by Tamara Panza (Faculty and Graphic Design Lead)
I’m an artist. It doesn’t take much to convince me that media and technology can be useful and even necessary for ministry in this media driven society, but there’s sometimes controversy among Christians about using media in the church. Media driven churches feel they won’t reach teens and young people who live off apps, videos, and smart phones if they don’t keep up with the latest technological developments. Other churches don’t know enough about integrating media and shy away from it altogether. I have heard it said that to reach the lost, “All we need is Jesus”. Isn’t Jesus enough? The answer is, of course He is! He, the Almighty, Everlasting, creator of the ends of the earth… HE IS ENOUGH. He’s SURELY enough! He is all we need to reach a lost and dying world. So, why invest so much time, energy, and resources into building a media ministry within our churches?
To answer that question, let’s look at an illustration. Can we build a house using the old hammer and nail method? Yes, we can! But we can also employ a faster, swifter, easier method: using an electric nail gun. You can nail faster, with less energy, and get the job done in a fraction of the time. I think we can think of media in the church in the same way. New people come into the church on a weekly basis. We can say good-bye as they walk out the door and hope they come back next week. Or, we can connect with them during the week by sending an email, text, and asking them to connect with our Facebook group or website where they can find resources to help them grow and learn about Jesus. Why not use the technology and media tools around us to make an even greater connection with people? Using media does not tale away from the saving grace of Jesus! Can it detract from our message? Yes it can – if it’s missing one key ingredient: PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS.
The easiest way to think about using media in ministry is to think of it in terms of connection and relationships. Scott Bessenecker writes in his article, The Gospel As A Product, The Church As A Business, And People As Consumers, “When we adopt the identical commercial advertising techniques used to draw us to Home Depot or McDonalds, we skate dangerously close to syncretizing the Christian faith with a culture of consumption.” He also states, “flourishing must be favored over mechanical growth.” Flourishing cannot happen without personal relationships and discipleship. So, in using media and technology, we must always be careful not to forget to relate personally to people, FACE-TO-FACE. Sending texts, emails, newsletters and videos are all great connection points, but they will not be effective without personal relationships and discipleship.
I just sent my oldest daughter off to college, and what a transition it has been! What if my only connection with her was dependent on the next time I can see her face to face? No, I’m going to use any means at my disposal to reach out and connect with her while she’s away. Facetime, texting, and social media – I’m using it all, because it’s there and it’s where she is.
So, the question remains – should the church use the media at hand? Yes, I think we should; it’s where the people are, and it’s another point of connection available to us. It’s so convenient to be able to pull your cell phone out of your pocket and use it to check out a Bible passage. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to hand an SD card to someone on the mission field, and have that person be able to read or listen to the Bible from that one tiny little piece of media. That is incredible! But it’s also a wonderful thing to open up a real Bible with real pages, and rest in His presence with no phone, television or computer.
Let’s enjoy and benefit from the best of both worlds, the advantages of technology and the beauty of traditional forms of communication. All the while keeping in mind personal relationships with people is ultimately the only way to make disciples and build the church.