Saturday, November 13, 2004

Bridging the Chasm

My good friend the Jollyblogger has been writing on Bridging the Chasm, meaning the church communicating with the secular world. In the early 80's YWAM put out a pamphlet on missions prayer. One of the things they encouraged Christians to pray for was different areas of influence:

* Government
* Business
* Media/Journalism
* The Arts
* Education
* Entertainment

(I'm not sure that is the complete list.) As I prayed for these areas of influence, I found that Christians really wrote about a couple of these in the early 80's; Government and Business. For government you had movements like the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family writing actually about a very narrow aspect of government; moral issues. Yes, I'm grouping all Focus on the Family's issues in the area of moral issues. The government is so much more than moral issues. The business issues were mostly addressed by Bill Gothard, Larry Burkett and later Ron Blue. I'm not sure how adequate Christian thought was in that arena. My good friend Randy seems to have prospered by using such principles in his business. But in the areas of media, journalism and education the Christian tendency has been to create an alternative Christian form of the institutions. We don't read romance novels, we read "Christian" romance novels. We don't listen to radio we listen to "Christian" radio. Does these alternative forms of media reach-in or reach-out or is it just a quick way to make some bucks?

Quick Assessment By Media Type for the Christian Alternative Medias In America

If a medium helps Christians in their growth as a Christian or as a person, I say that it is good "in-reach media". If it merely sells a product labeled Christian but does not help people in their lives, if it merely entertains, I see that is a "poor in-reach media". If a medium actually engages non-Christians to consider the Christian faith I say it is a good "out-reach media".

Blogging: Blogging uses the same physical media and same delivery mechanisms as secular. Sort of different. Perhaps blogging does not fit the Christian alternative category. We will move on.

Christian TV: I don't watch a lot of this. The majority of the medium is Pentecostals and Charismatics so non-Pentecostal are often embarrassed by the flamboyancy of these high energy groups. While there is a lot of variety in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, generally speaking they have a different education level and different subculture values than other parts of the evangelical church. (I'm sure you can name exceptions!) By they way, Pentecostal and Charismatics are not a marginal group, they are a significant portion of the evangelical church. All of these subculture issues are magnified once on TV and for me becomes embarrassing. I have attended and I am comfortable visiting most Pentecostal churches. Many people are not comfortable in the environment. So when it comes to Christian TV, these subculture issues detract from the medium. In order to finance the efforts in this medium, one has to be comfortable asking your audience for help. It is an incredibly expensive medium. The fund raising techniques in the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches fit the medium and that is one reason they are successful. I don't think we as a Christian community found a happy spot with TV. Christian may do some in-reach , but most of what is happening in Christian TV I see as substandard and not reaching out to the world.

Christian Radio: I do listen to a lot of Christian radio. There is preaching, radio drama, talk shows and Christian music. This medium is mostly for Christians, not an outreach. I do believe there is some production excellence. I don't know that non-Christians are attracted to it. What is the financial means to fund Christian radio? Is it donations or is it commercials? I don't see a great deal of difference in the content either way. I think some good things are happening but it is not an outreach medium. (I'm sure you can tell me exceptions.) Perhaps the main reason we developed Christian radio was because we could not get enough air time for everything we wanted to say on mainstream radio. That was limited to preaching for the most part when religious radio was mostly church services being broadcast on Sunday mornings for the shut-ins. Also, as radio became more syndicated, perhaps we found it more difficult to find time slots. Again, not an outreach medium but quality as an in-reach medium.

Christian Music: I do listen to a lot of Christian music. This medium has changed a lot since the 70's. We have a wide variety of labels who produce a wide variety of styles. While Nashville has a lot of this industry, there are significant labels in California and Florida. It is a mixed bag of spectacularly mundane music which is a poorly baptized version of the world's music and some stuff which is outstandingly artistic and spiritual. And there is a lot in between. This a mostly in reach medium, I don't know of any significant out reach stuff being done. I know a lot of people like to think the world will listen to our music all get saved, but I have never, never heard of Christian music having a significant evangelistic impact. If you know of exceptions let me know. A quality in-reach medium but not an outreach medium.

Christian Books: I don't read mainstream popular Christian books, I read mostly Christian scholarly works, commentaries, etc... When I read for fun, I read mostly biographies, history and travel stories. I'm not sure I'm in touch with the market any more. It seems so-called Christian fiction has taken over the Christian bookstores, stuff in that I have no interest. I have a hard time seeing how what I perceive to be poorly written fiction is going to transform lives. The good thing about print is that there is lots of room for variety and the big publishing houses do not have the medium to themselves. There are a lot of niche publishers and if you care to you can higher a vanity press to publish yourself. You merely have to be determined. Check out and buy the book Like The Stars by Dr. Glenn Parkinson. It's on the culture wars and it fits my posting too. Many people I have heard come to Christ through books like Mere Christianity but that is not a part of the popular Christian market. So the popular Christian market is not an outreach medium and from what I know of it is not a quality in-reach medium either; however, there is enough variety in print that there are many good things happening here.

Christian Video: My family and I have watched a lot of Christian video; NEST Entertainment and Big Ideas (a.k.a. Veggie Tales). Both NEST and Big Ideas have quality products, and I'm not so sure they don't have a small outreach market. We have loaned our videos to people who view them with their children. We loan them out not as some evangelistic plan but because their fun, funny and entertaining. They also have a good message. Not sure, solicit your own comments.

Christian Movies: Film, like TV, is an expensive medium. Worldwide Pictures of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has probably the most noble effort at making Christian films but has a small production schedule. While I have not seen one of their more recent films, usually their quality of production is higher than a B grade movie but can not compare with the high budget films from the high end. The Jesus Film was good, but I'm not sure where we go from there. I'm not sure if their is a significant role for "Christian" film. Solicit your comments.

Over all, I would say creating an alternative media for Christians is poor for outreach. But I would like to hear from others on this topic.

Medium Rating As I see it. 10 is High 1 is Low
Popular Market....3
Other Markets.....9

Print is both our strongest medium and weak one too. Our second strongest medium is Radio. I would like to see others use the above scale to rate the mediums I have discussed. Perhaps explain your criteria.
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