A number of exciting new Christian movies hit last year. Excellent Christian radio stations broadcast throughout our area. On cable and satellite TV there are a number of channels carrying the gospel. Tracts are in abundance. Bibles are being distributed and creating opportunities for spiritual conversations.
What can your church do to use different media tools to accelerate response to the gospel in your own community?
The word “communication” is very broad and encompasses more than a dozen categories ranging from drama, storytelling and research to advertising, TV and social media. Generally, media tools fall into three categories: print (books, periodicals, newspaper), electronic (audio, video, digital), and traditional (drama, stories).
Marshall McLuhan is credited with saying, “The medium is the message.” Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is the one that convicts and not the manipulation of some media tool. However, the axiom is true, “The medium can affect the message.” Stated plainly, the communications tools may be used or misused.
Media tools can do two things very well:
1. Help people evaluate a new idea objectively and from a safe distance. This helps them count the cost, risk assessment, and determine the value of decisions.
2. Reinforce relationships and confirm decisions made in the past. They can promote loyalty, recruit others to try it, and assist explanations for actions taken.
Media tools can do two things poorly:
1. Push into places where they are not welcomed, endangering the sender. Media tools can distort viewpoints, generate biases, and jeopardize the faithful.
2. Alienate people instead of fostering personal relationships. They can make people throw up shields, add distance, and can inoculate against future attempts to share the Gospel. Church leaders need to make some very important decisions. Should they work quietly with hand-to-hand distribution or in a much more mass appeal?
A public launch of some Christian media tool, such as a movie or even a splashy event, lends “credibility” among people that don’t know Jesus as their Savior. If a news article, magazine feature, or public figure discusses the actual title of the resource or event, then acceptance is more likely among non-Christians. They may not trust you, but they can trust an authority they respect.
Even a well-timed and attractive ad in a newspaper, poster series, billboard, or cable TV spot can carry a certain amount of “preparing the way” for receiving Christ into their lives. Among the most antagonistic people, it might be necessary to tell amazing stories that you know to establish credibility as a storyteller. If they happen to be from the God’s Word, then so much the better!
Churches must try to communicate clearly and in places in which intended audiences can receive them in time. In Romans 10:14-17, Paul not only expressed the need for preachers, but he also focused on the importance of faith coming by “hearing” or “understanding.” In the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-20, Jesus offered no condemnation on the sower for getting some seed among the thorns, in with some rocks, or sprinkled along the pathway.
An evangelistic video showing or gospel tract distribution is like a fireworks show. The crowd stands around giving their ooohs and aaaahs. But spectators can be fickle. They wonder, “What is next?” or “What else do you have?”
So, think “river,” not fireworks. When a person steps into a river, they quickly feel the flow of the current. Evangelistic media should provide multiple entry points that should all lead the same direction. Whether far upstream or way downstream, the strength of the current varies, but the movement is in one direction. One media use should lead the user or viewer closer to a believer who can introduce them personally to Jesus.
Evangelism-discipleship media tools work together over time to create powerful effects. Give the Holy Spirit many opportunities to bring spiritual transformation.
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. He holds a Masters in Communications Management from Virgina Commonwealth University.