On 6th-8th May, delegates from 16 European nations gathered in London for the Strategic Leadership Consultation, organised by Next Wave International™. It was a unique summit to consider Europe’s future, and discuss how the Church can extend its reach into mainstream secular culture.
On Wednesday 12th May, Christian Today staff members were able to speak with Mr. Mal Fletcher, Founder and Executive Director of Next Wave International™.
What kind of influence do you think the media can have on evangelism? And how do you think the media can be best used to spread the Gospel?
God wants to speak where people are listening. Media is a means to reach all ages and all walks of life. It is natural for Christians to want to have a presence in the media, because this is where people are listening.
How can we use the media as a tool for evangelism?
There are two ways for the Church to engage in the use of media. First is via the Christian media platform. This includes television, radio Internet and print. Using this platform, Christians connect predominantly with other Christians, although there will always be some viewers, listeners, surfers and readers that are not Christian.
Second is via secular media. Here the Church’s strength is in offering stories of hope. In fact the Christian church is able to offer many stories that bring people great hope. Christians can also use the secular media to share their opinions, especially when talking about social issues.
We need to become familiar with exactly who our audience is, and this typically requires research. Instead of just expecting the audience to accept us, we need to know what substance and style will most effectively reach the audience. The substance of what the Church has offered in the past has been of good, but it has often been packaged badly.
Only a small group of people actually listen to preaching. Many Christians enjoy preaching because they know it is good and understand why it is good. However, preaching is the least attractive means to reach people who are not Christian, because most people in the secular world are not used to it. It is easy for them to think preaching is just like a statement of rules; it is too heavy for them. So the style of delivery and the way we package our message is very important.
How do you think the media can have a better effect on Christianity and the Churches in the future?
In today’s secular media, there are two kinds of messages: one is hopeful and one is discouraging. People nowadays are looking for hope; they want to see stories and movies that give hope. And we should be asking the question: What is the audience looking for? If the world is looking for hope, how should we as the Church be using media to meet that need? Instead of complaining how bad the media is these days, we should take up the challenge and respond with messages of promise and hope.
Right now on the television, especially in Western countries like America, there are many programmes that contain a lot of spirituality. We the Church need to recognise that hunger for spirituality and offer something of real substance. The media is a reflection of society - it shows what the world is looking for. We should therefore be watching the media to see what people are hungering after.
I want to break down the walls that exist between Christian producers and secular broadcasters. I want to facilitate a link between Christian leaders and the secular broadcasters. For a long time it has been a battle for Christian leaders and producers to work with secular broadcasters, because people from the secular world think that Christians are boring. I want to show that Christians can make programmes that are entertaining and informative.
I want to pioneer a path for Christians in media from which we can all benefit. We are currently working in the four main media streams: TV, Internet, radio and print. It is a challenge to present the Christian point of view to the secular world without comprising the message. Through my work in media, I want to be a pioneer who finds a new way of engaging the media with the Christian worldview.
Many people nowadays do not even believe about the creation of God, favouring evolution instead. We need to start from the ground up. We should engage in media to show the Christian worldview to the secular world. We have to educate people in the secular world about the Christian worldview without preaching to people. Media can be very helpful in achieving this goal.
As we understand, you have a big dream in the revival of churches in Europe, how do you think the Churches in Europe should be changed?
I love the local church and I am very committed to it, as I believe it is the building block for the Kingdom of God.
There are many challenges for the Church in Europe. We should be thinking about the needs of people first instead of the tradition of the Church first. Of course the Church should be able to contribute to the community and reach out to those in need; this is the social aspect of meeting people’s needs. But there is still another aspect: meeting people’s spiritual needs. What we can do in local churches is to meet both the spiritual and social needs. The Church should think of people first. If they do this, it will change many things about the Church operates.
Aside from training up preachers in the Church, we also need teacher, lawyers, politicians and businessman. We have to lift up our vision and strategy with focuses on changing a city instead of just building church. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we seek the Kingdom of God in every level of our lives, we will bring the culture of Christ outside the four walls of the Church.
As a leader devoted to bring revival to Christianity in Europe, what kind of faith and vision do you have?
In the New Testament, there is a bible verse that has stuck in my mind for a few years now: "I call you to make God a name”. We are here to make God famous. This is the number one reason we are called. Also this is the reason we pray, “Our father in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” It is to honour God’s name. That is also the reason we evangelise.
As in Romans Chapter 1, when people don’t have God in their heart, they create idols and worship idols. When we forget God, our life becomes trivial. We are here to make God famous.
Ten more countries recently entered the EU, bringing the total to 25 now. There is no mention of God in the EU Constitution at all, despite the fact that European civilization was built on Christianity. What is the real answer for Europe? Who are we? What does it mean be European? Local churches need to work harder to make God’s name great again in every nation, in every country.
I have a definite passion for Europe. When you talk about the influence of Christianity in Europe, you have to look backwards in time into Europe’s history. Real influence, however, comes from how much we engage in the future. Faith is all about looking forward and planning for the future.
Interview: Mal Fletcher of Next Wave International™
Published 13 May 2004 | Joanna S.Wong