Category: The Median

Turning Scripture into Spam

email-spam-2According to Christianity Today (CT, June 2016), two hundred billion tweets went out in 2015, and 40 million of them highlighted Bible verses. About half a million of these came from just ten pastors, celebrities, and social media stars, with John Piper, founder of Desiring God, at the top of the list. Other notables in the top ten include Franklin Graham, Dave Ramsey, Tim Tebow, Joyce Meyer, and T. D. Jakes.

But CT reveals that bots—programs that auto-create tweets—are also sharing the Good News. “Around 20 million of the 40 million verses shared on Twitter this year . . . came from Bible spam accounts—accounts that do nothing but tweet Bible verses all day,” says Stephen Smith of Open-Bible.info, who crunched the data.

Is this a good thing? Is it simply getting the Good News to more people . . . or is it digital overload? Is God’s Word changing lives, or is the heart of His message getting lost in cyberspace?

Phil Cooke, media consultant and author of Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media, opines, “Who thought we’d ever see Bible and spammers together in a sentence? At first blush, it sounds like a good idea, since God’s Word doesn’t return void. But . . . the overwhelming clutter of media today desensitizes people.

“Our challenge in a digital culture is to develop strategies for making sure the message cuts through and actually gets noticed.”

Another perspective from Meredith Gould, author of The Social Media Gospel: “. . . I don’t care how or how often Scripture gets launched into cyberspace—or who sends it out. History is filled examples of people with less-than-stellar lives who have nevertheless helped deepen faith and belief. I trust that Bible verses will land, maybe taking root.”

In Philippians 1:18, Paul addresses a controversy about the character flaws of some who share the Gospel. His conclusion? “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.”

Your thoughts? Weigh in at feedback@mastermediaintl.org.

The “Missionary Lane”

by Dave Alan Johnson, Screenwriter, Producer
(Vanished: Left Behind Next Generation, Sue Thomas: F. B. Eye)


 

Dave Alan Johnson

Dave Alan Johnson

I look at “faith-based” films much the same way I look at the church. They both can and should serve more than one purpose.

Most “faith” films have tended to serve only believers. I’m okay with that, but I’m not okay with our making only films like that. I think we’ve lost sight of something important—the Church wasn’t created just so it could serve its members. It was created so we could come together, yes, to fellowship and worship, but then we are to go out into the world . . . to meet people where they are and not wait for them to walk into a church door on a Sunday morning.

I feel the same about the films and television we create. I believe the next phase in “faith films” is to broaden our idea of what they are and their purpose. For example, there’s no doubt that Fireproof helped marriages—that’s valuable. Some of those couples will even go out and touch people around them with the truth of that film. However, the fact is, Fireproof is not going to have much impact on most secular marriages, because those couples are not going to see it.

So how do we influence the world with our ideas and truths? I believe we move into the next lane over—what I call the “missionary lane.” Healthy churches send out missionaries, both to their own community and across the world. That’s the way we have to think of the “missionary lane” when we make content.

We need to be intentional about how we do it. We need to make films that will resonate with the people we want to reach. We need to remember they don’t speak “Christianese.” They may not see the world the way we do, but that doesn’t mean they won’t respond to the truth.

Compassionate Responses to Harmful Worldviews

   arts3-this-one  Artists are often the barometers of society, and by analyzing the worldviews embedded in their works we can learn a great deal about how to address the modern mind more effectively . . . . When the only form of cultural commentary Christians offer is moral condemnation, no wonder we come across to non-believers as angry and scolding.

     Our first response to the great works of human culture—whether in art or technology or economic productivity—should be to celebrate them as reflections of God’s own creativity.

     And even when we analyze where they go wrong, it should be in a spirit of love . . . [Francis] Schaeffer . . . even when raising serious criticisms . . . expressed a burning compassion for people caught in the trap of false and harmful worldviews. When describing the pessimism and nihilism expressed in so many movies, paintings, and popular songs, he demonstrated profound empathy for those actually living in such despair.

     These works of art “are the expression of men who are struggling with their appalling lostness,” he wrote. “Dare we laugh at such things? Dare we feel superior when we view their tortured expressions in their art?” The men and women who produce these things “are dying while they live; yet where is our compassion for them?”          

     Today, Christian activists are quick to organize a boycott or pressure a politician to de-fund some artistic group, and these strategies have their place. But how many reach out to the artists with compassion? How many do the hard work of crafting real answers to the questions they are raising? How many cry to God on behalf of people struggling in the coils of false worldviews?

[Crossway Books, p. 57]