My name is Len Wilson. I am Minister of Media at Ginghamsburg Church, a church of 3300 in weekly worship outside of Dayton, Ohio, that has been singled out by many for its uniquely effective use of electronic media as a means to present the Gospel. I am also the author of ‘The Wired Church: Making Media Ministry’ (Abingdon, 1999), a guidebook on establishing and growing media ministry in a local church setting.
I have been invited by the gracious editorial staff of this magazine to write a monthly column discussing the variety of issues related to media ministry that arise in the day to day work of the local church. I hope that this column provokes thought among those of us who are charged with this calling.
This sort of thought may mean confirmation for our sense of calling and what we see as the imperative for the Church (“why can’t they see it?!”); it may mean exhortation to continue in the work that you do, for it is making a difference in the lives of not only your worshippers, but ultimately the historical direction of the church, as other church leaders around you watch and emulate your actions. It may mean a challenge to either change or subtract or add some component to your ministry.
As always, I start with vision.
Church leader John Maxwell has said that you must cast vision before your community at least once every 26 days, or they will lose sight of their goal and begin to doubt the effectiveness, or even the necessity, of what they are doing. While that number may seem a bit arbitrary, the point is not lost. What have you done so far in the year 2000 to either establish or reinforce your vision for electronic media in the life of your church, to your community?
Let me suggest a few things. First, if you have not already done so, build a specific vision statement for your media ministry. This is different from the “mission statement”, the one sentence summary. A vision statement is a detailed explanation of your ultimate goals for the ministry. When I first came to Ginghamsburg Church in May 1995, I wrote a 3-part mission statement. This was, in brief, to 1) make electronic media integral to the life of the church, 2) establish a standard for excellence through production in first worship and then education, and 3) equip other ministries to create their own electronic media for ministry, like they currently do with print through desktop publishing.
From this I had a basis for my day to day work. This is the second thing I suggest: find specific venues for casting your vision to the church. For example, I wrote an article one month to put in the monthly church newsletter. (“The Church of the Big Screen TV”)
Another month the vision statement became the topic of conversation in our monthly training meeting for the ministry’s members. Worship is also a possibility for vision casting. But I must say that no vision statement discussion ever had the impact in worship at Ginghamsburg that a well-produced piece had.
And this is the third thing. A while back I was having a difficult time convincing a newer staff member at Ginghamsburg of the necessity and power that electronic media could have in the worship experience. I would tell them electronic media is one of many mediums for the presentation of the Word, equal to print and orality (preaching). This staff person kept saying to me that he just didn’t get it. Media seemed fine as an “enhancement” or a support tool, but couldn’t hold a candle to the real presentation of the Word, through preaching.
Then one weekend, we held a service on reconciliation. It was Martin Luther King day, 1999. And to start out worship, we had the band perform the song “I Want to Know What Love is”, by the band Foreigner. While that song played, we put old footage of the civil rights movement on the screen. To see the awesome irony of people being hosed down while the band sang “I want to know what love is/And I want you to show me/Let’s talk about love” was a powerful experience. Many said that after only 5 minutes, they had worshipped through this presentation of God’s true design for humanity gone wrong. The next week, that staff member came to me and said, “Now, I get it.”
Nothing beats doing it. So vision is both the articulation and the philosophy of the ministry, and the presentation of its reality. Both are equally important, and the foundation for a successful ministry in the life of your church.