by Johnathan Arnold, Director of Media Ministry
Researchers are fascinated with the effects of smartphones on our emotions and behavior. "It is quite shocking that on average, approaching one third of people’s waking hours are spent using them, with phones being used on average five times an hour, every waking hour," commented Dr. Richard House, a British psychologist. Some insist, "That's not me!" And while we hope this is true, one study revealed that people check their smartphones nearly twice as often as they think that they do.
Dr. Sally Andrews, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University, said “a lot of smartphone use seems to be habitual, automatic behaviors that we have no awareness of.” For many, it is instinctual to check Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter in their spare moments. These moments add up to barely conceivable amounts of time — as much as four years in an average person's lifetime. Of course, smartphones are not the only kind of screen that people gaze at.
According to CNN, "Americans spend almost 11 hours a day consuming media, a Nielsen report shows." Christians are likely no exception. If it is true that our people are immersed in nearly eighty hours of media exposure each week, we need to think seriously about our influence on them beyond three thirty-minute messages. If we are serious about spiritual formation, we must consider the formative potential of digital media on the church.
A Heritage of Media
While digital media is a fairly recent phenomenon, the church has been utilizing print media for centuries. John Wesley insisted that Methodists should not hope to grow in experience unless they become a reading people.
Samuel Logan Brengle said that in order to maintain the holiness standard “we should constantly read and scatter holiness literature. We should produce this literature within our own movement and urge our young people to read everything we have published. Let us scatter these books everywhere. Let us sow all lands deep with this literature, then we shall surely reap a harvest of great richness and prepare the way for the generation which shall come after us."
George Straub, founder of God's Missionary Church, was passionate about media. He submitted radio broadcasts to two stations each week, and pressed for "a new venture of faith" in the young denomination, the God's Missionary Standard. In the first edition of the publication, Straub writes, "Religious periodicals and good church literature should be placed in every home to help combat the much bad literature now in circulation. ... In the closing hours of this dispensation, with the evening sun fast setting, shall we lift up our heads, join hands, and spread Scriptural holiness and revival literature in which Jesus will be exalted and the Holy Ghost honored."
Meeting People Where They Are
Through content on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as regular blog posts and web resources, God's Missionary Church aspires to continue the vision of Straub and our forefathers to provide a flood of God-glorifying, gospel-centered content and thereby curb the fierce tide of ungodly cultural forces in today's digital media. This is not a replacement of the teaching ministry of the local church; rather, it is a supplement of and ministry to the local church. To preserve our identity, we must provide persuasive answers to the teeming questions people are facing; otherwise, people will find their answers elsewhere. This means mobilizing all of our forces for the cause of holiness.
Our mission is to form spiritually vibrant people who think through what they believe and are grounded in Scripture and history.
In the spirit of Wesley, the world is our parish, media is our voice, and Scriptural holiness is our message. As Assistant Editor Paul Ryan commented, "No movement has been widely propagated or robustly sustained without media." The Media Ministry is essential in shaping our future. Our mission is to form spiritually vibrant people who think through what they believe and are grounded in Scripture and history.
Resources for Real People
On one article, a pastor commented, “This advice is so spot on. If taken to heart it can save many a soul from great confusion.” On another, a layperson said, “Thank you for bringing the entire truth of God's Word to so many people that are confused.” Through clear, doctrinally precise writing, we hope to move many sincere people from a fog of confusion to a place further along the road of grace.
"No movement has been widely propagated or robustly sustained without media."
In October 2017, we released twenty-two articles on the Protestant Reformation. One pastor, recognizing the momentousness of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, but unsure what to share, used our resources to shape his Sunday morning message. A Sunday School teacher and a General Board member alike report consulting our resources for the Reformation Sunday celebration at their churches.
Another Sunday School teacher commented on a particular article, "This helps me in discussing this topic with young people. Excellent viewpoint! Thank you!” Yet another pastor called one article "formative in his ministry." Shepherds, teachers, and laypeople alike need resources from a distinctly Wesleyan perspective that are grounded in the eternal Word of God and practically relevant for the culture in which we live. We are building a searchable library of resources that will serve as a tool for generations to come.
The world is our parish. Media is our voice. Scriptural holiness is our message.
Please share your comments about our Media Ministry in the section below or email us anytime at email@example.com. We would love to hear from you!
Brengle, Samuel Logan. Love Slaves.
Gregoire, Carolyn. "You Probably Use Your Smartphone Way More Than You Think." Huffington Post. November 5, 2015.
Howard, Jacqueline. "Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing." CNN. July 29, 2016.