The Best (and Worst) Types of Christian Media

Media cloud, VLADGRIN /

Media cloud, VLADGRIN /

When it comes to mass communication, Christians do some things well and some things horribly. Here’s a breakdown:

1)    The Best

Public Speaking:

Christians have been publicly speaking for thousands of years — since Old Testament times. Church culture is inundated with motivational and inspirational presentations, sermons, illustrations, speeches, and teachings. Sunday schools, youth groups, small groups, church services, camps, retreats, and conventions all have a variety of public speakers.

Christians were experts at the art of speaking before TED Talks became popular or business presentations were commonplace. People working in full-time ministry often speak in front of groups at least two or three times a week — sometimes more. They can sense when audiences are engaged or bored and have the ability to whip stadium crowds into an emotional and spiritual frenzy.

Socio-Religious Prognostication?

Stopwatch, lucadp /


Psalm 78:1-8

Hear my teaching, O my people;
 incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;
 I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

That which we have heard and known,
   and what our forebears have told us,
 we will not hide from their children.

We will recount to generations to come
   the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord,
 and the wonderful works he has done.

He gave his decrees to Jacob
   and established a law for Israel,
 which he commanded them to teach their children;

That the generations to come might know,
   and the children yet unborn;
 that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

So that they might put their trust in God,
 and not forget the deeds of God,
   but keep his commandments;

And not be like their forebears,
   a stubborn and rebellious generation,
 a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

   and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

I'm pondering the first few lines of this Psalm. They strike me as remarkably different from much of what we're saying these days about generations and faithfulness. It is, it seems, always the younger generations who fail us, who are stubborn and do not recognize the gifts of God. Every so often someone will throw the Baby Boomers (I mean, that's fun, right?) under the bus, but the majority of our attention has been on the future generations or those who are simply young now. We who analyze religious trends are practitioners of religious prognostication. 

Moving Forward Requires Letting Go of the Past

1950s family illustration, RetroClipArt /

1950s family illustration, RetroClipArt /

Comparing today with yesterday is a popular yet pointless pastime.

For one thing, we rarely remember yesterday accurately. More to the point, yesterday was so, well, yesterday — different context, different players, different period in our lives, different numbers, different stages in science, commerce, and communications.

Seeking to restore the 1950s — grafting 1950s values, lifestyles, cultural politics, educational, and religious institutions — onto 2012 is nonsense. It sounds appealing, but it is delusional.

That world didn't disappear because someone stole it and now we need to get it back. It disappeared because the nation doubled in size, white people fled racial integration in city schools, and women entered the workforce en masse. It disappeared because factory jobs proliferated and then vanished, prosperity came and went, schools soared and then soured, the rich demanded far more than their fair share, overseas competitors arose, and medical advances lengthened life spans.

The comparison worth making isn't between today and yesterday. It is between today and what could be. That comparison is truly distressing, which might explain why we don't make it.

Flash Mob Ministry: A New Model for Instant Church

 Neil Mockford/FilmMagic

Britain's Got Talent - Flashmob at Trafalgar Square in March. Neil Mockford/FilmMagic

Right there, in the middle of piles of fried chicken and biscuits, campers broke out in song, complete with choreography. Suffice it to say it’s simple enough and cumulative in its themes so that pretty much anyone can get the idea within a verse or two.

We keep talking about the changing face of church and how ministry is going to look different going forward; what if this is it? Not that I expect this is “the” model for how to do church from here forward, but there’s something to this “flash mob” concept, breaking out spontaneously into something that draws others in, right here, right now, where we are.

But we might get weird looks. We might even get in trouble.

Tips for Achieving an 'Almost Amish' Lifestyle

Organization illustration, marekuliasz /

Organization illustration, marekuliasz /

Editor's Note: This post is a follow-up to yesterday's Ten Ways to Live "Almost Amish.' Author Nancy Sleeth offers tips for achieving each of her principles for "almost Amish" living. 

1. Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.

Almost Amish Decluttering Tips:

  • Start small:  Clean one shelf of a closet, once corner of the basement, or one drawer of your desk each Saturday; by the end of the year, your house (and heart) will be much lighter.
  • For each item you bring into the home, give (at least) one away one.
  • Limit temptation by reducing catalogs and junk mail:  visit and to remove your name from mailing list.

Nobody is Quite Ready for Tomorrow: The Advent of ‘The Hybrid Age’

Globalization & technology illustration, Anton Balazh /

Globalization & technology illustration, Anton Balazh /

It often seems that just as we begin to get our heads around how we might understand our world, everything changes. There have been tipping points at various moments in history; events or advances which move us from one epoch to another in such a way that we can never see the world with the same eyes again. It happened during the Industrial Revolution; it happened with the Communications Revolution; and it happened on September 11, 2001. 

And according to Ayesha and Parag Khanna, we are approaching (or indeed, have already reached) another of these defining moments—what they call “The Hybrid Age.” In their book, Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization, published as part of the TED Books series, they examine how we have reached this moment, and what that means for our futures, and for generations beyond our own.

Hybrid Reality, in a similar fashion to many of the e-books that have developed out of the popular series of talks, reads like a manifesto – and in this case, it is a manifesto for navigating the unknown, exciting, and at times, downright terrifying potential futures which we are opening ourselves up to as technology becomes more and more sophisticated and more and more a part of us.

Becoming Unglued (In a Good Way)

Glue image via Feng Yu / Shutterstock

Glue image via Feng Yu / Shutterstock

What matters is human ingenuity. Allow people a window of freedom, and they will fly through it.

They will buy millions of tablet computers as escape from cramped airplane seating and being tethered to desktops. They will create homegrown social networks when Facebook goes weird with their privacy. They will abandon overpriced private colleges, avoid uninspiring suburban housing, and seek investments other than the rigged game of common stocks.

If venture capitalists exact too high a price for startup funding, entrepreneurs will turn to crowd-sourcing. While civic leaders chase yesteryear solutions like industrial parks, real job creators set up shop any old place and work around stuck politicians.

In my work with mainline Protestant churches -- perhaps the most "stuck" of any enterprise -- I see two tracks diverging.

More Churches Turning to High-Tech Outreach

Social media illustration, Adchariyaphoto /

Social media illustration, Adchariyaphoto /

Christ Fellowship exemplifies most of the latest ways churches dramatically extend their reach of church beyond any one time or local address. Such congregations signal "a willingness to meet new challenges," said Scott Thumma, of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. He's the author of a study by Faith Communities Today (FACT) of how churches, synagogues and mosques use the Internet and other technology.

FACT's national survey of 11,077 of the nation's 335,000 congregations, released in March, found seven in 10 U.S. congregations had websites, and four in 10 had Facebook pages by 2010, Thumma says.