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Media in this Generation
Prosaically, media incorporates content and the distribution platforms that deliver content to the end user or consumer. It may be distributed experientially or through the use of remote technology. Generationally, the most relevant types of media to my discourse are powered by technology. They include social media, interactive gaming, content apps, news websites and the like. To illustrate the importance of technology to media, I will share some statistics on Nigerian social media use with you:
- Internet penetration in Nigeria as at January, 2016 is 54% (NCC). With an estimated 92,000,000 connected people, Nigeria has more individuals with access to the internet than the entire population of the UK. (It is interesting to note that according to the National Population Commission, over 40% of our population is under the age of 35 years.)
- Broadband penetration in Nigeria as at August, 2016 is 13% and is projected to grow to 76% by 2020 (Ministry of Communication Technology).
- Mobile phone penetration in Nigeria is fast approaching 100% (NCC).
- There are 16 million active users on Facebook.
- There are over 10 million active users on 2go.
- There are over 3.5 million active users on Twitter.
In Nigeria, social media is now:
- Where breaking news is heard first.
- The arbiter of culture and popular language.
- A platform for following role models and receiving mentorship.
- An oracle of real-time information and knowledge.
- A generational platform for expression.
- An arena for political activism and advocacy.
- A wealth creator and employment opportunity.
- A platform for accessing the powerful and successful.
- A facilitator of friendships and romantic relationships.
Social media has become an ecosystem of thoughts, ideologies, commerce and relationships. It sits at the connection point between ideas, pop culture and mass behaviour. In view of the foregoing, can any Christian Creative afford to ignore the culture shaping influence it wields? I think not.
The Essence of the Logos
In the 1st chapter of the biblical book of John, the Apostle whom Jesus loved brings to us a curious revelation of the person of Christ – The Word. In the original language, Word is really Logos, a Greek concept that predates Christianity. It was first propounded by the philosopher, Heraclitus. Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC) used the term Logos to describe a divine principle of order and knowledge; the animating theory pervading the Universe. The Logos is the Universe’s premise or raison d’etre. As a construct, it appeals to logic. (Indeed the word, logic is derived from it.) According to Heraclitus, ALL things happen according to the Logos.
In referencing Heraclitus, we glimpse through John’s revelation, the full import of God’s media platform known as The Word. It is a personage, animating force and operating principle. As an operating principle:
- The Word captures God’s ideology and belief system.
- The Word is the propagation system for God’s brand. (In addition to logic, we get the modern word, Logo from Logos.) Any wonder why the Bible states that once you see the Son, you see God? The Son is the full manifestation of the Father (John 14:9). It is much the same way in which the logo, dynamic ribbon and contour bottle of Coca Cola have become global representations of the corporate entity known as the Coca Cola Company.
- The Word changes mind-sets and shapes reasoning and behaviour. Romans 12:2 NKJV tells us to not be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that [we] may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
- The Word convicts sinful hearts. Hebrews 4:12 NKJV says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
- The Word promotes moral decorum. Psalm 119:9 NKJV says: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.”
- The Word provides direction. Psalm 119:105 NKJV says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
- The Word is a powerful creative force and is the technology through which the unsubstantiated becomes substantiated. According to Hebrews 11:1 NKJV, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Verse 3 declares, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Romans 10:17 NKJV then tells us, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
The Logos is so important that another curious scripture underscores its significance. Psalm 138:2 NKJV tells us, “I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name. For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name.”
In the original language, the scripture declares God has exalted his Word above his “name” – fame, reputation and monuments.
In the New Testament, God democratises his Word. As an ideology shaper and culture & behaviour modulator, it is no longer locked away in monuments called church buildings or restricted to the exclusive interpretation of Priests and Prophets. It is now available to the world and the body of Christ in books, on tablets and in apps. In 8 years, YouVersion has been downloaded over 230 million times, an average of 3 million downloads a year.
Technology is the next move of God and his plan for disseminating his media – the Word. Just like the invention of the printing press led to the massive availability of God’s word, new media is God’s next ace! The church CANNOT afford to miss it! Through technology, the scripture in Psalm 68:11 NKJV will be fulfilled: “The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it.”
Now guess who God is counting on to transform his philosophy into content and distribution channels for the world? The Christian Creative! No other group of people has been blessed with the imagination, creativity and media savvy to do so.
Media and Behaviour
The media consumed by a generation shapes their taste, culture and behaviour. If Christian Creatives do not lead the charge in providing inspired media content, the world will.
According to Google, in 2015, the regional interest for porn in Nigeria was above 80. (A nation attains a rank of 100 for a subject anytime searches about that subject exceed 10% of all total searches.) In a recent survey of 400 bookings on Jack & Jil Therapy, a leading provider of confidential telephone counselling in Nigeria, 44% of bookings were for addiction to porn & masturbation. Media feeds behaviour. In a TED Talk by Gary Wilson, a neurologist, he explains that consistent consumption of porn rewires the brain of developing teenagers, leading to desensitisation, a drop in libido & willpower. Essentially, “as a man thinks, so he will become”.
Who is shaping the tastes of this generation? Christian Creatives or the world? Who shaped the musical tastes of this generation in the last 10 years? It takes as long as a decade to reverse a cultural trend. Once a generation crosses their teenage years, all you can do is manage what has been done. This explains why if you want to change generational culture, the target audience must be children and developing teenagers. If the Church does not begin to provide generationally relevant content for young people TODAY, it will play catch up for the next 10-20 years.
What the Church (and Christian Creative) Should do
I am intrigued by the Church model presented in the biblical Book of Ephesians. Chapter 4:11-12 NKJV reads:
“11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”
If you take some time to study the preceding 3 chapters as one argument, the picture you will get is this: The Church is a training and resource institution that shapes the minds and builds the lives of Christians. It equips these Christians so they become a united & purposed strike force whose job is to demonstrate God’s love to the world (through good works), his wisdom to authorities, the boundlessness of his Grace towards sinners and his family to fellow believers. Therefore:
1. Church should identify, teach, groom and ground Christian Creatives in God-centred ideology. Christians should then be deployed into the world to develop ground-breaking media that shapes culture and generations. These Creatives must move beyond edifying the body of Christ alone to doing the work of the ministry in the world as well. The Christian after all, is the salt of the earth and not the salt of the Church.
Matthew 5: 13-16 NKJV tells us: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
I like how the Message Bible puts Ephesians 1: 20-23: “All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.”
The primary target audience of the church is the world.
2. Creative people need to plug into the Holy Spirit to receive revelations of the dimensions of the Word that are relevant to culture. Dimensions of the Word include:
- Love, romance & sex (Exemplified by Song of Solomon).
- Socio-cultural issues including gender, tribe and religion (illustrated by Jesus’ enlightened discussion with a 5 times divorced Samaritan woman).
- Politics and activism (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego).
- Business and venture capital (Parable of the Talents).
- Friendship (David and Jonathan).
- Healing and comfort; grief and pain (Psalms).
- Melancholia & angst (Ecclesiastes).
- Philosophy (Proverbs).
- Sci-fi (Ezekiel and Revelations – Imagine the CGI potential of representing the “four creatures” or the “wheel within a wheel”).
What God is telling us through the variegated content in the Bible, is that there are different topical issues that are fair game for the Christian beyond worship & adoration. These issues can be spoken about and may become content for music lyrics, film scripts, books, social media content, games, apps etc. In essence, the Christian Creative is not limited!
It’s time to shake off the shackles of a religious outlook to take the Word to the world and redefine culture! Again I repeat, Christians are the salt of the earth and not the salt of the Church. Our target audience is the world and not the church. Our market has always been bigger than we realised. No one is limiting us but us. In fact, because we have access to the mind of Christ, our level of quality, creativity, excellence and execution should be higher than the world’s, else we put the Father to shame and open up Christ to ridicule.
What should differentiate the Christian Creative’s content from that of the world? Philippians 4:8 NKJV provides a pretty good guide:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” These are the values that should undergird our content.
(Please read my follow up post on Economic & Wealth Creation Models for Christian Creatives.)