Media engagement beyond the coronavirus (I)

Transformational impact is increased through a holistic perspective for engaging with the media. Many more Christian influencers have engaged intentionally with media during the global coronavirus pandemic.

20 MAY 2021 · 13:07 CET

Photo: <a target="_blank" href="">Laura Lee Moreau</a>, Unsplash CC0.,
Photo: Laura Lee Moreau, Unsplash CC0.

This is part one of three of the paper "Media Engagement beyond the Coronavirus". It was first published by Global Missiology and re-published with permission.



Transformational impact is increased through a holistic perspective for engaging with the media. Many more Christian influencers have engaged intentionally with media during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Yet while Christians desire to influence through the media, they are also influenced by media messages. As Christians develop deeper media awareness, they interact more carefully with media messages and technologies of media.

They can influence with integrity through their media presence in mainstream media. Christians can sensitively communicate contextualised biblical perspectives through media ministries. By using media to take people on explorative journeys of change, media engagement can play a holistic transformational role.


Key words

equipping, influence, interaction, media engagement, relationship, transformation



Engaging with media significantly shaped people’s lives prior to COVID-19. During the coronavirus pandemic since early 2020, however, people have interacted differently with media than before. Interpersonal interactions have increasingly taken place through media channels.

Media engagement focusses on relating critically to all media influences (Dahle 2014a). By learning to engage better with media, people should improve their interaction through media beyond the crisis.

When Christian influencers engage with media intentionally, they can then enable transformational change in the lives of individuals and communities.

Media engagement has three key facets (Dahle 2014b):

  1. Media awareness: a worldview approach to media literacy, analysis, and critique;

  2. Media presence: faithful involvement within mainstream news, documentary, and entertainment media; and,

  3. Media ministries: authentic and relevant pre-evangelism, evangelism and discipling through media platforms by communicating a holistic biblical worldview.

Media engagement begins with identifying media influences from a worldview perspective (Sire 2009, 22) by examining underlying beliefs and assumptions (Clark et al. 2017, 90).

Furthermore, media engagement focusses on how Christians can contribute within influential media spaces in the wider society and communicating contextually relevant messages based on an integrated biblical worldview (Samples 2007, 274).

In addition, media engagement centres on how to equip followers of Jesus to engage with media as disciples and witnesses, and how to enable them to teach others to engage well with media.

During the global pandemic, people have been prevented from meeting in-person, from travelling, and often from moving around locally. Therefore, many have engaged more extensively with news media, entertainment media, and social media, both professionally and privately.

However, the coronavirus period has challenged fundamental perspectives and life priorities of people, and thus also has affected how people relate to and consume media.

When followers of Jesus become equipped to engage well with media, they can integrate such media engagement into their life, work, and witness to shape communities (Kabutz and Dahle 2019).

With such an integrated perspective on media, they can use media to nurture a holistic and meaningful everyday life that may lead towards deep transformation. Moreover, Christian influencers collaborating to develop further resources for media engagement helps more people to explore their appropriate roles and relationships with media.

This article explores the process of engaging with media on journeys of transformation. Such a journey begins by having a personal relationship with God and by relating closely with other people.

Such relationships lead to engaging interactions and appropriate ways of influencing one another through media. The process continues with equipping Christians personally to engage well with media, so they may train others about media engagement.

Finally, this media influence leads towards transformed lives and communities with authentic local applications of media engagement.


Relating to God individually

A faith journey begins as an individual enters into a relationship with God. Some people begin with a conversion experience, while others come to personal faith over a longer period. God can take people through substantial healing, while they learn to trust God and become vulnerable to God’s shaping.

Mediated messages can play a significant role in such faith journeys. God can communicate intimately to someone personally through his mediated message of the Bible. As a disciple lives in close relationship with God, he/she can become aware of media messages, which either nurture or distract from his/her personal relationship with God.

As people express their relationship with God in daily life, their home and place of work can be affected by their faith. As they model their relationship with God in their interactions with people, these relationships can further impact the lives of others. When they interact through media with one another, the influence of their interactions can spread even wider.

Media engagement is imbedded in the ‘Three Great Commissions’ (Watkins 2021). Christians are commissioned to:

  1. care for all the earth, which is ‘The Creation Commission’;

  2. bring comprehensive goodness and wholeness to all nations, which may be called ‘The Blessing Commission’; and

  3. make and mature disciples, which is ‘The Gospel Commission’.

Jesus also provided ‘The Great Commandment’ that prioritises loving God and one another. Based on this biblical framework, Christians are aware and cautious of the challenges in the world around them, while they are active and involved in contributing to the world.

Christians’ informed involvements lead them to engage responsibly with media by consuming carefully and contributing constructively.


Relating to one another

Media can play an important role in nurturing community. The journeys of faith are lived in community, not in solitude (Rhodes 2016, 139-155). As human beings we only really find our identity and discover ourselves within the relational context of a community.

Also, we learn to contribute according to our gifts and abilities within a community space. Through close interactions we experience the challenges of relationships, which then enables us to mature as individuals.

As God calls people to follow him, he transforms them from within to love and relate well to others. When Christians meet and interact via media, they can nurture fellowships of trust and grace (Lynch et al. 2016, 79).

They can develop love for their local communities, where together they can equip disciple-makers who may transform society through their love and witness. Caution is needed when media distracts from relationships (Chapman and Pellicane 2014; Koch 2015).

Through Christian communities, people can journey into much deeper relationships with one another. They learn to accept each other, forgive, reconcile, and envision a thriving future.

Media tools can be effective for mutual equipping and encouragement, for sharing valuable Bible resources, and even for deep personal conversations through video conferencing (Detweiler 2013, 14-15). Through the regular interactions in relational communities, people then influence each other.


Interacting with each other through media

We as human beings are communicative and as such build and nurture relationships through our interactions with others. When we can meet face-to-face, direct communication takes place.

When we are unable to meet in-person, we need some form of medium to transmit our messages to each other. Then we are interacting through media.

Humanity has increasingly communicated through mediated messages, interacting across different spaces and times. People have recorded messages on various media devices that can be sent almost anywhere.

They can receive mediated messages from people in the past, and they can transmit their own mediated messages to people in the future. People are nowadays not just using media, but they are actually living in the media (Deuze 2008, 233).

As they communicate messages to one another, they influence others through media while they themselves also become influenced. And when their messages move even wider beyond single-person interactions, their mediated influence extends even further.

By nurturing relationships, people build trust and open themselves to becoming influenced by others. Even influence through media is built on trust; the more people trust, the more they influence.

Such trust is cultivated by telling powerful stories that build on the narrative of many interactions with which people can identify (Cosper 2014, 24). These stories then re-shape people’s perspectives on reality when combined with their experiences, views, relationships in community, and deeper experiences in life.

Through compelling stories shared in community, people may grow in trust, which then will shape their sense of belonging and enable them to influence one another.

When people increasingly interact on emotional levels, relationships deepen. Media influences become more meaningful through “emotional interactions” as someone:

  • listens with the heart to the needs of the other, sharing both joy and sadness with one another;

  • feels the other’s pain and disappointment, coming alongside him/her, and inspiring each other to look beyond the pain;

  • responds to the other with emotional cues and experiences so the other really feels heard; and,

  • shares in the excitement and hope for life, walking together towards healing and transformation.

Through these trusting emotional interactions between people, influencing through media can become more authentic and significant.


Influencing each other through media

The essence of media engagement is about exploring the influence that media has on an individual as well as how that person moves within media spaces of influence and contributes to media himself/herself.

In the same way, groups of people may ask themselves how media influences them, and how they can live authentically within media contexts and contribute through their combined media ministries. These questions can help Christians explore various aspects of media influence:

  1. How are people influenced by media messages?

  2. How do people think deeply about influences from media contexts? (Carr 2011, 123)

  3. How do people live within media spaces of influence?

  4. How do people respond to media messages amongst them?

  5. How does God influence others through media messages people contribute?

Media influence often leads to change. Processes of positive change begin by listening to God and to other people. Change then continues as people digest and process the messages they have heard.

When they act on new information received, they begin to “change” what they do, and then become able to speak to other people about the change happening in them. Listening and changing oneself needs to occur before speaking into the media context (Kabutz 2020).

Gospel influence through media leads to meaningful personal transformation. God can enable a healing of brokenness in a person’s life and can establish his/her self-identity in him.

Jesus can transform someone into a renewed person, even when not all challenges are resolved. On their discipleship journeys, people can envision desired changes and help one another implement appropriate actions to address relevant personal and social issues.

Beyond the coronavirus pandemic, engaging with people through media will take on a specific focus. This focus will involve exploring the changing roles of media messages as well as identifying new places and messages to contribute as media influencers. Media awareness, media presence, and media ministries will all be involved.

With respect to media awareness beyond the coronavirus, the equipped disciple will need to think critically about all kinds of emerging media messages, explore their changing meaning, and evaluate various emerging worldviews behind these media messages that are shaping different ways of thinking (Wilkens and Sanford 2009, 198).

A responsible media user is aware of conflicting messages addressing the key themes of the day, relating them carefully to a biblical worldview.

Beyond the coronavirus, such discernment will include evaluating how both media technologies and media messages have shifting influences (Lanier 2011; Chen 2012, 4), some beneficial, but others harmful (Huddleston 2016).

In exercising media presence beyond the coronavirus, equipped disciples must move with integrity into newly emerging places of media influence. They should equip, encourage and resource other Christian influencers who are already within mainstream media spaces.

Together they may explore innovative mainstream media platforms that are emerging as relevant spaces for providing powerful voices into society.

Media ministries beyond the coronavirus should entail Christian communicators speaking intentionally and contextually with rich biblical content into emerging issues of society.

These communicators will need to produce fresh quality media content that cuts through clutter, while being aware of the limitations of media reach within the constantly growing media world.

In addition to Christian communication channels, Christian influencers should explore and try out new media spaces for pre-evangelism, evangelism, and discipleship purposes.

Beyond the crisis of the coronavirus, Christian voices from a variety of sectors of society will need to speak into changing situations both for the church and the wider society in order to shape cultures (Turner 2013, 46).

These voices of influence must address challenges, inspire holistic transformation, and contribute hope and healing into communities (Wilkens and Sanford 2009, 16). Through various media platforms, Christian influencers can express and develop their unique voices to benefit society at large.

Lars Dahle is Associate Professor in Systematic Theology (with specific emphasis on Christian Apologetics) at Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Apologetics, NLA University College (Kristiansand, Norway); CEO of Damaris Norge (an extended activity of Gimlekollen); and Founding Editor of the journal Theofilos. He is co-editor of and contributor to The Lausanne Movement: A Range of Perspectives (Oxford: Regnum 2014). He co-leads with Rudolf Kabutz as Lausanne Catalyst for Media Engagement.

Rudolf Kabutz serves with TWR in South Africa as a future media strategist and project coordinator, focusing on using new social media initiatives to supplement broadcasting media for equipping leaders in Africa. Holding master’s degrees in mathematics as well as strategic foresight, he co-leads with Lars Dahle as Lausanne Catalyst for Media Engagement.

Published in: Evangelical Focus - Features - Media engagement beyond the coronavirus (I)