Category Archives: preachinginasocialmediaculture

Before You Give Up On Social Media…

Social media is often accused of making society more narcissistic and self-centered.   Although there is truth embedded in the diagnosis, I argue against the treatment that is often prescribed.  The disease does exist but the underlying problem is not the technology – it is us.

In many ways, social media is a technology that has given everyone a platform and a megaphone.  It allows everyone a voice without filter or control.  As a result, the megaphone amplifies what we all, unfortunately, have always cared most about – ourselves.  These megaphones are addicting, ubiquitous, frustrating and, I would argue, hopeful.

In many ways, social media has taken the web of the Internet and placed interconnected megaphones of self-expression everywhere.  This reality frustrates us and, as a result, we protest, complain and even threaten to give up social media completely.  We consider and contemplate putting the megaphone down in protest.

Before you give up on social media and put the megaphone down, try turning it around.  

There are reasons people are posting information about themselves on their social media channels.  People desire to be heard, loved, respected, etc.  Social media provides a unique and amplified opportunity to express these needs but it also provides a unique and amplified opportunity to hear what is going on in the lives of our friends, family, and culture.

I often picture social media as millions of people with megaphones shouting words, ideas, pictures, links, etc. at each other in amplified fashion.  But what would it look like if we took that same technology and turned it around, allowing us hear the hurts, challenges, successes, desires, etc. of our friends, family, and culture?  What would it look like for God to use us in amplified fashion through our amplified listening and awareness of others?  What would it look like to use social media in a way that allows us a unique and amplified view of what God is doing in our world?

Before you give up on social media and put the megaphone down, try turning it around.

Social Media Church Podcast

Last week, I had the privilege of being on the Social Media Church Podcast with DJ Chuang.  We had a great conversation about the effectual nature of social media and how it is/will effect preaching.  It was great talking with DJ and, subsequently, with members of his audience via Twitter.  I sense a healthy and growing awakening around this conversation, affirming my direction for my doctoral dissertation and further writing and research around this topic.

If you are interested in the conversation I had with DJ, I’d encourage you to visit the Social Media Church Site and listen to it there.  Even better, leave a comment on their site and start a conversation around this topic.  I would love to hear what you are thinking and practicing.

Preaching in the “Age of Anxiety”

Introduction & Preamble
Through a series of blog posts over the next several years, my hope is to explore part of the research I am doing for my Doctorate of Ministry degree (DMin) through George Fox Seminary (I’m in the Semiotics and Future Studies Track).  I am, specifically, studying the effects of social media on preaching with the hope of creating a methodological response to this cultural shift that is historically aware, theological grounded, biblically rooted and culturally contextual.

Before you read my first post: Preaching in the Age of Anxiety,” I confess upfront that I am a “media ecologist.”  In other words, I believe media is not neutral but effectual.  I also confess that I am a “hopeful new media ecologist” because I am not anti-media.  Therefore, my desire is the critical adoption and appropriate use of technology, while being aware of its effect and inevitable impact on the message.

Preaching in the “Age of Anxiety”

Original drawing of Icarus by
Nathanial Ashlin-Mayo

Greek mythology tells of the myth of Icarus, the son of Daedalus, the great Athenian craftsman (the attached artwork is from my artistic son Nathanial).  While King Minos held them captive in Crete, Daedalus fashioned wings made from wax and feathers to escape their imprisonment and fly to freedom.  In this mythical tale, Daedalus warns Icarus not to fly too close to the sun or the wax will melt (an ancient warning regarding the limitations of technology).  In the Greek narrative, Icarus ignores his father’s warning and pays the consequence by being lost at sea.

We exist in a great time of technological transition where media is having tremendous effects on how we communicate, relate and interact with the world around us.  To that end, if we continue to use our old methodologies, assumptions and presumptions, we will, proverbially, fly too close to the sun with our man-made constructions resulting in devastating consequences.

Our world has radically shifted: transitioning from the Guttenberg world to a Google world.  These two worlds are very different and this shift is having drastic and revolutionary effects on culture at multiple levels.  Continuing to fly with old world methodologies in a new ecology will, progressively, lead to devastating effects; just as it did for Icarus.

Marshal McLuhan warned:

“Innumerable confusions and a profound feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transitions. Our “Age of Anxiety” is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools–with yesterday’s concepts.”  (Medium is the Massage, 8-9)

Our world has, is and will continue to change in a substantial way and I sense this phenomenon occurring specifically in the field of homiletics (preaching).  I believe we need to learn the lesson from the Greek myth of Icarus. If, as communicators of God’s Word, we decide to try to communicate to today’s world using yesterdays methodologies, it will not only lead to anxiety, the proverbial warming wax, but that wax will inevitably melt and our effectiveness will be lost in the ocean of irrelevancy.

I believe that understanding media and its effects are profoundly important for the future of preaching.  As Marshal McLuhan also stated:

“It is impossible to understand social and cultural changes without a knowledge of the workings of media.” (Medium is the Massage, 8)  

Most pastors, including myself, have a tendency to enter the homiletic act with presuppositions based on former questions, presuppositions and assumptions. These questions, presumptions and assumptions were designed and based on a culture and society that once was, rather than now is.  I think this tendency is largely due to an ignorance regarding the seismic change that is occurring culturally around us.  This change is ubiquitous and will effect everything – including preaching.

It is my thesis that social media (informational technology’s teenage child) is rapidly and exponentially changing culture on a global scale.  In the dominion of homiletics, people do not enter the preaching relationship (as the congregation) with the same presumptions, assumptions, questions, etc., than they once did. This has changed and is perpetually changing as we move through this major tectonic shift in culture.

If we desire to be effective biblical communicators in our new world, we must be aware of the changing landscape (understanding our changing culture) and be willing to take different means of transportation towards our desired destination (methodologies).

Through future posts I will explore these related questions…

  • What we can learn through the history of technology/cultural change and how it affected preaching as a result?
  • What it means to preach to a generation of content producers rather than media consumers?
  • What does it mean to preach in a participatory culture?
  • How is information technology changing the way we think?
  • How the message (presentation) of the Gospel is re-shaping and why this isn’t bad (the message we share now was largely shaped during the last technological/cultural shift (Guttenberg).
  • What it means to communicate in a non-hierarchal culture – your degree and ordination does not mean what it used to.  What now grants you authority and why? 
  • Preaching in an image-based culture.
  • And many more….