“We affirm the vision of The Cape Town Commitment, that the global church should bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching in every nation, in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas.
One vital aspect of this is the urgent need to engage more intentionally with media in all their diversity. The media are the primary means by which news, ideas, and stories spread. They affect every part of society in every part of the world. We need to find appropriate ways of communicating key ideas, new perspectives and neglected stories. We need fresh ways of expressing truth, in order to capture people’s thinking and imagination.”
It seems highly appropriate to quote these challenging words from the advisory, regional consultation on media and the Gospel last year in Norway, as I now take on the new role as Lausanne Senior Associate for Media Engagement.
I have been asked to share my vision for this role, so I would like to point to five key areas where I hope and pray to make a difference – in partnership and dialogue with evangelical leaders and practitioners across different media communities.
First, we need to view media engagement as integrated into the practice of double listening, alongside engaging with Scripture. As John Stott argued, we must listen to the Word and the world, in order to relate the one to the other. As a global Lausanne community, this means together seeking to understand contemporary media in all their diversity, whether in terms of technology, formats, genres, arenas, messages or underlying worldviews. This is definitely an area where we all need to learn together – from each other’s callings, abilities and experiences, within the larger context of Lausanne as a learning community.
Second, we need to view media engagement as a calling to more faithful discipleship (including both personal holiness and disciple-making) when encountering media messages. Those of us who live in technology-rich places are all media consumers. Those who live in other parts of the world are being increasingly exposed to media messages. Wherever technology goes, the media goes, and with the media come a plurality of values, perspectives, and worldviews. Equipping families, youth ministries and churches to engage with media messages at these deeper levels is largely a forgotten dimension of mission, both in the global north and the global south. We need to change that together – and to do it quickly and appropriately. The Cape Town Commitment calls this dimension “media awareness”.
Third, we need to view media engagement as a calling to enter mainstream media with professionalism and Christian integrity. There is a wide variety of legitimate and strategic media roles to explore within the general media world for talented Christians. Journalism and documentary work reveals neglected facts, stories, and angles, which enables a more balanced public and private debate. Creative and entertainment media can present new and fresh ways of imagining Christian truths, which may generate genuine interest in significant moral and spiritual issues. Through the presence of skilful Christian commentators and apologists in mainstream media, the credibility of the gospel and of a holistic biblical worldview may be commended to sceptics, seekers, and to Christians. The Cape Town Commitment calls this dimension “media presence”.
Fourth, we need to view media engagement as a calling to use every kind of media technology (whether old or new) to communicate the gospel of Christ in the context of a holistic biblical worldview. This is important for worldwide evangelism, for discipleship, and for faith education. Specialist media ministries still have legitimate and strategic roles to play, but new media technology potentially changes every single mission organization, youth ministry and local church into media outlets. This creates an increasing need for evangelistic partnerships in the whole area of media. At the same time, we need to explore the way that social media create increasing possibilities for a media ministry for every believer. The Cape Town Commitment calls this dimension “media ministries”.
Fifth, we need to view media engagement as an essential part of calling the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. In view of the present democratization of the media, we need to mobilize and equip “the whole church” for a media ministry in which all believers are included. In view of our commitment to Christ and his Word, we need to affirm, express, and commend the truth of “the whole gospel” in appropriate ways through the media. In view of the Cape Town vision of bearing witness in every nation, in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas, we need to understand, reach and challenge “the whole world” through media.
We cannot and must not neglect the fascinating, complex, and significant world of the media in the urgent task of world evangelization.
In the words of The Cape Town Commitment:
“We commit ourselves to a renewed critical and creative engagement with media and technology, a part of making the case for the truth of Christ in our media cultures. We must do so as God’s ambassadors of truth, grace, love, peace and justice.”