Media is a powerful tool, and is used to teach, train, influence, tell great stories, bring awareness, stir emotion, persuade, and engage. Billions are spent on production and distribution, and media reaches every corner of the world. On YouTube alone, 2 billion videos per day are watched.
Even in the most remote and destitute spots in third-world countries, media is being consumed and having an impact. At the writing of this post, I’m just about to leave for my 3rd mission trip (in as many years) to the Dominican Republic. Each year I see art and media used to reach children in powerful ways. The combination of children’s ministry, missions, and art is a powerful mix.
During our first trip we visited children in one of the Bateys (pronounced bah-tey) in a remote area of the country about as far west as you could go before crossing the border into Haiti. They lived in shacks, were half-clothed, and had no running water, but one boy kept calling me John Cena (a WWE Wrestler). I had heard about John Cena and knew he was a wrestler/entertainer, but didn’t know much about him. Finally I asked the boy where he saw wrestling and he said he saw it on television. Apparently, they had tapped into some nearby electricity and were able to wire it to one television in the camp…and this kid knew who John Cena was and was excited to talk about it. Each year, we have also painted murals for various ministry purposes.
Last year we produced the animation for an orphan ministry’s curriculum being used in 5 different languages and the missionaries tell us that the kids want to watch it over and over again. Media has a way of transporting hurting kids into a world that’s better than their own. Through it we can point children in the worst situations to Christ, hope, love, wisdom, and encouragement. At Timbuktoons two of our core values are, “Childhood is Important”, and “Art Matters”. This is our calling. It’s one of the main reasons Timbuktoons exists. Children are attracted to characters, scenes, and creative lettering. Art has always had a powerful impact on viewers, whether it’s a mural, or a cartoon.
The use of current media reminds me of how Jesus used parables. Jesus used parables to deliver his message in a way that would effectively engage his audience. These were short stories involving everyday people and familiar situations (farming, fishing, etc.) to teach spiritual truths. They were simple yet profound. Parables were the story telling medium Jesus used. The definition of a medium is: “One of the means or channels of general communication, information, or entertainment in society.” Jesus didn’t just tell stories. I believe He entertained. It was truth with a capital “T” delivered in an entertaining and unforgettable way. I guarantee, hanging out with Jesus was never boring. People were drawn to Jesus and wanted to be around him. He was a master storyteller and an incredible entertainer (and I say that with absolute reverence and awe). Crowds followed him everywhere.
Jesus did not withdraw from culture. He invaded culture. Figuratively and literally. He chose to invade history before the invention of television, the internet, movies, iPads, and video games, but we have those things today. Motion Graphics and Cartoons are some of the most powerful mediums of the day. The children that you and I are called to reach today are visual learners and because of the sheer volume of media around, they are extremely visually savvy. Couple that with the fact that there are millions of unreached and unchurched children we need to reach. By creating art and media with a similar visual style to what they see on TV, we can build an immediate bridge and begin to break down walls.
Centuries ago, the world looked to the church for images to help communicate scripture. Renaissance artists like Michelangelo or Durer, or Baroque artists like Rembrandt, were used in amazing ways and they set the standard for the arts of their day. Their art was the best around and they used the medium to depict Biblical scenes that are seen today as national treasures. We need to do the same today with our visual media, our branding, and our environments.
The average. 8-13 yr. old spends 48 hours per week consuming different forms of media. This is unhealthy for sure, but to build a bridge we’ve got to learn all we can about these image-rich kids so we can reach them where they are. We are the storytellers, missionaries, and bridge builders to this generation. Acts 13:36 says that David “had served God’s purpose in his own generation…” We too have a specific calling from God to the current generation. Let’s study American culture just like we would study the culture of an un-reached people group in Papua New Guinea, or in the 10/40 window. Then let’s be real about what competes for their time and attention and let’s use that to our advantage as we develop art and media that connects.