By Rogier Bos
No doubt that the first church to ever use an overhead projector
was very innovative. At the time it must have been a very novel idea. It allowed us to
sing without hymnals and songbooks; it allowed the pastor to make draw illustrations and
write down bullet-points, and
it allowed children to make strange shadow
contortions. Okay, the latter wasnt the main reason for you to invest in an OHP.
screen is the stained glass window of the 21st century.
Electronic media are
the digital campfire of the 21st century."
Use of the Overhead projector is widespread in churches today.
Its a pretty safe bet that every church has at least one Overhead projector. The
church is quickly also becoming the only place where OHPs are still in use. All
around us, in media, advertising, the corporate world and academia, video-projectors are
replacing overhead projectors. Connected to a laptop a video-projector is a far more
professional tool. It allows the presenter to make sharp presentations, and to incorporate
clips of video, thus radically increasing the impact of the presentation.
Multi Media Ministry
More and more churches are catching the vision for Multi-media
ministry. Two days ago I attended the Back to the Future conference put on by The Centre, with guest speakers Michael Slaughter and
Len Wilson of Ginghamsburg church, Ohio. I had been receiving brochures for this
conference for a little while, but had never had the opportunity to attend. Convinced
however that postmodern people are more visually inclined than their modern predecessors,
I realized that at some point the electronic age might well come to our aid in our attempt
to extend the Kingdom.
At the end of the 20th century it we are literally
overwhelmed with images or impressions every day. Billboards, neon-signs and posters face
us wherever we go. At home our TV programs are interrupted every 8 minutes or so with 5
advertising messages. Our magazines and newspapers are filled with ads trying to attract
our attention. Madison Avenue knows how to get our attention, deliver their message, and
motivate us to buy the product, call the 800-number, or visit the website.
Message and Medium
All of this sits against the background of a large shift that is
taking place in our culture. The Postmodern era is replacing the Modern age, and it places
an enormous emphasis on holism, especially when it comes to how we approach human being.
Where Modernism emphasized our rational ability, at the expense of the spiritual and
emotional aspects of our humanness, Postmodernism seeks to restore a proper holistic
understanding. In the Postmodern era we understand that man has 5 senses, and he learns
best through the use of all of them. Any message will be more effective if it delivers its
content on a number of levels at the same time. Form becomes an integral part of content,
or, as Marshall McLuhan put it, the medium becomes the message.
Ginghamsburg church makes every effort to
offer a multi-sensory service. Michael Slaughter, senior pastor, of this church, and
author of the book Out on the
Edge : A Wake-Up Call for Church Leaders on the Edge of the Media Reformation,
says it is essential that the church understand the impact of electronic media. Actually,
he calls it this media reformation a life-or-death issue. In his view, electronic media is
to the Postmodern era, what Gutenbergs press was to the Modern era.
A little about Ginghamsburg
Ginghamsburg is a little village in Ohio consisting of 22 houses.
When Michael Slaughter took over the pastorate in this church in 1979, which is part of
the United Methodist denomination, some 90 people attended the church. Last weekend some
3800 came to church at Ginghamsburg, where they attended one of Ginghamsburg four
The church started using Multimedia on Dec. 17th, 1994, and has done so
every Sunday since then. "The first 6 months were terrible," says Slaughter, who
motivated his desire to pursue this direction by saying "Weve got to do this,
because our children are doing it. This is the language they speak." These days
Slaughter preaches in front of a 20" screen, which, throughout the service, always
has something projected on it. The church employs a number of video and graphics people,
among them a full-time animator.
"God gets our attention not through cerebral abstract
ideas," says Slaughter, "but through vision." It seems to work for him;
last year 65% of the people going through the New Members Course were previously
Where do they come from? Ginghamsburg is 6 miles from Tipp City,
which has 3000 people, and 16 miles from Dayton, Ohio, a city with 180,000 people. The
strategy of the church consist of the following elements:
- Celebration. How do you help people have a genuine worship
experience in the postmodern culture, asks Michael Slaughter. Because, he says, it is not
just about information transfer. His hope is that people will encounter God in a real and
- Cell. In the postmodern era, says Slaughter, people are desperate
for real relationship, as opposed to the superficiality they often experience.
Cell-ministry is a core principle of Ginghamsburg, but with a twist. Noticing how busy
many people are, and how much time they have available for church, all the ministries are
cell-groups themselves, allowing the church to extend pastoral care to people at the same
time that they come and do their service.
- Call. The church sees it as its mission to connect people to their
God-given destiny. Hence, the church is not just about conversion, but also about
Besides this Ginghamsburg church is also actively involved in a
large number of goodwill projects. Says Slaughter: "That is the influence of Wesley
in me, that believes that Gods Kingdom always needs to be demonstrated by the
pursuit of social justice and mercy."
Mention Multi-media to anybody in church leadership, and chances
are any number of the following objections will be raised.
- Multi-media is too expensive. "Not true," says Slaughter.
"You can do an awful lot of multi-media for $20,000, which is far less than the cost
of maintaining an organ
" That is still a lot of money, but you dont even
have to start there. During the conference Slaughter and Wilson provide a four step
approach to setting up a Multi-media ministry, allowing a church to start small, and build
up from there.
- One could also object that we do not necessarily need to copy
everything we see around us. Do we need to do what the world does? Well, argues,
Slaughter, our message certainly deserves it. Its the principle of incarnational
ministry - Jesus comes to us in a way we can understand. He comes speaking our language.
He comes telling us stories. He appeals to our imagination by using metaphors. Where the
Pharisees utilized a principle driven form of communication, Jesus uses the oral tradition
- Do we need to tailor to the postmodern world? Actually, argues
Slaughter, the multi-sensory service is a return to the premodern rather than a turn to
the postmodern. Services in the grand cathedrals of Europe were an experience more than
anything else. Stained glass windows told the stories of the Bible in Technicolor. Rich
musical traditions were created and used to exalt God and enrich the worship of the
church. Incense provided an encounter of smell, that could last for days, and in the
Eucharist people could, in a way, taste God. Says Slaughter: "The media screen is the
stained glass window of the 21st century. Electronic media are the
digital campfire of the 21st century."
It is crucial that we return to a multi-sensory approach to
church. As Slaughter puts it, "We cannot teach in the same linear way, and expect our
kids to listen."
How they do it
As the careful reader will have discerned by now, Ginghamsburg
shares a number of similarities with Willow Creek. There is an emphasis on reaching
seekers through felt-need evangelism. A heavy use of media, imagery and drama are further
similarities. But although Slaughter agrees with Hybels that we live in a culture in which
people do not like to sing, where Willow Creek is based on the principle of observation,
Ginghamsburg is based on the principle of participation.
A further difference is the difference in the planning process.
While Willow Creek plans its services weeks in advance, at Ginghamsburg the creative
process does not start until the Wednesday before. "We meet at 9:00 AM on Sunday
morning," explains Slaughter," and at that moment we have nothing other than a
general theme. We have no idea what will be going on on Sunday." By Sunday they will
have developed that theme into a full service, with a sermon, an image that captures the
theme (<<< see examples), animation, music, and a drama (which is written on
Wednesday and rehearsed on Friday and Saturday).
Slaughter likes it to a newspaper: How long in advance do they know what is going to be on
the front-page the next morning?
Such an approach can only work with a large pool of people to draw
from, and a strong emphasis on team ministry. Just how large that pool is becomes clearer
when Len Wilson, who oversees the whole Multimedia department, says that he has just over
100 people he can call on.
the Postmodern age there is no more room for Thomas Edisons. This is the age of networking
The emphasis on team ministry is decidedly different from the old
hierarchical paradigm, says Slaughter. "In the Postmodern age there is no more room
for Thomas Edisons. This is the age of networking and collaboration." Even his own
sermons are a team-effort, because, says Slaughter, how could I ever know how to address
every experience that people can have? This way, the sermon draws not just on the
experience and wisdom of one person, but on the wisdom and experience of a whole group of
Pushing the envelope
It is obvious that Ginghamsburg is one of those churches that is
seeking to interact with its context as creatively and well as it can. Slaughter has a
clear idea of what the church is about, as he expresses his Kingdom focus and explains his
99+1 mentality. "Its very simple," he says.; "Jesus makes it very
clear. When 99 are safe and in a good place, but one is missing, then all the efforts, all
the resources, all the strategizing, all the planning, and all the attention go into one
thing: finding the missing sheep." Behind him on the screen one testimony after
another impacts the audience with Gods love for every person - in Technicolor.
Rogier Bos and his wife Sophie live in
Palm Desert, California. He is the editor for NEXT WAVE.
Click here to respond to Rogier's article.
[^ Back to top]
[Back to Current Issue]