Putting Your Church on the Map
11th April 2019
How do you baptise two people when there is no pool? You take them to the beach, pray that the rain calms down for the spectators, and baptise them in the water provided by the ocean. That is how Janine and Duncan Johnston were baptised in front of about 50 onlookers during the weekend intended for learning more about media and the church. Pastor Gabriel Perea led the couple in a renewing of their marital vows, after 23 years of marriage, before commencing with the baptism of both of them in the sea. Janine and Duncan have studied the Bible for more than a year already, and decided to be baptised because of their convictions and love for God and everyone else. They live near Musselburgh and attend church there. They are also heavily involved with the Cook-In project which is run by the church, providing food for the hungry and homeless in and around Musselburgh.
This event was the highlight of the weekend of training, attended by around 22 communicators from around Scotland. The baptism gave the communicators an opportunity to capture, create and learn at the same time.
To those who attended the weekend, it became clear from the start that communication is about getting the word out there, about the Gospel, about God’s word and that it is for everyone. Not only do you make media and share it, you become an evangelist as such.
A question that echoed throughout the weekend is, “How visible is your church? If your church were removed from where it is at the moment, would the people in that neighbourhood suddenly miss it? What can be done to be sure we are still relevant as a church?” These questions are good questions, and they were asked by each of the four invited experts to the Scottish Mission Media Training weekend, happening from 5-7 April 2019. Pastor Neale Schofield, Pastor Neville Neveling, Pastor Weiers Coetser, and Pastor Peter Jeynes were asking the same questions during their respective presentations on the weekend.
Pastor Neale Schofield has worked in television media for some time, and has led the Hope Channel in New Zealand. You can find Neale when searching for his series called Masterstroke here. Pastor Schofield presented ways in which local churches can put themselves on the map more effectively. His catch phrase: "Do something new, or something old in a unique way." He showed examples of how churches in New Zealand changed their church signage and websites to benefit from the popularity of Hope Channel New Zealand’s many lifestyle and actuality programmes. He is currently working on a PHD at the University of St Andrews, but still has a strong input in the content produced by Hope Channel New Zealand.
Weiers Coetser is the Irish Mission communications sponsor. In his Sabbath morning presentation he highlighted a distinction between communication as transmission – which focusses on sending a message across space in order to bring about change in people – and communication as “ritual” in which the focus is more on building a community and creating meaning together. He emphasised that a successful church communication strategy should incorporate the values of each of these approaches. With his wife, Simone they shared a few examples of how they experimented with reaching across spaces where the church is unknown in order to make church visible and relevant to people in the community.
Pastor Neville visited Scotland, all the way from Namibia. He works for Adventist World Radio, and presented another form of media communication, using mobile phones to share evangelistic series. The ministry that he pioneered has led to thousands of baptisms around the world. Evangelistic material has been prepared and is being sent out in multiple different languages by hundreds of volunteers from every division. Mobile phone technology provides the opportunity to create evangelistic efforts of scale. Pastor Neville explained that an evangelistic sermon, broadcast by himself is shared an average of eleven times by each of the original recipients of the sermon. We will share more of his work in future publications. Some of his material and work can be seen here.
Other experts sharing their knowledge during the weekend were from Scottish churches and clearly love their roles. Charles Lethbridge and Igor and Elizabeth Mihailova concentrated on the practical side of things. From photo composition to sound and light equipment in the local church was discussed and learned. Making media is essential, and making more of it while witnessing a beautiful baptism and vow renewal on the beach, provided best opportunity to do so. Charles and Igor have been doing media for a number of years, and they enjoy sharing their expertise. They demonstrated how excellent media can be created cheaply. This is good news for any church thinking that in order to put yourself on the map, will be expensive.
Peter Jeynes put a cap on the events of the weekend when he arrived on Sunday, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he pastors. Over the years he has specialised in helping Seventh-day Adventist churches become featured in local newspapers. He shared an example of how a beach baptism featured in one newspaper. He invited the newspaper photographer to capture a practice session in which he ‘baptised’ a volunteer a few days before the event. This was more than a staged baptism, it was an essential exercise in ensuring the safety of the baptismal candidates. The photos of this trial baptism was published in the newspaper before the actual event and the publicity resulted in a beach full of onlookers on the day that the actual baptism took place. Pastor Jeynes shared many other examples of how congregations can leverage good and bad news stories that will capture the interest of the local press.
The participants all agreed that the food on the weekend, although humble in nature, was excellent, and they thanked Catia Lethbridge for spending the time in the kitchen for them. A beautiful baptism would also not be complete without a nice piece of chocolate cake. A media weekend would not be complete without good food.
When asked what the highlight of the weekend was, most participants referred to the mobile phone evangelism, presented by Pastor Neveling. Essentially, bible studies and other lessons can be sent to contacts on anyone's phone from any of us. This in an effort to spread the gospel in a channel that already exists. Everyone has a mobile phone, and so do we. What could be easier than to send the gospel to those who might want it, but never get to go to church, or cannot get to church. All the participants were moved by the stories of thousands of people around the world, who have responded to mobile phone evangelism over the past year or two. For details about this please contact Jimmy Botha or the Scottish Mission office.