The Age of Convergence (May-Jun 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

By Fred Peatross
May-June 2002

Today’s technical buzzword is “convergence.” Trade Magazines announce it. Conferences showcase it. Technical reports prove it. It’s the latest craze in the digital world and it’s pushing the technical envelope at an astounding rate.

Depending on whom you listen to (some say in three years; some say in five years) information and entertainment resources will merge into a single unit. In essence, we will be able to surf the web, do our computing, and watch the latest television program, all on one piece of hardware. We’ll download our favorite movies the same way we download our e-mail; add web hyperlinks to television programs providing access to myriads of information with the click of a mouse.

Critical Crossroads

In 1989, God placed His people on a global crossroad that called for faith, prayer, vision, and a plan of action. Many answered God’s call and prepared for the opportunity. Unfortunately many of the restoration churches missed the “road of preparation.” And when the wall that separated the communist world from the free world tumbled, our people were ill prepared to send well trained, adequately funded “Jesus troops” into this spiritual vacuum. Our best opportunities passed us by as we stood on the sidelines and watched our denominational friends swarm into Sofia and Bucharest conducting campaigns hours after the fall. The immediate advantages that preparedness would have afforded us were lost forever in shortsightedness.

Today we stand at a crossroad of another era, but no less important than the crossroad we stood at thirteen years ago. The fork we choose today will directly influence the future choices of a deeply spiritual culture adrift and lost without a spiritual compass.

Will we embrace the path of the digital age, with its new medium, and impact the age of convergence with the message of Jesus? Or will we take the road of the status quo church and continue to entrench ourselves in outdated ministry models?

If Christian leaders are interested in reaching the largest segment of our population they are going to have to consider what kinds of evangelistic approaches best work in this new era. The following five principles can help us design an effective approach in the context of this new medium.

·Understand The Power of How To Tell Our Story

This coming Sunday, thousands of ministers will step up to the pulpit without telling a single story. And yet, when you study the life of Jesus, that’s just about all he ever did. He rarely lectured or preached—he mostly told stories; stories that touched people and changed their lives. The great Swedish filmmaker IngmarBergman said, “Facts go straight to the head, but stories go straight to the heart.” As we enter the digital age of convergence, we must spend more time learning how to tell salvation’s story to an image-based culture.

The age of convergence will challenge our abilities and stretch our methods as never before. To cross over between the internet and a television program, or add a hyperlink to a movie, or integrate streaming video into our church websites, will give us the potential to tell the “old, old story” in new and exciting ways. But let’s not allow links, transitions, and other gimmicks to distract us from the need to tell a story.

·Be in Touch with the Current Culture

I find a remarkable number of church leaders are out of touch with today’s culture. If we’re going to move our culture we’re going to have to, first, understand what makes our culture tick. Just as Paul used his knowledge of Greek literature and culture to establish a “common ground” with the philosophers at Mars Hill, we need to understand the music, literature, films, and television of our culture (Acts 17). Otherwise, a large segment of the “spiritually interested” will continue to believe that our message is irrelevant and unimportant. Remember, when it comes to the age of convergence, it’s not worth doing if it’s not done in a style and language this culture understands.

·Don’t Forget Creativity!

An advertising executive once said, “Creativity is like shaving–if you don’t do it every day, you’re a bum!” Exercise those creative muscles…and do it on a regular basis.

·Always be open to change

In Hollywood, millions of dollars are spent every year on “pilot” programs, many of which never see the light of day! The major studios and networks understand that audiences are always changing; they aren’t afraid to experiment and update programs and program ideas. In the age of convergence, the most successful ministries will be the ministries that listen, adapt, change, update, and present a fresh, new approach to an ever-changing audience.

·Living Our Moment

In the coming age of convergence, my prayer is that the Christian community will combine the digital tools of this culture with the creative talents of the individual believer. And in return engage postmodern culture with the greatest story every told. Anything less will fail our audience and diminish our message.

Let us not forget that the Israelites lived their moment in history by sharing their “God experiences” in the narratives we know as the Old Testament. Legion, the demon possessed man, lived his moment when he walked away from his graveyard home to testify of Jesus (Luke 8). And let’s not forget that Jesus was the originated of drama when he instituted its power by unassumingly washing the feet of His disciples (John 13).

God has given us the greatest message in the history of the world.

Will we live our moment and run the next leg of the race or will we stubbornly resist and become a church for the museum shelf?

 

Fred PeatrossFred Peatross lives, works, romances his wife and exudes deep feelings of love, awe, and admiration for his Creator while living in the heart of Appalachia. For over two decades Fred has resided in Huntington, West Virginia where he has been a leader in the traditional church. He has been a deacon, a shepherd, and a pulpit minister. But his greatest love is Missio Dei.

Long before thousands of missionaries poured into the former Soviet Union Fred, in a combined effort with a Christ follower from Alabama planted a church in Dneprodzerhinsk, Ukraine. Today Fred lives as a missionary to America daily praying behind the back of his friends as he journeys and explores life alongside them. [Fred Peatross’ book Missio Dei - In the Crisis of ChristianityMissio Dei: In the Crisis of Christianity, reviewed in New Wineskins]

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This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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