Breaking Through Media Messagescomment (0)
September 12, 2013
By Bob Terry
Do you feel overwhelmed by media blasts trying to influence everything from what you buy to what you watch on television to how you feel about certain social issues or for whom you vote?
The New York City marketing firm Yankelovich estimated that a person living in a city is assaulted by about 5,000 messages a day. Thirty years ago that number was around 2,000 messages a day, the firm said.
Today supermarket eggs have been stamped with the names of television shows, a New York Times article reported. Turnstiles bear messages from auto insurance companies. One major airline sold ad space on its motion sickness bags. Even Walt Disney Films partnered with a medical supply firm to promote DVDs of one of its movies on the paper liners of 2,000 pediatricians’ examining tables.
All together it is more than the human mind can process. A London study found that most people remembered only 1 percent of the advertisements they see. A report by Fluid Drive Media found that fewer than 250 of the nearly 5,000 messages encountered during a 24-hour period actually penetrated the consciousness of the consumer and fewer than half of that number could be remembered.
The right messages, the ones remembered, seem to be tied to something the consumer wants or values. For example, if one is interested in a sports car, one may notice an advertisement for sports cars but never see promotions for pickup trucks.
If all of that is true, how does one get a hearing for the gospel of Jesus Christ in a society some call post-Christian? How can the message that Jesus paid the price for our sins on Calvary and offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who will believe in Him compete with the thousands of other messages clamoring for attention?
Is the answer more radio advertisements? More billboards? More mailouts into the home? More words?
All of these are good and have their place, but the Bible seems to point in another direction.
When God wanted to make Himself known in fullest fashion He took on flesh. The Bible says in John 1:14 that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The invisible God became visible in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews said, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”
The apostle Paul added, “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus)” (Col. 1:19). The apostle John wrote that Jesus, “God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side, has made Him (God) known” (John 1:18).
Theologians call this “incarnation.” When anyone saw Jesus of Nazareth, they saw God. In the ministry of Jesus — and ultimately in His death and resurrection — they saw how much God loved them.
Noted theologian John R.W. Stott has written that “All true evangelism demands a kind of incarnation, an entering into other people’s worlds, into their pain and suffering, into their loneliness and lostness and even into their thought world.”
Said another way, God makes Himself visible today by making Himself seen through the lives of individual Christians and in the life of the Christian community. It is not words that Christians offer haggard humanity. It is Someone. It is
not abstract theories or mechanical programs that Christians share. It is relationship — relationship with God’s people and with God Himself.
Human words have to take on human flesh in order to touch the longings, the hurts, the needs, the interest and values of people without Jesus.
If God’s people are God’s method for gaining a hearing for the gospel then the need may not be more words or better programs. The need may be for better men and women, individuals in whom the love of God has become incarnate.
Writing to the Corinthian Christians, the apostle Paul reminded his readers that their lives were living letters “known and read by all men” (2 Cor. 3:2). Those lines illustrate the truth that some people may never read the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke or John but the lives of believers will be read every day to see if words proclaimed match lives lived.
Perhaps that is why a statement from one of the Consultation on World Evangelization events warned, “Our witness loses credibility when we contradict it by our life or lifestyle. Our light will shine only when others can see our good works (Matt. 5:16). In a word, if we are to speak of Jesus with integrity, we have to resemble Him.”
The opening words of the Book of Acts give guidance. There the author wrote, “In my former book, Theophilus (lover of God), I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach.” It might be expected the order would have been reversed — teach and do. Instead Luke, the physician, first emphasizes doing.
One has written that the “divine order” seems to be “do and tell” rather than the modern-day structure of “tell and do.”
When humanity sees the invisible God living in and through the people of God then the methods and techniques used by the church to gain attention for the gospel will not really matter. It will be the content of the Christian’s character that touches the hurts and needs, the interest and values of people bombarded by media messages.
Baptist hymn writer B.B. McKinney may have summed up this truth as well as anyone when he wrote, “While passing thro’ this world of sin/And others your life shall view/Be clean and pure without, within/Let others see Jesus in you.”
May the words of that hymn be true of every believer.