This year 86 percent of adults in America own a cellular phone. The percentage is even higher among young adults, but still two-thirds of senior citizens own one. Fully a quarter of homes no longer have a hard-wired telephone, which is causing survey researchers to scramble.
The majority of cell phone owners send and receive digitized photos. More than a quarter use their phone to access the Web, get Email, etc. Younger adults are even more likely to do so.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans now use Tivo and similar digital VCR devices to record programs at the time they are distributed and view them on their own schedule. This percentage continues to grow, but at a slow pace.
About two-thirds of retail companies have a social media strategy as part of their marketing program. Nearly nine out of ten intend to expand that effort this year.
At the same time, about half of Americans do not believe what they read on line. One in four think that major corporations lie when they post information on their Web sites. A smaller number think that government Web sites include lies.
What Does this Mean for the Church?
As I have written often, it is essential that those who are serious about sharing faith get into the new media on line and expand the ministries they already have on the Internet. A paper-only strategy betrays the operators as not really as interested in communicating the gospel as they are in going through established routines.
It is also true that conventional logic and communication patterns that have been used in print to proclaim the gospel will not longer work. The "reader" in the digital world is more skeptical, more immediate, more interactive, more individualistic, more focused on "so what" and "what's in it for me?" Every message on the Web is a personal message. H. M. S. Richards is famous for developing the conversational style of sermon on the radio in the 1930s and 1940s. Today's evangelists must learn to be even more conversational in the sense that the "listener" has the tools to respond immediately, break into your sentences and send you back a response. Can you convey the message of Jesus in sound bytes, without a lot of linear logic?
(Source of the research data mentioned at the top is the September 3 issue of Research Alert.)