The Medium Is The Message

*what follows is a continuation of the discussion here at the Diner on my reading “The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church,” by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch. Feel free to check out the past four entries before you dive in to this one. It’ll give you some context.

I fell in love with the Ramones because of an album cover. This album cover:

Now you have to have some context here, kids. This was the mid-70’s and the music that was being put out there was over-the-top with stage shows and theatrics and all the bells and whistles. Think Elton John. Think Kiss. Think anything and everything about disco with lights and smoke and lighted floors. You get the idea, right?

Well, for a kid who didn’t “get” any of that (although I have to admit being 13 and seeing a Kiss show is pretty incredible, but you outgrew that pretty quickly), the Ramones spoke volumes.

Put on your normal clothes.
Turn the amps up.
Play the best you can.
Play fast.
Let the music BE the message.

And it was. A simple album cover (unlike Molly Hatchet or Iron Maiden or Electric Light Orchestra). A simple stage show. A sheet with the band logo draped behind the band, stacked Marshall amps, drummer & 2 guitarists and lead singer, and GO!

The music was the message.

And that’s the theme of the latest chapter I read as the authors are moving into how the church should look differently heading into the new millennium…which naturally means they have to take a look at where the current church is and how effective we’re being…and they do so by looking at four general areas, the sermons we give, the buildings we use, the seminaries the train our leaders in and the leaders we have.

First, On “the sermon”:

“As a result of this appetite for hyper-reality, the era of the monologue sermon that can have an impact is coming to an abrupt and sad end…We’re not signaling the end of the spoken word ot communicate, but preachers will need to have a long hard look at how they speak if they expect to be heard. Except for the preaching of outstanding communicators, sermons have little or no impact.”


Side note: Not a lot of encouragement for a guy giving a sermon tomorrow, eh? Their solution is that sermons should be designed to be more interactive with maybe even throwing some Q&A into them. Stuff like that.

On “the building”:

“Christianity was at its most effective and most true to its nature as the poeple of God when it did not own any buildings…(our building designs make) the vast majority of people were passive consumers. The few active people were the ones on the stage presented in a highly professional manner. The church looks like it was designed for the presentation of a show of some sort. The building exuded wealth, success, and professionalism. All the needs of the consumer were catered to. But what does the building say to the average not-yet-Christian about the Gospel?”


Their solution is along the lines of using the building to invite the community and making the atmospheres less-“churchy” and welcoming to people not accustomed to our evangelical culture.

On “the seminary”:

“It’s worth asking about the ways Jesus developed disciples during his ministry and then considering to what degree the theological academy has mirrored this.”


Their solution is to make seminary more hands-on and more life-on-life with professors/leaders, etc.

“…we need to recognize that authentic community can only be founded on changed relations between people; and these changed relations can only follow the inner change and preparation of the people who lead, work, and sacrifice for the community. In other words, it must begin with leadership. We must embody our visions and values in such a way that people can ‘see’ the vision in and through our existence. It will take sacrifice on the part of the leader. It must, especially if he or she is asking for sacrifice! We simply don’t believe that people in the ‘crap-detector’ generation, savvy people who understand what it means to be constantly targeted by hundreds of thousands of clever sales messages, are going to follow other people who don’t live out their messages. If leadership fails to embody the message, no one is going to follow. Leaders, you cannot lead where you will not go; you cannot teach what you do not know.”


What do the current church leaders as a medium convey to others about our message? Oh, manalive, could you offer a lot of insight here…

So kids, a lot of things to think about today…

How are we doing when it comes to our “mediums” being our “message?”

What messages are we sending by our…
…sermons?
…buildings?
…seminary training?
and our leaders–who they are and how they lead?

Oh, man. This should be good.

*rubs hands together, pours coffee & waits for patrons to come in and offer their two-cents.

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