Thursday, July 31, 2014

eformation- When the Communication Format Changes

#2 in the eformation Series

Taking some time in the next days
 to toss in some resources and observations
 about the world of church, communication, 
and this continually adapting digital age.
What may make that more palatable-
the visual images
 from the gardens of my siblings.
You can ask my family
 and they will ALL tell you-
the least likely person 
they could think of to be involved in
with social media,
 or any digital technology, yup- ME.
Think that is part of the story 
where God chooses the least equipped
 for the job- 
so that I can't claim the Glory.
 Anything even a tiny bit successful-
 is His doing.
I am simply not techno-smart 
enough to take the credit.
On the other side of the equation was
  a true look at my lacking skills,
 as I was called to lead and be an encourager 
to a larger group of comrade disciples
 in the Kingdom.
I needed a mentor, coach, 
and someone willing to work with me
 at the beginning level.
A shout out to my friend, Nancy, 
who has been all of those things.

I could not be the road block
that kept the door closed 
for possible ways that the Holy Spirit 
might be led to use me. 
That led me to LOTS of reading,
LOTS of research, and 
fearless questions.
One of the early fascinating stories
 was how our church body- (Lutheran LCMS) 
dealt with a lay movement
 to use available technology
 for the sake of the Gospel. 
This was about the cultural upheaval,
 angst, and fear of change
 with the coming of radio communication.

"On October 2, 1930, the first broadcast of The Lutheran Hour® radio program was aired, with Dr. Walter A. Maier as speaker. The Lutheran Laymen's League, which had formed thirteen years earlier as a financial support organization for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, had a vision of spreading the Gospel message using the young technology of broadcast radio. For more than 80 years, the call of Christ has been carried around the world by radio waves to share the Good News."

Our denomination went through
 the same growing pains- AGAIN,
 with the coming of television. 
It was a commonly voiced opinion
 that combining the use of this new media 
with the Gospel message
 would mean the end of the "established" church.
Well, all sorts of shifts happened
 when the church moved
 into mass-mediated communication.
We became a one-direction broadcast
system for faith formation.
Citing encouragement from Martin Luther, 
we became veterans at print media
 sent out to be consumed by believers, 
and hopefully also fall into the hands
 of a non-believer or seeker.
Our church body rose near the top
 to ride out the tide of this movement. 
In fact, in 1957, 
only 47% of religious broadcasts were paid.
(yup, they were free)
In 1978, 92% were paid broadcasts.
The tide was shifting already.

Then came interactive media.
Individuals now had the ability
 to receive communication, and also respond.
And the church was at a loss, AGAIN.
Churches were still using computer technology
 for desktop publishing, creating the bulletins, 
and tracking the always changing membership files.
Leadership struggled.
 A conversation?
Virtual relationships?
It's frivolous, too time consuming,
and we can't control the direction or outcomes.
And we were right back into the unease
 that frazzled the church
 in the early days of radio and television, 
or maybe right back to the printing press.

Bottom line?
I love my brick and mortar church.
I love to be present for worship
 and Word and Sacrament ministry.
I love my in-real life community
 of friends in faith.
I love to gather for Bible study
 and faith formation activities.
And I don't want that to go away.
But, I have come to terms 
with the realization that many of those
 who don't know Jesus,
will never grace the doors of a church building.
 As church, we have planned to be in relationship
 with all of those people when they walk in the doors.
The statistics are brutal- they are not coming to us.
Discouraged folks often head to God's Word for Hope.
 Looking at the master of Gospel communication, 
we see that although Jesus spent time in the synagogue,
 he was generally hanging out where the people were.
In the neighborhood.
Where they worked.
Where they gathered.
And that becomes the directional blueprint
 in this age of 
interactive media.
Hangout where the people are,
and they are online.
It is really not about the elimination
 of one way to connect,
 but the addition of opportunities for informational,
 formational, and transformational interactions.
I don't have viable predictions for the future,
but I can attest to this "trust stance"
that connects me to a God
and allows me to ride the wave
 when communication formats change.
After all, He's got it.

statistics from Faith Formation 4.0- Julie Lytle
 some of my reading resources
are gathered here:

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