A number of people have asked me about the recent Poets Prophets Preachers conference. This is the third of four brief summaries and reflections of the conference highlights. These will be posts that are relevant for everyone – even those who do not consider themselves Poets Prophets or Preachers.

The Medium is the Message – Shane Hipps

Hipps is a former advertising guru who is now a pastor. He has been impacted by the works of Marshall McLuhan on technology.

The conventional evangelical approach toward communication has been, “The Methods change, but the Message stays the same.”

This approach is flawed because the Medium is the Message. The medium is never neutral in communication. The medium is incredibly powerful.

We must recognize the impact that technology has historically had upon faith, preaching and worship. The communication era always influences the faith and practice.


MID AGES: —-Mystery —- Bible Stories — Eucharist as Central — Sanctuary

PRINTING: —Linear ——- Theology —– Abstract Lecture ——- Lecture Hall

BROADCAST: Image ——- Stories ———- Attractive & Practical — Theater

INTERNET: –Interactive – Community —- Voices in Conversation – Coffee Shop

There are strengths and weaknesses of each of these communication eras. Today we live in a world shaped by all four of these eras. Our context is that complex.

We should have a prophetic distance from new technology and communication, being slow to embrace or reject it. We need to know what every medium does to the audience and discern if that is the right goal for the time.

Example 1: Words release our imaginations. Images limit imagination but provide shared experience. Audiences will always choose the image over the word.

Example 2: The audience will always choose a projected image of a person on a screen over a live person. The large screen gives instant authority. However, the screen also creates a celebrity and reduces the audience.

In the end we follow the example of God in the incarnation – the human being is the medium and the message. Who we are as people is the message that is ultimately communicated.