Tag Archives: communicate Jesus

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A thing I said about social media on Davemiers.com

Dave Miers is a cool guy. I’ve never met him. But he seems cool. He does cool stuff like raising money for clean water in India – but he does even cooler stuff than that, he tries to help people know and love Jesus. He’s writing a couple of concurrent series on davemiers.com one called Digital Skatepark about using the Internet for Youth Ministry, and some interviews with people like Steve Kryger, Steve Fogg, and little old me – about redeeming social media.

In my post I shared this quote I read on Church Marketing Sucks a few weeks ago which I think sums up the opportunity that social media presents.

“If some day they take the radio station away from us, if they close down our newspaper, if they don’t let us speak, if they kill all the priests and the bishop too, and you are left, a people without priests, each one of you must be God’s microphone, each one of you must be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as there is one baptized person. And that one baptized person who is left in the world is responsible before the world for holding aloft the banner of the Lord’s truth and of his divine justice.” – Oscar Romero

Here’s my big thesis about how churches should use social media:

Doing social media well as an institution is all well and good, but churches need to equip and empower their flocks to use social media as people who don’t promote their own image on social media, but the image of Jesus.

Anyway. I say more on that post. Keep track of these two series though. They’re good stuff.

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Multimedia is “word ministry” too…


Image Credit: Thomas Wanhoff, via Flickr.

Steve Kryger’s Communicate Jesus is one of the go to blogs in my feed reader. It’s fantastic. I love the way Steve thinks carefully about how best to help people meet Jesus through the church, and online. His site has had a little bit of a redesign, so you should check it out. Steve has posted a handy collection of Christian videos over the years – good stuff to use in church services, and good stuff to share online where viral video is increasingly the go to for communication and education for the younger generations. I had a fun chat with some guys from church last week where we realised just how big a part of life YouTube has become for us – even though we’re on the cusp of being part of an older generation. One of my friends is renovating his house using how to videos from YouTube.

Steve posted a quote from this post on an American blog.

“My days are filled with media. When I go to church I just want to listen to a message about scripture, learn, meditate and worship.”

The American blog, College Ministry Thoughts, provides the context for the quote – it’s from a conversation the blogger overheard where a group of young people were talking about what they look for in a church.

I found the comments on Steve’s post, and the quote itself, a little frustrating – for much the same reason that I found the Archer and the Arrow frustrating.

One comment says:

“Church should not be a place where we go to get ‘more of the same’…we need to be killed (by God’s Word of law) and then raised again, by the gospel.”

The other:

“We have media all around us 24/7 and it’s important for us to have time to “unplug” and rest in God’s presence.”

Both those comments are from Americans – I know that because one mentions what college they graduated from, and the other comment is linked to an American blog.

It would be easy to simply be frustrated at how consumer driven these comments are – they seem to paint a picture of the church service that is focused on meeting the needs of those who are going along. And that’s a problem – but I don’t want to suggest that the original quote, or even the comments, come from people who are thinking of church like that – the first comment makes it clear that the commenter is interested in people being confronted with the gospel when they come to church.

And ultimately that’s what the church gathering is about – sure it serves all the other purposes – we encourage one another, and are fed, as we teach one another from God’s word and sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to each other. But our meetings are public meetings where non Christians will see how we treat each other, and more importantly, hopefully clearly hear the gospel proclaimed.

So here’s my beef. Communicating the gospel isn’t limited to a particular form of media. It’s not just something that is spoken by an important guy who stands out the front giving us a message from Scripture that teaches us something. Church isn’t for individual self improvement – church is where the body gathers to serve one another and reach others (I’m particularly thinking of the last few chapters of 1 Corinthians here). We worship God together when we’re gathered at church, but we also worship God together all through the week as we serve Jesus together, on mission together.

To suggest that God’s word is only communicated when we meet and somebody stands with a Bible open and teaches from it is to enshrine the popular form of media from a particular period in history and suggest that it is somehow the only right way to communicate. I think you can make a fair case that throughout Biblical history the people who proclaimed God’s word did so in a manner that was familiar to those around them – both believers and non-believers. I think this accounts for the differences in Old Testament law and the law of the Ancient Near East (law codes were designed and publicly presented in a way that emphasised the goodness or power of the king who enshrined them), and for the difference in emphasis in the Old Testament wisdom literature and the wisdom literature of the Ancient Near East. I think this is why prophets spoke in parables – so Nathan to David, why they acted out their messages – so Ezekiel and the edible scroll and Hosea and the unfaithful wife – and I think it’s why Jesus approached his teaching ministry the way he did – with parables, miracles, and proclamations of his kingship that were similar to other proclamations of new emperors in the Roman Empire. It’s also why Paul used the conventions of Greek oratory (and rejected others) when he spoke before councils, kings, and in marketplaces and synagogues in Acts, and why his letters carry the hallmarks of written rhetoric in the rest of the New Testament. The gospel is a multimedia experience – word ministry doesn’t necessarily take the form of what is essentially first century oratory (much of what Cicero says about public speaking could easily be found in a modern guide to preaching – public speaking is much older than this). This is why Luther adopted the printing of propaganda pamphlets and sermons, why Calvin published his Institutes in the written form he did, why Bach wrote the songs he did… Word ministry can take many and varied forms across many and varied types of media.

To suggest that we should speak in a way that is foreign to our culture – ie not use video because we want to experience something transcendent as we “meditate” in church on a Sunday – is to miss the point of gathering together (it’s not about me) and miss the point of communicating the hope of the gospel to people who don’t know Jesus in a way that removes obstacles to them, in a way that is clear, gracious and winsome (Colossians 4). Surely we want to be “wise in the way we act towards outsiders” and be “seasoned with salt” in the way we gather, not just in the way we act outside of the walls of our church buildings on a Sunday. And surely, if people are using YouTube to renovate their houses, we want to be in that marketplace with quality and winsome videos encouraging people to renovate their lives through Jesus, and showing them “how to”… then we’d be looking for opportunities to share good videos with people, speaking their language, rather than voicing our own frustrations with an inability to “unplug”…

If the videos we’re using in our church services aren’t doing that – then we need to rethink the kind of videos we’re using, and start resourcing people to make them. People like my friend Wade – who makes a bunch of the videos we use at Creek Road through his company LifeTone Media, and also the amazing SandBible.com videos from Luke’s gospel, and like Dan Stevers, from the US who makes really classy videos underpinned by solid theology.

Word ministry isn’t just the preaching that happens from the pulpit. It’s certainly not limited to what happens on a Sunday. And we should be looking at how we can use every medium available to present the gospel to people – being all things to all men, by all media, so that we might win some, to paraphrase Paul.

While our Sunday gatherings should be entirely defined by “word ministry” this doesn’t mean they’re just about the preaching. That’s old media. Our Sunday gatherings should be about communicating the truths of God in a way that encourages everyone – not just meets our own needs.

That is all.

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Facebook for ministry…

Tim Challies has this wise advice on how to take a balanced approach to using social media to enhance, rather than replace, your church community.

“So as you use Facebook, be careful to use it in a supplementary way, a way that supplements your real flesh and blood contact with the people you are seeking to serve. Use it to share event information, to get people remembering last week’s sermons and thinking toward next week’s, to get people singing the songs you sing and praying for what needs to be prayed for. Use it to share photographs of great events and to encourage people to make contact with one another. The ways it can supplement ministry are nearly endless. But all the while use it to push yourself toward, not away from, face to face contact.”

Mikey has some practical tips for building a custom landing page for your Facebook presence.

This site, mediaforministry.org, has some good tips for using Facebook, and WordPress. And you should, of course, all be reading Communicate Jesus already if this kind of post excites you.

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Keeping kids safe online…

I don’t often give serious parenting advice here. I know my audience. But my purpose for this post is twofold – first, to congratulate Steve Kryger from Communicate Jesus for this piece on Sydney Anglicans that has been syndicated on Gizmodo.com.au, and second, to share Steve’s list of ten tips for parents. I think they’re good, and a great acknowledgment that clean feed, or no clean feed, the issue requires a thought out approach from parents not a government mandate.

  1. Understand what your child is doing online (put the computer in a public space, talk to your children, use accountability software).
  2. Ask your child to explain to you what they are doing, and why they are doing it.
  3. Talk to your child about your values, and how these should be lived out, regardless of the environment.
  4. Filter the content that your family views online.
  5. Understand the minimum age requirements for different websites and technologies (children under 13 should not be on Facebook).
  6. Understand how these popular websites are used, and what the opportunities and threats are.
  7. Understand what avenues are at your disposal if something goes wrong (e.g. your child’s Facebook account is hacked).
  8. Consider how you will respond if you discover your child is acting inappropriately, or viewing inappropriate material.
  9. Decide when or if your child will get a mobile phone.
  10. Understand the new functions of mobile phones, and what the opportunities and threats are.
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Rebranding God

The Jesus All About Life campaign is on in earnest – though it’s unlikely it’ll get much attention as far north as Townsville. Steve Kryger from Communicate Jesus had some insightful critiques of the campaign’s methodology. He copped a bit of flack for daring to stick his head up and say what anybody who thinks a bit about marketing (or works in the field) was already thinking.

My problem isn’t so much with the style of the campaign – I’ve got a problem with the substance.

I think we’re creating a generation of apathetic nominal Christians whose only knowledge of the Bible is John 3:16, and whose only knowledge of God is that he is loving. And all they have to do is “believe”.

I believe in lots of things that I don’t really care about, and if I use that understanding of the word and apply it to God, without reading the rest of the Bible then I can comfortably, and apathetically, rest assured that God and me are mates. And God is loving. So he’ll do right by me…

I don’t think there are many people stopping to think about what this loving God wants them to do with him past belief. And I don’t think “thank you Jesus for birds that look like they’re wearing pants” is the way to move people past that nominal point and into active Christian “belief” – that where thought is outworked, and where Jesus’ righteous place as Lord of our lives is realised.

Yes, God is loving. Yes, we do need to believe in him (as he actually is, not just that he is). But we need to move past that in our marketing campaigns – every marketing campaign needs a call to action. The call shouldn’t be “be thankful for…(whatever makes a nice postcard)” it should be something that enhances the understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

In our marketing at work part of what we’re aiming to do is “sell the sizzle, not the sausage” – which is what you do in a crowded marketplace like tourism where every customer already knows they’re looking for a holiday but haven’t necessarily chosen where. You can’t do this with Christianity. People need to better understand what goes in our sausage before we even try selling it.

UPDATE: Steve Kryger has posted some research that led the campaign in the direction it went in. It makes for interesting reading – basically the people behind the campaign found that people have negative thoughts about Christianity (particularly secular humanists) and they wanted to move away from “traditional” advertising…

“At a more fundamental level, non-Christians tend to reject the idea of ‘one truth’ as a divisive concept that is to blame for much of the conflict in the world today, and that clashes with the secular humanist ideal of taking personal responsibility for lifestyle choices and interpersonal values.”

I don’t get it. The gospel is no good because we can’t sell it?

I maintain my hypothesis that the gospel is less effective because we’ve spent so long selling it so badly. And pulling out the important bits in a bid to not be offensive (I guess reacting against the “turn or burn” fire and brimstone preachers of the previous generation) doesn’t seem to be a greatly effective strategy.

Nine Christian blogs you should read

These are not necessarily my favourite blogs by Christians – but they are the ones that are most likely to cover interesting trends in evangelical Christianity (in the Australian sense of the word evangelical – which mostly means reformed)…

  1. John Piper’s blog at Desiring God, his son Abraham Piper’s 22 words is another one of my favourites… his current post is a cracker.
  2. Mark Driscoll’s blog at the Resurgence – lets face it, what Christian male under the age of 30 isn’t at least a little bit of a Mark Driscoll fanboy. He’s a Mac, and Piper is a PC.
  3. Tim Challies blog – great link posts and book reviews.
  4. Between Two Worlds – nice short summaries of the American Christian blogosphere.
  5. Craig’s blog – the Australian equivalent of Between Two Worlds – nice short sharp summaries of important discussions and developments around the Australian scene.
  6. The Internet Monk – trying to define him is difficult. Post reformed, post evangelical, partly Calvinist – usually interesting or thought provoking.
  7. Church Marketing Sucks – a nice little site dedicated to improving the way churches communicate Jesus.
  8. Communicate Jesus – an Australian equivalent to Church Marketing Sucks.
  9. Stuff Christians Like – the Stuff Christians Write writer has his finger right on the pulse of Christian culture – warts and all.

A list of nine barely does my subscription list justice, there are heaps of notable omissions both from gospel ministers in Australia to collective blogs like Pyromaniacs or the SolaPanel – and a bunch of quality blogs by bible college students.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Design4Church – a most excellent blog about graphic design for churches at this point…

Any good ones I’m missing?