04 February 2011
What a Book on Cassette Tape Ministry Taught Me About Social Media
The other day I came across this book at my local used bookstore: The Comprehensive Guide to Cassette Ministry: How ordinary Christians can have extraordinary impact for the kingdom of God.
Here’s the product description from Amazon:
"Multiply your effectiveness for the kingdom of God through cassette ministry! These ministry tools will expand and multiply how God can use you in new and dynamic ways. Share a copy of last week's sermon. Or, spread the Gospel by handing out New Testament cassettes. The possibilities for cassette ministry are endless. And, it's so easy to give away cassettes! Anyone, anywhere can multiply his effectiveness for the kingdom of God by giving away cassettes."
Cassettes are so easy to give away! Woohoo!
I let out a huge laugh for how outdated - no, archaic - this once new and innovative technology of the cassette tape (the technology of my youth) had become. Then I quickly realized that one day people will read all these blog posts on social media and probably laugh in the same way. Johnny Berguson with his cassettes and I with my social media will both be left in the dust.
So, what’s exactly the point of spending all this time writing about social media?
Well, if we are only writing about the particular technologies, and worse, writing of them as if they will be around forever, there is very little point. The technology will change (see: MySpace) and end (see:Delicious). Today’s hot technologies will transform or be eclipsed by something new. We forget that one day - perhaps not too far from now - Facebook will seem as primitive as cassette tapes. iPhones will seem clunky and slow.
However, the intensive sharing and relating that they have made possible will not change. It has become woven into how we live our lives. It has shifted how we relate to one another and our world. It has lifted our expectations of how our institutions communicate and connect with us.
And so, it is pretty clear to me that the conversation we should be having about social media is ultimately about relationships. And that, I trust, was the point of Johnny Burgeson’s cassette tape ministry.
It wasn’t actually about the cassette tape or the processes of recording and copying. Cassette ministries made sermons and worship portable. It was an earlier, physical, slower version of the Share button. It was a new way of sharing the Word and expanding and strengthening connections to people that couldn’t make it to church.
Today social media facilitates this same kind of connecting, sharing, telling and retelling - which have always been a part of congregational life in one form or another - but at a far broader, and, perhaps in some ways, deeper level. It is shaping relationships - between individuals - between pastor and flock - between church and culture. And that is worth writing about.