Whenever we in the church debate new methods of communicating the gospel, or alternative ways of doing church it ends in a predictable turn. There is a point in these conversations when a person, hoping to end the debate once and for all, says “The methods must change as long as the message stays the same.” So it would seem as long as we preserve the unchanging message, any method is fair game. This serves as a kind of evangelical rally cry for methodological innovation.
If they are feeling particularly sophisticated, they may go on to explain that, “Our methods, in and of themselves, are neither good nor evil, it is how we use them that determines their value.”
Meaning, if we pipe pornography through the Internet it’s bad, but if we post the Four Spiritual Laws there the Internet is good. We assume that any medium is simply a neutral conduit for information, like the plumbing in our house. The tubes are of little consequence unless they spring a leak. So as long as we are communicating the unchanging message of the gospel, every technology or method can be good. This tends to be our most nuanced conclusion.
Unfortunately, it fails to account for what our media and methods truly have the capacity to do and undo. And so we encounter them with the proverbial slip on the banana peel. We remain quite oblivious to the ways our message and our minds are being shaped by our methods and media.
The reality is, our methods are in no way “neutral,” they have a staggering, yet hidden power to shape us regardless of their content. This is what Marshall McLuhan meant when he observed “The medium is the message.” And it stands in direct contradiction to our evangelical rally cry. In other words, our media and methods have an inherent bias and a message of their own that has little or nothing to do with their content. Read More.