Media Discernment – What’s on Your Plate? –
Festival Director, Pastor, and Founder of Media Talk 101, Phillip Telfer, shared about media discernment with festival attendees in tonight’s general session. He intrigued the audience when he asked them to identify top NBA draft picks from certain years.
Sam Bowie was the top NBA draft pick in 1984. He had a promising career ahead of him, but he ran into a major problem. He had a junk food habit and couldn’t sustain the nearly one hundred games a season on such poor fuel. His poor diet caused his bones to become weak and brittle. His poor diet did him in. By the time the doctors discovered what was wrong, it was too late.
Remember the days of the Food Pyramid to demonstrate a healthy diet? Now they call it My Plate. What kind of media is on our plates? What kind of diet are we consuming? Telfer is a big fan of media fasts – when you fast from all media for a period of time. But what are we consuming on a regular basis when it comes to media?
“We’re in this all you can eat media buffet culture,” Telfer argues. “We pile it on our plate and consume a lot.”
Our media consumption effects one’s spiritual health, family health, physical health, emotional health, and mental health. I Tim 4:8 says, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
Two big concerns:
- Amount of media consumption
- Quality of entertainment and media
Phillip grew up in Christian home, but was rebellious. He would sneak watching media he knew his parents wouldn’t approve of. At age 17, he gave his life to Christ, and started to be convicted about his media choices. So he decided to do a two week media fast.
By age 24, he was now a youth pastor, and something really grabbed his attention. He moved out to the little town of Mt. Carroll, Illinois, a town of 1,700 people. He was certain he was going to be a pastor to Opie out in rural America, but all the kids and teens were struggling with the same things he witnessed in Chicago (except gangs). Kids were on drugs, promiscuous, and were from broken homes. What connected the two? Entertainment and its power to shape hearts and minds.
Telfer began to study it and eventually begin speaking across the country on the subject of media discernment. It became his ministry known as Media Talk 101.
He applies Hebrews 12:1-2 here, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Every race has a starting line and a finish line. If you have a race with no finish line, then you have no race. In the race of the Christian walk or our Christian faith, the goal is not to run the race with excess weight, but to lay aside any extra weight so that we can focus on running well. When it says to fix our eyes on Jesus, that’s what we’re running toward. We want to make sure nothing is weighing us down in our pursuit of Him.
The story of Cliff Young is instructive here. There was a famous race in Australia from Westbourne to Sydney that was a whopping 875 KM or 544 miles long, considered one of the world’s most grueling ultra marathons, usually only attempted by world class athletes. Cliff Young was a potato farmer who showed up to run this race in overalls and work boots. Everyone thought it was a joke, but he was there to run the race.
He had a unique running style (sort of a shuffle). Having grown up on a farm where they couldn’t afford horses or tractors, when the rain came, he’d have to round up the sheep on foot, taking sometimes 2 or 3 days. By the morning of the second day of the race, Cliff was still in the race, but hadn’t stopped to sleep at night like all the other athletes. Cliff kept running. His plan was to keep running without sleeping (meanwhile all the other athletes would stop to sleep 6 hours at night). On what’s typically the final night of the race, Cliff had caught up with all the professional athletes and ended up winning the race. He set a record since he did it without sleeping. Turns out, he was a more efficient runner. Other runners eventually adopted his style, dubbing it the ‘Young shuffle.’
I Cor 9:24-25 reminds us, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”
Running a race well requires self-control. This verse says sin trips us up. So we must become self-aware about our consumption of media that affects our walk.
A number of years ago, George Barna said media exposure had become America’s most widespread and serious addiction. The average screen time for an American child is about 53 hours a week. The average kid, by the time they graduate from high school, will have consumed 18,000-22,000 hours of TV, which means they will have spent more time in front of a TV than in the classroom. According to Nielsen Media, the average teen sends over 3,339 text messages a month.
From Neil Postman’s book Technopoly, “It is a mistake to suppose that any technological innovation has a one-sided effect. Every technology is both a burden and a blessing. Not either or, but this and that.”
Even Coca Cola did a commercial about Americans’ addiction to their phones by doing a spoof pretending to sell a Social Media Guard, that looks like the ‘cone of shame’ veterinarians put on dogs, to deny people the ability to look down at their phones and force them to make eye contact with one another.
As a culture, we continue to try and find the meaning of life through social media, media, and just about everything except the Bible.
Telfer pointed out this relevant quote from martyred missionary Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be of God.”
According to Nielsen Media, the average person consumes 11 hours of media every day.
Telfer thought of Psalm 106:10 & ff that talks about how God redeemed them from the hand of their enemies, swallowed them up with water leaving no one alive. But they soon forgot His words and counsel, and pursued their lusts in the wilderness. They tested God and He gave them their request, but He sent leanness into their souls.
There is a leanness to the soul of our generation today. It’s what compelled Telfer to start teaching about media discernment.
Jeremiah 2:13 says, “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
In essence, we’re trying to make our own wells to contain something in our own life. But that well or cistern is broken. So that water goes in that cistern, but it pours out.
“That’s the first thing we’re doing wrong,” asserts Telfer. “ We’re trying to find fulfillment in things that can never bring fulfillment…I believe this describes our generation today.”
The second thing we’re doing wrong, according to this verse, is we’re rejecting the source of living water. We’re not coming to Christ to receive life.
AW Tozer puts it this way in the 1950s, “Commune with your own heart on your bed and be still. This is wise human counsel. But how can this be followed in this day of the newspaper, the telephone, the radio, and the television. These modern play things like pet tiger cubs have become such a hindrance that they threaten to devour us all. No spot is now safe from the world’s intrusion. The need for solitude and quietness is never greater than it is today.“
Tozer didn’t know how we’d find any time of quietness before the Lord with all these distractions, and today we have even more distractions.
In preparing for this session, God laid on Telfer’s heart how Christians are distracted from prayer. John Bunyan said, “You can do more than pray after you’ve prayed, but you can’t do more than pray until you’ve prayed.”
Telfer warns passionately, “There’s so much we’re trying to do without even praying about it. That’s one of the things we really tried to do this year in preparing for this festival was to pray more. So we’ve been seeking Him more.”
I Tim 2:1 says, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.”
Paul is urging us to pray first (like the Kendricks reminded us to do in War Room). Prayer is one of the first things we often neglect.
“Books and seminars on prayer are great, but the problem is not the lack of understanding prayer, we just need to do it. I believe it’s because we don’t believe prayer actually makes a difference,” Telfer expresses.
Do you continue to pray and persist in praying even when He doesn’t answer right away? Texting has become all about me and instant gratification and we take that superficiality to God and we expect instantaneous answers.
Then Telfer related it to film production. A movie that attracted attention of all the boys in youth group at one time was Fast and Furious. All the focus and attention became fast cars. The boys got on fast car kick. One boy really dressed up his car – the exterior.
“Are we adorning the outside of our hearts, neglecting the real ‘engine’ of the Christian life?” Telfer asks. “The real power to move our engine forward is prayer. I encourage you to pray at least 5 minutes a day. It’s infinitely more powerful than no minutes of prayer.”
Technology is not evil, but it is powerful. Imagine a hammer, and imagine being in the backyard of your suburban neighborhood and see your neighbor building a shed, and he’s using a hammer and nails. It’s normal to build a fence with those tools. Now if you saw him at grocery store staring at his hammer and being captivated by it, would that seem normal? A tool has a purpose and place, but if you’re not careful, it’s no longer a tool. We must use it in the right context.
Our problems aren’t confined to Smart phones. We’re in need of self-control.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates a leaky faucet wastes 3,000 gallons per year. It takes 15,140 drips just to make a gallon. We don’t think our media distractions add up to a whole lot, but research shows we are losing a lot, one drip at a time.
2) Content – the what of what we’re consuming.
Is it healthy media or just junk food? Be careful about what sort of media you’re ingesting.
Galatians 6:8 notes, “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”
Garbage in, garbage out.
All engines need some sort of fuel to run. Telfer likened it to having two engines in your life: one engine is the Spirit, one engine is called the flesh. You have an engine and you need it to run. Ask yourself what engine is this media fueling in my life? Spirit or flesh? These don’t run simultaneously. Can’t be walking in flesh and Spirit at the same time.
Often Telfer would have kids come to him who said they felt empty. So he’d start asking how they spend their time. Is it on the internet, tv, watching movies? You’ll feel spiritually empty if you’re not feeding your soul. You need to check your fuel gauge. Whatever you sow is what you’re going to reap.
Hebrews 5:12 is instructive here, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”
If we lack discernment, it’s because we’re not trained to discern right from wrong. The problem isn’t just the quantity of media you’re consuming, but the quality of media you’re consuming.
In our ministry we like to say every song is a sermon, every movie is a message, every tv is a teacher, every word is a weapon, and a picture is worth a thousand words.
Worldview is simply a bundle of ideas. Get your ideas and worldview from the Bible. If you’re not spending time in His word, then you can’t have a biblical worldview. When the films you’re consuming are off, your heart is off, and the bundle of your ideas are off.
Everyone wants to live life to the fullest, but media offers a counterfeit life. So many lies being propagated through media – promiscuity, hopelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, pornography, atheism. People need to see truth.
John 10:10 says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
May we fuel our Spirit and not the flesh. Ask God to help you be effective in running the race, and to do it with a healthy media diet.