One aspect of the modern media that I believe to be dangerous is the sound bite.
Regarding sound bites, Wikipedia tells us:
In film and broadcasting, a sound bite is a very short piece of footage taken from a longer speech or an interview in which someone with authority or the average “man on the street” says something which is considered by those who edit the speech or interview to be the most important point. As the context of what is being said is missing, the insertion of sound bites into news broadcasts or documentaries is open to manipulation and thus requires a very high degree of journalistic ethics. Politicians of the new generation are carefully coached by their spin doctors to produce on-demand sound bites which are clear and to the point.
Sound bites are designed to give us a very quick view of something, and then have us make up our mind based upon that very limited information. As Wikipedia rightly says, the sound bite is open to manipulation and must be presented with a high degree of ethics.
We like sound bites because they give us a little information that we don’t have to work hard to attain. They make life easy, but in the end, they can make us shallow.
Avoiding the sound bite mentality must be practiced when speaking of Churchianity (problems in the church) , and then also when we speak about the “Church” the way Jesus designed it to be.
Part of the problem of Churchianity is that leadership sometimes gives “sound bite” instructions to their congregations. People are told what to believe, how to live, and who to like, love or avoid. When questioned “why” such things are so, leadership sometimes responds with “sound bite” answers which can be intimidating, and don’t help the congregant understand why such things are true or supposedly true. Those questioning are made to feel stupid for even asking “why”.
Often, the end result of “soundbitism” is that Christians don’t have a deep understanding of why they believe what they believe. They simply parrot what the leadership told them, and believe what they believe because they were told to. They become more and more a part of a Churchianity environment. That was never Jesus’ plan.
If church leadership isn’t leading well, questions and criticisms should arise. When church leadership uses a sound bite methodology for answering valid questions and criticisms, the questioners are left with nothing. They are not treated as though their concerns are valid, and they they are ignored as the leader goes on to the next willing listener. These questioners are then ushered out the door.
When congregants are treated that way, they will often (and sometimes very rightly) leave that church. Or they may leave The Church, vowing to never be a part of “organized religion” ever again. I don’t think that second option is the right thing to do.
Church leaders, congregants, and ex/former congregants that claim to follow Jesus all need to be able to say why they believe what they believe, and support that belief system from God’s Word. Otherwise, anything goes.
Pastors who respond to questions with “Because I said so”, are, in my opinion, VERY wrong for doing that. That’s a sound bite. Church attenders who recite a creed or system for Christian living are not allowed to say, in my opinion, “I believe thus and so because the pastor said so”. Ex and former congregants who still follow Jesus but will not commit to SOME kind of Christian gathering cannot simply say, “Because that’s how I feel about it”.
These are all examples of “sound bites”. They are not clear explanations of the whole story, and they are designed to produce a desired result.
My hope in writing these articles is that all Christians will have a high view of Jesus’ Church. We cannot reduce His church down to sound bite discussions. Being in His church requires thought and commitment.
I am currently teaching a topical series on the Church. The notes can be found in the Sermon Notes link on this blogsite, under Topical Studies.
In brief, what we have studied so far:
1. The Church is built on Jesus. It is His creation. He died to establish it. (Matthew 16)
2. The Church presently, and forever will, display the manifold wisdom of God to both angels and demons (Ephesians 3)
3. When angels want to understand God’s incredible work of salvation, they look at the Church. (1 Peter 1)
May every Christian have a high and respectful view of Jesus’ Church, which is His Body, His Bride. In spite of the many wrongs done by both leaders and congregants, may none of us treat His church with any kind of “sound bite” attitude.
Jesus said that He would build His Church, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Regardless of our experiences, that is true. May we experience the truth of His words.