This is part two of an ongoing opinion evaluating the pervasive and corrupting influences of fame and the Internet and social media that makes it easier than ever to reach a lot of people. For part one, click HERE.
I wonder how these men relate to their co-workers back at their home ministries. Do they consult with them? Hey, I got another invite, what do you think? Do their co-workers ever roll their eyes and think, “wow, there is a lot of work to do here!” In their absence, at another conference, another week or weekend away, the ministry goes on. The question is worth asking…which is more valuable, more worthwhile, more godly? Speaking to 1500 people in a large conference center, or 5 people at a home Bible study? Preaching to five thousand or fifty? Can influence really be evaluated numerically? What is the relationship between impact and name recognition, and whose name is being recognized? How can I consistently talk about the dangers and malaise of U.S. culture, being immersed in a context that promotes everything that I say I oppose—a big stage, media hype, buffet meals and superstar status?
Malcolm Muggeridge wrote much about the influence of the medium on the message. We was particularly critical of the corrupting influence of television on society. He wrote this, “On television I feel like a man playing piano in a brothel; every now and again he solaces himself by playing ‘Abide with Me’ in the hope of edifying both the clients and the inmates.” What would Muggeridge say about the all-pervasive influence of the Internet in our lives? How should Christians conduct themselves on social media? How do mega-conferences promoted by cyber-sites promoting nationally-known Christian celebrities impact our hearts as people, as a people?
Until the Internet, the direct influence you could have on people (and those who could directly influence you) was pretty much limited to those people with whom you enjoyed some sort of personal contact, or interacted with via letters or telephone. Add to that movies, music and books, but even these pre-digitalized media where cumbersome to access, nearly impossible to distribute, and needed to be physically stored somewhere. The Internet radically changed all of that. Suddenly you could “make a difference” and “impact the world” in a much more dynamic and efficient way. Or could you?
If Jesus were alive today, would he use the Internet? Would he make 12 disciples online? Would he reach his five thousand Facebook friends limit? Would he tweet five times a day? Would he attend all the big conferences, talking up disciple-making, while Peter and John watched him on streaming live video? What invitations to speak would he receive, and which would he accept? Or would he refuse to be sucked into a celebrity crazed culture, and be ostracized (crucified) for it?