Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Media, Maturiy, & Missions

In an article entitled “Profile of Students Today: Preparing for Missionary Service” (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, July 2007), Marvin Newell states, “Many late adolescent young people today are four to six years behind the previous generation in sociological and psychological development.” Why is this so? Newell surmises that it’s because young people are saturated in a media culture that is very immature, that they have a vast number of life choices to wade through which, for the most part, their parents did not, and that they suffer from general information overload.

I am most persuaded by his first reason. It calls to mind Psalm 115:4-9: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.”

The idols of our culture are different from the ones mentioned here, but the principle remains the same: we will eventually take the shape of the idols, or the God, we worship. And when we allow our children to sit at the feet of the media culture for hours on-end every day—television, internet, video games, iPods, etc.—we set them up to become like the idols they behold.

When you think about this on a mass level, you see that the media choices we make for our children each day have a radical shaping effect on Christian culture and missions. When millions of our children know more about the latest video games than about the mission of God in the world, when they know more about their favorite television personalities than the person of Jesus Christ, we are going to meet with much difficulty when we try to recruit and train and send them to give their lives away for the sake of that mission, and of that person. How shall they be sent to tell of person they don’t really know? How shall they be sent to tell a story they don’t really understand?

All true missions is from the inside out; it is an overflow of love and worship that expresses itself in sharing the mercy one has received from God, in Christ. This cannot happen if our children aren’t being taught to behold the glory of God and to love him more than all else on this earth.

Those of you who know me know that I am not a thoughtless anti-media guy. I think when used cautiously the media can be enjoyed as a blessing from the Lord. I also think it can be used as a tool by which to build bridges into people’s lives and share the gospel with them. But you also know that I’m a big-time pro-Jesus guy who just wants to see parents and children love him more than anything else in their lives, including the internet and video games. The more eternal your God, the more eternal your joy. Media culture is far from eternal and therefore its joy is as fleeting as a vapor. Jesus Christ is eternal and therefore his joy is everlasting. All I want is maximum joy for our children and for the world!

Parents, I’m sure it’s obvious enough that the burden of all of this falls on us. We simply must take the lead and teach our children to recognize, articulate, prize, and praise the glory of God in all they do. And, of course, in order to do this, we’ll have to learn to do it ourselves. “O Israel [O Christian parents], trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.” Behold the Lord and you will become like him. You will become willing to follow wherever he leads you. Your God-given passion will bleed into the hearts of the next generation.

There’s much more at stake in the great commandment than we know, isn’t there? “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

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