Should Sunday Morning Be ‘Hot’ or ‘Cool’?

"Hot" Church

Who’s Watching the Watchmen?

This spring, the movie version of Alan Moore’s critically acclaimed 1986 graphic novel Watchmen was released. In the world of comic nerdom, there were outcries that the change of medium from comic to film was an unholy and sacreligious travesty.

The reason for the uproar was that the one of the most compelling parts of the Watchmen comic was its extremely complicated presenation and plot. It takes several reads to figure out what’s happening and to decipher how the comic’s structure relates to its message. In contrast, the recently released cinematic version is filled with 162 minutes of gory action and special effects, perfect for passively watching with a $10 tub of popcorn.

Comics Are Cool; Movies Are Hot

Though Watchmen junkies might be little extreme in their complaints, the difference between movies and comics is a classic illustration of what Marshall McLuhan called “hot”and  “cool” mediums, a distinction which classifies how much participation is required from a person to engage the medium. A comic is “cool” because it requires a reader fill in the sounds, smells, and details of what happens between the panes. In contrast, a film is “hot” because it completely envelopes a moviegoer’s senses and requires almost no participation or thought to grasp what’s happening. Continue reading Should Sunday Morning Be ‘Hot’ or ‘Cool’?

Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers (Review)

Why Johnny Can't Preach by T. David GordonThe Question

T. David Gordon believes that the majority of preaching today is rather poor, not so much in its content, but in its form as preaching. As a practitioner of preaching for decades and now as a professor of media ecology, Dr. Gordon is uniquely qualified to ask this question:

How has the movement from language-based media to image-based media and electronic media altered our sensibilities and how, in turn, has this change in sensibility shaped today’s preachers? (p.16)

Continue reading Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers (Review)

Five Things We the Church Need to Know About Technological Change: (1 of 5) Technology is Always a Trade-Off

This is part one of a five part series exploring Neil Postman’s lecture “Five Things You Need to Know about Technological Change” as it relates to church life and spirituality.

1. Technology is Always a Trade-Off

image When I was a youth pastor (that’s me in the orange at GBC), I desperately wanted to get a video projector. I wanted to be able to illustrate with video clips, play Halo with the kids, and display an outline of what I was teaching. After a long wait, a church member donated an old projector to the youth group and I was totally exited.

About six months later, however, I noticed something strange – fewer and fewer kids were bringing their Bible to church, and those that brought them rarely opened them during church. Was I the world’s worst youth pastor, I wondered? Maybe, but it might also have been that since the Scripture was always on screen, the kids didn’t feel any reason to open their own Bibles.

This is a classic example of how introducing a new technology tends to be a trade-off of some kind. These kinds of changes have been well-documented in society at large, but it is also true in the church. Here are a few examples:

  • In the 12th and 13th centuries, Benedictine monks created the mechanical clock to precisely regulate their seven periods of daily devotion, but the clock has also contributed to our fast-paced, often impersonal worship services today.
  • In the 15th and 16th centuries, the printing press brought personal copies of the Bibles which increased personal Bible study, but also decreased in the authority of the church and the reading of Scripture in community.
  • In the 20th century, transportation technologies like the automobile enabled us to drive to the church of our choice, but also tended to take us away from our immediate communities.
  • The 20th century also brought a host of media technologies like photography, radio, TV, and the internet. The microphone enabled the formation of today’s large (and mega) churches which allows pooling of resources and gifted teaching, but also lends toward congregants knowing very few of the people they sit next to.

Postman’s conception of