The Lord gave the word:
Great was the company of those that published it.
Great was the company of those that published it.
Thank you for the invitation to reflect with you on the Gospel and new media by responding to your questions. God be praised!
When did you first become interested in a "media ministry"? And Why?
There is nothing better than the good news of Christ Jesus crucified for sinners. His death is endless life and inexhaustible joy for all who hear and believe. And His life is such that the more who hear and believe, the more joy there is. I've always desired for more to hear of Christ, to rejoice in His life and death, to trust in His promises. And, since finding the simplicity of the Gospel in our Lutheran Confessions, I've had a desire for more Christians to come to the comfort of the proper distinction of Law and Gospel.
Media has been a means to that end. If there are tools, platforms, or arenas for publishing the Gospel of peace, I've tried to bring the name of Jesus to these places. It is good to remember that sermons, books, letters, etc., are all media, and the Holy Spirit has been pleased to use these from the beginning.
When we hear "media" we mostly think of electronic media, and new media, which have their own unique characteristics, benefits, and dangers, and deserve careful thought.
Do you have a "philosophy" (or perhaps a "theology") of media use?
Regarding new media creation (YouTube, podcasting, websites, etc.), it is most important not to take it too seriously. A playful and experimental approach is best. The Lord's people need local congregations, His body and blood, the fellowship of the saints. They don't need YouTube. That's a bonus. A playful approach ensures that we don't take ourselves too seriously, and these platforms, which were created for the individual creator, respond best (in my observation) to a playful approach.
Regarding the use of media, it is good to embrace a "ministerial use" of media and technology rather than a "magisterial use." The media should serve the Lord Jesus, and our love for our neighbor. The Ten Commandments guide and govern our use of media.
Regarding technology and the life of the church, it is helpful to remember that the Word of God travels out but the sacraments gather in. The Word can be preached over a distance, written and sent in letters, published in books, posted on the internet, etc. Podcasts, online video, blogs, etc. are great forums for the teaching and preaching of the Word. On the other hand, the Lord's Supper and Baptism always call us back to a particular place with particular people. There is no online communion or virtual baptism. (This helps us resist the always present temptations of Gnosticism.)
What challenges or barriers did you encounter along the way, and how did you address and overcome them?
My congregations have not always understood the value of the work. I remember a council meeting in 2005 where a few people asked, "Do we really need a church website?" A strategic approach was to make sure the projects were not expensive, and never to neglect the face-to-face pastoral work in place of the online efforts.
Personally I fight against boredom, distraction, and consistency regarding media creation. It helps to have a partner ( Table Talk Radio, Wolfson Creative). If I have a solo project I begin with sorting out the simplest way of creating and publishing the media. I eschew the second take.
About ten months ago I dropped off of all my social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) except YouTube. This forced me to start working on this problem: "How can we communicate with people apart from social media?" This is difficult work, but there is great danger in the public square becoming private property.
What technology (hardware, software, apps, platforms, etc.) were and are instrumental in your work?
Talent (graphic design, web work, editing, etc.): Upwork
Podcast: Anchor (I've used a lot of different platforms, and anchor has been very simple)
For podcast recording: I have a professional mic at home and church and use an iRig 2 adapter to send the audio to my phone or computer.
For YouTube videos: I made a promise to myself early on that I would do all the work on my phone: recording, editing, publishing, etc. This is still mostly true.
Filming: Samsung Galaxy 10
Mic: Rode Lav
Editing software: Kinemaster
I keep template descriptions in Evernote.
We use fancier equipment and editing software for our church services but now we outsource the editing work.
What is your current reach and impact — not only in numbers, but I expect you have some stories of individuals who have reported back to you.
We recently did an audit of the international reach of our online work. The worldwide Bible Study has participants from a dozen different countries. The YouTube channel has significant views from 49 different countries. The channel is approaching two million views with 17,500 subscribers.
It has been wonderful to hear from people around the world who have discovered the Gospel and the clarity of our Lutheran theology through online teaching.
Assuming the Spirit's continuing blessing, what are your future plans with your media ministry?
I hope to keep experimenting with different ways of teaching online. I've been puzzling over incorporating a story arc into theological teaching, and how a vlog format might be hijacked for the Gospel.
I would like to provide outlines of major theological works for free distribution, and for translation into every major language.
I'm also interested in mixing media, and I've been experimenting with publishing a book with a QR code on each page, linked to a video explanation of the text. I'm interested in doing the same with art.
This grows out of the overall effort to make orthodoxy assessable.
Anything else you think is important?
Here are a few closing thoughts:
- It is important to have your own place (website, email list). If everything online is on other platforms, it can easily be taken away.
- There should be two goals for all online work: 1) Christians are brought to church, and 2) Theologians are reading old theology books. I'm always working everything in these two directions. (We have a find-a-church feature to help with the first goal.)
- The truth is joyful. The devil afflicts us with theological boredom (acadia, which Luther discusses in connection to the 3rd commandment [Large Catechism I.99]). We do not fight boredom with entertainment, but with joy, a delight in the truth and goodness of God's Word.
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