Thursday, November 29, 2007

"The Audience Is Up To Something."

Definitions shift. Or perhaps more to the point, people shift. And technologies shift. We tend to lump it all together and tritely call it the 'paradigm-shift'. Or we lean on the current buzzword, 'new media'. It somehow distinguished itself from 'old media' or mainstream media.

Or at least, it used to.





Also read... "The Audience Is Up To Something"... at The Long Tail.

And importantly, some of us discuss it in the setting called 'The Church'... ie, the body of Christ-followers.

The stereotypical discussion has gone like this... Pastors holding the Sunday microphone are being drowned out by blogging members who are often cynical of that highly-controlled institutional voice... and its staid consequences: mediocrity and ineffectiveness in the (real) mission at hand... the Whole Commission.

Seven days a week, these bloggers comprise 'the long tail' of The Church... and some even foretell of a coming 'revolution'... a day of reckoning... when the (not really) 'local' church will become more accountable to the scriptural model we read about in the New Testament. They describe an 'interactive' model of The Church. One where multiple inputs and spiritual gifts are valued.... and made available to each other throughout the congregation. You know, like the Bible describes.

Remarkably, to their credit some pastors have readily embraced this new user-level tool. They've created blogs themselves. And some have become very popular -- their digital voice now reaching many times more listeners than their church microphone.

But allow me to ask for your discernment about the heart and hinge of this very matter...

Question: At what point does a 'blog' become just another controlled institutional voice?

That is, when does it become just another ONE-WAY mechanism? (albeit cleverly leveraging this low-cost, hi-speed tool-of-choice of the common man)

I suggest this may well occur when its sound becomes as finely tuned as their microphone, such that no feedback enters the sound-system. It's a pure stream. The signal-to-noise ratio is superb. And the blog-er is elated.

But is the Church? And is the mission well served?

This week, a USA Today article [ht:MondayMorningInsights] references SBC President Frank Page -- who soared to power on the wings of the blogosphere... but now has "soured on the blogs' incendiary approach to issues of church governance and religious expressions."

Page: "For Christ's sake, stop."

Sure, Frank. Now that blogging has served your purposes. You're now atop the SBC leadership hill. Let's turn off the comments.

Not dissimilarly, popular reformed blogger Adrian Warnock reports... "It is now almost a week since I made the decision to stop comments here on the blog. In the next few days I will also be deleting all the old ones. I have to say that, so far, I have not missed them."

And he goes on to make the stereotypical case of 'the guy who buys ink by the barrel', or the pastor who preaches from a one-way microphone. He's busy. He can't be bothered by the masses who follow him.

Adrian says II Timothy 2:22-26 has encouraged him in this approach. Interesting... What about this portion of it...

"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness."

Ok, we all realize 'comments' can be troublesome at times. [translation: time-consuming]. But likewise emails. And phone calls. And children. And hospital visits. [...not to mention that thing of the past called 'home visits'.]

So where is wisdom here? Perhaps the same place it's always been...

"Be quick to listen. Slow to speak. And slow to become angry."

Listen to this perhaps... 96% of American adults have spoken. They don't hold to a biblical worldview. [Barna Research]

Given 200 years of 'the American experiment', the traditional church model has become at best, 4% effective. And our cities look like it. Something has to change. And that something is us... the Church.

So I ask you, pastors.... Have you been deploying the best possible learning mechanisms in your church or blog? Research has consistently shown that 'lectures' produce very little 'learning'. Even using the best of technologies, one-way communication is seldom particularly effective. Apparently the best learning styles include 'interactive' participation.

And if that takes more time and energy... well? No, let me instead pose the issue this way...

Pastors... while you're preaching to tens or hundreds or maybe even thousands... what is to be learned from the millions of young people on your back rows (or not in church at all), who are all the while 'texting' each other? Who is the REAL leader? And what is REAL 'leadership'?

Something has to change. And that something is us. The Church. And the way we (ALL, TOGETHER) 'do Church'... 7 days a week...

...connected... and interactive !




2 comments:

Andy Moody said...

Fear. It controls so many things that we do, even when we don't know it. I have found over the years that fear has a wonderfully ironic way of controlling the words and actions of pastors. It's "I can't say this because people might not accept it and leave me" or "I can't be seen doing this because I might be seen". The opposite side is just as bad: Fear of allowing voices to be heard because they might not agree with me.

When we started out with our ministry (NETChurch) I remember a conversation that I had with a pastor who told me that "discussion teaching" could not work because it was dangerous to allow everyone to share. You never knew what someone was going to say. Fear rears it's evil head.

Thanks for writing this. I've always felt that it was wrong to erase the comments on my blog because it seemed that I was controlling my environment. The day I start being the one in control is the day I've stepped back into believing I'm the only one that is "right".

Love your heart, my friend.
Andy

Stephen James said...

It seems to me that in a perfect pre-internet world, you would provide feedback to your pastor, because you would actually know him. That seems less of a possibility the larger a church is.