Mediocre Media

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.”

Revelation 3:15

In media production, a live event is called ‘hot’ media. Something fresh is always hot. Hot out of the oven, hot off the press, and hot topics are all examples of how we use temperature to communicate newness. A preacher preaching a sermon, or a teacher lecturing in a classroom are both ‘hot’ media in their presentation.

Likewise, an archived event is called ‘cold’ media. A cold case is one pulled from not recent history. A cold call is one made without any previous escalation or contact. Books, audio recordings, and video recordings are examples of ‘cold’ media.

Temperature and the Internet

There is an amazing correlation of these two temperatures with the mind of God and the variety of media available to us today. Rather than the Bible telling us: CDs are good; cassettes are bad– which are two types of media that are already irrelevant– the Lord uses universal and uncontroversial markers to help modern man identify what kind of material he’s absorbing, and how.

Additionally, the Lord engraves a clear line of right and wrong for media consumption. We pursue a stance of variety to ‘reach people where they’re at.’ Yet the Lord is quick to remind us that not all that CAN be done, OUGHT to be done. Because not only is the consumer affected by the hot and cold media, the producer is affected also:

“I know THY works…”

Revelation 3:15

In his exhaustive work, The Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures, Dr. Gregory Reynolds discusses the role of simple, verbal, live preaching in a technologically dominant society. He discusses in detail the perceived disadvantages of speaking to a live audience of people versus all of the visual aids available to ‘engage’ the audience. His thesis, published in 2001, was well before the age of the app and the blight of the smartphone, but his Scriptural applications have withstood the changing times.

The excellence of the monological nature of preaching is seen more clearly in its immediacy. “Sound … advertises presentness.” (Walter Ong, The Presence of the Word) For the preacher this is to be the presence of God Himself. As a living voice, preaching is not the same as the immediacy of the visual media in several  respects. Because preaching is content heavy it is, as McLuhan has observed, hot communication. Furthermore, when spoken in the church, it is spoken in a context in which knowledge of the message of special revelation already exists. The church possesses the written Scriptures, in which it meditates day and night. The church’s knowledge of Scripture allows it to search the Scripture like the Bereans even in the act of listening, as the church ransacks its memory in the preaching moment, as the church receives the preaching through the collective and individual grid of Scripture knowledge.

Reynolds, The Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures, p. 336

The preaching you get when you go to meet with other believers under a Bible-preaching pastor is HOT. Because there are things you can only do “in the preaching moment” that you will not be able to do later, or at all once it is over. Answering the call of God on your life, responding to the invitation, public confession of faith, commitment, and worshiping God are some MAJOR blessings given as the word of God is spoken.

There is also a role for ‘cold’ media. Reynolds continues:

On the other hand, preaching has all the power of cool communication in its immediacy. For in as much as it is God’s Word it is unarguable, and there is no space in the preaching event for argument. This is God’s design. The Preacher is not distracted by the audience, but is able to address it with singularity of purpose and effect.

Reynolds, The Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures, p. 336

As a cool media, it can carry the information long after its delivery. Whether it’s a day old, as the stenographers of the 1800s carried the sermons to the newspapers, or whether aged a hundred years, as the phonograph recorded D.L. Moody’s voice reading the Beatitudes, the message is still the same. Some messages were only meant for coolness, such as radio broadcasts or blog writing. They are able to be distributed, reabsorbed, and preserved for later use.

Coolness has its quirks though, as Reynolds relates:

Unlike the preaching which is transmitted on television the hearer cannot turn off the messenger with as much ease. As a totally cool medium television lulls the watcher into mental and spiritual sleep. The preacher is not and cannot be a real part of the watcher’s life.  And he is, all, just a watcher, not a listener. Even so-called “live” television is only an illusion of reality, a virtual reality. The truly live preacher demands and commands the listener’s attention. “When we hear the Word of God spoken by the mouth of men, we are ready to confine our attention to the visible speaker.”

Reynolds, The Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures, p. 337

Hot and cold communications have their positives (worship, response, obedience and preservation, distribution, reabsorption) and it would seem that a combination of the two would only produce something new and better. (Beware! Ecclesiastes 1:9) Such is the mindset of the TV generation and the medium of internet livestreaming.

Rather than get the combined values of the positives, the attempts to livestream, go online, and broadcast a church service have mixed and cancelled the positives, and leave the watcher with dry eyes and empty hearts.

The Hybrid ‘Benefits’ of Livestreaming

There is no answering of the Holy Spirit’s call.

There is no obedience or commitment.

There is no public confession of faith.

There is no worship.

A wise preacher rebuked the foolishness of internet ‘worship’ with this fiery essay:

"The Lord receives worship when we respond to what He says, when and where He says it. There is nothing "convenient" about true worship. The first time the word "worship" appears in the KJV1611, it is Abraham's obedience to what the Lord asked of him. Abraham did not pick either the time, the place, or the circumstances. 

The Lord chose the time, "Take now", and the circumstances, "thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest", and the place, "and get thee into the land of Moriah" (Gen 22:2).

These latter-day computer "saints' want the convenience of picking the time (on-demand access), the place (their sofas), and the circumstances (the preacher or sermon they want to hear).

The audience of Laodicea is lukewarm and is neither cold nor hot. This is the internet crowd that makes the Lord sick (Rev. 3:16). It is about convenience.

The hybrid media is also worthless as a means of preservation, due to censorship (oh, yes, it is happening every time you put a sermon online) preference-based browsing, (the internet knows what you like, and buries the truth, especially preaching), and advertising (you must exchange something valuable to access the internet; do you know you are for sale?)

Perhaps the joker of all hypocrisies in that you (small-town, unknown, backwoods preacher) are promised a WORLD-WIDE audience to ‘share the message of the gospel’. A discerning man who pays attention to the data will see quickly that ‘trolls’ and ‘bots’ crawl over your livestream ‘outreach’ far more than any real human. They not only prevent your livestream from ever getting public, but they also pad the ego of many foolish ‘internet preachers’ who think they are reaching the world for Christ. Foolishness!

“But, preacher,” a voice protests, “I can go back and watch it anytime, and I always get it better the second time!” The bait of reabsorption. I have been in a church service where a missionary presentation was going to be viewed from Youtube. The missionary chose this media because it was convenient to have it on Youtube. This missionary was far from a sensation, with only a few hundred views of his video. Yet when the sound man hit ‘play,’ instead of the missionary talking, the whole church was subjected to a pornographic display of sight and sound. Just a quick 30 second ad before you see this poor missionary’s years of work!

Needless to say, no one remembers the missionary. Sadly, they’ll NEVER get those images out of their minds. Is that the way Bob Jones, Sr., Billy Sunday, Ian Paisely, or John R. Rice want to be remembered?

I submit to you that internet livestreaming is neither hot nor cold: it is lukewarm.

“So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:16

We have not gradually seeped into lukewarmness, we have purposely mixed hot and cold. Instead of combining the benefits of heat and coolness in media, we are left with nauseating tepidity. Just like the Bible warned us.

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