| WORLD VISTA
Sharing Our Message on YouTube
When YouTube came online in 2005 few could have foreseen how it would transform Internet culture and ultimately cross over into so many other forms of media. Within just a few years this video-sharing Web site has become a vast, dynamic, largely uncensored melting pot of images and ideas—ranging from the profane to the serious, from amateur home videos to high-end professional productions. YouTube is constantly expanding and evolving, shaped by millions of anonymous Internet users in almost every part of the globe.
Is there a place for the Seventh-day Adventist Church on YouTube? Is this an environment in which we should even be present?
Adventist World talks to Pastor Jan Paulsen, president of the Adventist world church, about his new initiative that seeks to profile Adventist values and beliefs on YouTube.
The style of these YouTube clips is very different from the type of communication that usually comes from your office. And your messages are very short—each is less than a couple of minutes in length. You’re not making a complete statement on any of these topics. Is this a limitation of YouTube?
I see it instead as one of the beauties of the medium. Conversation shouldn’t be just affirmation; it should also be provocative. It should make one stop and listen and think, and then perhaps come back to explore further. I had a teacher many years ago who used to say, “God speaks only when He provokes.” It’s an interesting thought—and one I may not fully agree with. But when all is said and done, God does provoke me, and in provoking me He engages me. He stops me in my tracks and draws my attention to that which is important.
I also see value in this medium be- cause it reaches those who are younger. Now, I pray it will reach the 70-year- olds as well! But I know it has a greater chance of reaching those in their teens, twenties, and thirties. I want to talk with them in a dialogue that’s open-ended—that may not result in a neatly packaged solution to every issue. For me, it’s OK to come away from a conversation and not be sure that you’ve solved everything. Succeeding in simply talking with each other, that to me is important.
And YouTube does allow immediate feedback—unlike most forms of mass communication.
Exactly. What did God mean when He said, “Come, let us reason together?” Isn’t that an invitation? He’s saying: “Come, sit down, let’s talk!” Communication is about dialogue. It must flow both ways, and if it doesn’t, you could easily be just talking to yourself.
How did you choose those first three topics—“Faith v.s. Science,” “Freedom,” and “Integrity”—which launched the channel last year? Why not start with something more squarely focused on Adventist doctrine?
I think the answer to that takes us back to the question, “Why are we doing this, really?” Evangelism will always be at the top of the mission agenda of our church. Evangelism doesn’t have to be defended. God says, “Go into all the world. Go and teach and preach and baptize.” So that’s our first priority.
But we have to remember that there are some people, perhaps many, whom we’re not going to reach if we don’t try some other methods of communication. Is broadcasting on YouTube evangelism? Maybe not, primarily. For effective evangelism you need space and time to lay out, build, and justify your points. With YouTube, you have time only to deliver a punch line, not write a book.
If we can simply touch a chord in people’s minds; cause them to wonder “Hey, is he talking to me?”; and stimulate interest in exploring the topic further—that’s what this YouTube effort is about.
So I’m choosing topics because they’re relevant. They touch on real-life issues. They don’t need lengthy explanations or introductions. And I’ve chosen them because ultimately they all deal with values that are foundational to our church’s identity and mission.
Your faith and science YouTube video came out at a time when this topic was being widely discussed among Adventists—in publications and online. Do you plan to use this medium to “jump into the fray” and become involved in current discussions?
The YouTube medium is well-suited to calling attention to a number of key issues—in the sense of making a concise value statement and saying, “This is important to me as a Seventh-day Adventist.” And so yes, I believe at times we can and should do that.
The comments people are leaving on the “About Life” Web site are overwhelmingly positive, but there are one or two negative remarks, as well. One person suggests that you’re using a medium and a style that’s too closely aligned with “the world,” that we’re tainting our message with the method we’re using to convey it. Is this a danger?
No, it’s not. Look, this is the world where God has placed us; this is where we live and breathe. We Skype. We Twitter. We use communication technology in so many different ways. The important issue is not the particular means of communication we use. The more significant questions are: “What are we communicating? Do we do it effectively? Are we current? Do we make the best use of that which will reach the most people? Is the communication of a kind that serves our objective and furthers our mission?”
The scope of our mission responsibility embraces the whole world—and to me, that means the “online world,” as well.
So you’re saying we have to go to where people actually are, rather than expecting them to make the effort to come to us?
Yes, precisely. The God we serve is a constantly searching God. He doesn’t passively sit back. He goes out looking and calling for the one that is lost. He reaches out to us, again and again. And I think the church—and I, as a church leader—must try to do the same. We must constantly ask ourselves: How can I reach out? How can I establish contact? Where do I need to go to touch the one who is lost? And that, really, is the driving force behind this YouTube project.