I finished reading this book on the plane home from the conference last night. Wow – this is heady stuff. I had studied McLuhan briefly a few years ago but this book really helped me put his theories into the context of Internet ministry.Â Those theories can be summed up in McLuhan’s famous saying: “the medium is the message”.
The author of this book, Shane Hipps, takes a look at how the church has tried to see technologies such as radio, TV, and now the Internet, as just another tool and that as long as the “message stays the same” then the medium used to transmit it does not matter. This line of thinking has led the Church to embrace all technologies and not consider how the use of the technologies themselves send a message. Hipps does not say that technology is bad, only that we need to be informed about how the use of a technology can change our message.
One recurring example that he uses in the book is the differences between the writings of Paul and the gospel narratives of Christ’s life. When the medium used is print, the logical and complex thinking of Paul is best conveyed, allowing us to study and understand it. However, as the medium moves back towards images (television, Internet), the stories of the gospel are more easily conveyed.Â Think about it: can an image be used to convey some of the complex theology of Romans? No, but an image can easily help us understand part of the story of Christ (think about a picture of the Last Supper or of the parable of the Good Samaritan).
As I plan on teaching a course in Internet ministry at Biola this spring, I am strongly consdering using this book as a resource. For more on the book, check out the web site and also this interview that Cynthia Ware of the Digital Sanctuary did with the author a few months back.