Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"Contemporary" Communication Not a New Thing

Chuck Fromm, editor of Worship Leader magazine, wrote this in the editors notes to the May 2006 edition:

Sensational packaging of the gospel message is not a new thing. One can argue that the lightning, thunder and earthquakes of Exodus 19 represented the original pyrotechnic-illustrated sermon, which ultimately brought home the lesson of Exodus 20:20, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to show you his awesome power, so that from now on you will be afraid to sin against Him!”

In the modern era, the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, created a sensation with street singing and brass bands. Following in the footsteps of Booth … Aimee Semple Mcpherson [founder of the Foursquare Church], created dozens of innovations in order to attract attention to the gospel message – including the pioneering use of radio and stage plays. … The reformers of the 16th century … dedicated their lives … to putting Scripture into the vernacular via the new technology of the printing press. …

We have a different problem today. It is not the production of God’s Word in the vernacular, not a problem of information; it’s a problem of attention. Once people are in God’s house how can we maintain the congregation’s focus long enough to hear the Word of God? (p. 6)

Fromm goes on to discuss the challenges we have in the 21st century church. Just as Booth’s and McPherson’s communication techniques were shaped by their cultural environment, so should ours be … with a caveat. There can be no doubt that 21st century culture is vastly different from that of just 50 to 75 years ago … and the pace of cultural change is accelerating at a dizzying pace. In the 1950’s and 60’s there was a major cultural shift every 15 years or so. In 2006 it’s every 15 days, if not every 15 minutes. The challenge is staying true to the Gospel while speaking in a culturally relevant vernacular. Fromm also points out that “our habits of listening are formed by the society we live in, not by the hour or so that the average Christian may spend in the house of God in a given week … Learning to use technology to serve God’s Text is not easy. In fact it can become an obsessive, overwhelming task …” [Fromm notes that in true Christian worship, Jesus Christ Himself is our Text … thus the capitalization].

There are all kinds of things that can stand in the way of our hearing The Text in worship. One of the reasons that we have two different worship styles is to attempt to communicate the Gospel in a way that will make it easier for people to hear. “Traditional” for those who are wired that way, and “contemporary” for those who are wired that way. The message is the same, but our methods will change over time. It’s not easy, but it’s where we live. That’s enough to think about for now …


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home