Commentary by Robin G. Jordan
How can we use the new technologies to reach the post-modern, post-Christian population in the United States, a population which Invitation to Paganism (Christianity Today, December 13, 2004) draws to our attention is increasingly visual and therefore open to paganization? Anyone who has any contact with today’s young adults is aware of the tremendous impact of electronic media – anime, interactive computer and video games, and the Internet – on the way that they see the world and the values that they are adopting. The same media is influencing the thinking of the younger generation – the Bridgers like my eleven-year-old grandnephew – and their values. Here is a youngster who prefers to join children younger than himself in Children’s Church than sit through a 25-minute sermon. He, however, can play interactive computer and video games for hours on end. He is also attentive to what is said in the small groups in which he participates. At a recent leadership team meeting of the Southern Baptist church whose Sunday morning service he and I occasionally attend, he appeared to give full attention to the 15-minute video on personal evangelism that was shown during the meeting.
One option is to develop what might be called an "electronic Bible" or "eBible", using high quality digitalized computer animation and audio to do what the printed Bible does with the written Word. An adult or young person could go to a website on the Internet, click on a book or page of the eBible, and see and hear the Bible. For example, he might click on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. The letter would begin with an animated segment of the apostle Paul dictating the letter to his secretary and then fade to an animated segment of the church in Corinth hearing Paul’s letter read. The voice of Paul would be used throughout the letter. As the letter touched on a particular topic, an animated segment would illustrate what Paul is saying. For example, while Paul talked about the Corinthians’ failure to properly observe the Lord’s Supper, members of the Corinthian church would be shown drinking and eating to excess and turning the Lord’s Supper into an orgy. At its conclusion the letter would fade back to Paul and his secretary and show Paul signing the letter in his own hand. Interactive eBible books could be put on DVDs. Segments from the eBible could be incorporated into Bible application DVDs (and videos). The DVDs (or videos) would be used by small groups. The small group would gather for a meal or light refreshments, view the DVD (or video) presentation – a segment of the eBible with an accompanying exposition – and then consider a number of application questions. The presentation might be preceded by an icebreaker and a selection of worship songs. The DVD (or video) would be paused after each application question so that the group could discuss the question. The small group leader’s role would be to facilitate the discussion and not to teach. Separate DVDs (or videos) could be developed to train small group leaders in what they are expected to do. This approach is already used by the highly-successful Alpha Course. After the application questions have been discussed, the members of the small group would plan individually and collectively how they are going to apply the Bible truths and principles presented in the DVD (or video) and make a personal commitment to hold each other accountable for carrying out these plans. The small group meeting would then conclude with prayer.
We already have audio tapes of the Bible that use several voices, sound effects, and background music. With the eBible we would be using the newer technologies to offer the Word in the mediums of digitalized computer animation and audio to the more visual younger generations. The idea is to meet them where they are, rather than expecting them to adopt the linear culture of previous generations in order to become fully-functioning disciples of Jesus Christ. This is not to suggest that we abandon the printed Bible but to use the eBible to pique their interest in the written Word. I was eight when I read C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. I did not become a regular TV viewer until my family emigrated to the United States after I read the Narnia Chronicles. My grandnephew has been watching TV since he was an infant. His first exposure to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair were the Wonder Works' videos. He was six or seven. He read the books for the first time this past year. He remembered the stories. They had captured his imagination. If we hope to reach the younger generations with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to make disciples of them, we must overcome our reluctance to use the newer technologies to gain their attention. If we do not, we can be assured that others will.