The coronavirus has pushed many churches in China to rethink and expand their online ministries. In this article from Good News Today, Franklin Wang, a pastor in Beijing, and Huang Lei, senior pastor of Xia-Shang Christian Church in Wuhan, share their thoughts on why Christians must begin to use media in their ministry.
Because of the length of this article, we divided it into two parts and posted Franklin Wang’s reflections last week; here are Huang Lei’s. thoughts.
What does a Frontline Pastor Make of New Media, and How to Use It? continued
Change Your Mind, and Use New Media Effectively
By Huang Lei
1. Use new media, and get into it
This is an era of rapid technological development, and also an era of new media. No matter whether we will use it or not, like it or not, or accept it or not, this is the era we have entered into and live in today. If we don’t get used to it, we will be eliminated—there is no question about it. It’s like credit cards and electronic payments—if the time has come when something is already in common use across the whole society, and we choose to go against the tide and reject it, not only will we be unable to function in society, we will also very likely find ourselves deceived.
In this current era of new media, the younger generation lives in it and learns about the world, even about God through it. I believe new media is not only a tool, it is also a platform, and even more, a territory, bringing the church into society and making the church more widely known publicly.
Will we use this tool or not, and enter this territory on this platform? The biggest problem is, if you don’t use it, then others will—if you don’t occupy this platform, other people will occupy this platform, this territory. It resembles a battlefront—if you don’t take it and hold it, someone else will. Because of this, you will end up paying the greater cost.
It’s just like the coronavirus—during this pandemic, our church urgently developed our new media work. We used different media to help, instruct, comfort, and pastor our congregation. If we had not done this, our congregation would not have stopped watching or accessing news using new media—They would have spent all day, every day, clutching their phones viewing things that would have made them terrified and panic-stricken, and even more uneasy.
On the first day Wuhan was sealed off, we began recording videos and messages, and every day we used these videos and messages to care for, pastor, instruct, and encourage our congregation. So, from the very beginning they could quickly recover from shock, loss, discouragement, and panic, and experience anew the peace and joy that come from Go. They could live and serve as normal. This was an extremely practical experience and example of new media being used well.
2. Change your mind, and use your voice well
It can be said that there is not one place, one moment, one matter, or one person that cannot be used to glorify God. The Samaritan woman and the prostitute Rahab were both used by God. Often, the major reason we reject or refuse to use new technology or new media is pre-existing bias, or a bad first impression—the idea that it doesn’t fit with tradition. It’s just like the case today where there are still people arguing that only pianos and not guitars are suitable for worshipping God, forgetting that in the past, people would only accept the use of an organ, not a piano. This is setting limits and restrictions on God.
Concerning the Chinese church: in the past, our attitude towards problems in circumstances, traditions, and even doctrinal issues has been to retreat from society and self-marginalize—the exact opposite of Jesus’ teaching to “go out into the world.” At the root of the problem were limitations imposed by our circumstances, and, most importantly, problems in our way of thinking. Our coldness towards the problems of society and public needs has meant that no matter how many believers the Chinese church has, its influence is extremely limited and disproportionate to its increasing number of believers.
In relation to public welfare, in terms of social responsibilities and concerns, there are shortcomings and a lack of engagement on the part of the church. This has made us unwelcome as a group in society. Now the era of new media has given the majority of pastors, churches, and individual Christians the opportunity to enter into the public sphere, and expound their own thoughts and opinions in accordance with the Bible regarding public affairs—this is extremely important. I hope church pastors can use this tool for good, use their voices on these platforms well, and lead their congregations to claim this sphere.
3. Overcome difficulties in using new media
In the process of using multi-media, many technologies and skills require learning and improvement; for many congregation members and pastors, this is a challenge. As far as pastors are concerned, many of them are accustomed to speaking to an audience; speaking to a camera is very difficult to get used to. Re-recording and editing is necessary, so is overcoming the psychological barrier, and improved technological know-how.
Of course, for Chinese churches, there is also the question of security. Everyone must be especially careful about the language they use, and be sufficiently prepared psychologically, and ready with alternative plans should the worst occur.
Of course, there are a few more things about using new media that need to be weighed and considered—for example, the question concerning how baptism and the Lord’s Supper can be administered when people are not meeting in person, and furthermore some ethical problems that we need to consider.
In short, for the church, new media is still in its newborn phase, especially during this coronavirus pandemic where we have been driven to extremes and forced to enter into an era where use of new media is an imperative and without it we cannot survive.
But, we cannot do this only for the sake of survival. We should look at this issue in a more positive light and claim the online territory for the kingdom of God. With every pastor becoming an expert in using these tools effectively, and every platform transformed, we will proclaim the truth of Christ, transmit his love, and lift up God’s banner!
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