A group of Christian Reformed Church pastors and communications specialists met recently at Calvin College to discuss fresh, media-savvy ways of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
At the meeting, organized by The Back to God Hour (BTGH), pastors and others from across North America spent two days sharing media strategies and creative church-building techniques.
Pastors spoke about preaching on culturally relevant topics, such as how Christianity is portrayed in the music of the heavy metal rock band Metallica. Participants also talked about the value of holding services in coffee houses, of teaching the Bible through Internet blogs, of using postcards to advertize sermons on such issues as sex before marriage, and of helping churches to build biblically sound, easily accessible websites.
They also talked about putting up billboards along busy freeways and of going door to-door to give away cellophane tape – and a touch of Christian love – at Christmas time.
“It’s great to have so many unique voices in one room all with a passion for outreach media,” said Jerod Clark, a former TV newsman who now works for the BTGH. He helped to organize the meeting as a way of trying to determine how the BTGH can best expand its media ministry.
“Our goal is to build a ministry that is innovative and useful for churches,” Clark said. “The discussions we had helped confirm that we are on the right track in many areas, but it also challenged us to expand our original thoughts.”
Ministers participating in the meeting included John Van Sloten of New Hope CRC in Calgary, Alberta; Darrell & Barb Bierman from River City Church in Cambridge, Ontario; Everett Vander Horst of Shawnee Park CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Jeff Meyer of Crosswinds Community Church in Holland, Mich.; Mark Humphreys of Heartland Church in Tracy, Calif., and Ben Katt from Sanctuary Church in Seattle, Wash.
In some cases, the pastors spoke of the frustrations they have encountered trying to convince church members to try new – and often electronic – methods of evangelism and outreach. In still other instances, participants spoke of the need to maintain the integrity of the gospel while using the news media to present the message.
They also talked of how to approach and build relationships with reporters so that churches can better use the resources of newspapers, television and other forms of media to publicize their events.
“The CRC believes in the theology of common grace and of the spirit of God moving through all of the world,” said Van Sloten. “We try to start where Jesus is already at work in people’s lives – and oftentimes that can be the media.”
Whether it is talking from the pulpit about the value of using the interactive website Facebook or giving a radio interview about the theological flaws in the novel The Da Vinci Code, a pastor has many chances to let people know that Christianity is a vital, heart-changing religion, participants said.
“My goal is to use different methods to share my own testimony,” said Darrell Bierman of River City Church. “I want to be a vessel of God and be a spark that fans the flame of faith in others.”
Clark said there are a number of directions that this ministry could take. “It’s clear the group believes there is a great need in the denomination for website development, grant funding and consultation on communications resources,” he said.