Meditations (Web)Church

A year (and a bit) in the life of NewSpring's first Web pastor

Watcha’ talkin’ ’bout?

with 2 comments

A few weeks ago, I dropped a comment on a status update from one of my British friends, and it touched off a short exchange that made me wonder about how we communicate relevantly in the conversational culture of the Internet.

My friend, Andrew Stannard, a globe-trotting musician and fairly hip guy was hanging out with another friend of mine, Guy Banim, a British expat who lives in Brussels and works for the European Union in Afghanistan.

Both global citizens. Both culturally savvy.

But they were helplessly lost when i used the word “baller.” (It was my way of sounding hip, I suppose. Note to self: repent.)

Andrew is back home from the Palace de Banim in Brussels…..nice beer too! 5 Comments 6:39pm
Nicholas Charalambous at 1:23pm November 17
lucky you. I wish I could hang with him. He’s a baller.
Guy Banim at 7:40pm November 17
gosh, a baller??? it says in the online dictionary that’s someone who’s got ‘money & hos all over the world’. I’ve got a hoe in the garden for doing the weeding but not sure all over the world šŸ˜‰
Tanya Sealey at 4:21am November 18
You live in Brussels Guy – the hoes of the world comes to you (well, at least those from the european union)
Andrew Stannard at 8:47am November 18
well you certainly travel a lot Guy…..maybe I was being naive in thinking it was only business and resolving conflicts that made you travel
Nicholas Charalambous at 12:06pm November 18
You know, living in Carolina, I have to talk jive. It’s like a requirement now.

Guy’s definition obviously wasn’t the one i was thinking about. I was thinking of these definitions.

So all of this got me thinking about how we, the church, are currently defining “relevance.”

You have to know your audience if you’re going to communicate meaningfully. And I know one of the reasons why NewSpring’s Perry Noble is so stinkin incredible as a communicator is that his sermons always incorporate lots of everyday cultural references, like Cracker Barrell biscuits, sweet tea, andĀ  Sullivan’s peanut butter and fudge cake etc. etc. that makes everyone in the Upstate feel like 1) he’s an ordinary fella and 2) that God can speak into the most ordinary of circumstances ie. your life.

That’s the biggest lesson I learned from a dozen years in the media industry: empathy, trust, and all that good stuff comes from knowing where people are coming from; how they live and how they think.

And all of those cultural references we take so much pride in may well be lost on folks just a few hundred miles north, south, east and west, let alone the global citizens worshipping at our Internet campuses.

Personally, I hope pastors (Perry included) don’t try and downplay cultural specificity and potentially lessen their authenticity and persuasive power. There are obviously ways to communicate around (sub)cultural obstacles. And in global online church culture, where most people, presumably, will have lots of “churching” options, will it even matter? (If some don’t “connect,” there are plenty of others, presumably, who will.)

But something tells me we can’t be too cavalier about that, especially when we want to send out our members for constant and continual conversational evangelism in social media mission fields.

What do you think relevance will mean in the polyglot online culture?

Do Internet campuses have a moral obligation to cater to a potentially global audience? This guest post from British partner Dana Byers seems to suggest we should.



Written by NickCharalambous

December 15, 2008 at 6:32 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I agree with Dana Byers in that we should be aware of other cultures and not assume that everyone participating in online worship knows what Nascar is. That said, there is is something to be said for “homestyle” phrases. The balance has to lie somewhere in between I think. Maybe that means doing a little research before the next online worship experience… pick a country where you know people are participating from and make a local reference in the message to them. Pick a different country and or culture each time… I don’t know… that’s just an idea I had.

    Graham Brenna

    December 15, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    • Thanks for the thought. I think that proactively trying to connect with the common culture of someone attending from another could be one place to start … I think it would definitely help folks feel welcomed and respected. It reminds me of Europeans appreciating English speakers who make the effort to speak in their language, even though they usually have enough English ability to conduct a conversation. Another idea I had was more fun: a “pop up” video approach that explains obscure references and “translates” them into local culture …


      December 16, 2008 at 9:29 am

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