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Sharing the gospel in the age of social networking and new tecnologies

Leonard Sweet leading a workshop
Leonard Sweet leading a workshop
Asbury UMC

Leonard Sweet, well known author and speaker, who is currently the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism and Dean of the Theological School at Drew University was a keynote speaker recently in nearby Madison, AL at the Asbury Global Impact Celebration and Prayer and Missions Conference. He posed the following question to his audience. Can the church move from the Gutenberg world into the Generation Y TGIF world? What was he talking about? He stated that the Gutenberg world was a world of words that began in 1439 when Johnannes Gutenberg used his recently invented mechanical printing press with moveable print to print the Gutenberg Bible. It ended in 1973 with the birth of Generation Y, which began with the invention of personal computers and moved quickly into the TGIF world with the birth of the World-Wide Web. What is the TGIF world? It is the world of Twitter, Google, I-Phones, and Facebook. All of these things have made this a world of social networking. Now some people may not think this has happened all that soon but consider the fact that we had a Guttenberg world for 534 years. By comparison 37 years is a relatively short length of time.
He stated that the Gutenberg world was a world of words and a world of individuals. The TGIF world is a world of images and stories and is about relationships. In the Gutenberg world everyone from the local grocer to the church was selling a product, a commodity. In the Gen-Y TGIF world what is being sold is a relationship and it is done through conveying images. It is also a world of social networking/relationships. There are approximately 6.6 billion people in the world and half of them, 3.3 billion have cell phones. In the TGIF world it is about connectivity.
Mr. Sweet stated that the church now needs to see that the Bible not as an orange that needs to be dissected, taken apart, chaptered and versed but as an apple that is digested as a whole. Another example he gave was that of his two children and their view of a bird. His daughter who is a biologist studied a dead bird and sees it as something that is dissected, taken apart, where there is objective truth, objective fact. While the son studied ecology/the environment and he studied a living bird and he saw the bird as something to learn about in its natural environment.
He stated that in this new world the church needs to see people as an apple, a living bird, something that is whole instead of taking them apart and judging them, critiquing them, and comparing them. Not only does the church need to change how it sees people but also how it sees the Bible. Instead of seeing it and studying it as chapter or verse it needs to seen as a whole and studied based on stories and images. He then told the story of creation and the fall of man as a whole story using images. He continued it to show how the story of Christ’s death and resurrection can be told as a fulfillment of a story and with images.
Mr. Sweet stated that if the church wants to continue to be relevant into the next century it needs to change how it conveys its message as well as how it establishes relationships with those who are the Gen-Yers who live in a TGIF world.
He also reminded his audience the TGIF are but the beginnings of the technological advances that have occurred since the inception of the personal computer. He shared some examples of technological advances that are on the horizon. He again stressed that if the church wants to continue to be a part of this world and continue to reach new people particularly those born after 1974 we need to stop thinking in terms of words and begin to think in terms of images and relationships. He gave examples to his audience of how Jesus was a man of images, relationships, and stories. The very best example of this was his use of parables.


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