The Media Conundrum
We live in a time where media, for many, dictates success and builds support. Churches all over the world consider themselves to be successful only after they’ve created a massive following, usually driven by major air time on television or radio. Even those organizations of smaller caliber and reach deem it necessary to have a broad social media presence to include, at the very least, Facebook, Periscope, YouTube, or some other medium that allows for live broadcasting and viewing. Many in our society, as a matter of fact, won’t even visit a church or ministry if they cannot first view and “try out” a live service online or on television.
So, with such a strong push to incorporate ministry into the world of media, why haven’t we, WATCH Ministries and Breath of Life International, taken more advantage of the technological opportunities? I am asked this question often, and even rebuked by some church leadership for our lack of social media and mass media presence. Still, we choose in many ways to refrain.
1. Respect for the intimacy of worship.
Worship is an intimate exchange between man and God. All too often, we see videos of worship being exploited. The “church” exploits worship to make money or gather more followers. It’s also used to somehow validate the “power” of a given leader or organization. The world, then, uses the same for comedic relief, criticizing, mocking and even commercializing what they do not understand. Even more, unbelievers use these videos as an argument to prove the insanity of those who claim God is real.
We are not hiding from ridicule. Rather, we understand these reactions to be a very real reminder of 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Those who are of the world will consider godly things to be foolish. While the Gospel is for everyone, worship simply is not (John 4:24). In fact, it can have a detrimental effect, causing confusion and fueling unfruitful debates that draw those engaged away from the teachings and salvation gift of Christ.
2. Stewardship over the secrets of God.
When we worship and seek God’s face, He speaks. Oftentimes, those words of instruction, knowledge, and/or prophecy are directed toward a specific audience. Anyone listening in from the outside will miss the context, and therefore the meaning of what is spoken. As such, many have twisted the rhema word of God to fit their specific desires or needs – all out of context. Even more, what’s the purpose of fasting, praying and seeking God for a specific revelation, only to share that very intimate moment with the world? Why would anyone invest in an intimate relationship with God when someone else can go through the trouble for the message to be shared with the masses?
In Matthew 13:10-11, Messiah explains that not everyone is intended to know or understand the secrets, or mysteries, of the Kingdom. It is not our job to “leak” what the Father has intended for His own.
3. Protection of individuals’ privacy.
Years ago, I encountered the story of a young woman who struggled with a drug addiction. As is appropriate, she turned to her local church for prayer and deliverance. Unfortunately, a video was made of her very dramatic “deliverance session”, which was used only to commercialize the “power” of the leader who laid hands on her. As the video was circulated and became somewhat viral, that young woman’s employer viewed the account. As a result, the young woman’s employment was terminated.
I am amazed that more religious organizations have not been sued for damages following the publication of unauthorized photographs and video. In any business setting, written consent must be granted. However, despite the number of “church” videos in circulation simply for ridicule and entertainment, local churches and ministries continue to run the cameras and post the footage without giving though to the possible consequences.
Frankly, we view this as insensitive. Worship is very personal, and it should be private. We never want people to feel restricted or embarrassed, wondering who may see them if the fully submit to the Spirit of God in worship. We choose to remove the distraction, as connection with the Father is the most important goal.
4. Resistance to the spirit of pride and worldly popularity.
Jesus instructs his disciples to do their alms in private. Our Messiah reminds us that once we are applauded by men, we have received our reward (Matthew 6:1-4). Media, regardless of its type, conditions us to operate based on feedback, or response. In other words, it is adjusted based on worldly reward. Whether “Likes” or ratings, too many religious institutions are operating based on what’s popular rather than what’s holy.
Depending on the media, rather than the drawing of men’s hearts by God, Himself, can cause anyone to lose focus.
Quite simply, “…wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” Matthew 7:13-14.
5. Dependence on God’s leading, rather than the prince of this world.
The Scriptures make one fact clear. Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2). He controls this worldly system, including its airways. It’s no wonder that those who teach and preach to true word of God have no popularity in terms of media presence. Check for yourself. One needs only to invest a couple of hours into “Christian television” to notice the immense number of lies and deception that are presented by those whose programs are deemed most successful.
My convictions on this topic are not meant to judge the character of those who pursue the implementation of media into their ministries. A very strong argument can be made that media is required in order to remain relevant in today’s society. I am simply arguing that it's best to be relevant to the Kingdom, rather than relevant to the world.
In fact, many engage media with a sincere hope of sharing the Gospel with the world. Even our ministries, from time to time, will share messages (as God allows) with the general public, through media. However, we refrain COMPLETELY from sharing pictures or video of worship for the reasons outlined herein.
My point here is that we must be discerning, prayerful and careful. If God does not instruct it, don’t do it. And keep your motives pure! After all, the world has dictated the actions of the institutionalized church for too long. We must do things God’s way. He knows so much better than we! Selah.