The Medium Is The Message

May 12, 2006

Perhaps I should have some groovy podcast on this blog so that my Sunday sermons could be made available to those who missed the worship gathering?

Not a bad idea. Apart from the fact that I would then have one more thing to add to my list!

I actually have significant concerns about recording sermons. While recognizing the potential benefit, I also feel that something is lost in the recording process.

Marshall McLuhan is attributed with the dictum, ‘the medium is the message’. My understanding of the statement is that we can’t simply take a truth and communicate it through various means without altering the truth itself.

‘Our tools shape us’ is another way of thinking about this. The T.V. is a tool for communication. It also has shaped an entire generation. The car. The computer. The internet. Think about how these tools, used by us to shape our world, have, in turn, shaped us.

No, really, take some time to think about it . . .

The medium is the message. When information about an event makes it to the evening news it becomes entertainment. The tool used to communicate the information (t.v. newscast) has also shaped the truth about the event.

God’s word communicated through a person is shaped by the preacher. Preaching is ‘truth through personality’.

But the preacher is not the only person in the room. The listeners also shape the truth. We alter that which we observe simply by our presence. There is no such thing as an objective listener.

The Spirit of Jesus present in the body of Jesus (aka church) also adds a dynamic that shapes the truth.

And so the message delivered from the Word by the preacher in the presence of the Spirit and in participation with the congregation is a truth-event that cannot be transmitted with accuracy through electronic medium.

If it is, the truth-event is then reduced to entertainment consumed by an individual.

Stay tune next week for my rant on note taking during sermons . . .

And come to worship on Sunday prepared to shape the message!

4 Comments. Leave new

Hmmm, interesting. I can see where you’re going with that, but I think that truth can still be found in a recording, and the spirit could still stir us up when we hear words that are right and good and true.

But even as I wrote that I know it was partly fuelled by how I hate missing out on a Sunday service!! HAH!

Dan + Katie
May 18, 2006 10:23 pm

To expound on Laura’s comment…

The most meaningful teaching and worship times I’ve engaged in are organic, experiential moments that cannot be captured and replayed to the same effect. However, I wonder if that precludes the value of recording these moments.

Where would we be if dutiful scribes had not recorded the stories and teachings of prophets, ordinary and extraordinary men and women of God, and, most importantly, of Christ? These scribes were the greatest sermon note-takers of all time. Their scrawl has become our bible on which we stake great faith.

Each medium comes with its own inherent discrimination. The blind cannot see, the deaf cannot hear, and the illiterate cannot read. I think stratifying your mediums makes the message more accessible. If we rely on one medium, we reduce the mobility of truth. The printing press opened the bible up to the world (at least, the literate world). Truth suddenly became portable. Perhaps if it weren’t for this, we’d still be drinking blood and reveling in pagan tradition.

So, is art any less valuable when the paint dries, music any less beautiful when inscribed on a plastic disc, or stories any less meaningful when committed to print. Yes – I believe so. Something is lost in the recording process. However, there is still value in a painting, a recording, and a book from antiquity. It holds no value in and of itself – it’s just material. But when we engage with it, we become part of the medium. We infuse it with our personalities and discover new truth.

Scott, might remote Christians and future generations arrive at new truths by dissecting your podcasts? Might they also discover present truths in this record?

In closing, I would like to add that if recording removes some of the spontaneity and freedom from your delivery, it would be a great misdeed. You have a gift and I would hate to see it compromised in any way. However, I disagree with the conclusion that “truth-events are reduced to entertainment when recorded.”

Wow, that’s a lengthy comment. Apparently this is my favored medium.

the church at southpoint » November 1st, 2009: Evangelism Series
November 2, 2009 10:19 pm

[…] I apologize for any continuity gaps in this week’s sermon. There was a lot of great interaction at the service so it’s hard to cut all that out and fully preserve the message. I guess that’s why it’s better to show up and contribute than listen to it after the fact: The Medium is The Message. […]

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