With Apple reporting record profits, most commentators are asking just one question – what’s next? Since the legendary technology giant is faced with only two futures. One is coming up with a revolutionary new product which will again dominate the market. Or simply, going downwards. Tim Cook’s team then must be toiling 24/7 to find ‘what’s next’ or lose their position as King of the Castle. For, as Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates says – his fear is missing the next turn in the road.
So, which turn did the Church miss? Was it the increase in Sunday activities, s decline in organised religion or even the blossoming in options for entertainment? Well, it could have been much earlier. It could have been when television mushroomed from a one-channel wonder into the all-encompassing communication platform it is today. In short, the Church did and does not do TV well!
From the very beginning the Church has tried to meld television onto its existing ways of doing business. As a result, we are usually offered mildly patronising congregational services spiced up by breathlessly excited presenters. Worst still, are high-brow discussion programmes where some non-media savvy cleric gets trounced by eminent humanists bent on taking chunks out of religious belief in any form.
Even the idea of one congregation sending SMS comments to the preacher during the sermon misses the point. Because it is not the interactivity that is misplaced, it is the concept of the sermon itself. Where else would people sit through a lengthy monologue without visual aids other than the odd political meeting or in lecture theatre?
Let’s then consider how we use the huge opportunities of social and multimedia for their own strengths and not cobble them on our own cherished if outmoded worship practices. This means using words, images, audio and video in a coherent and stimulating whole that communicates the gospel concisely. As an illustration, I give you the many outstanding documentaries now being shown on such difficult topics as cosmology, physics and ecology.
Is this means of communication easy? – no it isn’t! However, neither is foreseeing the next bend in the road; a bend if missed could mean the Church coming off humanity’s superhighway entirely.