A New Media Christian, the Ultimate Missionary?

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on August 29, 2011

in technology, Uncategorized

BOOK REVIEW George Barna has published a new book called “Futurecast: What Today’s Trends Mean for Tomorrow’s World” (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.). His purpose is to help the reader use the data available to “make strategic decisions about how to make the world a better place to live.” He covers a variety of areas from lifestyles, hopes, and dreams, to Churches and parachurch organizations, and demographics.” I was very interested in reading what he had to say about the impact of technology on these different areas throughout the book, but especially in the fourth chapter entitled: “Media, Technology, and Entertainment.”

In that chapter two paragraphs stood out for me:

But amid the discussion about new media tools and technologies and evolving forms of content, we have to ask ourselves what difference it makes being a Christian in a media-saturated world. We can also ask what difference it makes to the future of the world if the love of Christ and the beauty of God’s truth are buried in Christian media vehicles that generally do not penetrate the mainstream of society. Having media that primarily, if not exclusively, offer Christian content is fine, and even potentially useful. But if we know that media and technology are what will drive the values, beliefs, relationships, and dreams of society, then isn’t the bigger challenge to figure out how to avoid having Christian truth and values marginalized? Should we not instead learn how to pleasingly and powerfully incorporate a biblical worldview and godly leadership into the mainstream of the media universe?

Based on years of surveys examining and analyzing Christians’ behavior, it seems that we have largely missed the boat with media use and development. We train relatively few young Christians to make their mark in the secular media world. Many churches and families flat-out discourage their young people from even considering such an option. But in today’s marketplace, isn’t a first-class media professional with Christian beliefs, ethics, and behavior the ultimate missionary? With American media exported around the world, as well as invading every corner of our lives in this country, wouldn’t it be a blessing to have an industry whose creative and productive superstars deftly used media tools as a way not only to do a world-class job of entertaining and informing the public, but also to elevate moral and ethical standards of society? If all things are possible with God, then it stands to reason that we must be able to shape the moral character of the nation through media and technology without blunting the edge in humor, drama, storytelling, artistic expression, etc. (Barna, George (2011-06-01). Futurecast: What Today’s Trends Mean for Tomorrow’s World (Kindle Locations 1775-1777). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Kindle Edition.)

I would add this to what Barna wrote. Parents, educators and faith formation leaders, laity, clergy and religious, need to model using media and technology to express their values, ethics and beliefs in ways that are creative, engaging and positive to the larger world. They also need to help young people see the possibility of using these tools and their talents for good now and in the future. What do you think?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Pipitone August 29, 2011 at 9:27 am

Amen to that! Using technology and media to spread the message of Christ is now a fundamental necessity.

With respect to the author of the quote of St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words,” I think it’s appropriate to say, “Communicate the Gospel in all ways, it’s a necessity to use social media.”

Angela Santana August 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Very true. And even further, Christian and Catholic media should do itself a favor by creating content that appeals to all audiences. I worked for a radio show that had this ‘problem;’ we aired a young adult show on a Catholic radio network whose donor demographics are generally older, conservative Catholics.

We held ourselves to high standards for content and production, comparing ourselves not to Catholic radio shows but secular shows. By doing so, we appealed to audiences who told us they ‘never listened to Catholic radio before our show’…and unfortunately, many don’t listen anymore. We were cancelled. Our all-volunteer staff pushed network personnel beyond their comfort zones by discussing Lady Gaga, Twilight, and other relevant topics. While we remained faithful to Church teaching and always discussed content from a Catholic perspective, the very fact that we discussed such ‘hot topics’ was enough to have older listeners (donors) complain.

It saddens me that we don’t have more Catholic media with a missionary spirit, but we won’t see it until we as Church have the courage to step outside our comfortable Catholic bubbles into the ‘real world.’

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND August 30, 2011 at 6:13 am

Thanks for your AMEN, Dave.

Angela, thanks for your real life example. It is a challenge to all of us to go outside of our comfort zones and be present and engaged with people where they are, but that is the gospel mandate: Go out to all the world. If we ourselves are not able to do it, I pray that we could at least support those who can.

Diane Vella August 30, 2011 at 9:02 am

We’ve done too poor a job of getting Christianity out of the churches and into the world. The trite but true question is always: “What kind of media executive would Jesus be?” (Same is true for spouse, parent, teacher, coach, nurse, etc etc.)

Marc Cardaronella September 3, 2011 at 10:34 pm

I love this point!

“We train relatively few young Christians to make their mark in the secular media world. Many churches and families flat-out discourage their young people from even considering such an option. But in today’s marketplace, isn’t a first-class media professional with Christian beliefs, ethics, and behavior the ultimate missionary?”

I think that’s so true. Perhaps we need to think differently and try to have a presence there instead of leaving it to the those with anti-Church agendas.

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