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Being A Disciple In Europe In A Media Age

Being a Disciple in Europe in a Media Age

From Vista Magazine edition 35

Wherever we live in today’s world, media technologies and messages increasingly influence our everyday lives, our Christian witness, and our Christian ministries. The missional issues related to media engagement are therefore of real significance for the evangelical church in Europe.

The central issues are real and down-to-earth, including the need to explore the following questions: How to relate to the news media, the entertainment media, and the social media as individuals, families, and fellowships? How are Christians being portrayed and represented in mainstream news and entertainment media? How can the whole church be mobilized to utilize appropriate media platforms to share the Gospel? How can Christians be equipped to engage in integral mission through the media?

Contemporary Europe is an ambiguous and complex reality. It is a post-Christendom context, where representatives for the Christian heritage, influential secular ideas, and various religious worldviews compete for our attention and allegiance, often within and through various media.

This article introduces key concepts and approaches developed in the Lausanne Media Engagement Network. These ideas are already under discussion in various evangelical contexts, both within and beyond Europe.

A threefold, missional approach to media engagement

Media is the primary means by which news, ideas, and stories spread. It affects every part of society in every part of the world, including our own secular and pluralistic continent. Therefore, if we are to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching in every European nation, in every sphere of European society, and in the realm of European ideas, we cannot neglect the fascinating and complex world of media technologies and messages.

The Cape Town Commitment included “Truth and the globalized media” in the section, “Bearing witness to the truth of Christ in a pluralistic, globalized world”, with an equal emphasis on three major areas of concern. These three key areas are media awareness, media presence, and media ministries.

Media awareness is the urgent need for more faithful discipleship, including both personal holiness and disciple-making, when encountering media technologies and messages. Media presence is the insistent call to enter mainstream news and entertainment media with professionalism and Christian integrity. Media ministries is the strategic use of all types of media platforms to communicate the gospel of Christ in the context of a holistic biblical worldview.

Media awareness: An opportunity to practice ‘double listening’

In our day-to-day life as individuals, families, churches, and ministries, we are all media users and consumers. This means relating, consciously and unconsciously, to a whole spectrum of media technologies and media messages. The emerging digital world provides us with many new and exciting possibilities for communication, fellowship, and learning, whether professionally, in our churches and ministries, or personally.

However, in terms of media technologies, our increasing use of screens (such as smartphones, tablets, and games) and online services (such as banking, shopping, and streaming), also make us vulnerable in so many ways. Furthermore, factual and fictional media messages are influenced by various secular and religious worldview perspectives, whether in terms of ethical values, views of humanity and reality, or fundamental faith-commitments.

Equipping individuals, families, youth ministries, and churches to engage with media technologies and messages at these deeper worldview levels is largely a forgotten dimension of holistic mission, both in the Global North and the Global South. We need to change that together – and to do it quickly and appropriately. Such equipping includes research, resources, and practical training in ethical assessment of media technologies and in worldview analysis of media messages. It also includes showing the credibility and relevance of a holistic biblical worldview over against alternative worldview perspectives.

In the European context, we need to learn from our long history of engaging with media technologies and message. A key to learning from the past, engaging in the present, and preparing for the future, will be our application of double listening to the Word and the world. This is an essential everyday practice, as well as a significant analytic approach.

Media presence: An opportunity to be salt and light in mainstream media

There is a wide variety of legitimate and strategic media roles to be explored within the general media world for talented Christians in Europe.

Journalism and documentary work reveal neglected facts, stories, and angles, which enables a more balanced public and private debate. Creative and entertainment media can present new and fresh ways of imagining Christian truths, which may generate genuine interest in significant moral and spiritual issues. Through the presence of skillful Christian commentators and apologists in mainstream media, the credibility and plausibility of the gospel and of a holistic biblical worldview may be commended to sceptics, seekers, and to Christians.

This calling to public witness and integrity through engaging in mainstream media needs to be communicated clearly in our evangelical churches and youth ministries in Europe. We need to be talent-spotting for emerging younger evangelical voices who could take on various roles and tasks with creativity, integrity, and energy.

Media ministries: An opportunity to be strategic together in integral mission

Effective use of every kind of media technology, format, and genre is crucial for discipleship, faith education, evangelism, and social engagement.

Specialist media ministries in Europe still have legitimate and strategic roles to play, but digital platforms are transforming every single European mission organization, youth ministry, and local church into media outlets. This creates an increasing need for strategic evangelistic and discipleship partnerships in the whole area of media engagement. At the same time, we need to explore the way that social media creates increasing possibilities for a unique media ministry for every single believer.

How can we as evangelicals together in Europe be more strategic in our creative and effective use of various media technologies, platforms, and genres? Could we model generous cooperation and collaboration to the wider Christian world?

An open invitation to missional reflection and action

As evangelicals in Europe, we need intentionally to integrate media engagement in our discipleship and mission strategies and practices for Europe and beyond in the 21st century. This is an open invitation to share our reflections and best practices, and to engage in collaborative missional action.

Margunn Serigstad Dahle
Associate Professor in Communication and Worldviews, NLA University College, and Team and Production Director for Damaris Norway.

Further reading and resources
See www.engagingmedia.info

Picture: © European Parliament. Used under a CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 licence

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