Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Reflection from ‘A Social History of the Media’ by Asa Briggs and Peter Burke

Written by: on November 8, 2012

The impact of Media in society in Kenya has been revolutionized by the mobile phone. It is used for verbal conversation, to send text message but most importantly it is a great tool in economics. Most of the money transfers are performed using mobile money technologies. It is common to see churches giving the mobile phone pay bill number for paying tithes and offerings. The newer churches are more receptive to the revolutions in media, participating in radio and TV programs and some even owning and running radio and TV stations. Many have a website and stream their sermons online. Not so with the main stream churches such as the Presbyterian, Methodist and Anglican church leadership. They have not embraced the new technologies. Though the ‘book concentrates on the modern west’ the influence of media to the rest of the world over time is prominent (Briggs, 5).

In the past week, Newsweek, a weekly international news magazine ceased printing their weekly editions on paper and will avail news online. Print media at its onset was a powerful tool of communication, and the human agency was relevant in transmitting the message. So have the tools of communication. Empires were built based on the ability of the rulership to control the channels of communicating. In the African context they dictated the rhythm of the beat of the drums, the message they conveyed and the time and season that the drums would be played to send a particular message. Africans communicate orally and still do. The most successful companies are those involved in the media and communication. In Kenya Safaricom, the largest mobile phone provider earned their profits mostly from low denomination subscribers, who form the bulk of their customers. Africans engage in verbal communication and love great stories. The kinship bond is very strong and the communication revolution has taken root in the last decade. Before democratic movements and multiparty systems were established in the political arena, radio and TV was totally controlled by the government and censorship was monitored very closely. Growing up in the 1980s, there was only one radio and TV station, this sector was liberalized in 2002. There has been a surge of entertainers, media personalities and celebrities, categories that did not exist before the third millennium.

Preaching still remains a focal point of any church. A great preacher and communicator will propel the church to move forward just as it was from the time of Martin Luther. The role of the sermon still remains at the center of the church. Crowds still follow good preachers, unfortunately if the message they preach is warped, the crowds may be misled. Rituals as alternate forms of communication are common place in the church. These have been modified over time but they cannot take the place of the sermon during a worship service.

What then is the role of information, education and entertainment in my context? A group of about 1000 leaders met in Nairobi for the Global Leadership Summit organized by the Willow Creek Church in USA broadcast via satellite. Though the speakers shared from their context, it was easy to build bridges to my context. There were all these three elements. The church has to be sensitive to the younger generation of leaders who are influencing the direction that media takes. The founders of many of the internet companies like Google and Yahoo are young people below the age of thirty-five revolutionizing communication in our age. We must pay attention to them and allow them to express themselves. The issues of ethics and morality in the media cannot be ignored. Who will regulate the media?

This book gives a good overview of the social history of media from a western perspective though yet there was an opportunity to interact with the social history of media in the 20th century from a global perspective. For example, while writing about the aftermath of 9/11, it would have been helpful to consider the effect of western propaganda in disrupting the lives of the innocent lives lost in the Middle East. The church can learn a lesson and be careful about the ways in which it handles media considering the power of media to bring positive change or divisiveness.

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Joy Mindo

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