I've been thinking about Missouri Ministers' School this week, because it is coming up next week and I am the Dean of the school this year. Here's what I've been thinking:
It's all communication, isn't it?
When it comes to church, we don't have a product or service to sell to consumers. We're in communications. We have a message, and are supposed to deliver it.
The message is none other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God can communicate however God chooses to, and one of those ways is to entrust the message to the church. I'm not one to say that the church is the only way that communication happens, though I know there are those who believe so. Rather, I would say maybe that the church is the most significant way. Certainly it can be said that within the church lies the potential for being the most powerful way that message is communicated.
All of which compels the question, "Is the church communicating the Gospel as effectively as we possibly can to those who need to hear it most?"
And along with that, knowing that there are a myriad of means of communication available in the world today, we have to ask the question, "How are individual congregations collaborating with one another to ensure that the communication of the Gospel is a true multi-media event?"
Face it, no single congregation is going to be able to effectively utilize more than a few media. Unless you are a big church with big resources, you probably specialize in two or three. Like maybe Church A has a great choir and a really wonderful mission program. And Church B down the road has a wonderful Sunday morning hospitality program and a killer band. Why should Church A fret about not having a great band, when they should be able to cooperate with Church B in conveying the Gospel through that particular medium? Why should Church B start from scratch in developing a mission program, when Church A could help them out with that one?
Now, I'm not saying that individual congregations should adopt and attitude of "Oh, well" about the things they don't do particularly well. Far from it - I am a pastor serving with Bish Schnay-Z, after all, and I'm all about the 5 Practices being in balance. What I am trying to say is that churches, and especially churches within a connectional system, should understand the ministry of the whole as being a cooperative endeavor, not rugged individualism.
We have a message to share - and the "we" in that sentence is all of us who say we are followers of Christ Jesus, not just me or my congregation or my denomination. The whole body of Christ participates together in conveying the Gospel, which makes it possible to convey in a myriad of ways. The old axiom is true: We can do more together than we could ever do alone.
Whatever the medium - personal visit, worship experience, faith formation event, mission trip, service opportunity, newsletter, newspaper, bulletin, poster, pamphlet, sign, snail mail, website, email, blog, newsfeed, text message, internet social networking group, (and who knows what else) - the Gospel message just begs to be delivered. However, these various media will obviously impact the message itself. No one would ever claim that a text message could mean the same as a personal visit, for example.
Considering how the media we use may impact the message we have to share is going to be a part of next week's Missouri Ministers' School, of which I am the Dean this year. Sometimes I think that we either embrace or avoid new communications technology without taking due time to consider it's impact on the message. I hope next week will give us a little bit of that time.
The church should neither embrace nor avoid a means of communication, just because it is new. We are entrusted with the Gospel, and we ought to do all that we can (all of us together) to share that message with all God's children.
It is all about communication, after all.