The arrival of radio as mass media in the early twentieth century was heralded by many sincere Christians as a gift of God for propagating the gospel. Suddenly, there was a means of communicating God’s message of redemption with large audiences.
Theoretically, those noble hopes were sound. However, like many other evangelistic shortcuts, it simply did not materialize. If one was not ready to hear the gospel, all they needed to do was turn the dial. Additionally, radio was quickly commercialized and became financially prohibitive to cash-strapped Christian organizations. Even when finances were available, producing Christian programming to compete with world news or soap operas was beyond the expertise of most churches.
This evangelistic hope arose again with the advent of television. People now did not have to just listen to those dry sermons, they could also “see” them. Alas, what was true of radio was even more true of television. Costs of producing a simple program were often more than a church’s entire budget.
And, production was intimidating. The new local station in our city of Jackson, Tenn., at first gave 15 minutes a day to pastors for a devotional. However, preaching without an audience combined with the distractions of camera and light personnel (you could hear them talking to one another while you preached) proved so intimidating that pastors refused to participate; and the station dropped the spot.
The arrival of the latest mass media method — the internet — provides similar opportunities but with new twists. We can now tweet the gospel to the world for free. We can all be evangelistic programmers. For what it’s worth, I confess tweeting the gospel sounds like an oxymoron. God knows I am not a fan of the internet. However, I do not wish to belittle any honorable means of proclaiming the gospel. But remember before the arrival of our modern media, the gospel was spread around the world. It is recorded in the book of Acts.
Here is the Bible’s advice for doing it again: “How shall they hear without a preacher? … How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel” (Romans 10:14). Then again, they personally went house to house telling the story of Jesus (Acts 2:46). We have become lazy witnesses. Mass media is tempting; but the best way to tell the story of Jesus is face to face, house to house.
Wade Paris writes a weekly syndicated column, “The Shepherd Calls.”