Calling is one of those strange things. In church talk, we often think it means something special, something unusual – something reserved for those people who go into ministry or become missionaries or, occasionally, we extend the word to chaplains and parish nurses. What is sure, for many of us, is that we don’t consider ourselves called in our normal day to day work. We don’t consider ourselves called when we’re teaching or – for many of us on this site, probably – when we’re involved in media or design or production.
However, throughout Christian history there have been movements that, quite rightly, have emphasised the importance of the calling of all believers. These movements have said that what people do with their lives matters and is of value to God, and that each of us has a calling: first to God, secondly to our vocation in life. We are a chosen people, St Peter writes, a holy nation, a royal priesthood – God’s own people. That applies to each one of us. Therefore, if we follow the thought through, it must mean what we do with our work matters. So how do we think theologically about the work of media, about the task of communication? To answer these questions, we have to consider the Communicator.
St John begins his gospel with the mysterious language of ‘The Word’. The divine utterance, the creative power, filled with tension and suspense. It’s the same tension and suspense that we see in Genesis as the Spirit of God is hovering over the waters. For John’s gospel, God is first introduced as someone who communicates, someone who is going out beyond himself and starting a conversation. And this Word speaks and things happen. This Word speaks and creation exists. This Word speaks and the earth puts forth life and vibrant beauty. This Word speaks and the earth responds.
There’s more – this Word then becomes flesh and comes and makes his dwelling with humanity. Because it’s part of God’s nature to reach out beyond Himself and invite his Creation into relationship with him, he becomes as one of us, becomes human and through his life, death and resurrection shows us what God looks like in all eternity. We have seen him, writes John, the glory of the one and only, full of truth and grace.
The concept of God speaking has other connotations in Scripture to. Isaiah sees God’s word as that which accomplishes things (Isaiah 40:5). For the Psalmist, God’s speaking is an expression of his righteousness and justice (Psalm 33:4-5): God speaks because God is who God is, and longs to draw all of creation to himself.
What then does this say about us in Christian communication? Firstly, I think it says we can speak because we are relational beings. Because we have a God who defines himself by speaking and reaching out to Creation, when we communicate we are reaching out beyond ourselves – to the person or group we are speaking to, yes, but also in some way in prayer as an act of response to the Creator God who breathed life into us and taught us to speak.
Secondly, we speak because we have been spoken to. We have seen glimpses of God in worship, Scripture and Communion and we talk about what we have seen of God’s goodness and redemption. This doesn’t mean we have to be preaching all the time – it simply means that when we speak we speak in the awareness that we are loved, valued and accepted by the Creator God who faithfully speaks into Creation words of love, value and affirmation.
Thirdly, and I think this especially applies to those of us in communication – when we speak, we have the responsibility to speak as people who have seen God. As I noted earlier, God’s speech is aligned with who God is – a God of justice, truthfulness and righteousness. Therefore, we have the calling to be truth speakers in our workplaces and through our jobs. To speak up on behalf of those oppressed, to speak truth to power and to give the voiceless in our society a voice with which to articulate their joys, hopes, worries, fears and aspirations.
We speak as people who have seen the living God and come away changed. Therefore, when we use our giftings in media, in design, in production, in communication and in drama, we do so in the awareness that we are called to use our place of privilege to name the uncomfortable parts of life, to speak words of blessing and to act, work and pray that maybe, just maybe, God has raised us up for such a time as this.
David is a web designer www.dodifferent.org.uk