Media for Missions Part 1
Is it time that the church takes media seriously and uses it not just to reach out to her own flock, but also those who are unreached? Today, several churches have embraced the use of media and ICT. They use these means to live stream sermons to her faithful church members, write blogs to encourage them and produce podcasts and videos to elaborate issues that need to be explained to believers. Even so, is this all we can do with the vast media space?
We have designed our media content in a way that it majorly addresses Christians and their issues. The church was not meant to be like this, only to focus on herself. The church was meant to be the light of the world not of itself. The voice of the church was meant to reveal the absolute truth in any matter. However, this crucial space has been left to all other opinions minus the very important voice that was to reveal the truth, give hope, healing and salvation to humanity.
Our media content has made it difficult and hostile for non-Christians, who by chance come across the content therein, to relate with. They find almost nothing in our message that they can identify with. Consequently, they distance themselves with anything ‘Christian’. What happened to seeking the lost in all places? What percentage of our media content is dedicated to the unreached?
The fact remains that the media space of the 21st century is the largest mission field in history! The mission field is not a geographical location per se, but rather any space where we find lost people. It is where disciple-makers and churches that are serious about completing the Great Commission ought to focus their attention. Today, we call the world a small village, a connected community; connected via internet. We have the most diverse communities present in the media space which comprise of all genders, tribes, races, nations and continents.
What in the past could have been done by a team of evangelists moving from city to city with trucks and megaphones, can now be done by one disciple seated at a corner of a room, in a street corner or simply on one computer or smartphone. We have seen how small teams made up of few individuals have altered the opinions of many, shaped fashion, championed for rights of the minority or even influence the outcome of elections in democracies. Media has given fanatics and radicals a platform to share their ideologies to an ever-listening audience. And when all’s said and done, I wonder where the church is in all these.
Governments in the world now have laws that govern the online space and have been tracking criminals online. They police the airwaves because they understand the potential damage that can occur if they neglect that critical space where most people hang out and communicate in today’s world. The media and digital spaces can be used (and has been used) to bring down some governments. Sometimes I read WhatsApp, YouTube or Facebook statistics concerning the media content uploaded and the size of their reach is gigantic. This is where people spend the better part of their day before dropping at church services for a few minutes.
There are many countries that are not open to Christian missionaries. They take every precaution to prevent Christians from stepping on their soil. These are countries where being a Christian is outlawed and means imprisonment or death. They are regions where churches are under no circumstance allowed to operate! Take China for example, a leading country in technology with a solid media presence but with about one billion unreached souls or India which is more than 80% Hindu with more than 1.3 billion unreached souls. It would be incorrect to conclude that we have a reason why we are not reaching such souls for even when physical borders are closed, the airwaves are wide open.
What if, instead of expanding our church buildings, we fished for men online? What if, instead of churches competing with each other for space and attendance, we complemented each other based on strengths and collectively focused on completing the Great Commission? If indeed we are called to fulfil God’s mission to see every tongue confess and every knee bow to Jesus, should we sit back and continue with the old ways of doing missions while ignoring the potential of media? Will we continue fattening the sheep that are already at the pen at the expense of the lost sheep out there in the dark world of sin?
Jesus and the early disciples used all available opportunities to make disciples in their time – they made disciples on land, on the sea, at weddings, in synagogues, at homes, while making tents etc. In our times, we have radio, television, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and a vast host of other platforms to influence millions and billions of people towards Christ. We have to maximize every technology available for the glory of the Cross.
My point is clear – the time has come for churches, missionaries and mission agencies to harness the power of media as an effective tool for ministry. For sure, any that will ignore this fact will soon enter into irrelevance! I don’t advocate for a purely media missions engagement, but a blended mode of ministry. Stay tuned for a part two of the same where we will explore different media platforms and technologies accelerating global missions.
***Peter Kale (not his real name) is a missionary serving among an unreached people group in Northeastern Kenya