Book Review: The New Media Frontier

The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging and Podcasting for Christ edited by John Mark Reynolds & Roger Overton

The New Media Frontier is written as a collection of essays on various topics related to new media and Christian faith (as the authors view it).  Many of the authors seem cautiously optimistic at best regarding the implications of New Media for the Church.  Author Matthew Lee Anderson goes so far as to write a chapter entitled, “Three Cautions among the Cheers: The Dangers of Uncritically Embracing New Media.”  (emphasis mine)

Needless to say, this book is definitely geared towards those who still need some persuading the “the internets” are here to stay and are not just for porn, video games and pedophiles.  As is often the case with the Church it seems a couple years behind.  No mention of Twitter, several mentions of You Tube without a single reference to Vimeo, no serious discussion of internet campuses, and a very indepth chapter on Right leaning politics (seemed out of place unless you are talking to Pat Robertson and his protoges).  For folks looking for good reasons to get into New Media as a Christian with serious reservations or doubts, this is a phenomenal book.  For folks who are already pretty well sold on the concept, the practical sections are pretty basic and the rest is just making a case for why we should be using New Media.  

The authors opinions were varied from, as previously stated, cautiously optimistic to really fully embracing and utilizing New Media.  

Rhett Smith and Mark D. Roberts both gave great arguments for and examples of fully utilizing new media for community, outreach, impact, etc.  Stephen Shields had excellent thoughts on the use of New Media for non profits, missions and churches engaged in social justice and advocacy.  

David Wayne, Roger Overton, Fred Sanders, Joe Carter, and Jason Baker, Scott Ott and Matthew Eppinette all delve into the benefits of information availability and accessibility, collaboration and sharing across such varied fields as bioethics, journalism, apologetics, theology and education.  Many also expressed the potential downside of difficulty in separating the wheat from the chaff with some much availability and accessibility.  

Bottom line, depending on your starting point and perspective, this book can come across well balanced and address all of the relevant topics you care about, or it can come across all over the map and a little mixed up.

A great read for that pastor whose church is not growing and the only communication is gossip and complaining, or for the youth pastor who can’t figure out why all of his students seem perfect to him but he hears from parents that their going off the deep end.  But if you are looking to expand an existing social media strategy at your church I would look to Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki, who spend a lot more time talking about the conversational and community building aspects of New Media.