I’m back at McCormick Theological Seminary this week for another elective course in my Doctor of Ministry program. This week it is a fascinating class called The Gospel and Global Media Cultures, taught by Mary Hess from Luther Seminary. Essentially, it is a course about the intersection of ministry, social media, and digital culture. Here is the introduction from the syllabus:

This doctoral seminar explores the intersecting academic conversations of cultural studies, theology, and digital culture theory towards the end of supporting missional congregations. The seminar encourages interdisciplinary theological conversation among the participants focused on Gospel and digital cultures in the context of missional leadership.

I wasn’t drawn to this course for the “how to” aspect. I’m already active on Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and YouTube. Rather, I’m in this for the reading and discussion. In particular, I’m looking forward to the cultural approach this class is taking. Instead of focusing on social media simply as tools, we will be considering the broader cultural shifts resulting from and contributing to the explosion of digital media in today’s world. Again, from the syllabus:

Media studies scholarship has discarded an instrumentalist perspective on media — one which emphasized a picture of media as trucks carrying messages — in favor of a culturalist perspective which emphasizes the ritual aspects of communication and perceives media as providing elements from which, and within which, people construct meaning in myriad ways.

I’m looking forward to digging into these topics and I trust that this course will deepen and nuance my engagement with digital social media in my work as a pastor.

Blogging is a requirement of the course, so look for posts on this stuff in the days and weeks to come.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit johnvest.com.

Reader Interactions


  1. I was interested to learn today that you are planning to offer communion at one of the upcoming Bears games this Fall. I would be very interested to learn how that goes, John! I also appreciate your comments in class and your willingness to share advice with me about your i-pad!

  2. John, I appreciate you comments and bout why you are in this class. I am still learning the “how” of using digital media and I am especially interted in the “why” of digital media. I am facinated by the pervasive and overwhelming effects social media has had and continues to have on our culture.

  3. I’m a novice at Media Studies – I’ve never taken any coursework or informally studied it.

    My younger sister’s degree is in that topic. She’s a smart cookie, so a small bit of it has rubbed off on me.

    Marshall Mcluhan is famous for saying, “The Medium IS the Message”. He makes the claim that the mediums through which we communicate impact us (and especially society) even more than the messages we communicate using those mediums.

    He would say that nothing communicated via the printed word was as important as the printed word – printed word changed society far more than anything that was printed.

    He would say that television is more important than anything ever aired on television. Television changed the world more than anything ever aired on it.

    If he were still alive, he would say that social media is more important than anything ever said on it. Social media changed the world more than any ideas it propagated.

    If he looked at our churches, he would say that the fact that we “proclaim the gospel” primarily via “preached sermons” says more about us (and is far more impactful) than any sermon we preach.

    The Medium IS the Message.

    The Medium we choose to use to preach the gospel IS the message.

    That’s why social media is important.

    P.S. There’s one of Mcluhan’s complete lectures, and a Q&A session afterward, available on YouTube. Ironically it’s from something like 1977. The big discussion then was “radio vs. television”. It’s the same discussion we have now when we talk about “television vs. blogs” or “sermon vs. facebook.”


  1. […] just communication tools. As I’ve been studying all week in a Doctor of Ministry course on The Gospel and Global Media Cultures, digital technologies have changed our culture and will continue to do so. “Protecting” […]

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