Mike, also known as M-Dog, O’Connor is the minister at Rockhampton Pressy Church. He’s a top bloke who’s always on the lookout for ways to love his community and point them to Jesus. This means using the media a bit, and finding quirky angles to latch on to in order to get Jesus front and centre. I interviewed him because I wanted some regional balance because I think PR is more effective and a bit easier in the less crowded regional markets. Anyway. He says some good stuff.
1. How much media stuff have you guys done?
We’ve had fair bit to do with the media during my three years in Rockhampton. I was interviewed by TV and Radio during our church’s involvement with the Rockhampton Flood recovery and also during our church’s 150th Anniversary Celebration.
I’ve also written a couple of opinion pieces for the local daily newspaper “The Rockhampton Bulletin” about same-sex marriage and about a pizza franchise called “Hell’s Pizza”.
I also use facebook for ministry, I have lots of non-christian ‘friends’ and I’ve taken up twitter again recently.
2. What benefits do you see from engaging with the media?
There are many benefits – I struggle to think of any disadvantages.
In a technological age, the media provide another platform, if not the greatest platform for the church to proclaim the gospel news about Jesus. The media access more people than I can ever reach on a Sunday with the good news about Jesus. We have a message – they have the medium. Our culture is media saturated and so the church needs to engage with the media if we still want people to take seriously the claims about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
3. What do you think stops churches engaging with the media?
It’s hard to speculate accurately, perhaps it’s a matter of not knowing how to use the media or not knowing what things might be in the public interest where the church’s voice would be welcomed into the debate or expected to be heard?
I wonder if there is still a ghetto mentality amongst christians when it comes to the media. The idea of ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’, ‘clean’ and unclean’ still shapes a lot of church thinking and the media is seen as ‘part of the problem’ in an ‘evil world’. I think a more helpful way of viewing the media is seeing it as a platform where we can reach people with the the message of Jesus. This must be done in an intelligent and respectful way, by which I mean, knowing what battles are worth fighting for and the kind of voice or tone we bring to the debate.
4. What do you think it looks like when Christians do media engagement badly?
It’s embarrassing! I think bad engagement means picking the wrong battles and speaking with the wrong voice. There have been a number of examples lately across all mediums concerning same-sex and religious education in schools where we’ve spoken with the wrong tone or picked the wrong battle. What happens is that people think the church is about rules and regulations because essentially that’s what we are telling them. This only perpetuates the stereo-type that Christianity is becoming more and more irrelevant as our culture seeks to be morally progressive. We lose our right to speak about anything intelligently, we’re no longer being invited to the discussion. Bad engagement means no-one is listening when we want to talk to them about Jesus and we’re left wondering why people want nothing to do with the church!
5. How important is it, from your perspective, for us to talk about Jesus and the cross, when we’re appearing in public?
I would see it as essential. If the message that God has given the church to tell the World is about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, then surely that’s what the church needs to be communicating at every opportunity. If we aren’t talking about Jesus we are irrelevant and an out of touch organisation with strict and exclusive morals. Problem is we’re too busy attacking the issues demanding the world listen when really our job is to show them how Jesus is relevant. Its not the role of the church to make Jesus relevant to the world but to show the world how he is relevant.
I wonder if we’ve lost that distinction?
6. Can you tell us a little bit about the Hell Pizza thing?
Sure, an article appeared in our local newspaper about the opening of a pizza franchise in Brisbane and a local Pentecostal Pastor outraged that such demonic activity was taking place in their area. The Pentecostal Pastor was calling for a boycott of the store and for it’s closure.
I made a comment online about how the Pentecostal Pastor was over-reacting and being unhelpful. It was a Pizza shop and if they opened in Rockhampton, I would take my church youth group there. The local paper contacted me the next day and asked me if I would do an interview or write an article as a follow up to the story and if they could send a photographer around to my office.
I told the photographer that he needed to put his trust in Jesus and this was the point of the article I wrote. That while Hell is a real place – this was just a pizza shop and that church needs to be talking about Jesus and not what people can and can’t do.