By Ellen Spencer
Final course paper for
CU490 â€“ New Media for Urban Change
Crossroads Bible College
Instructors: Bryan Hudson, Hosea Baxter & Neil Cox
Decembe 21, 2007
The role of the internet as a form of communication is continuing to grow as our workplaces, our schools and homes, and even our cell phones are introduced to the new technology. The implementation of “new media” as utilized in these developing ways of communication has allowed us to connect almost anywhere and at anytime. Impacting the world for Christ as He said, “come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men”(1) requires that we at least have a primary understanding of the modes of communication and connecting that are available.
From the beginning of history, people of various tribes and tongues have used communication to make their needs known, to dialog with one another and to use their own personal stories to help teach and grow each other. Then the natives would decide to record a history and graphics were introduced by scratching out some visual symbols into rock for the benefit of all who could interpret their meanings. From such scribblings came a standardized group of symbols that became an alphabet and uniform graphic symbols. Now, people were able to communicate not just with one other person but with other groups of people.
I believe that as followers of Jesus Christ we are actually commissioned by Him to “… go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”(2) and to be “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you … “(3). Jesus Himself reached out to bring aid to the lost and hurting. He is THE Example of how to draw people of all races, creeds, and needs to God. How does this apply to the use of the internet in evangelism today?
“Come, follow Me, ” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
First, we need to address the fact that individual Christ-followers have the ability to use the spiritual gifts that they’ve been given to advance the Gospel and grow the Kingdom of God! Every believer has been given the necessary tools to pass on the love of God. For the “fruit of the Spirit” is given to us at the point of our salvation(4). As a favorite mug of mine proclaims, “Today is God’s gift to me. How I live it is my gift to Him”.
Now that I am empowered by the Spirit, I am able (and commissioned) to take action and go take the Gospel to people. In Jesus’ era, this was done in person and by word of mouth. Scribes also recorded the stories, letters and Words of God from the prophets so that we might have them today. The process of the transcription was so detailed that every letter and every line was counted and scrutinized to be sure that it was an exact copy of the Scripture. For as proclaimers of the Gospel we want to be certain that we speak the truth in love (5).
How do we speak to people? Our person to person contact is limited in our modernized world by our ignorance of the myriads of ways that are available to communicate with others. We are not longer limited to connecting only with people who are in our immediate societal circles. The “world has become flat”(6) , that is to say, the development of the world wide web and new media has leveled the playing field. You don’t have to be a member of the upper crust of society to have access to the internet and all it has to offer. Nor do you need to be especially gifted in computer programming to be able to utilize it’s many benefits. As Thomas Friedman points out, the societal changes (that have been rendered as a result of the creation of the internet) have helped globalize our communications . This has a unifying effect on peoples from different countries, cultures and life experiences.
“It took radio 38 years to attract an audience of 50 million Americans. It took television 13 years It took the Web less than four years from the moment when the Netscape browser became widely available in October 1994 to hit the 40 million mark”(7). Also, stated in these statistics, “a fifth of the 65 million people who do not use the internet live in a household with internet connection and there are other members of the family who do use the internet.”(7) There are such “digital gaps” as age, employment status, income level, disability, language, community type, parental status, and race and ethnicity. However, these gaps are being bridged by the constant improvements in regard to easy access and usability.
You see, just as in the days of Jesus, we can reach out to the lost by using those tools that are available to us. We now have powerful tools like FaceBook for social networking and developing a sense of community and connectedness. Similarly, blogging allows a person to share their faith, encourage one another, and offer hope to a hurting or spiritually defeated person. Discussion boards and live chats allow instantaneous and live dialog and interaction. The internet browsers make a wide range of information available as a person searches for such things as the weather forcast, medical advice, calendar of events and community happenings, as well as much more that is accessible through the “Net”.
The interactive aspect of the the media is what makes this “Web 2.0” a mode of communication that is highly attractive to a variety of people. We know from experience that people are not going to use that which they believe they neither want or need. So it falls on us to show people how the internet can be used to assist them in connecting to the world around them. In so doing, we enhance their lives by drawing them out of isolation and into a community.
We can draw them out of living solely for themselves, in sin or misery, by connecting them initially with ourselves and then others. Of course, the ultimate is to introduce them to Jesus and His saving grace. But first, we must remember that people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. This too, is what Jesus taught when He invited sinners, saying, “Come now, and let us reason together.”(8) He also said “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another â€“ and all the more as you see the Day approaching, and build each other up by the power of the Word.”(9)
One example of how the Net is being used to save the lost and comfort the hurting and build people up is found at TruthMedia.com. The latest monthly statistics from that website state that they’ve had 528,536 visitors view 1,157,379 pages; 3,225 people indicated spiritual decision. That’s quite an impact for the benefit of those who would have been eternally lost. (10) And their ten websites are not just for people who are lost, but also for Christians who are not living in the power and grace of God. Those people who may be living defeated lives can find hope, help and prayer at AN”Y time … and at almost any place through the dedication of volunteers and this remarkable tool of connection . . . the internet.
I’ve learned through my studies of New Media for Urban Change, that the new media allows for not only two-way communication with people that I may never meet physically on this earth, but also allows me to cross the ocean via my use of the Net to reach out to people in a way which encourages them to respond.
With such teaching tools as : ADDIE (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation)(11); ARCS (attention, relevance, confidence, satisfaction)(12) : and learning styles of ‘multiple intelligences’ (visual-spacial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical-mathematic, natural)(13) , I am better equipped to send out an invitation for a successful connection. These strategies point out the importance of communicating with people in the manner in which they most readily accept and learn. For example, transformation is more likely to take place if we utilize multimedia video/audio players as the mode of delivery for a younger individual who learns through the visual domain. Whereas, he may totally “tune out” to the prospect of reading a text document or a lecture.
Jesus demonstrated how very dear knowing people is to Him. It’s people, not things, that interest Him. He used parables to illustrate His truths. By presenting the main points in such a way that people truly identified with what He was saying. Likewise, we can use our newly learned techniques to “cast the net” as He tells us. By meeting the people where they are we will be able to bless them with that which the Lord has given us through His Holy Spirit. Yes, the net will be bulging, on the verge of overflow. . . Lord may it be so . . . as we follow the Lord’s instructions.
People can connect without being limited by such things as physical disability, transportation, or weather. They don’t have to take a shower or dress nice to connect on the Net. The problem of the addict, suicidal thinker or otherwise troubled insomniac who is afraid to pick up a telephone and wake someone up or “bother” them is greatly relieved by their ability to connect through the Net to be heard and helped. Comfort can arrive from the people of God using the internet as a method of coming alongside to lift a person up or to just listen to someone who feels misunderstood, lonely or desperate.
My own personal motto is to use what I call my five “E’s”. These are my purposes in life, to : EXALT the Savior, EQUIP the saints, EDIFY the Body of Christ (His Church), EXAMINE my own life, and EVANGELIZE the world. I believe that all of these mission goals are given greater impact by using the Net.
In summary, I believe it is a God-given mandate that we cast our net upon the troubled waters of the world around us. The globalization of our world through technology requires that we jump in and get our feet wet in order to save others that may be drowning in sorrow, loneliness, injustice, neglect or other manifestations of a world without the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That may mean utilizing these new media assets on the internet in order to gain their interest while helping meet their needs with the love of God and share with them the Way to find eternal salvation. END — ———————————————————————————————————–
(1) Matthew 4:19 (NKJV)
(2) Excerpted from Matthew 28:19 (NKJV)
(3) Excerpted from Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)
(4) Galatians 5:22 (NKJV)
(5) Ephesians 4:25 (NKJV)
(6) How the World Became Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, Thomas L. Firedman, Pub: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 304pgs., April 2005.
(7) “Who Uses the Internet, What They Do, and What It Means”, Lee Rainie, Freedom to Connect Conference, March 30,2005.
(8) Isaiah 1:18-20 (NKJV)
(9) Hebrews 10:25 (NKJV)
(10) “Latest Monthly Statistics”, TruthMedia.com internet group, http://truthmedia.com, cited on Dec. 21, 2007.
(11) Instructional System Design (ISD): Using the ADDIE Model, Steven J. McGriff, Instructional Systems, College of Education, Penn State University, Sept. 2000.
(12) ARCS Model of Motivation, John M. Kellers (1983) excerpted from http://learn.gwumc.edu/hscidist/FRED/BuildingCommunity/index.htm (2007)
(13) Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner of Harvard, http://www.tecweb.org/styles/gardner.html, Sept. 20, 2007.