The Role of the New Media in Evangelization

The salvation of souls is the supreme law.

Evangelization, in very simple terms, is the dissemination of the Gospel to the ends of the earth for the purpose of drawing humanity closer to God, to live a life of holiness “so that all might be saved” (Jn 3:16). This dissemination of the Good News is aimed at “making disciples of all nations” for Jesus. All Christians have a duty and a right to evangelize and to make disciples for Jesus Christ.

From the very way Jesus gave this mandate, he showed that direct, deliberate communication has a big role to play in evangelization when he said: “Go …teach”. (Matt 28: 19-20). By telling his disciples to “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation”, Jesus united the spreading of the gospel to communication. The Church down the years, in fact, has already self-defined on many occasions as itself being “evangelization” or “communication”. Simply put, to evangelize, is to communicate, to disseminate an idea, proposal, project, even a feeling related to the Gospel. To evangelize people is to employ all legitimate means to communicate with them. That is the field of media.

Evangelization covers the entire mission of the Church. It covers all the terrain and the horizons that touch the existence of humanity, which is the object of evangelization. After the first Synod of Bishops for Africa which took place in Rome in 1994, the Church in Africa adopted for its pastoral identity the theme: “The Church Family of God in Africa: You shall be my witnesses”. That theme shows an aggressively evangelical character and was laid out under five major activities namely: Proclamation, Justice and Peace Dialogue, Inculturation and Social Communication.

The Role of Media in Evangelization

Jesus Christ taught by word of mouth, but he used stories and parables, chose relevant locations like the sea, the mountains, or the plains to communicate his message for greater effectiveness.

According to Pope Paul VI in his message on the 1974 World Day of Communication, “there is the need to set the contemporary vehicles of information and allied services along a line of development which will facilitate the diffusion of the Good News and create a favorable climate for the strengthening of concepts such as the dignity of the human person, justice, universal brotherhood, values which make it easier for a man to understand his own true vocation and which at the same time open the way to a constructive dialogue with others and to union with God”. These words of the pope hit on the essential role of the media which is to facilitate not create, nor mutilate concrete values and concepts which the Church is sent to establish in human society and hearts.

Digital Media Tools as Inexhaustible Opportunity.

Perhaps a major opportunity which anyone under 50 years of age would readily root for today is the availability of New Media. By this, I mean all the media that today are driven by modern information technology, computers, smartphones, and the internet. These are more often referred to as social media. By some definitions, they are “web-based tools for interaction that, in addition to conversation, allow users to share content such as photos, videos, and links to resources…. They are digital platforms used for interaction and content delivery.”

These media are easily identifiable with young people and are generating a completely new culture of relationship and communication.

New Media offer almost unlimited reach to many today who do not go to Church, who cannot go to church and those who have left the Church. They offer an important facility for apostolate to those who cannot be reached by ordinary means, the homebound, the sick, the nomads, or the young people who are “natives of the social media”. Etc.

Imagine for a minute the efficacy of blogs as a forum for exchanges sharing of perspectives and explanation on practice, doctrines and values of the Gospel without people going through the stress of movement, weather etc? Imagine the functional usefulness of podcasts and videocasts for homilies, talks or teaching that have been recorded and then are further relayed on smartphones at relevant but remote venues to people who cannot be present at the event? Think for a minute about the speed and simultaneous nature of facebook live transmissions or the cheap accessibility of WhatsApp for sharing spiritual resources and material for evangelization?

Young people and others who are skilled in the use of these resources have their jobs well cut out for them. On the other hand, these media are so important that all agents of evangelization ought to learn to engage with some of them at least in order to be authentic and credible agents of evangelization.

If we share meaningful content, we can use social media to bring people into an encounter with Christ every single day.

AFTERWORD

In conclusion, It is necessary to throw the challenge of evangelization to every catechumen right at the moment of baptism so they understand from then that they are meant for mission.

Pope Francis, in his 2016 message for World Communications Day said that;

“Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology that determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal.”

We are in a paradigm shift, as profound as when the printing press made literacy a necessity or when television made the planet feel smaller. Paradigm shifts, like all major changes, are unsettling and uncomfortable.

NOTE:

THIS WAS A PAPER PRESENTATION AT ADAH JOHNZION’S WRITINGS’ WHATSAPP COMMUNITY ON 6TH JULY 2020.

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