Bishop Nick's talk on 'Communicating the Gospel in a digital age'

People from across the region came to St Mark's, Harrogate on Saturday to hear Bishop Nick speak at the Harrogate School of Theology & Mission.

In an address entitled 'Flesh made Word: Communicating the Gospel in the digital age’, he said that if we want to articulate our faith with people who don’t share our vocabulary, then we need to pay particular attention to both our language and the way we look at life.

He said, “‘The Word became flesh’: how do we put that flesh back into word? How do we paint pictures with words in order that people might see when they’re not looking? Jesus didn’t say, ‘The Kingdom is  . . . ‘, he said, ‘The Kingdom is like . . .’  and then gave a story and an image. He ran the risk of being misinterpreted, but his method invites curiosity, teases the imagination and is more memorable than a statement.  We need to be constantly working with the language, interpreting it for our audiences, saying ‘try looking at it this way’ in order to shine a different light."

Speaking about his appearances on the Chris Evans show on Radio 2, he said, “The challenge is to say something that grabs the attention of the 10.1 million listeners - most of whom haven’t asked to hear from someone religious - to awaken the curiosity in a way that fits in with the atmosphere of a high-energy programme without being an uncomfortable gear change.”

And in relation to seeing the world differently he said: “We see the world through our own lens – rarely taking it out to examine it. But conversion involves the slow regrinding of the lens behind our eye so we gradually see differently.

"We’re not asked to accept a set of propositions, but to look differently. We find that very hard because the outcome of seeing differently may mean that we need to change the way we think, which may mean that we need to change the way we live.

"The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, doesn't mean self flagellation for shortcomings, but changing our mind. But how can we ask those outside the church to repent when we find it so difficult to be prepared to look and think differently?”

He also talked about the way social media presents a different approach to communication. “Social media is interactive; communication is no longer one way (and not on our terms – unless you just want to talk to people who agree with you). And while it’s not controllable, it opens up conversations with people, conversations that might not happen anywhere else.”

Bishop Nick’s blog has had 1.8 million views in five years and he has 10,200 followers on Twitter. About his blog he said, “I write for the world knowing the church will be looking in (if you write for the church, thinking the world will look in -  they won’t), so that affects the subject and language, but it’s in that way you can help change the rumour about God and the church.”

And he encouraged people to have a go and worry less: “There’s a creative enjoyment in finding new ways of expressing our faith; and I’d even encourage a certain recklessness - to throw it out there and see what happens.”




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