Journalists are notoriously a tough crowd. Some go to prison rather than divulge a source. A few are imprisoned or even shot for being mistaken as spies. They take the heat from important people for holding them accountable. And Christian journalists have no fewer pressures as they work hard to accurately explain how God is at work.
You may not be a journalist, but do you have a message of salvation from God? And how will you share it with those who need to hear it? Personal meet-up? Hand them a tract? Facebook them? Twitter it?
“The Lord sent Nathan” is how 2 Sam. 12:1 begins. The prophet, Nathan, told David a story and emotionally involved the King. David was upset that a rich man would take a poor man’s only lamb to feed his guest. Nathan stood and delivered one of the most famous judgments in the Bible, “Thou art the man.” David had caused Bathsheba’s pregnancy and her husband, Uriah’s death. Christian journalists and other thought-leaders have a “prophet” ministry not unlike Nathan’s.
John Yeats, Missouri Baptist Convention executive director, challenged 25 journalists attending a retreat for The Pathway to “encourage saints through transformational stories.” When Nathan spoke, David repented and the Lord spared his life. When Christian communicators share their stories, they should expect change.
Print-only journalism is dwindling in readership across America. From 2003 to 2011, the Newspaper Association of America reported that advertising for newspapers in print and online dropped by half. Some studies say that print journalism will not stop, but it will rather find its niche like radio has done.
Newspapers will never again dominate the secular news industry. The hardened write-or-die reporters constantly face the reality that they need to look beyond the literate word to fully communicate. Journalists – print, electronic, social media – must see readers or viewers as audiences.
The Millennial age group (ages 16 to 33) have a far more oral learning preference than any other U.S. age segment. They are a communications force that is personally engaged in embracing what is genuine and foregoing the slick, the formatted, and the scheduled delivery. They thrive on “real.”
Art Toalston, director of Baptist Press, introduced me to the idea of “mojo journalists” at The Pathway retreat. This new breed of field reporter shoots a still or video. They explain what they’re seeing verbally or in printed form and upload it UNEDITED to their company’s website. I have yet to know of a Christian news outfit doing mojo news, but there is a place for the raw, but can’t-look-away gritty reporting.
Christian communicators, especially journalists, can learn a lot from those with an oral worldview. Like Nathan standing before King David, they will tell stories out of their calling from God to their ministry. Will those reporting mojo stories let people who interact with their content (visual or story) draw out biblical truth? Users of smartphone and web-based media want to stay informed. They’re clearly blurring the lines of information and entertainment seeking a brave new world of entertainment.
The stuff we see, hear, smell, touch and taste are gateways to our minds – and ultimately to our hearts. The more senses that are engaged, the more effective the communicator will become. Brain theorists have noted that “emotions etch memories.” Experiential learning means more than “sitting and getting” whether it be by staring at ink on paper, text on screen, or via some other channel. As many leaders are beginning to say, “Don’t turn off your smartphones, but text out to your followers and friends the truths that the Holy Spirit teaches you today!”
The bottom line is that church leaders must help believers become truth-tellers who craft their own stories of faith. Will churches empower communication in the hands of those who dare to communicate as God sends them?