Most believers have a love/hate relationship with Christian media. Can it be catchpenny and superficial? Sure! However, it is successful in connecting individuals with the global church. Through television, radio and internet, we can receive daily revelation or stay abreast of any new developments in the Christian world. As a radio host, my corner to pin down is the morning drive. Daily, I work to introduce fresh new voices to the listening audience – voices of inspiration and innovation. Though my belief in the power of Christian media is rock solid, I have grave concern for how that power is used.
Perhaps you have entertained the longest-standing question concerning Christian media. “Should we preach to the choir, or tailor our message for the unbeliever?” Personally, I believe that if the message of the Kingdom is preached, believer and unbeliever alike should be able to follow and benefit from the dialogue. It’s the strangeity that has become the bulk of “Christian media” which misses the uninitiated seeker. It would seem we have used the power of the platform to carve ourselves theological niches, drawing a few but alienating substantially more. If we would model our script after the pragmatic but supernatural teachings of Christ, many more would be inclined to listen.
The Algorithm for Effectiveness
Since we’re discussing the foibles of Christian media, let us address the aversion to “worldly expressions” of faith or secular pandering. Several weeks ago, it was my pleasure to share lunch with a few next-generation media mensches. Our conversation lit upon the topic of mainstreaming. “How do we get our kingdom message to go viral with the uninitiated?” Many among our ranks have been demonized for employing the common language and iconery of the day to reach beyond the walls of the church. After examination, we arrived at this conclusion. Some of the most successful ministers of yesteryear had some mainstream resonance with which they drew a crowd.
Take for instance, Jimmy Swaggart. Undoubtedly, a large cross-section of his following were enamored with his “Jerry Lee Lewis” or “Mickey Gilley” -style piano playing. It was this similarity that drew numerous unbelievers to his services and broadcasts. Could there have been a Jimmy Swaggart without a Jerry Lee Lewis or Mickey Gilley? One can’t be certain. Similarly, the Jesus Movement that gave birth to Contemporary Christian Music was a collection of hippy transplants who brought their “secular” musical stylings with them into the church. Would there have been a hugely successful Christian trio known as 2nd Chapter of Acts without Peter, Paul & Mary? Probably not. Because of that resonance, millions of lives were impacted by the message of these ministries. Still the modern church wrangles with maintaining dissonance with anything that remotely resembles the world. How unfortunate!
Here’s a seminal thought for your consideration. Part of the algorithm for effectiveness in ministry, is this essential element of resonance with the world. Strategy to incorporate worldly language and iconery is not born of human intellect, but of divine design.
The Ark: A Worldly Symbol?
Sacred above all religious artifacts, perhaps, is the Ark of the Covenant. Moses was given specific instruction on how to build the ark. We know it was a box about 4.5′ x 2.5′ x 2.5′ made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. The acacia was known by the Egyptians as the “Tree of Life.” Its golden lid had two-winged cherubim which faced each other over the “Mercy Seat.” Their outstretched wings formed the throne of God, while the chest below was His footstool (Ex 25:10-22). It had two poles which four doorkeeper Levites used to carry the ark, so as to protect themselves from the dangerous manifest presence of God that resided in it. Inside the ark were several key items: the stone tablets of the Law (10 Commandments), a golden jar (containing manna), and the budding rod of Aaron.
What you may not know about the ark is probably the most important part… what it represents. In ancient Near Eastern art, kings were often portrayed sitting on a throne that rested on two cherubim (winged lions with human heads) – one on either side. Many nations crafted thrones for their king that would be carried on the shoulders of his servants. So, the Ark of the Covenant was no novel invention. God used the imagery and iconery of the day to convey a message not only to His people, but also a message the nations of the earth would understand. The God of Israel is an invisible God. He sits on the Mercy Seat and is carried on the shoulders of His servants.
It was this mobile throne that the Israelites carried onto their battlefields. At the very sight of it, foreign kings would tremble in fear. Their seat on the frontline opposed the Invisible God who sat upon His Ark, renowned for His undefeatedness. The Ark spoke volumes. If God didn’t fear mixing the sacred and secular when it came to His very throne on earth, why are we afraid to utilize marketplace language?
You’ll discover after a second look, that much of the imagery employed in the tabernacle held significance to the known ancient world. Because symbols should resonate, the Lord didn’t mind “borrowing” from the established order. As if The Creator could borrow from His creation! Certainly the creative spark in any of us, believing or unbelieving, originates from Him. The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof! We should put at ease the heart fearful of tainting the message with the means.
Resonance is an intentional endeavor. It takes diligence to fine-tune a message to resonate with the mass that media is assigned to reach. Do not be afraid to strike the tuning fork and listen for the sound of resonance. Holy Spirit will lead you in crafting a message that will capture the attention of your generation. There is an unflinching army of communicators, embracing radical kingdom ingenuity. Not seeking to copycat anyone else, they are fine-tuning and unleashing the originality that Spirit has birthed within. What they are saying is not hindered by how they are saying it. Rather, by fine-tuning the language, the message is far more communicable.
I found the following two-minute tuning tutorial quite revelatory on the nature of finding resonance and effectiveness in ministry. Perhaps it will speak to you, as well. Feel free to share your thoughts/ views on this post in the reply section, below.
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