The Medium is the Message

I just glanced at a headline in the latest IDEA magazine (from the Evangelical Alliance UK). It said something like,

"New Medium, Same Message"

(it was about communicating the gospel through new electronic media).

I did not read it but the headline did make me ask myself the question,

"Does not changing the medium impact the message in some way?"

Presumably how we communicate a message itself communicates something.

Now this is not to say that the gospel cannot and should not be communicated via electronic media (like a blog, say!). But it does give me pasue for thought. What do the wide range of new electronic media do to the message of the gospel?



From the pro-new media camp, the internet can connect a body of believers together who can share, relate and encourage each other, as well as admonishing each other in the Spirit. My husband has experienced this via his Youtube account, where he posts videos expounding on Scripture and fields comments and debates. It has linked him up to UR proponents all around the world, so we no longer feel alone.

From the anti-new media camp, the internet (and related electronic media) can lead to a disconnection from the lives of true believers. What is preached on a blog may not actually be the way someone lives their lives. And believers will miss out on true discipleship if they don't have someone alongside them, modelling the life of Christ.
Anonymous said…
Let us not forget that modern day preaching is something borrowed from Greek Rhetoric. You simply cannot find in the NT any support for the idea that the early church followed our current practice of having one man talk while all the others remained silent each Lord's Day. My question is this: In what ways does the new medium take us closer to the NT pattern?
Robin Parry said…
Lauren - thanks for those helpful and balanced comments.

Greg - Hi. Well, this is outside my expertise but presumably you do agree that we find preasching and proclamation in the early church. The NT has a lot to say about that and we do have some sermon summaries in Acts. One is left with the impression that someone spoke to an audience who listened and then engaged in discussion. Exactly what went on in church meetings is perhaps a little less clear. But teaching and expounding the Scriptures was part of it.

I agree that our models of preaching might well differ from NT practise and that we always need to be open to revising them.

I am no big apologist for sermons but I do think that they have an ongoing place in the wide curriculum of Christian discipling (so long as they are not seen the the be all and end all of Christian education).

Your closing question is a very good one. It does raise the question, 'How do our normal communication methods in church impact the message?' (A question I passed over but which is just as important as the one I asked). Perhaps you could clarify what you take the NT pattern to be - that would help us to discern whether or not new media are taking us closer to it (or not).
Anonymous said…
A church that has not embraced newer forms of technology and communication in some form, it communicates two things:

1. They are not open to change.
2. They are not interested in, or have no vision towards making the gospel relevant to the younger generations.

The converse would be true for those who do embrace these technologies.

This I am sure is only scratching the surface of the question.
Robin Parry said…

you raise an interesting issue: keeping the medium unchanged in a changing context can also change the message because the frame of reference within which it is made sense of has changed.

Flaming Pixies! Who'd have thought living the gospel could be so complex?
jps said…

There was a book published here in the US back in about 1980 called Amusing Ourselves to Death which dealt with the way in which the medium affected the message. Highly recommended, if you can find it.


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