This morning I ran across an article at Christianity Today's 'Out of Ur' site that caught my attention. The article itself really is nothing more than an advertisement for an upcoming Pastor's Conference that CT offers. But, it was the headline (and the premise behind this year's conference) that caught my eye: "Preaching The Word In An Image-Oriented Culture".
For many, all talk about the distinctions between Modern and Post-Modern era, with regard to church and ministry, has become fatiguing. I recently heard someone say, "I am post-Post-Modern... in other words, I'm over it!" This article title, I think, offers something interesting to think about. Follow me.
The Modern era is widely understood to have dawned with the advent of the Printing Press. The era prior to that, scholars (and other annoying people who converse on this) identify as Pre-Modernity. Think on this: the way the gospel was shared and Christianity was communicated changed at that threshold - Pre-Modern to Modern era. Before there was the ability to produce copies of the Scriptures and get them into people's hands; before there was the ability to print theological books and Christian literature in quantities; before there was the ability to hand people gospel tracts, the message was communicated almost exclusively through the arts. In other words, the world was image-oriented. Great works of fine arts, story telling and drama, symbols and icons - you get the picture (no pun intended).
Then, modernity dawns and the world moves into a print-oriented age. Through the modern era the gospel became a message primarily communicated through literary content. Christendom developed systematic theologies and apologetics - and summarily began to dismiss the arts as idolatry. With me so far?
Now, we find ourselves in what those scholars (and boring people) refer to as Post-Modernity. Many associate the threshold from Modern to Post-Modern with the advent of the global community (the internet and other technologies that make the far reaches of the globe a simple mouse-click away). One thing that has happened in culture as this new technology has dawned, I'd suggest, is that we have moved, largely, from a print-oriented to an image-oriented world once again. Not sure about that?
Have you noticed that all your favorite television networks now display their logo in the bottom corner of the screen, and usually interrupt your viewing with visual communiques as you watch your favorite programs? Have you noticed how every news story on the evening news now has its own artwork? "The War On Terror", for instance. Have you noticed that while you watch one news story, three others cross the screen on ticker tapes? Ah, text! No. Images, cleverly disguised as text.
The point of my rambling is this: we really need to consider the manner in which we display (intentionally chosen word) our faith in this image-based age. People today, who do not know the Lord, are not going to be as open to our print as they are to what they see. More important than a tract to clearly articulate the Ontological Argument, they are looking to see if my life and yours articulates that message. More than they will be impressed by Four Spiritual Laws in print, they will be caught by seeing the law of God's grace written upon our hearts and lubricating our interactions. And the arts are back in communicating Christ. The church needs to, once again, look to the fine artists, performing artists and literary artists (yes, that's print, but in an image form - see the word 'artists'?) recognizing their gifts in communicating God's story.
The simple truth is that we live in a different time than when many of us came to faith in Christ. The message of the gospel has not changed, truth has not faded, but the manner through which people are most likely to hear, see or come to appreciate the gospel has.
What do you think?
Labels: Culture, Evangelism