children’s workers who register for them on the site.

A tool for evangelism and discipleship: The site can be a means of touching not only children but whole families and be integrated into many church efforts to reach their community and nation.  This can be a very versatile process for evangelism, discipleship, cross-cultural mission and even church planting.  Combined with any other form of media the effectiveness of the site is not just additional, but multiplicational!

A multilingual and multicultural website: There is the opportunity for the HiKidz website to grow internationally with translation and adaptation to reach children globally through many different languages.  Work has begun on the Spanish and Albanian versions and requests have come in for the site to be developed Russian, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese and Dutch.  We aim to keep a cross cultural balance involving children’s characters from a wide variety of nations and ethnic origins on the site.

Publicity: This will be done through the associated organisations, Church networks and personal contacts.   A good referencing strategy is also a key to enable a much wider range of people to discover the site who might not otherwise do so through a Christian connection.  Even with only the limited pilot site and very little publicity until the opening of the completed animated site, we have had site ‘visits’ from people in 88 countries and 5 continents amounting to a total of 7,721 visits during the month of September 2004 alone. This is just the beginning!

Case Four:MegaVoice: How to send the written word of God in a portable sound chip? Guttenberg and the Bible.

By Tom Treseder & Ken Crowell
It was in 1455 that Guttenberg designed the printing press and the people of the world, who can and or do read, have benefited immeasurably ever since.  How thrilling to think that the Bible was to lead the way in that incredible invention.

However, there is another sobering side to the story.

  • Fifty million (50 million) people are visually impaired.
  • One billion three hundred million (1.3 billion) are illiterate.
  • Half the world though they can, do not read.
  • There are thousands of language groups who have no written form for their language.
  • The Scriptures are not yet available to millions of people in their own language.

Audio Scriptures can reach the whole world.

MegaVoice players can store and play up to 160 hours of music and spoken message.  The vision of reaching the whole world with the Good News has gripped and inspired them to do what no one else has ever done.  MegaVoice players have unlimited versatility.  It can be produced in any shape or size and can provide the gospel to people in any language, anywhere at any time.  A unit like the Messenger, which is the size of a thick credit card and the Ambassador with its own solar pack kit, sit comfortably in the palm of the smallest hand.  For this reason we have promoted the slogan, “ The word in hand”.

MegaVoice puts God’s word in people’s hearts faster than ever before.

For years wonderful groups like Gospel Recordings (Language Recordings), World Cassette Outreach, Bible Societies, Wycliffe, Hosanna International and others have translated and recorded the Scriptures in oral form.  Whilst many have been given hand cranked cassette players, others have been dependent on fragile, commercial and expensive cassette players to be able to listen to the Bible on tape.         Now for the first time in history no playing apparatus is required.  MegaVoice encourages and allows mission groups working world wide, to produce “Oral Renditions” of the gospel years before they may other wise have been planned, by using past methods.

So, God has given us a means through which everyone in the world may actually, hear the sound of His wordsThese really are incredibly exciting days to be alive, what a privilege to take the gospel in this form, “to the ends of the earth”.    www.megavoice.com

Case Five: JoePix Photo EvangelismTM: How can you reach people where they are?

By Davies Owens from the US

[email protected]     www.blueskyministries.org

What is JoePix?

JoePix partners with local churches and ministries to train and mobilize volunteers to serve people at major public events.  At each event, the volunteers take free digital photos of people with their friends and family.  JoePix doesn’t create the event.  JoePix goes to where people already are: street festivals, parades, sporting events.  Christians engage non-Christians in a fun, good-natured manner.

Because of the intrinsic value of one’s personal photo, people are positively motivated to see their photo.  They return to a unique JoePix event website where they receive their photo and explore online resources.  Subjects can email a link to friends inviting them back to the same site, discover the “Big Picture” gospel presentation, read about the local photographers who took their photo and request a printed photo which is sent to a local ministry partner for distribution.

JoePix begins face-to-face in the field, continues online and then once again face-to- face as photos are delivered.  In environments where Internet access is not feasible, JoePix has piloted a version that uses printers on location and gives a printed photo in a photo frame or book with appropriate contextualized materials.

History of JoePix

JoePix began five years ago as a marketing tool for corporate secular marketing in the United States.  The founder was a former Walt Disney Imagineer and Hard Rock Café marketing executive who started JoePix to leverage the power of the Internet and digital photography.  After two successful years, the founder felt led to completely redirect and retool this successful marketing strategy exclusively for evangelism.  BlueSky Ministries now operates JoePix in collaboration with church and para-church organizations around the world.


JoePix is effective for people of generally any age and background, although those in their late teens to 40s are ideal.  A photograph has intrinsic value regardless of age, socio-economics and geography, especially when the photo is taken and then given to the subject.  JoePix is best with peers (college students taking photos of college students; families taking photos of families.) JoePix results in the first 3 years:

  • Receptivity of subjects – high with over 600,000 people photographed
  • Receptivity of Evangelists – high with over 5,000 trained
  • 60% of photos taken are retrieved on average at joepix.com
  • 3 email invitations are sent on average for each photo retrieved
  • 50% of photos retrieved leads to initial presentation of the online gospel presentation
  • 40% of photos retrieved leads to exploration of “Meet Your Photographers”
  • 30% of photos retrieved lead to delivery of 5×7 photo printed locally.
  • Extensive site exploration and indicated decisions for Christ.

Case Six: Youth Voice through Enabling Platform

By Wing Tai LEUNG from Hong Kong, China

[email protected]     Uzone 21.com:

People’s Platform: A New Mission

Contrary to many uses of the Internet for information transmissions, alternative media is to build a community network by the people.  Generation of funds is not the primary goal.  The primary goal is that information and content will be generated by the people (the audience).  It is not generated by the station as is normal in mass media.  The critical factor is to be able to stimulate, educate, and enhance the people’s ability as active participants on this new platform.  This is where media and information literacy education can be helpful before the audience can participate meaningfully and proficiently in this new media platform.  Enabling Tools – Enabling Content – Enabling Platform

  • Enabling Tools: To create a people’s platform, one needs to build enabling tools for the people to communicate and contribute to the content.
  • Enabling Content: After the people have created some content materials using the enabling tools, these content materials can be used as seed-content for other people.
  • Enabling Platform: If we are successful in creating enabling tools, and can generate enough enabling contents, then we can have an enabling platform. This digital platform will belong to the people, customized to the sub-group or individual, meeting diverse needs, and really bringing people together.


In Hong Kong, Breakthrough launched a website in 1997, named uzone.com.hk.  It was a prototype of a platform managed by the young people.  There were 600 personal channels, all manned by the youth participants.  It also provided e-radio, e-marketing, and e-forum.  Recently this website was expanded into UZONE21.COM.  It is using this philosophy of people’s community through enabling tools, content, and platform.

For the first phase, World of Knowing, focused on news-oriented contentWe trained youth cyber-global-reporters in various cities in Asia and other places that would feed us with interesting news stories from their own regions.

The second phase, World of Touching was launched.  It will be of a cybercommunity.  All the new enabling tools and content will be community building.  People can form their own cyber-circles (called U-circles) after a real live camp, or just staying virtual.

Other worlds include World of Mentors, Nurturing Youth Creativity in the Arts, Learning to Learn, Nurturing Education Interactive Tests and Contents, On-line Counselling (offering counselling to youth in the safety of their homes) and Youth Voice Video, Music and Literature composition.

There are also about 2,000 web channels hosted by the youth for special interests discussions.  There are about 80,000 members in uzone21.com.

Case Seven: How can you offer global connectivity to the most remote parts of the world?

By Shawn Ring of the US

[email protected]    www.missionoutfitters.org    www.assemblecommunications.com

History and Mission of Mission Outfitters and Assemble Communications

Mission Outfitters was birthed as a ministry to aide the Church to increase communication and mobilization of her efforts to fulfil the Great Commission.    Mission Outfitters is doing this through two key components.  The first component centres on the internet and its ability to increase mission effectiveness providing project management, connectivity, and an increase in video, voice and text communications.  The second component centres on utilizing people within the ministry to bridge the gap, evident in the church today, toward embracing technology. The primary focus centres on utilizing people to build relationship as a necessary component in the integration of technology in the church.

Assemble Communications was birthed to facilitate internet connectivity globally utilizing current and future technology.  This facility specifically focuses on wired and wireless technologies.  The primary goal is to increase the availability of internet connectivity for the purpose of making the gospel, discipleship and support mechanisms more available around the world.  These solutions are built around a “for profit” model to sustain business and employment opportunities.  These models are capable of sustaining infrastructure and maintaining availability to the Christian community.


World economies are merging with the global market.  What is the key enabler to this is the decreasing cost of communication and the increasing capabilities of global data connectivity.  The ability to communicate with voice, video and text is becoming more and more a norm in our global perspective.  In light of the omnipotence of our God and the geographic boundaries of our enemy, communication is key to identifying and meeting needs.  Technology enables communication to commence around the clock while connecting brothers and sisters thousands of miles away.

Case Eight:  Project Daybreak: Overcoming poverty and prejudice in Africa

By Tony Ford of the UK

In one North African region, four million people live in small, scattered, rural communities.  The literacy rate among these people is 10%.  They have limited access to media (radio set ownership is 10-15%, cassette player 2%); 97% adhere to an ancient Christian church whose traditions promote salvation by works and discourage access to Holy Scripture.  Altogether these factors present an interesting challenge.

Project Daybreak integrates media and church planting to promote access to God’s written word, based on people accepting the Bible’s authority.  The media elements include (print) Bible distribution, showing the Jesus film, chronological Bible storytelling (by radio and trained story tellers) and a dramatised New Testament recording.  Listening groups are set up among traditional congregations.

The project has attracted committed partners, from grassroots believers among the people group to agencies like FEBA Radio, IBRA Radio, Faith Comes by Hearing, Campus Crusade and the local Bible Society.  On-the-ground staff from several agencies co-ordinate activity.  The radio component began broadcasting later.  One aim was to give more Bible Stories to story tellers; a discipleship track modelled house church.

The final component of the project, a dramatic recording of the New Testament, suffered delays.  The New Testament in a nearby dialect, while largely intelligible, had been written for a neighbouring group.  Although only about ten words per chapter were difficult for the Daybreak group, political tension necessitated recasting totally in the local dialect.

Emerging Issues

With the odds stacked against all forms of evangelism, a multi-media, multiagency approach was needed.  While this group is media poor, others who are media rich may need a multi-media approach, given that wide media choice leads to audience segmentation.

The project aims at the numerical growth of believers (i.e. those who accept the gospel as defined in the evangelical world) in an existing Christian-faith community.  Opposition emerged from some in the traditional church; effort is made to retain new believers in that church, which will change if many do believe.

The core strategy is to trust the Holy Spirit to use the Bible in a restored place of practical authority; new means are devised to disciple oral believers.  The traditional church’s use of the visual and sensual (art, incense, liturgy, ritual) did this from antiquity, before the invention of printing and widespread education in other communities.  If this oral society remains that way, what can be done to strengthen their understanding and retention of the simple gospel, unadorned by new traditions?

Should orality be replaced with literacy?

If this kind of approach were made in a group having a non Christian identity, what would be done differently?  How is an orally-mediated Bible to be authenticated?  How would the long-term issues of discipleship and longevity for the simple truth be resolved?

Case Nine:  How can you upgrade the quality of Christian media in Argentina?

By Eduardo Alastra from Argentina [email protected]   www.nuestrared.com.ar

Recognizing a reality.

We all know that the media is a means of education, either forming or deforming the thinking of our society.  At this time the loss in the media of ethical and moral values, and the scorning of all spiritual themes, are constant and growing at a rapid pace.

What are we doing as Christians involved in media to change this?   

Nothing, or almost nothing.  We are looking the other way.  It seems as if we were running a different race, living in a different reality, using the media almost exclusively for the Christian audience, having no effect on secular public opinion.

Today we do not have enough presence in secular media and we have not been able to reach the non-Christian audience with our works due to the quality and content of what we produce.

Graphics, radio and TV programs, and even our websites are aimed at Christians, in an “evangelical” language, and speak of our news, our themes and our interests.  There are some good things being done (in isolated forms) by different ministries, going out on hundreds of Christian radio stations, and aimed at the Christian public, with lots of adverts for ministries, but forgetting the secular audience.

In some of the cases, the works are of low quality and this results in a final product which gets ignored or scorned by the very people we should be reaching with the message.

What do we do?  The idea is to both create and gather quality works oriented towards the people and empower them in a network, making different media interact and creating a synergy that can multiply the distribution of each work.  Graphic media, radio, TV, Internet and art in a strategic combination toward one single objective.

We should penetrate society as one more voice, respectful of others, providing the Christian point of view on every type of event, and emphasizing awareness of Biblical values without being either proselytising or religious.  We need to approach people touching on practical life issues, without forgetting that the gospel is life and that it impacts people’s lives.  We need to do so with quality and respect in order to be featured in secular media and broadcast Christian thought and values on a professional level.

Our Challenge: Our challenge then is to develop REMA, the Argentinean Evangelical Media Network, establishing a network of professionals in media in search of excellence, changing vision, establishing paradigms, forming and training professionals and developing materials and programming at a high quality level to be used in any media anywhere in the Spanish-speaking world.

Our Beginnings: In September of 2003 we had our website www.nuestrared.com.ar that continues to grow for the glory of God, with 23 different sections and a portal for children.

We are certain that we will be able to enter into homes with the gospel through children, doing quality work both with reference to the message and those who receive it, with programmes and publicity that transmit the values that society scorns, but that parents want to present to their children.

Rema, (Red Evangélica de Medios de Argentina – Evangelical Network of Media in Argentina)

Case Ten:  How can you communicate Christ via the secular/general media?

By Rusty Wright from the US.

[email protected]   www.probe.org/Rusty

Could God use your skills to communicate Christ and biblical perspectives through the secular media?  Secular media “gatekeepers” (producers, editors, etc.) can present your message to millions at little or no cost to you.  You design the message; secular gatekeepers pay the money and do the work to spread your message to the masses.

“Secular” here denotes the major portion of the media world which is not run by Christian entities.  Secular media professionals are not the enemy, but are those needing God’s grace.  Consider:

  • Books: A university student wrote a paper on “a biblical therapy for anxiety” for an abnormal psychology course and sent it to the author of his textbook, who trusted Christ as Saviour and included part of the student’s faith-journey in his revised text.  Thousands read of Christ through a secular psychology textbook.
  • Television: One of Bulgaria’s most popular television programs interviewed a Christian speaker about love and relationships.  The speaker explained to four million viewers the difference that Jesus can make.  All this used state-owned studios that formerly featured Marxist propaganda.  Similar TV appearances came in Ecuador, the Philippines, South Africa and the USA.
  • Print Media: An evangelistic article, “Safe Sex…?” uses medical and psychological information to point readers to healthy relationships and to Christ.  A secular university fraternity republished it in their international magazine, as did a secular state medical journal.  The fraternity distributed special reprints as part of “fraternity education.”  Secular newspapers ran versions.  Sample seeker/skeptic-friendly articles are at probe.org/Rusty.
  • Internet: A Christian freelance writer prayed that within a year, 100 websites would have used his evangelistic articles.  A year later, 100 had, including secular sites such as newspapers, a medical school site, and even a porn site.

Benefits of this model include low cost, wide exposure, low audience defence, and communication in culturally appropriate settings.  Limitations include lack of control, brevity of message, and difficulty soliciting or measuring response.

Guiding principles for this media model include exploring themes that interest general audiences and media gatekeepers, communicating using secular-friendly words and emotions, and building relationships with society’s media leaders.

Case Eleven:  Movieguide:  How can you redeem the secular media?

By Ted Baehr from the US. www.movieguide.org

Problem: In many ways, the mass media of entertainment is the most powerful influence in society today.

Précis: It is time to orchestrate a common strategy to transform our culture.  One prong of this strategy must focus on the mass media of entertainment.  Since 1966, the mass media of entertainment has abandoned responsibility for license. To restore sense and sensibility, we must redeem the values of the mass media of entertainment according to biblical principles: by influencing media executives to adopt higher standards imbued with Christian and traditional family values; and by informing and equipping moral people in America and around the world, especially parents, families and Christians, to make wise media choices based on the biblical worldview.  Making wise choices and protecting children from harm from the mass media involves understanding: 1) the problem; 2) the susceptibility of children at each stage of cognitive development; 3) the mass media of entertainment; 4) your worldview and values; and 5) how to redeem the values of the mass media of entertainment.

Results: The good news is that when we started Christian Film & Television Commission™ ministry’s MOVIEGUIDE® in 1985, there were only six movies aimed at families; in 2003, there were over 40 percent.  When we started, more than 80 percent of the movies released in theatres were R-rated; now, less than 45 percent are R-rated each year.  The chairman of a major studio recently told me at lunch that he attributed these shifts directly to our influence and our economic benchmarking of the entertainment industry.  This was the same studio head who years before was concerned about the falling box office.

Conclusions: Therefore, we must clean up the mass media of entertainment for the benefit of our children and grandchildren and the health of our families.  By following the strategy set forth in more detail in my extended paper, we can redeem the values of the mass media of entertainment.

Case Twelve: GILLBT: How can you bring linguistic literacy through the media?

By Leticia Dzokotoe from Ghana

GILLBT is a non print media using part of the Scriptures in discipling.  It aims at conveying the Scriptures in the mother-tongue by utilizing all the language community’s ethnic, and unique oral ways of communication.  It is also an audiocassette ministry, widely used as a means of communicating the Scriptures, translated in the heart language of the people.

GILLBT believes that the ideal way to promote the Scriptures in mothertongue languages is by teaching mother tongue speakers to become skilled readers in their own mother tongue.  In 1991, GILLBT was greatly honoured when it received a Unesco Award in recognition of the organization’s literacy efforts.

The Problem.  Despite all continuing literacy efforts, however, we must recognize the fact that a large part of our Ghanaian population will never learn to read and write!  In finding solutions, we do know that literacy, however important, is not the only tool available to us if we want to communicate God’s message.  The Scriptures will also come alive if we are willing to utilize each language community’s ethnic, unique oral ways of communication.

Non-Print MediaIn the area of oral communication, non-print media comes to our aid, because the audio cassette ministry can:

  1. INFORM and TEACH those who will never be literate.
  2. PROMOTE interest in mother-tongue Scriptures.
  3. SUPPORT and FOSTER the use of vernacular literature.

Reaching Non-readers with the gospel

We can use narrative stories, dialogues, dramas, testimonies, songs, scripture in poetic and creative forms, and mixed media for non-print oral communication.  Boosting literacy through audio program is another means.  Currently non-print work is done among 31 language groups in Ghana.  Over 16,000 Scripture songs, testimonies, and Scripture readings are circulating among the various people groups.

Case Thirteen:  Middle East Media: Christian media in a restricted area of the world

By Arne H. Fjeldstad

The Context

Most of the countries of the Middle East (the focus of MEM’s ministry) are Muslim.  Fundamentalist Islam is gaining ground – through mosque sermons, fiery newspapers, websites, broadcasts of Al Jazeera and other media outlets.  The population of this region is also growing – at the astounding rate of almost 1 million per month.  However, most of these individuals will never meet a Christian, read a Bible or enter a church in the course of their daily lives.  Who will reach them?

MEM’s vision is to bring the Kingdom of God into the marketplace, where people live and work, through every available media channel in the local language and culture of the people.  This becomes a delicate dance, where team members are also exploring how much can be shared, without government censorship.  Through youth magazines, 3-D animation, women’s programs, film, internet sites and more, MEM’s local believers have learned how to “push the envelope” and share a Christian worldview, a Christian lifestyle and biblical truth through media which dispels much of the innate hostility towards Christianity that is reinforced by Islamic education

We can speak God’s language publicly through media to Muslims

  1. Remove misconceptions about biblical truth from the minds of Muslim or nominal Christian readers in an approachable way that is also not confrontational. A monthly youth magazine called Magalla was launched in 1976.  It provides a wide variety of articles, poems, contests and features of interest to youth.  Magalla also provides a distinctive environment in which spiritual questioning is encouraged and where a Christian worldview permeates every page.
  2. Move the viewer or reader Christ-ward. Outside of what they are taught in the mosque or by reading the Qur’an, many Muslims are not able to recognize or verbalize their deepest internal and spiritual needs.  Amazingly, these key tenets of Christianity are rarely questioned or contradicted in thousands and thousands of letters received by the ministry every year to our TV programs and publicly distributed youth magazine Magalla and other literature.
  3. Create a questioning, inquiring culture. MEM wants nothing less than to impact societies at large.  As youth buy Magalla month by month, view MEM children’s animation, or visit one of MEM’s cutting edge websites (Oasis, Netcaster or Buzz) they enter a hugely different environment to that which they are used to in their own home, school or religious community.  Questions are encouraged.  Thinking, weighing issues and communicating about these topics is possible through letters and emails.  Youth (the primary focus of virtually all MEM projects) become engaged and involved in charting their own course through life, according to Christian truth and a Christian worldview.

Case Fourteen: Web Evangelism around Latin America

By Debora Baltazar for the Tuvida.com/Ciberevangelistas.net Team


Tuvida.com was created by Book of Hope International to evangelize the Spanish-speaking youth in Latin America.  In those years we found out that there were no Spanish evangelistic sites to reach out the youth in the cyberspace.  This evangelistic site was officially launched on September 4, 1999 in Lima, Peru.

The site was started in five major languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and French.  It started as a global strategy first but later we agreed that a regional strategy could be more effective according to the ministry strategy.

The Tuvida.com experience

Youth often lack hope and want to find hope in several ways.  Many of them get caught up in addictive activities: drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc.  The declining cost of using the internet has great implications for web ministry in Latin America.

We will share about the Tuvida.com experience in three stages: Before they go to the site, during the time they visit the site and after they were exposed to the site.

We attract young people to use the site through “Book of Hope” readers, search engines, interlinkage with other sites, and media promotions.

The content of the site includes: real life stories, online counselling, chat room events, and forums.  It is youth oriented using their questions and issues.

The strategy was to back up the site with interpersonal contacts, counselling team, volunteers, prayer groups, and cyber-evangelists.  Youth group activities such as concerts and festivals were organized to encourage participation, using youth languages and forms.

Case Fifteen: Christian Radio and Television in Thailand By Rev. Dr. Buakab Ronghanam

Voice of Peace: How can you reach the mass in Thailand via community radio

Thailand is in the centre of peninsular South East Asia surrounded by other Asian nations.  There are many cultures and differing political views represented in Southeast Asia.  Thailand is democratic and open to the preaching of the gospel. Many of the neighbouring countries have less freedom and are officially far less receptive of the gospel message.  Thailand is strategically situated to trade with all her neighbours and to act as a launching pad for many evangelistic efforts to the neighbouring countries.

The word “Tai” in Chinese means great or glorious, but in the Thai language it means “free” and the name of the country “Muang Thai” means land of the free.  This name is a statement of a deeply rooted Thai identity that has not been erased by the passage of time, but has impacted Thai view of history and of the Thai people themselves.

Radio is an example of audio communication and it is an exceptional tool for evangelism because it is so widely used in Thailand.  TV is a wonderful evangelistic tool because it appeals to our love of colour and the Thai yearning to see something tangible.  This generation is one that responds to a multi-sensory message.  Today TV is very popular and available to Thai people even in remote areas.  The story telling or testimony section of each Christian TV program is chosen to help the viewer connect with a living example of the more abstract concept that is the theme of the programme.

Thai characteristics such as kreng jai orientation or feeling of consideration for another person can be one of the greatest challenges or opportunities to successful communication.  The Thai are very adapt at discovering what response the communicator wants, and at the same time disguising their own true feelings to maintain social harmony.  So they respond politely and in seeming acceptance of the message when actually deep down they are rejecting the message.

Thai people should maintain their Thai identity and be sensitive to the culture instead of appearing to reject their own culture and identity when witnessing.  Thai Christians should maintain their Thai orientation and demonstrate the love of Christ in such a way that they will win the right to share the gospel to the open hearts of the Thai people.

In our TV and radio programmes, dialogue with the listener is not part of the programme.  This format is chosen deliberately to allow the Thai audience to enjoy the distance and privacy that they need at the first stage.  At this first stage the audience is informed in an entertaining way that is not invasive.  The programme does not put the receiver on the spot to make a decision about Jesus Christ.  The format and purpose of these programmes opens the opportunity for people to begin to dialogue with us after they become interested.  The magazine format is chatty and informal and the viewer is drawn into the programme and is invited to get in touch with us.  This format gives the receptor the space to learn without responding, or to respond with questions and opinions.  Letters are responded to on air so dialogue and negotiated meaning can and does take place especially when one includes the follow up correspondence as part of the project.

Case Sixteen: Children Web in Norway

By Anders Torvill Bjorvand

Barnas.net: Reaching Children through interactive Internet [email protected]


Websites for children have been lacking in Norway.  The most popular ones have been driven by the market force, without any grounding in wholesome values or concern for the children’s wellbeing.  All the foci are on the sponsors and their brands and trademarks.  We also found that out of 2,000 Christian websites in Norway at the time we first started with barnas.net (2002), only three of them were for children. And their quality was rather poor.

Launched in 2003, www.barnas.net (meaning Children’s net) is backed with manpower and money by major mission organisations and denominations: Acta – Children and Youth in Normisjon, Scripture Union, The Evangelical-Lutheran Church (DELK), GospelSearch inc., The Inner Mission Society (ImF), Christian Ministry among Blind and Visually Impaired (KABB), Children and Youth of the Norwegian Missionary Society (NMS U), and The Norwegian Sunday School Association.

Structure of the sites 

It has been important in the barnas.net project to target children in a way relevant to their age and development.  We have done this by dividing into three age groups: 4-7 years: www.joffenogkanille.no, 7-10 years: www.marteogmarius.no, 1014 years: www.jesuspals.no.  We also want to address the parents, their questions and concerns, so this need is also met through the project, by the portal and parents’ site www.barnas.net.  We do this for several reasons:

Firstly, when dealing with children, it is important to give respect to parents by providing relevant information about who you are and what you are supplying to their children.

Secondly, conscientious parents can be an important door opener to their own children, guiding them to our site.

What do the websites offer? 

  The websites offer a lot of both fun, education and reflection, through the following items: Bible stories (text/sound), games (both general/secular and educational/biblical), jokes, news and stories, game reviews, prize competitions, counselling, drawing/colouring with biblical themes and daily Bible study.

Reaching ALL children 

The core idea of the Internet is accessibility.  However, most websites do not consider the needs of people with disabilities.  Especially children’s websites meet big challenges due to the natural dependence on visual content.  One of the partners in Barnas.net is a Christian organisation reaching out to the blind and visually impaired.  Together, we are working on the difficult balance of making these websites more accessible without making them less interesting and fun.  This includes optional sound in navigation and stories, scalability of both html screens and flash games and sound based games.


  • Encouraging responses in the counselling section.

Example: ”Does Jesus love me even though I am not a Christian?” Girl in her early teens.

  • Our statistical basis is a little slim, but so far, at least 50% of children contacting the counselling services are non-Christian (in their own terms).
  • It is important to target different age-groups differently.
  • Games can be a wonderful medium for conveying a message actively.
  • Quality is important. We compete with children’s websites from the world’s biggest brands.
  • Presence is more important than publishing. Children don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

6.Discussion Guidelines for the Local Church

By Doug Flemming

Intended Purpose: 

The purpose of this discussion guide is to encourage, inspire, motivate, and enable Christians to utilize the appropriate forms of media available to them, with the greatest possible skill, in order to effectively communicate the Whole Gospel to their intended target group.

The guide will practically assist individuals, churches and ministries to understand and apply the concepts in this Occasional Paper by a process of key questions & suggested exercises:

  • to assess community needs and opportunities
  • to articulate ministry responses and outcomes
  • to select possible & appropriate media forms and formats
  • to develop strategies that will integrate the appropriate media with their overall evangelistic efforts.

Notes on implementing a strategic plan for using media in ministry: 

  • Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom.
  • Refer to this Occasional Paper for theological and theoretical principles (Chapters 2-4)
  • Refer to the Case Studies for practical examples and resource people (Chapter 5).
  • Select and read appropriate books and articles from the Bibliography (Chapter 7).
  • Look for possible resource people, referrals and contact information.
  • Work through this process with a variety of appropriate resource people, perhaps as a “Mission Strategy Task Force.” Your “task force” should include people with expertise, experience, knowledge or professional skill in the area of ministry & media that you are considering.

Steps to Developing a Strategy:

1. Who are the PEOPLE you are called to reach? (See Chapter 1)
    Suggested ACTION STEPS:
    1.1 Discover all you can about the PEOPLE in your community who you are trying to reach.
    1.2 Conduct quality research in a variety of ways to gather accurate information.

a. First, whenever possible, start with the people themselves.

     i. Develop genuine friendships with them.
     ii. Spend time with them in their context, on their turf (as lead by the Holy Spirit).
     iii. LISTEN to them and get to know their real issues, concerns, needs, struggles, likes & dislikes, media habits, lifestyles, etc.

b. Talk with local leaders, decision makers, and change agents.

c. Locate and evaluate demographic studies, statistics and trends

d. Conduct formal and informal surveys

     i. Questionnaires to target groups or individuals
     ii Phone questionnaires / surveys
     iii. Marketplace, on-the-spot surveys iv. Continually compile and evaluate the information you are gathering until your combined research reveals areas of genuine need, concern, or desire.

2. How will you accomplish your mission? Which form(s) of MEDIA will best facilitate the fulfilment of your mission? Why? How? (See Chapter 2)
    Suggested ACTION STEPS:
i. Determine the media habits of the PEOPLE (from the people, from media organizations, surveys, observations, etc.)
ii. Based on your research and observations, examine more closely which forms of media are available to and being used by the people.

a. How, when, how often are the people using a particular medium?

b. In what context and for what reason are the people using the particular medium?

c. Why are they using that medium in that way?

iii. Once you have determined the media habits of the people, then you should examine the media itself.

a. Identify the traits/qualities of that particular medium which make it effective, useful, enjoyable or preferable to the people.

b. Identify the cultural, socio-economic factors that make this medium effective.

c. Identify the technical expertise, skill, finances required to effectively using that medium.

iv. Identify your available RESOURCES required to effectively utilize that particular medium.

a. List all the resources that may be available to you.

b. Human:

i. Media professionals, practitioners
ii. Ministry workers for interpersonal & support ministries iii. Trainers, educators
iv. Financiers

c. Financial:

v. Consider current budget
vi. Consider possible grants, donations, etc. vii. Other fund raising options
viii. Consider volunteer talent, technical skill and airtime

d. Technical:

i. Recording studios & production facilities
ii. TV, Radio stations
iii. Publishing / printing companies
iv. Internet, Telecom service providers
v. Equipment, supplies
vi. Hardware & software
vii. Delivery systems

e. Select and gather the most appropriate blend of available resources to accomplish your mission.

i. Develop a plan / strategy of how to most effectively use the available resources to accomplish your mission, in a way that is most acceptable and relevant to your audience.
ii. Consult and involve your media resource people in selecting the appropriate format, approach, style, etc.
iii. Arrange with the necessary writers, producers, talent and assign roles.
iv. Develop your production timeline, in coordination with other ministry efforts.
v. Create pilot projects / samples to be field-tested and evaluated.

3. What should be our appropriate response or mission? (See
Chapter 3)
     Suggested ACTION STEPS:
i. Based on your relationships with the people and your research about the people, make a list of the PEOPLE’S various needs, concerns, desires, etc.
ii. Prioritize the list of needs according to:
    (a) the people’s sense of urgency
    (b) the Spirit’s leading
    (c) your sense of calling
    (d) your ministry capabilities
    (e) your overall ministry strategy
iii. Based on this list, identify and clarify your MISSION
    (a) Identify your purpose. Justify why you are proposing this particular missional response.
    (b) Identify your objectives / goals / intended outcomes.
*Articulate specifically what you hope to accomplish.
*Goals should be SMART:
1. Specific
2. Measurable
3. Attainable
4. Realistic
5. Time bound

4. QUESTION: How will the use of this particular media be integrated into your overall evangelistic efforts? (See Chapter 4 & 5) Suggested ACTION STEPS:
i. What is your overall evangelistic objective?
ii. What is your specific strategy for using the
iii. How would the media be integrative with
interpersonal relationship building?
iv. Is it a progressive process from information, formation to transformation?
v. What model of evangelism you are attempting to use?
vi. How would the media fit into this model?
vii. What outcome you would expect from the efforts?
viii. What are the critical factors for success?


Media Specific Reference

*Dizard,W. Old Media New Media: Mass Communications in theInformation Age. New York: Longman, 1997. This is an excellent book to explore the impact on traditional media in the emergence of new digital media. The digital media is interactive, hyperlinked, global, with high storage capacity, searchable, malleable etc. These qualities would affect the production process, content layout, and consumption of the traditional media of print and electronic. 

Hauerwas, S. & G. Jone, eds. Why Narrative?: readings in narrative theology.  Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 1989. This is an anthology of articles seminal to the study of narrative theology. It provides the framework of the importance, strength and limitation of communicating truth using narratives. 

McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The making of typographic man.  London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967. This is a classic by a media theory master. His thesis is that media technology and communication process would shape our mind and consciousness. This book focuses on how the printing press induces linearity within our mind and stimulates logical thinking. 

______________. Understanding Media: The extensions of man. Cambridge,  MA: MIT, 1971. Another classic by McLuhan, this time he is exploring the media of radio and television in shaping of our mind. Many times we thought that the medium is neutral, the values only depend on the “content” or “message” that it contain. McLuhan’s asserts that the media forms would influence the audience in a way more powerful than the “content or message.” In a way the medium becomes the message.

*Murray, Janet.  Hamlet on the Holodeck: The future of narrative inCyberspace. New York: Free Press, 2000. This is an analytical look at how to tell a good story in the digital age. It first looks at the classics of the past that good narratives went beyond the media form. It then crystallizes the essential characteristics and possibilities opened by the digital and interactive media. Good reference for writing online stories and designing web and CD-ROM narratives.

*Negroponte, Nicholas. Being Digital. NY: Vintage, 1995. This is one of the classics written by a pioneer of the digital media. Negroponte pioneered the MIT Media Lab in Boston that featured early works of desktop publishing, virtual reality, animation films, and video streaming. This is a very insightful book on the cultural change of our behaviours and values by the digital media.  

Ong, W. Orality and Literacy: The technologizing of the word. Cornwall: TJ International, 1982. In the heritage of Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and Elizabeth Eisenstein, Walter Ong is exploring how the alphabets affect our thinking, writing, and expression of self. People from an orality culture would relate and think differently from people from a print culture. Communication to visual learners could be different from literate learners.

Papert, S. The Connected Family: Bridging the digital generation gap.(Atlanta: Longstreet, 1996). The baby-boomer is the generation in the history of the world that could have more education than their parents. Likewise, the digital generation could be unprecedented in their proficiency in media technology and information seeking. Digital divide exists not only between the rich and the poor, but also between age groups. This is a first look on how to bridge this digital divide within the family. 

Peck, M. Scott. In Search of Stones. New York: Hyperion, 1995. Peck had a unique understanding of the integrity of matter. To him, modern man is over-determining everything, trying to explain everything rationally. However, many things are mystical and mythological. Our human reason has its own limit when it comes to understanding nature, especially beyond the biological and physical aspects.

*Tapscott, Don.  Growing up Digital: The rise of the net generation. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1998. This is a quick look at how children brought up in the digital technology would learn, live, buy, entertain, relate etc differently from all the generations before them.  This book is a must for any youth workers in the digital age.

 _____. The Digital Economy: Promise and peril in the age ofnetworked intelligence. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1996.Don Tapscott has written widely, from object-oriented software architecture to the digital economy. This book is about how the digital technologies revolutionize traditional industries of the media and business. The chapters on print, film, and radio would be valuable to media professionals.

Wilson, L. & Moore, J. Digital Storytellers: The art of communicatingthe gospel in worship. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002.This book looks at digital communication in the context of church worship. Can we communicate meaningfully to the seekers without too much Christian jargons?

Mission Specific Reference

Berkman, R.. Digital Dilemmas: Ethical issues for online media  Professionals. Ames: Iowa State Press, 2003. The ethical issues of online media are seldom discussed systematically. There are issues of honesty and anonymosity, information integrity and pollution, information overload and anxiety, disembodiment of the user and extension of self, flaming and anguish on the net, and other issues. The common danger toward emergent media is either over optimistic or over pessimistic. In fact each medium has strength and weakness, subject to uses and abuses.

Christians, Clifford, et.al. Media Ethics: Cases and moral reasoning. Needham Heights MA: Allyn & Baconm 2004. This is a classic of media ethics by a veteran of media criticism. Media ethics can be based on the universal acceptance of human rights. Media ethics include personal use, cultural development, professional ethics of journalism and others. The recent cases of journalistic scandals by the major Western media testify to the importance of media ethics for the future. 

*Careaga, A. eMinistry: Connecting with the net generation. Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2001. This is a ministry road map for reaching the young generation. It characterizes young people of today and examines various approaches to e-ministry for them. The truth is that any prefixing of an “e” or an “i” on a ministry does not necessarily make it relevant to the young people.  We need meaningful communication and augmented by interpersonal care. 

Ellul, J.  Propaganda: The formation of men’s attitudes.  NY: Vintage, 1973. Media bombardment, political campaigns, advertisement penetration, and all kinds of persuasion propaganda are forming our attitudes toward choices and goodness. Should Christians join the bandwagon? How could Christians be prophetic without propagandistic? What are the devices of propaganda and why they are dangerous to human freedom and dignity? How would prophetic ministry be different from these?

*_______. The Humiliation of the Word. Grand Rapids, MI.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985. Many people are advocating visual learning, using of images and icons for modern communication. Ellul, a French sociologist and theologian, explores the danger of making graven images by the visual culture as forbidden by the Ten Commandment of the Old Testament.  He compares the depth and significance of the Word and with the shallow and flashy visual communication. Some people pointed out the visual symbolism in the Bible such as the dove, the cross, and the rainbow, in response to Ellul.  However, his warning is still pertinent for today.

*Engel, J.  Changing the Mind of Missions: Where have we gone wrong?  Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000. This is a Christian classic written by a marketing researcher. Much communication today are missing the target, Christian or otherwise, because we do not understand our audience. This book layouts a psychological profile of the target audience and suggest various media strategies accordingly. Some people found that this is a linear mode of thinking, and communication of the Gospel is like a hyperdemic model of stimulus-response. However, it is worth considering the audience orientation than purely communicator orientation in media efforts. 

Renninger, A. Building Virtual Communities: Learning and change incyberspace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Virtual communities could be heaven or hell. Virtual communities can be built among people globally with the same special interest.  Build communities in the West and the East have been difficult for many Christian and youth networks.  There are key factors such as language, relationship, common interest, and mode of communication. Perhaps the Old Testament Temple is similar to the Cathedral icons.  The New Testament synagogue is akin to Christian pulpit. But the preOld Testament Garden of Eden has a mode of communication that is more dialogic and communal.  Virtual communities are not a new invention in this context.

*Rogers, E. Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free, 1995. This is a seminal work on the spreading of new ideas within a society. The new ideas could be agricultural, medical or religious. How people adopt the new ideas differentiate that they are early adopters or laggards. Each of these people groups has certain characteristics. The process of communication could be through opinion leaders or change agents than evenly distributed. The process of decisionmaking and the influence of the media at various stages of the process is highly insightful. A newer version is titled: Communication of Innovation.  Some people found that his model is too linear for social development and transformation mission.

*Sweet, L. Post-Modern Pilgrims: First Century passion for the 21st  Century Church. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000. Leonard Sweet is a postmodern guru advocating experiential and holistic approaches to Christian ministries, media communication included.  This book describes the key factors for post-modern seekers of the Gospel and their religious search.  His presentation is quite fragmentary, matching the sound-byte era of popular journalism. Do not expect a systemic thesis on the issue.

Wilson, L. The Wired Church: Making media ministry. Nashville: Abingdon,  1999. Wired prayer meetings, wired preaching, wired worship, and wired you know what, has been the trend.  Is reality authentic on the virtual media? Are media a threat to Christian authenticity? Can network media be nurtured? The author is an advocate of wired ministries. 

Model Specific Reference

Buber, Martin. I-Thou. Edinburgh: Clark, 1966.

This is classic on the subject of interpersonal communication. Do we treat the parties in commune as object or subject?  Buber strongly advocated dialogic communication rather than transfer of information and inducing a response.

Downing, J. Questioning the media: A critical introduction. London: Sage, 1995. The media is not only about content and technology. It is also about culture, process, and politics. The production of culture in the form of media is involving many stakeholders, financial backing, power struggle in decision making, and the cultural background for their fruition. This is called ‘supermedia” by some. The media can also be biased in assumption and presentation, context, and form. Questioning the media heightens our critical sensitivity as media consumers and producers.

*Ellul, J.  The Technological Society. NY: Vintage, 1964. Another classic from Ellul. His main thesis is that technological society has an inner logic, which he called La Technique, that is everything is technologically determined. Humanity is edged out by the dominance of technique, which will form an autonomous system of its own and permeate every aspect of our society. This is an important book to understand the threat of technology and its pervasiveness.

*Feenberg, A.  Questioning Technology.  Cornwall: TJ International, 1999. Feenberg had written much on critical view of technology. His works include critical examination of feminine technology and communication media. No technology is neutral, all have embedded with values in their design and framing. Any use of the media must be sensitive to that fact.

Heidegger, M. The Question Concerning Technology, and OtherEssays.  NY: Harper & Row, 1977. This is a philosophy of technology. Heidegger could be the first to examine critically the inner logic of technology, the biases of technology and the shaping of our consciousness and values by technologies. Difficult reading but rewarding and insightful.

King, K. Hollywood on Stage: playwrights evaluate the culturalIndustry. NY: Garland Publishing, 1997. When theatre meets Hollywood film or television, the clash could be between high and low cultures. This book deplores the cultural degradation of Hollywood media and electronic media in general. It is in the tradition of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, that the visual media cannot communicate depth. And the performance of Hollywood testified to that. In contrast, the theatre can explore human nature and deep thinking. However, what happened to the rare films Stanley Kubrick, Spielberg, and Lean. Can film and television be entertaining and deeply cultured at the same time? 

*McLuhan, M.  The Global Village: Transformations in world life andmedia in the 21st century. Oxford: Oxford University, 1989. This is another classic from McLuhan, who coined the term “The Global Village.” He saw that the day would come that we would be equidistant, transcending geographic limitations. That would affect everything we do, we think, and we communicate. If we study human communication, we need to go to these seminal works. Innis, McLuhan, Postman, Eisenstein, and Ong are definitely the pioneers.

*Melkote, S. Communication for development in the Third World. Newbury Park, CA.: Sage Publications, 1991. In contrast to linear paradigm of social development by modernity indices such as urbanization, mortality rates, physical health, telecommunication and other hardware construction, Melkote is suggesting more human, social and cultural capitals, before people used these terms. He points to the development of self-determination, social justice, gender equality, economic divide, and other soft-sides of society. Communication for development is a field of study on how communication media and process nurture social development of a region. 

Noelle-Neumann, E. Spiral of Silence: Public Opinion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. The media has an agenda setting capability. The media shapes the social forum of issues. At an early stage, many views will be presented in the public space. But once a mainstream view is dominating, the minority views will be gradually self-censored. This is what Noelle-Newumann coined the “Spiral of Silence.” How could the media present the authentic view of the marginals is very important. Is media reinforcing the status quo or becoming an agent of change?

*Samuel, V. Mission as Transformation.. Newbury Park, CA.: Sage Publications, 1991. This is a theological anthology on how mission is conceived to be wholesome and mission can be transforming, not only on a personal level, but also on society as a whole. There are many biblical orientations to mission as transformation explored here, including the Kingdom view, eschatological view, healing of Jesus, the prophetic ministry, and the kings and priesthood. Any Christian communication for social impact can learn from this work. 

Schultze, Q. High-Tech Worship? Using presentational technologiesWisely. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004. Schultze has been a keen eye on tele-evangelism, youth media culture and now worship technology. In fact such presentation technologies are not high-tech at all. But like all media, they shape our culture and values without we noticing it. Media shape our consciousness, behaviour and hence value, by putting limitations to our expression, reasoning, communication, and relational building. Each medium forms its strength and weakness. No medium is neutral. The form affects the content and becomes content itself. 

Books for scriptwriters

*Baehr, Ted. The Media-wise Family. Colorado Springs, CO.: Chariot Victor, 1998. A handy reference for families seeking choices of media programming and nurture critical viewing. 

Cones, John. How the Movie Wars Were Won. An insider’s view on the movie business.

*Egri, Lajos. The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative

Interpretation of Human Motives. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960. This is a classic for dramatic writings for stage and cinema. It analyzes the bone-structure of human characters and how they could be portrayed in drama.

*Field, Syd. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting.Another analytic view of the science and art of screenwriting. This work emphasize on the audience anticipation of screen emotions.

Gabler, Neal. An Empire of Their Own. A close look at the motion picture industry.

Lowenthal, David. No Liberty for License: The Forgotten Logic of the FirstAmendment. Spence Publishing Company, Dallas, 1997. Screenwriters and film producers often used the First Amendment to justify their autonomy of creation. However, this book reviews the spirit of the First Amendment to see its framework and boundaries. McKee, Robert. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of – Screenwriting. Another piece of good reference for the screen-writers. 

*Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd, 1952. This theological classic suggests six models of relating Christ with culture. A must read.

Seger, Linda. Making a Good Script Great. Good scripts are evaluated and edited to fit the screen time. The opening and the closing twenty minutes would be the most important screen time in a film.

Vizzard, Jack.  See No Evil. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970.  A media literacy book. 

Key:  Books with * should be in the library of every seminary with communication or media as course offer.

  1. 1 Johannes Henrici, “Towards an Anthropological Philosophy of Communication.” Communication Resource.  March 1983. 1.
  2. 2Viggo Søgaard, Research In Church and Mission, Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1996, 11.
  3. 3 Knud Jørgensen, “Christian Communication: Remote Control or Incarnation?”  World Evangelization. December 1996/January 1997, 5.
  4. 4 Charles Kraft, Communicating the Gospel God’s Way, William Carey Library, Pasadena, CA, 1983, 11.
  5. 5Jørgensen, ibid.
  6. 6 Dean S. Gilliland, Pauline Theology & Mission Practice, Grand Rapids, MI:Baker Book House, 1983, 15.
  7. 7 Kraft, ibid., 31.
  8. 8 Leighton Ford, The Power of Story. Rediscovering the Oldest, Most Natural Way to Reach People for Christ, NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO, 1994, 179.
  9. 9Jørgensen, ibid., 7.
  10. 10 Vinay Samuel, “Journalism and the Two Mandates: The news profession as vocation. The role of journalism in creation and mission.” Available at http://www.gegrapha.org/VinaySamuel.asp
  11. 11 Martin Luther’s explanation to the 3rd article of faith. Available at http://cat41.org/WhoWhat/Confessions/SC.htm
  12. 12 Robertson, A.T., Epochs in the Life of Paul. New York: Scribner’s, 1909.61.
  13. 13 ibid
  14. 14 Lenski, R.C.H., The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles. Minneapolis:Augsburg, 1934. 371.
  15. 15 Kent, Homer A. Jr. Jerusalem to Rome: Studies in Acts. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972. 116-117.
  16. 16 Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus. Reflections on Christian Leadership. New York: Crossroads, 1989. 24.
  17. 17 Ibid. 25.
  18. 18Donald E. Messer. A Conspiracy of Goodness, Contemporary Images of Christian Mission. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1992. 139.
  19. 19Kevin Graham Ford, Jesus for a new generation. Inter Varsity Press ,1995. 117.
  20. 20ibid, 174.


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