Shane Hipps on Porsches and the Gospel

I came across an interview with Rob Bell and Shane Hipps on the Out of Ur website this morning, and the subject they discuss in the interview is the role of “the medium” in proclaiming the message of the gospel. This is a timely discussion as we see a lot of church-growth initiatives rely more and more on video screens. Just yesterday I sat with an old friend who is a pastor in the area and this issue came up: how new generations are being shaped by technology and how the church is responding to that.

Shane was a TA for one of my preaching classes at Fuller, and he offered a great deal of encouragement and affirmation to me as a preacher, for which I was grateful. I was pregnant with Mercy at the time of the class, and I remember feeling a bit self-conscious in my mostly male class. It was my first preaching class at Fuller and I hadn’t realized it but I was still slightly haunted by my experience at North Park Seminary where a male student shared during the feedback time in a preaching class that my eyelashes were too distracting. I remember debating what to wear when I gave my first sermon to the class and thinking about how to minimize the fact that a child was growing in my belly, fearing the ways that would “distract”. All that to say, Shane was great, and it was fun to see him in this video sharing about a topic that he is passionate about.

I would love to hear any responses to what he suggests in this brief interview with Rob…


  1. It is tough to respond to what is clearly a sound bite (not to mention it is a message on communication mediums being view on my laptop via YouTube), but his basic point is good. He may agree, but I would specifically say that we, the incarnational Body of Christ is the PRIMARY medium of the Gospel, but that other mediums inevitably (and necessarily) will be involved. It is about awareness, intentionality and wisdom.


  2. Liked your second paragraph though it didn’t have anything to do with technology. Sometimes gender is definitely the message :^)

    Sad that women leaders in the church are still sort of cutting edge. I thought that battle had been won a long time ago. I guess it depends on which part of the church you choose to identify with. If you choose fundamentalism–even out of love–you get what you deserve in one sense :^)

    Re the video itself, ho hum.

    The idea that the medium is the message is sort of old school by now among thoughtful people. McLuhan did his best work in the 60’s. Sometimes it takes conservative Christians time to catch up.

    The advent of spoken language was probably scary for the religious conservatives of that day. The printing press too. Etc. etc.

    Got to hand it to Shane Hipps, though. He definitely understands how to sell himself among fundamentalists as well as he probably once sold cars.

    Can’t do better than a riff on Paul’s conversion experience if you want authority in any version of the fundamentalist church.

    ‘I once sold cars to wealthy people but now I’ve seen the light and have become an Anabaptist pastor.’

    I keep looking for new narratives.

    God bless Paul, but do we all have to do the same story arc over and over again to get a hearing?

  3. Erika, I had no idea you know Shane Hipps. We have all read “The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church” at work, and it has changed the way many of us think about the work we do.

    I’m going to the Q conference at the end of this month, mostly because he’ll be there. That’s crazy.

    It was strange being in South Central last week without seeing you guys.

  4. I think the gospel is always going to be more meaningful shared one on one or in small groups. But as for sermons, sometimes it is incredible to listen along with your family of faith and sometimes I get a lot out of listening to an online teaching while I paint alone. The media doesn’t destroy the message, it just will never fully replace the human element.

    Actually, for a guy with experience in both advertising and preaching I thought Bell’s message was scattered and unclear.

  5. Karis,

    I totally used to listen to online sermons when I was a coffee roaster in Portland. I agree with you that there can be great value in accessing someone’s thoughts and teaching and perspective that way.

  6. It’s such a short clip, and the bigger message that Hipps delivers in “The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture” is impossible to convey in that short time period.

    A couple of things to keep in mind: first, he’s not saying that any particular way of presenting the Gospel is inherently wrong. He’s just saying (and I agree with him) that the medium changes the message—delivers different ideas and ideals along with the “content” that we think is provided cleanly and separately.

    In his book, he encourages readers to hold these ideas “with an open hand,” which is, I think, absolutely beautiful.

  7. It is hard to respond to such a short clip, but on the whole, I agree with Hipps’ point about medium not only shapes the message, but in a way becomes the message.

    I would be curious if these types of conversations have happened throughout the history of the Church when various new technologies made possible changes in communication. Did some in the Early Church bristle against writing down Jesus’ story because it might negatively affect the personal connections people had to make in order to convey the story to others verbally? Was something lost when the faith moved from the proclaimed word to the written word? I know there was some concern that the printing press would make the Bible easily distributable to the laity and put Scripture into the hands of people unable to read it “correctly.” I think there is something akin to Bible-worship in some churches and we can partially thank the printing press for that.

    All that said, I think these conversations are necessary, especially as new forms of media pop up every day and change the way in which we communicate. I don’t think there are divinely mandated means of communication, i.e., I don’t think that the sermon or the bounded Bible are somehow more holy than other forms of communication. We may have simply become so used to these mediums that we can confuse the medium itself with the actual gospel.

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