I have encountered many believers through the years who were “Christian” media fanatics. One of the main reasons for their enthusiasm was because they recognized the mainstream media’s power to change cultural values negatively through the sweet pill of TV and movies. Although completely valid, when such people are pressed about their vision for media I find their motivation is a determination to wrest technology and entertainment out of the hands of unbelievers, rather than passion for what the content of their media actually is.
On a basic level media is simply a conduit for a message and therefore technicians should work to make that conduit the best it can be, but the real challenge that I charge all of our Media Students at IHOPU with is what is the content of their message and whether they are consumed with passion for it. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism encouraged believers to “Catch on fire… and people will come for miles to watch you burn”. The first challenge of anyone called into media is to burn with passion for the Son of God, make his desires your own, then take this message and communicate. I believe this is the only foundation from which anything can be built (1 Cor 3:12) especially anything to do with media.
In addition to burning with a message however it is important to realize that the medium that we communicate in can so change the message that it actually becomes the message itself. In the 1960s Marshall McLuhan coined the expression “the medium is the message”; there is undoubted truth to this. I think of something as bizarre as communicating the gospel through a television game show, the format in this instance communicates as much as the message itself. This is not to decry any form of media, but to encourage communicators to become skilled at their art, by thinking about the medium of the message as a part of the message itself.
We live in a generation like no other. The Great Commission was given by Jesus around 2000 years ago, yet the methods through which the Gospel has been proclaimed and the nations discipled has not changed much in that time…well at least for the first 1900 years. The printing press in the 15th century was undoubtedly a big step, but the development of film, radio, TV, P.A. systems and the personal computer in the 20th century was a huge leap. And the pace of technological developments in the 21st century is nothing short of staggering. The lightning pace of mobile technologies, online video and social media can leave one dizzied. Yet society as a whole is embracing these new methods and just as it was important for the New Testament to be written in Koine Greek, so it is important that we have messengers who are conversant in many of today’s new “media languages”. Using tools such as Twitter or Facebook may seem like a new language to some, but it can be a very effective way to drip feed discipleship to those who would never listen to sermon straight off; after all isn’t much of Jesus teaching contained in pithy sayings and parables.
One instance of our taking this to heart is the live streaming of the 24/7 prayer room which is broadcast to TVs, computers and mobile devices throughout the nations. Not only is it a tool for individuals and houses of prayer to be equipped in prayer. It is also a message itself to give courage to others that a lifestyle of prayer is both possible and necessary for normative Christianity.