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Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Tag Archives: Jesus

It’s all about Rescue – Part 1

Creation is not the first belief about God!

In the ancient Hebrew world, God was not primarily ‘Creator’.

The first real nation-wide interaction and exposure to God for the Israelite people was at the Exodus. The people were rescued from slavery in Egypt, hence the first part of Exodus 20

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
Exodus 20:2

The people, rescued from slavery, led out by Moses, who then really introduced them fully to God in the next few chapters, initially thought of God as rescuer, then went on to explore what else God was. They posed the question “Who is this rescuer God, what else has he done?”

And then the story of creation was explored and told and passed from generation to generation as were a lot of other stories throughout history. Many of them are other stories about rescue!

In fact, if we read the creation story as not a completely literal, historical account, it too can be thought of as a type of rescue. There is a growing acceptance that in aligning the evidence we have available through scientific exploration and reasoning, and the biblical text, we should be viewing the ‘Adam and Eve’ story as more symbolic, and that in the event of the two – Adam and Eve being real people who actually existed (I’m not denying it as a plausible possibility), they were called away from the race of people that existed at the time and as-it-were, ‘rescued’ – set apart to and for God. See ‘Who Were Adam and Eve Part 1 and Who Were Adam and Eve Part 2 for a bit more exploration into these concepts.

From the beginning then, we can see God is a rescuer, saving people, drawing individuals out into relationship with Him.

The next most obvious, perhaps most famous rescue story is of course that of Noah in Genesis 6 + 7.

God the rescuer, rescuing Noah from the adverse and oppressive, the wicked and sinful.

But (at risk of being accused of jumping around) if we go back almost to the beginning and look at some of the earlier stories in a bit more detail, we can discover yet more rescue.

One of the most striking is God’s rescue of the first convicted murderer.

Genesis 2 holds the story of Cain & Abel – the story of the first farming rage incident and the first recorded murder.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 2:2-16

What fascinates me is God’s double rescue – firstly in verse 7

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

God is offering Cain a way out before he even gets to murdering his brother – God is saying, bring me a sacrifice in the way I have asked for it and there’s no problem any longer. God is also warning Cain that if he doesn’t, God can see that he is going to face temptation that he will find hard to resist.

Then, after Cain murders Abel, you might think that as punishment, God would just finish him off, but instead, God protects him from anyone else – Verse 15

“the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him”

God rescues the first murderer. Yes, Cain faces a punishment / consequences of his actions, but God will not allow him to be harmed. That’s fascinating. That’s incredible grace. Not to totally condemn or reject the first murderer, the first person to kill someone else is rescued by God from anyone seeking revenge.

It’s all about rescue, really, all about rescue.

There are more, lots more, but they will have to be covered in part 2.

Divine Comedy?

Reading John 5, I was confused by the seeming incongruity of verse 14.

The context: Jesus has just healed a man who had been an ‘invalid’ for 38 years, told the man to ‘pick up his mat and walk’ and promptly vanished. The man is then reprimanded by the pharisees for carrying his mat on the sabbath, and a little while later, Jesus finds him at the temple and says to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

It is possible, and has been suggested by many that the man had gone on to the temple, set himself back up as a beggar (likely as not his previous ‘occupation’ whilst being an invalid) again, and Jesus is warning him not to deceive people when he is actually well.
As an explanation, that’s fair enough and perfectly plausible.

However, I wonder if actually, because we can’t hear the tone of voice, we are missing something in the way Jesus says that sentence “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” I wonder if, instead of threatening the man, rather than this being some kind of warning of divine punishment if the guy doesn’t stop sinning, perhaps, Jesus is having a little ‘private’ joke with the guy.

Is it possible that Jesus sidles up to the chap and says, with a big grin and a sparkle in his eye, (reading between the lines) “you know the pharisees, their inflexibility, their attention to the minute detail, their officious judgemental ruling that even carrying your mat on the sabbath is work and therefore a sin… well, make sure you don’t go on ‘sinning’ {wink} (doing things the pharisees disapprove of) or something worse might happen!”?

Could it be that Jesus is having a little dig at the pharisees and a little laugh with the healed man?

Jesus knew that in the cultural context of the day, people thought that God punished sin fairly immediately or at least that people’s disabilities or misfortunes were thought to be because of their sin. He also knew that God doesn’t work like that. Maybe, what seems to be a veiled threat of God’s imminent judgement, could be Jesus making light of how the man had been perceived by the pharisees.

And maybe after that, the man goes off and tells the pharisees it was Jesus who healed him because he knows it will not only wind them up but it will get them off his back for carrying his mat?

I don’t know, but I could just imagine Jesus having a bit of a lark with the man about the oppressive yoke that the pharisees were trying to lay on the poor guy.

I could well be wrong, but it doesn’t seem very Jesussy to make that sort of dark threat to the guy he has just healed, especially a threat that is hollow in as much as we know that God doesn’t generally punish people specifically for specific sins, but that sin brings it’s own punishment & carries it’s own consequences.

Jesus is all about forgiveness and the only people he condemns are those that think they have it all ‘right’ – i.e. mostly the pharisees and ‘teachers of the law’.

Would he really turn to threatening someone he had just taken the trouble to seek out and heal?

Mercy Seat

I was reading the story of the wilderness journey and the construction of the tabernacle and it made me think about the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.

Whilst initially, the construction of the gold-covered wooden box with cherubim either side might look like Israel’s version of an idol, this building directive is in stark contrast to the culture around them at the time, a culture of images / idols carved out of wood or cast from precious metals.

The difference that drew my attention was this:

Then make a mercy-seat from pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. Make two cherubim out of beaten gold. Make them at the two ends of the mercy-seat. Make one cherub on one end and one cherub on the other end. Make the top of the mercy-seat, with the cherubim at each end, of one piece. The wings of the cherubim should spread up over the mercy-seat. Their faces should be toward each other, and toward the mercy-seat. Put the mercy-seat on top of the box. Put the Law which I will give you into the box. I will meet with you there. Between the two cherubim which are upon the special box of the Law, I will speak to you about all the Laws I will give you for the people of Israel.

Exodus 25:17-22 (New Life Version)

God requested a seat to be made for him to come and meet with the representative of the people. (at this stage it was spoken to Moses but later on it would be the high priest).

God didn’t want anything to be made to represent Him, or something that could be worshipped in itself, he wanted somewhere to ‘sit’ while he talked with the people.

It’s fully in keeping with both the God who says ‘make no image‘ and also the God who comes to live in and with us, first through the person of Jesus (John 10:38 / John 14:10+11) and then for those that choose to have relationship with Christ, in and through us (John 14:20 / John 17:21).

The box is not the important bit, nor is the ‘mercy seat’, but the one who comes to sit on it and be with his people.

It reminded me of a ‘voice of the day’ from the ‘God’s Politics’ Sojourners web site.

The resurrection of Jesus was simply God’s unwillingness to take our ‘no’ for an answer. He raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that he himself has now established permanent, eternal residence here on earth. He is standing beside us, strengthening us in this life. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home to be with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick prisoner brothers with him.

Clarence Jordan

God came to be with the people of Israel as he sat on the ‘mercy seat’ (mercy being a good word worth looking up yourself), in amongst the grime and muck of a wilderness nomadic community.

God sent His only Son, who emptied himself (Philippians 2:7) of himself and filled himself up with his Father, into a world full of the grime and muck that came with roman occupation, torture, military dictatorship etc.

God promises to come to the earth again (Revelation 21), (not that he has ever left – “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” – Ephesians 4:6) not to whisk people away to somewhere else, but to live with them and be their God in and amongst them, initially at least – in and with the grime and muck of the 21st century, in all the mess that we have allowed our world and lives to get into.

That’s a pretty significant forward-looking symbol in just a wooden seat covered in gold!

For Christians Only

For over 2000 years, the Jesus story has inspired people, spilling over into art, culture, music and many of our institutions, but today’s culture sees it only as part of our history, something to be escaped from, not part of our present to be embraced.

Our job as contemporary Jesus followers is to re-imagine, re-paint, re-compose, re-inspire the next generation by not only describing but displaying the complete and concrete relevance that this story still holds.

It’s time to re-tell the Jesus story in language that today’s ‘post-Christian’, ‘developed west’ can understand as original and vibrant, without allowing it to slip into just another self-help or health & wealth corporate branding message.

The question is how?

The future of our churches is held not just in the hands of the current generation of believers, but also those of the young people who grow up in contact with those believers, be that in our homes, in our youth programmes or just in our neighbourhoods – young people who are exposed to the goodness of Jesus by the things that we do.

One of the problems is that the young people of today are very different to the young people of 30 years ago and vastly different from the young people of 60 years ago.
Not only can this lead to differences of opinion and conflict but, more fundamentally, it gives rise to a completely different perspective and worldview.

Today’s young people are brought up on (sometimes even by) technology. We think nothing of seeing a 2-year-old successfully navigating their way round an iPad, iPhone, ‘cbeebies’ or ‘milkshake’!
The young people of 30 years ago are the ones that watched the workstation become a personal computer and begin its inexorable march into our homes and take its vice-like grip on our lives.
The young people of 60 years ago are mostly still trying to understand which button to press to answer the mobile phone or why the page on the computer screen they were looking at has suddenly disappeared, seemingly for no reason.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many iPad grannies around and plenty of tech-savvy over 70s along with innovative and progressive over 40s, but the mindset of today’s young people, broadly speaking, differs immensely.

I thoroughly recommend Shane Hipps‘ books “The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture” and “Flickering Pixels” if you want to understand the changing face of media, just how much media has shaped our lives and how electronic media is shaping the lives of our young people. I would also recommend Gerard Kelly‘s book “Get a Grip on the Future without Losing Your Hold on the Past” as a really good rounded view of changing cultures.

My point is that if, as followers of Jesus, we don’t adapt and change and constantly re-imagine the way we share the incredible, impactful message of God’s love, our churches will wither and die, not because the underlying message is changing but because the ‘same-old, same-old’ approach that today’s young people view as archaic and irrelevant is inaccessible and uninspiring.

That isn’t to say that today’s young people are not passionate about things, it would be wrong to say that today’s young people are not engaged in or concerned with social justice, poverty relief, overcoming injustice and freeing the oppressed (incidentally all the things that Jesus was passionate about and got killed for, see Luke 4:18-19). These problems are close to many young people’s hearts, only, over many years, they haven’t seen enough of the people in the church(es) going about acting this out significantly.

Today’s young people are less interested in what the people in the church say they believe and more interested in observing how the people in the church behave.

They are interested in seeing people who say they are ‘followers’ of Jesus actually following Jesus, i.e. living in a way that honours him and displays him to others.

“Indeed, a quick glance around this broken world makes it painfully obvious that we don’t need more arguments on behalf of God; we need more people who live as if they are in covenant with Unconditional Love, which is our best definition of God.”
Robin R. Meyers, from ‘Saving Jesus from the Church’

There’s always been a lot of talk in the church (take that to encompass any denomination, sect and community) but there hasn’t always been a lot of action, reaffirming people’s underlying view that the church is often no different from the world – just a place for empty rhetoric and endless flavours of ‘church’ to sample to see if it suits me. It ends up catering for consumer Christians, but we don’t need more consumers:

“This is a world long on options, short on substance, offering an unprecedented array of goods & experiences but little that is rooted in the permanent or meaningful”
(Gerard Kelly – ‘Get a grip on the future without losing hold of your past’)

Unfortunately, churches have, in the past, and probably to some extent now, constantly talked about “God’s coming Kingdom”, “Heaven”, “the Kingdom of God”, “the Kingdom of Heaven” or “eternal life”, however you understand it, whatever you want to call it, unfortunately, there’s not been enough practical demonstration of that concept it has generally all been intellectual exploration.

“Eternal life is not just what we’re waiting for – it is not simply a description of the age to come. It is what we live now, when faith and the resurrection power of Christ are at work in us.”
(Gerard Kelly)

So what are we to do?

Firstly, ground our response in scripture:

Galatians 5:6
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Start with Loving people, in the way Jesus did, then introduce people to him.

If your devotion to God makes the needs of the world seem more distant, you are in danger that you are expressing escapism, not faith.
(Gerard Kelly – ‘Get a grip on the future without losing hold of your past’)

Taking up the challenge of expressing your faith through love and fulfilling God’s purpose for your life means pursuing your neighbour’s wellbeing in the same way you are pursuing your own wellbeing.

Feeding the poor, playing football, leading worship events, putting on plays, creating art, shopping for old folk, campaigning for justice, creating and using wealth, skateboarding, dancing, writing, recording, singing, clubbing… All these can and do have their legitimate place in God’s purposes. They are transformed into a valid re-imagined way of spreading the Jesus story and taking part in God’s mission when they are done in response to God’s word and in obedience to the guidance of his spirit.

There are and will be many expressions and nuances of this new re-painting of Jesus incredible story for our current generation and we must hold them with open hands as we pass on the baton to the next generation.
I encourage you to share your ideas and expressions of new ways to share the living Jesus in the comments section, here are a couple to go along with.

Jubilee Economics

Jesus walks into a Synagogue and starts reading from Isaiah. (Sounds like the beginning of a joke doesn’t it!)

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Isaiah 61

And then he rolls up the scroll and sits down again!

This section in Luke 4:16-20 ends with the sentence:

The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him…

To which I would add “I bet they were!”

The Jesus story is well known, maybe not this bit, but much of it, yet the audacity of Jesus’ action here – coming in and reading only a few sentences from Isaiah’s prophecy, never ceases to have an impact on me.

The people in the synagogue would have wondered what in the world was going on.

The hindsight that we can view this passage from gives us a lot of perspective and the rest of the story, because most people (Christians especially) already know the ‘ending’, ends up detracting from the cultural, historical power that Jesus’ next words carried.

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Picture it: Israel as a whole was occupied by a suppressive Roman presence. Perhaps the most potent section of the ‘great prophet’ – Isaiah – the most venerated among the ancient voices, was being firmly pushed in their faces by a comparatively young upstart Rabbi. He was claiming to be the one who was bringing “good news to the poor freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind and freedom for the oppressed.” That he was “proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour” possibly passed them by in their surprise.

But in many ways, that’s the really important bit! The ‘Year of the Lord’s favor’ is another way of saying ‘Jubilee’ as described in Leviticus 25.
Jesus was claiming that in his coming, true Jubilee was being declared.
The picture of Jubilee in Leviticus is one that encompassed some of the other things Isaiah spoke of, namely; freedom from slavery, cancelling debts, returning land to it’s historical family’s ownership. A vision of a utopian paradise where justice and equality were maintained, where the next generation of people were given another chance to get it right if their parents had messed up or a chance to make their own living rather than have it left to them by their well-to-do ancestors. Debts and bad decisions never lasted more than a generation – 50 years, and everyone got a huge party and a clean slate at least once in their lifetime.

Who wouldn’t want a part of that?

I was recently pointed towards this talk by Walter Bruggeman at Mars Hill and found it compelling, encouraging and challenging in equal measure. I say “found” but really I mean “find” because the clarity and freshness of his words loose nothing in the third, fourth or even fifth hearing.

Brueggeman encourages the Mars Hill community to re-vision what a ‘new Jerusalem’ might look like in the contemporary picture of failed economics and a society that has ruined itself on greed and corruption. The talk was given just after the ‘sub-prime‘ fallout and collapse of Freddy Mac & Fannie May in 2008, but I think it’s just as pertinent now as we watch the possible failure or even complete disintegration of the European Economic Community. In Brueggeman’s words, the message of Isaiah is teased out for the present, reminding us that God’s Kingdom is designed, not as an exclusive gentleman’s club where only the ‘pure and true Israelites’ (see Ezra Ch4:3, Ch7:10 and Ch9) were allowed in, but where even the people with “messed up sexuality”, those eunuchs that had ‘sold out to babylon’, compromised themselves to work in the King’s harem, the ‘foreigners’ (Isaiah 56:3-7) were also welcome. The only caveats that Isaiah includes are those of keeping Sabbath and of ‘neighbourliness’. That is, not being people that are preoccupied with production and consumption, of being stuck in the 24/7 world of consumerism, but in being people that are practicing the principals of jubilee. I love that one of Brueggeman’s key points was that our neighbourliness needs to impact our “private economic wellbeing”. If we don’t really feel any impact on our own quality of life when we give, are we giving enough? That’s not a rhetorical question, but it’s one I feel is worth (me at least) grappling with.

I would strenuously encourage you to listen to Brueggeman’s talk, it’s excellent.

Jesus’ arrival in the world, though he speaks out the words of Isaiah and embodied the prophesy, did not herald the completing of the fullness of God’s plan. We still live in a world where all the things Jesus said were ending in this proclamation are still going on, perhaps even more so.
Jesus’ proclamation of ‘Jubilee’ was as much a declaration of his own presence to begin the process of restoration as it was a promise of a future free from injustice, inequality or exclusivity.

No wonder the people at the time had some difficulty accepting the message, the same difficulty that people today still struggle with. We are too used to things being finished and all wrapped up in our time. We are impatient for the promise to be a current reality, but, much like the last episode of spooks, no matter what the fallout, no matter what struggles we face, life goes on. Our Job is to find ways to bring foretastes of the Kingdom of God into this world while we await it’s triumphant arrival. Can we do a better job than Israel who never managed to act out Jubilee?

Let’s live Jubilee lives, the world can’t afford to live ‘The Dream’ (especially not ‘The American Dream’), but we can all do with getting to grips with some individual redistribution here and now.

Jesus began the work of jubilee living by pouring himself out for the world – John says as Jesus approaches “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.

Can we continue the jubilee principals in our lives – giving generously and unselfishly to spread out the excess we have to those that need it?

Isaiah’s vision of Jubilee, pointed at the Israelite’s returning to their land, it pointed at Jesus, it pointed at us and it is still pointing beyond to the return of our King.

See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.
“Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.
They will not labour in vain,
nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD.
Isaiah 65:17-25

Beauty, Tragedy and Horror

The beauty of the cross is that if I was the only person to have existed on earth, Jesus would still have chosen to die for me.

The tragedy of the cross is that if I was the only person to have existed on earth, Jesus would still have needed to die for me.

The horror of the cross is that if I was the only person to have existed on earth, I would have been the one hammering the nails through his hands and hoisting him up to his death.

Beauty, Tragedy, Horror wrapped up together in one act of selfless love.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Message & Media (part 10) – Workshop Summary 3

I believe that culture and the way people receive messages is changing, the trend from the onset of modernity – the age of the printing press – was from an experiential, visual, communal, holistic model to an individualistic, highly rational concept of the gospel. With the continual march into and through post-modernity, we are seeing the trend reverse towards a much more visual, communal, experiential model again.

Personally, I think that’s fine, I believe that some of our methods and thus our message should change as part of God’s ongoing creation, revelation to and relationship with God’s people. That change need not be feared, Jesus himself modelled this same approach.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Matt 9:16-17

Jesus understood the intimate connection of medium and message, container and content.
Jesus came proclaiming a new message, not just new methods, he says “you have heard that it was said… but I tell you…” 10 times in Matthew.

God invites us into the dynamic unfolding of His drama in which He is working to bring the world back into a reconciled relationship with himself. It’s the story of God and God’s people at work in the world, not a set of static propositions or set of ideas to assent to.

Yes, indeed, we need to be careful not to adopt our culture’s methods, norms and goals wholesale, If we do, we can put our light under a bowl and loose our saltiness, regardless that it may have stemmed from a legitimate desire to be relevant and contextual.

But the message of the gospel is bound to shift and change as God’s spirit moves in this world. If we claim the message is unchanging, we risk boasting of a kind of omniscience in which we presume we know the totality of God’s plan and inexaustible mysteries. In that kind of setup, the ongoing work of God through his spirit becomes no more of a ‘dashboard ornament’ – if we presume we have discovered the one, simple and unchanging message for all times and all places. Our posture should be humility and discovery. Remaining faithful to scripture does not mean doggedly holding on to some fixed and permanent idea of right doctrine until our knuckles turn white and our fingers drop off. We should be trying to develop a communal sense of patience to discover the gospel, God’s current plans and works, the courage to name them and the humility to hold them in open hands to allow it to be touched by God’s voice in scripture and the breath of God moving among us.
(Paraphrasing Shane Hipps)

If we continue to remember that we are the best medium and the message, and the way we live our lives, as God lives in us, both individually and corporately as Christ’s body – the Church, then we will be able to deal with the changing media and cultural landscape God’s way.

Message & Media (part 9) – Workshop Summary 2

We are, inexorably and undeniably in the age of electronic culture.

We explored what media choices are now available and drew a ‘Media Web’, exploring briefly the different media and all their links!

With this available ‘Media Web’ in mind, we then looked at some other key questions to ask before we jump in to using any form of media.

Who are we trying to reach?

Do we understand our ‘target audience’?
Remember, people may not use or interact with a media form in the same way you do!
Do we need to find a member of the target audience that shares our passion for the message to advise us on how to best utilise the medium?

Are we, like Jesus finding a way to connect with the people that are searching, the hopeless, the unreached.

If we understand who the message is for what would that do to the way we do things?

Remember, Marketing is not the same as Outreach. But they need to go hand in hand.

At this point in the workshop, there was complete freedom to choose to explore any media type in greater depth and as a kind of case-study for the McLuhan analysis tool, ‘twitter‘ was chosen by the group.

Here’s what the group came up with (for an explanation of how the tool works, have a look at Part 3).

Twitter-Analysis

At The Bethel, we use twitter to publicise the podcast, notify people of what is happening with various activities and provide occasional, possibly even irregular, apposite quotes and bible passages that we feel moved to share. The podcast notifications are set up to be automatically tweeted when the podcast file is uploaded and the rest of it takes very little, if any time or effort. For The Bethel, twitter is a small tool and very low maintenance, it’s used more as a publicity or broadcast medium than a conversational or engagement medium.

Next Post will wrap up the rest of the workshop and then I’ll do a post detailing use of display screen projection as I think it deserves a post of its own.

Message & Media (part 8) – Workshop Summary 1

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will
Romans 12:2

With respect to media there is a very real sense that we can easily be ‘conforming to the patterns of this world’ if we fail to understand our media & media choices.

Media is not just a neutral conduit through which information passes, we have looked at this earlier in the series.
The media changes the message. Or as McLuhan said

“The Media is the Message”

If the media is conflicting or inappropriate to the message, the message changes into something we don’t want it to be or is lost completely.

Our current media landscape is like our cultural landscape it is in a constant state of flux. Always changing, always developing.
How prepared are we to put God’s message into the places where people are now searching, the places that perhaps didn’t exist before?

We then looked into what media forms we currently used as a group, at a personal level and a church level.

I took a moment at this point to emphasize the message that Tim Genders was making in his talks at the wekend, that the most important, oldest, most reliable, most tried & trusted, most effective, best possible media form is YOU (or me – it is the human being).

This is bourne out in Jesus being God’s medium and message.

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’
John 1:14

So individually and more importantly, corporately as part of the church, as members of Christ’s body, we are now God’s medium and message in the world.

The scriptural vision of the church is one in which individuals exist for the sake of the community and the community exists for Gods mission in the world. God chose the church, in all its various and disparate, both sometimes flawed and sometimes beautiful ways, not just individual Christians as the medium for his ongoing mission.

We are the medium, individually, but, more importantly: corporately. How this looks in reality will vary from congregation to congregation but the experience within our churches should be one of a foretaste of Gods kingdom as we hold faithfully to God’s agenda and try to live his message.

So if what we do doesn’t look like Jesus, it’s not the right message, whatever we are saying. If the whole picture of the medium of us in our churches doesn’t look like Jesus did, it won’t matter what we say or preach, the message is not coming across right, we are living a paradox.

We have the ability as God’s current medium in the world to enhance his message or to undermine it by how we behave.

With us being the medium and the message, it is through relationships that we spread God’s message. That’s the way God did it, if we are to reflect God’s methods, then relationship is the way to use our medium to show God’s message.

Outreach or preaching is best and most effectively carried out through relationship. Real, face-to-face interactions with real people, which can then be carried on and forwarded and maintained through other forms of media or technology.

We briefly looked then at the second most common media form that has shaped the world we live in to date, It has influenced the whole of current society, how we learn, work, live, everything: Print as I expanded in part 4 – ‘Modern Relics’.

The printed page is the ultimate relic of the modern age and the printing press.
It creates the perception, as letters and words follow a sequential pattern on a page that we can be completely logical, rational, sequential, objective. It also reinforces private learning and individualism.

How relevant is print today? In the world of church, in the area of preaching and sharing God’s message. Does the way we are affected by print change the way we view and interact with and share God’s message?

We discussed some very real examples of how print media has been good (Newbury placing an advert in a local circular and having a great response to a kids summer club, and some kids keeping coming afterwards) but also examples of how recent print media has been of little or no value (Handing out foreign language flyers in Bulgaria, with little or no uptake / 20,000 flyer drop in Manchester with a return of [if we are very generous] 0.0015%).

A Quick run through of Print options (add anything in comments if you have more to add to this):

  • Poster / Billboard / A-board – Useful, static info, portable info for events.
  • Invitations – Only really good if personally handed to people you have a relationship with.
  • Newsletter – Could it be electronic or opt-in?
  • Booklets / Pamphlets – Could they be moved to be Web based?
  • Leaflets / Flyers / ‘Bills’ – Very low return on High financial & time investment.

We also touched on making sure that if we move things towards electronic medium, we are careful not to then leave out a generation that are not connected electronically.

I’ll cover the rest of the workshop in the next post, that’s more than enough for this one!

Message & Media (part 7) – Online Resources

Yet another follow-up to the workshop, this post is basically a list of links that provide very interesting reading or short videos on the subject.

Mobile technologies are the future (at least in Africa)

Fernando Gros asks “Is Facebook making us stupid?”, then follows up by commenting on “The Distraction Economy“.

Tiffany St James on “The Social Impact of Technology“.

A fascinating interview with Shane Hipps entitled “Media and Message, Pixels and Faith“. This covers quite a lot of ground, some similar to the workshop.

A review of the possible deleterious effects of social networking Five Most Deadly Side-effects of Social Networking

A recent paper on the use of twitter – “Social interaction via new social media: (How) can interactions on Twitter affect effectual thinking and behavior?

A Killer article on social media – “The Twitter Trap” This is an absolute must read, thanks @benemmens for that one.

There is more out there, if you find anything else, please share it in the comments or email it over to me to include.

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