The Medium and the Message, Part Two

If all of the world were to fall down today and worship our Father and submit their lives to him, it would not add one bit to his holiness and glory. And if all the world were to reject our Father and deny him today, it would not subtract one iota from his sovereignty and reign.  In the same way, the Gospel itself — the Good News of salvation from God through faith in the Christ — is not strengthened or weakened by our attempts to proclaim it. The perfect Gospel of Jesus cannot gain power or lose effectiveness.

But just as Paul told the Corinthians that “it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat,” even though they were eating and drinking and praying as a body of believers just like everybody else, the Gospel isn’t really the Gospel if it’s proclaimed in a way that contradicts the message.

And sometimes the package can contradict the message so that it’s not the Gospel at all. It’s something else.

If the National Enquirer’s headline was “Tony Romo Dating Jenna Bush,” you wouldn’t believe it for a second. But if that same headline appears in the Dallas Morning News, you don’t doubt it at all. You never question it. The reputation of the package and the public perception of the package definitely impacts the message. Give Away Day and Trunk Or Treat are effective ways to preach the Word. But if we used Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in the church parking lot or off-color innuendo on our flashing sign out front to attract people to Give Away Day or Trunk Or Treat, that’s a problem.

What if I used four-letter curse words while I preached? What if I preached while holding a gun and shooting anybody who refused to be baptized? I know those are extreme, hyperbolic illustrations but they make the point. The packaging definitely impacts the message. And we’re setting ourselves up and jeopardizing the Kingdom if we ignore that.

My point is this: we are the ones who control the medium. We control the packaging and the way things are presented. It only changes if we decide to change it. We make those decisions. No one else is making those decisions for us. But for some reason we in the Church just assume that since everything around us in our culture is changing, the Church must change also. For some reason our attitude in the Church seems to be “We must be like the culture” instead of “We must change the culture.”

Why is our culture and “the way things are” seen by us as a reality to which we must adapt instead of a point of view with which we should argue?

Peace,

Allan

12 Comments

  1. D

    You make very good points. I agree on some level with quite a few of them. The message is the same as it has been since the beginning. However, we are at war, whether we recognize it or not. It is constant, the “medium” with which the war is being played is all over us, all the time. It’s attacking our children, parents, etc. and Satan is definitely using whatever means he can to allure us in. I am not suggesting to package up the message so much you don’t recognize it. I do believe that we can use whatever resource is available to us to spread the Message to those surrounding us in schools, work, wherever we congregate inside the walls of our building or not. But I do believe I am at war and my soul along with everyone else’s is at stake. It is serious and the medium of the culture is being used against us. We dont have to look far to see that or hear it.

  2. Allan

    All the more reason to think very carefully about what we do and why we do it. None of it’s neutral. We make a mistake if we think it is. The point is to think very carefully about how and why we do things, especially as they relate to using the devil’s tools.

  3. Mel

    Because arguing never saved anyone and imposing a preferred culture over another isn’t our place.

    It’s not the culture we should oppose but the sin within it.

    We can’t be afraid of what the culture will do to the Church. It has stood up so far and will continue to do so. Nor can we remain safe and comfortable up on the hills while Goliath taunts us.

    The problem is we don’t have a culture of our own we can claim at this time. We are the aliens and that forces us into a situation where adaptation is necessary.

    That’s going to change one day but for now Legacy Church of Christ isn’t very much like the church of Paul’s time and it’s probably not much like the church may be 2000 years from now.

    How can we follow a Jesus that will sit at the well and talk to a Samaritan woman and ask these types of questions about culture?

  4. dbyrnes

    Did I miss something? How are we conforming to be like culture? I don’t think I’ve missed any four letter word rants from the pulpit. I haven’t seen any off color jokes on our sign attempting to bring people in the door. I’m sure I would have read in the Dallas Morning News (possibly the Enquirer) about a preacher forcing baptisms at gunpoint.

    Am I naive to the real attitude of the church or are we being dumped into the same category as a church who would use YouTube clips as their sole means of sharing God’s word?

    I don’t think we’ve ever proclaimed the Gospel in a way that contradicts the message. True, some of our methods may have changed but the message remains the same.

    “Think very carefully about how and why we do things” – point well made.

    Now to conform for a minute. No words on the blackout of tonight’s game and Papa Jerry’s ties to the NFL Network?

  5. Mel

    tonight’s game is being broadcast on KDFI 27 locally. It’s channel 7 on Charter.

  6. Allan

    I mean “argue” in the sense of disagree and reason against, not yell and scream and demean others. That would not be the Gospel, obviously. I mean “argue” the way Paul argued against the cultural world-view. Constantly. Relentlessly.

    The very fact that Jesus sat down at the well to talk to a Samaritan woman is as counter-cultural or opposed-to-culture as it got. To follow Jesus’ example in that case is to go completely against the prevailing culture in bold, in-your-face ways. No apologies.

    If changing the world — culture, whatever — isn’t the place of Christians and the Lord’s Church, what is?

    I have a difficult time separating the sin from the culture. I think it’s fair to say it’s all pretty blurry.

    Again, we’re getting away from the main point of “think very carefully about how and why we do things.”

    But we do have a culture in the Church. It’s a culture that’s marked by our own language, our own terms for each other, our own thought-processes and world views, our own unique understanding of what’s real and what’s not, our own very different way of interacting in this world than the way others do. The Christian culture is described in political terms through all of the New Testament, especially by Paul. It’s not by accident or coincidence that in the Roman Empire where “Caeser is Lord” Christians were persecuted for making the confession that “Jesus is Lord.” That’s intentionally political. That’s intentionally counter-cultural. I’m afraid we believe that Jesus is Lord, but so is America and so is free enterprise and so is the entertainment media and so is money and so is recreation.

    Adaptation to the culture is anti-Kingdom. Changing the culture is what disciples of Jesus, our King, are called to do.

  7. John

    You can read all my response at my blog over at http://www.worthyjourney.com/?p=13

    Here is a portion though – “As I was typing this I realized that I was about to say that the use of technology to bring others to the message is a neccasary one, but in reflection I think that I may be changing my mind that the ultimate method to bring the message is a personal one. Individual to individual.

    The only way to truly make a huge impact is to go back to one on one. Softening up the ground with youtube or loud alternative music that actually has a good message embedded within it is not going to get the job done. It lacks the very thing Jesus offers all of us, a personal relationship. I don’t think there is anything wrong with making an attractive building, and placing culturally appealing ammenities, but to do so without the personal element will fail.”

    Oh, and How bout them Cowboys!

  8. Mel

    Allan I’ve possibly misread you at first and for that I apologize.

    At first reading it seems like you are saying we as a church should avoid interacting with the culture. Specifically why should we as a church feel the need to embrace the opportunities technology affords us?

    The arguing I was referring to isn’t the screaming or yelling sort either. It’s much like we are currently doing right now.

    The senseless debating over the fine points of religion and Christianity never once saved a soul.

    Jesus impacted the Samaritan “culture” from the bottom up by making a personal connection and he did it and while in their “culture”.

    Sitting in Jerusalem and hoping the Samaritans decide to drop by ain’t working.

    One final note on the personal aspect…

    I met DeAnn on the internet. It wasn’t a dating service. I had a friend I was corresponding with as did she and we more or less stumbled onto each other.

    Just beacuse you don’t have any experience with it or don’t understand it or have some predetermined opinion of it doesn’t change the fact that right now in our history literally millions of people are turning to this little box every day seeking some sort or personal contact.

    My question is simple this…

    Who are they going to meet?

  9. Mel

    There once was a man from the pulpit
    Who made a prediction but flubbed it.
    On the day of the game
    The crowd screams out one name
    Tony Romo rules!
    (never was a poet)

  10. Allan

    Romo does indeed rule. I’ll start the thread about the game after lunch.

  11. Brooke

    The medium affects the message tremendously! If the gospel is presented in an amusing 2 minute video clip, then part of the message is that the gospel is amusing and can be understood in 2 minutes apart from a Christian community.

    If the church’s announcements are presented on a news type video, then part of the message is that the announcer is a TV personality, that a screen is a great place to get information, and that announcements are about information. Whereas if the church’s announcements are presented by a person talking, then personal relationship is part of the message and announcements may be about building community more than conveying information.

    And if the football game is presented on a tv station that exists only to make more money for the football league, then part of the message is that football games are about money.

    I think Allan’s point may be that it is important to think about what messages are inherently conveyed by our choice of medium, because they are conveyed whether we think about it or not. In that way, we can attempt to ensure that the message implied by the medium is congruent with our gospel message.

  12. Joanna

    I agree with John 100%. We must go back to one on one to be effective and truly follow Christ’s model. Perhaps meeting in someone’s home with friends, in a casual atmosphere, eating around our dinner tables, inviting acquaintences in to learn who Christ is–oh, are we talking about Small Groups?

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