Message vs. Method

You know what’s cool about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? It doesn’t change. Think about it. The message that Jesus preached to his followers during his time on Earth is exactly the same today as it was then: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.” “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” These are just a few examples of the Gospel (A.K.A. “good news”) that we are called to preach as followers of Jesus — and what good news this is! It is a joy to declare with the Apostle Paul, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” 

In contrast, you know what’s cool about communication? It’s always changing. Here are a few examples of how different communication platforms began to give you an idea of what I mean:

  • In 1605, the first newspaper was published under the German title Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien, or “Account of all distinguished and commemorable stories.” 
  • On March 10th, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call to his assistant, Thomas Watson: “Mr. Watson – come here – I want to see you.”
  • On Christmas Eve in 1906, the first AM radio broadcast was made from Massachusetts to ships at sea. The broadcast was of a violin playing O Holy Night and a reading of the Christmas story as recounted in the book of Luke.
  • In 1927, the first electronic television was invented and the first transmission was made to it: a single line across the screen.
  • On October 29th, 1969, the first message was sent between two computers. The message was one word: LOGIN. While rudimentary in its early stages, this network would eventually grow and become the Internet.
  • In 2003, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a piece of software called FaceMash as a way for Harvard students to connect online. This would quickly evolve into what is now known as Facebook.
  • In 2009, Kevin Systrom invented an app called Burbn, which was designed for him and his friends to share photos of the whiskeys they were drinking. In 2010, Burbn changed its name to Instagram.

From humble beginnings each of these examples became highly effective methods of communication, and have been used to communicate all kinds of messages over the last 400 centuries — both for good and evil.

So why did I just give you a history lesson? Because as Believers we are burdened with a message that must be communicated, and to effectively share that message requires two key elements: 

An unshakable belief that the Gospel is as true today as it was in the beginning, paired with a commitment to adapting our methods of communication for reaching the modern population.

It is our calling as followers of Christ to share this Gospel message with every nation and people group on Earth (see the Great Commission in Matthew 28); but while it is our joyful duty is to share this message with a world that so desperately needs it, I’m afraid we often use antiquated methods to do so, whether they be complex technological entities like the ones listed above or simple turns of phrase that no longer appeal to our listeners.

If you just felt convicted reading that last sentence, let me propose that you might be in one of two categories:

  1. People who know other methods of communication exist but either choose to ignore them or waste their energy actively fighting against them.
  2. People who are unaware that they aren’t communicating effectively because they haven’t learned current methods.

If you’re in that first category, I implore you: please stop. By ignoring and/or fighting new methods of communicating, you are actually revealing to the world that your own preferences are more important than the message of the Gospel. You’re not just hurting yourself, you’re also hurting the witness of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  I’m praying now that God will soften your heart of stone and turn it to flesh. Take a note from Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, in which he explains, “… I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” To put it simply: the Gospel is worth your discomfort.

If you’re in that second category, consider this a call to start learning. Find someone in a different generation and start asking them questions. Ask God for the humility to learn what you don’t know. Pay attention to how your kids and/or grandkids are communicating with each other. What are they saying? How are they saying it? Who are they listening to? You must begin to learn current methodologies because the Gospel needs to be communicated effectively.

To those reading this who don’t find yourself in either of these categories of people, ask God to reveal ways He wants you to communicate the Gospel. If you’ve already done that and still feel like you’re lost, find the people in your church who are already doing the work and support them. In the process of supporting those around you, you just might find your own calling – or better yet, you might discern what isn’t your calling.

The amazing thing about the Church is that we don’t all have the same gifts for sharing the Gospel, but we all have one. I’m a music producer called to serve Christ’s Church through my abilities. Maybe you’re not, but you are a gifted teacher who can clearly explain complex theological ideas to children. The Church needs you just as much as it needs me. You don’t have to learn to play an instrument to serve Jesus — you can support me in doing so, and I can support you in using your teaching abilities (check out 1 Corinthians 12 for more on this).

The beauty of getting this “right” is easy to see. When we refocus on the message of the Gospel instead of the methodologies we use to communicate it, we become unified in Christ. Unity isn’t some idealistic goal for the Church — it is an achievable reality. All it takes is building on the right foundation: that Jesus Christ saves. If you believe that, pick a method and go tell somebody. The Kingdom of God depends on it.

By: John Kimbrough, Minister of Modern Worship

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