Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Medium is the Message

I'm taking a class this semester called "gospel communication" which is basically a preaching class. That doesn't mean I'm in seminary to become a "preacher" but it does mean that I want to learn how to more effectively and confidently speak publicly about my faith. Some people laughed when I told them that I was nervous about having to speak in front of my classmates (Hannah? Scared of talking?) but it's true! Just because I ramble a lot doesn't mean I'm totally comfortable rambling in front of tons of people! But I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to learn, practice, and grow in something I know I'll be doing the rest of my life. (Maybe I'm just getting more comfortable being uncomfortable when I know it's for my good...!!)

Well, after that tangential introduction, I'll get to the actual point of this post. Preaching can, in a (very large) nutshell, be summarized as delivering a message. For the Christian, that message is, in a (not so large) nutshell, the gospel. So as a Christian preacher, a good question to ask is "what does it look like to preach the gospel?" Maybe your experience tells you "preaching the gospel" means someone shouting about "sinners" on the street downtown in an angry voice. Or maybe it makes you think of 90's Christian music and Billy Graham on stage. Or maybe you think of a pastor giving his congregation "7 steps" to being a good Christian. 

This book I'm reading for class summarized it like this: the medium is the message. So,
message = the good news of Jesus
medium = Jesus the Messiah. 
God didn't just peek out of Heaven (think Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and hand out a parchment with the cold hard facts. He came Himself, in human form. The medium is Himself the content of His message. The gospel is Jesus. Not 5 steps, not a list of rules, not any propositional truth in abstract reality. True to form, Jesus and His gospel challenge the religious and the non-religious alike. 

To the religious- it means that the affirmation of certain doctrines is not necessarily the good news Jesus brought. Why? Because Jesus did not just bring information. He brought Himself. He proclaimed His message in relationship with others; a relationship where He healed their diseases and cast out their demons; where He fed them, treated them with dignity, and washed their feet. A relationship where those He healed followed Him. If I as a "gospel communicator" think that my job is to pound information into heads, or if I think "my place in Heaven is safe" because I know which doctrinal boxes to check, I've missed the heart of the message and therefore have altered the message itself. I can't proclaim a message that's disconnected from the personality of Jesus. Whatever I say needs to be demonstrated in the flesh by the way I live. And I can't just fall back on what I "believe" in an intellectual sense; I'm called, as a Christian, to know Some One, not just some thing. 

To the non-religious- it means that the Truth is real and He is a real person who wants to be known. I can't just say, "my path to God is the one I choose because it works for me. God is loving and He just wants me to be happy! He doesn't care what I believe" any more than I can say, "my husband doesn't care what I believe about him or how I treat him; he loves me and wants me to be happy!" A real person wants real relationship. He wants to know and be known. This also means that His teachings can't be abstracted from who He claimed to be. I can't say, "Jesus was just a good teacher and I basically follow His principles, and that's enough." Jesus came as Friend and Lord, and if take His teachings but reject Him, I've missed the heart of His message and therefore altered the message itself. 

The beauty is that there's so much more to "belief" in Jesus than just swallowing difficult information or following the golden rule. It's about coming into contact with a real Person and embracing all that He is. Jesus- not a teaching, not a set of doctrines- is the Savior. He will change our beliefs about God and the way we live, that's for sure. But that's because the gospel (Jesus!) changes everything. 

"I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me." John 14:6


Juliana said...

thanks for this, Hannah - such a great picture and understanding of the Gospel in real relationship

Anonymous said...

What is the name of the book you are reading? I'm stephanies friend in florida and am in seminary as well. She's visiting me this week.

not a slave said...

And that's what make Christianity different than any other religion--the Incarnation!! amaaazing.

Hannah said...

Is this Kat? I remember you! The book is called "preaching the whole bible as Christian scripture" (I think lol) by Graeme Goldsworthy- another really good one we're reading is called "preaching Christ from the Old Teztament" by Gredannus (not sure on the spelling of that) solo helpful!

Nchao said...

Love your post dear! You are in inspiration to me hehe

Nchao said...

Read your post of course dear! I loved it and you are an inspiration and instrument of God! Love you