The Media and The Church

How has the Media contributed to the Growth of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church?

Bachelor Thesis 2017 28 Pages

Communications - Media Economics, Media Management



Background of the study



Research Problem

Aims and Objectives


Significance of the study

Definition of Terms

History of the SDA Church Media

Media Used Today

How Church Members Use Social Media



Research approach

Sampling and Method Size

Data Gathering and Instruments

Method of Analysis

Tabulation of Findings

Results and Discussion

Validity and Reliability

Ethical Considerations

Limitations of Study


Chapter One: Introduction

Mass media has become a big part of the lives of individuals. The power of mass media has become so strong that its undoubtedly significant role in the world today stays beyond any questions (Bartleby, 2016). There is no doubt that social media have gained wider acceptability and usability and are also becoming probably the most important communication tools among people (Badmos, 2014). Churches have also invested time and money on broadcast media such as television and radio.

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp have the potential to shape the way the world communicates. Many churches have begun utilizing social media in their ministry efforts. They publicize, encourage, and promote events, all on social media (McKinney, 2014). The churches in South Africa have also joined social media to keep their members involved and alert as to what is happening in their churches.

Social media allow the church to reach a wide variety of people (McKinney, 2014). This allows the church to reach those who cannot reach the church. Research has shown a positive relationship between the money spent on marketing and the support given by church members (White & Simas, 2008). In order to meet the needs of a variety of markets, churches must remain faithful to doctrine and theology, but accept the rapid advancing society and environment (Wrenn, Shawchuck, Kotler, & Rath, 1995).

Background of the study

As conduits of communication, the media have become the primary source of religious ideas, in particular in the form of banal religion. As a language the media mold religious imagination in accordance with the genres of popular culture, and cultural environments. The media have taken over many of the social functions of the institutionalized religions, providing both moral and spiritual guidance and sense of community (Hjarvard, 2008)


The objective of the church is to bring people to Jesus (McKinney, 2014). There are traditional methods that the church uses to reach its members, such as, church announcements and sending missionaries to the field. The desire of the church should be for more people to be in a relationship with Jesus. Of course churches should want more people to attend their services, participate in classes, and engage in cell groups, because reaching a larger audience with ‘The Message’ is an important aspect (McKinney, 2014).

The Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA church as it will be referred to from here on) was founded in 1863 from the Millerite Movement. The prominent figures of the early church were Hiram Edson, James Springer White, Joseph Bates, and J.N. Andrews. Over the decades the church expanded to become an international movement. The church had many bible societies at that time and William Miller was one of the prominent preachers. He began speaking of the second coming and the people calculated when it would be according to what was written in Daniel 8:14. It was expensive to purchase bibles at the time so the bible societies did their best to make sure each person had a bible and was able to read it themselves, as opposed to simply hearing it being preached.

About 100 000 people anticipated the second coming on October 22, 1844 but it did not happen and this became known as The Great Disappointment. After that many believers abandoned their faith. Some believers thought the date was correct but the event was wrong and the latter group that remained faithful developed into the SDA church. The early believers published their findings on paper, spread the message by word of mouth, door-to-door and by travelling to the different areas of the world. Some bible conferences were held and annual regional camp meetings. The first Annual Camp Meeting was held on September 1868 and the first General Conference in 1888.

The press and publications were the first form of media used by the early SDA’s. Ellen G White wrote her visions and letters to different people that were later compiled into books. Adventist schools and hospitals emerged, and missionaries were sent out to different parts of the world to spread the message. Travelling costs were high and sometimes the missionaries would fall ill and have no medication in the area in which they were situated.

The church has grown and developed as the world has developed. The media have become an instrument of mission and thus the church is divided into two main groups: the conservative who defend the pre-1950 Adventist position, and the liberals who emphasize beliefs of Evangelical Christianity. In the 20th Century the magazine Adventist Review, as it is now known, was the form of media used to answer questions on doctrine. In the 21st Century members began to use YouTube and other internet media to communicate.


Students today (digital natives) are all native speakers of the digital language of computers and the internet. Those who were not born into the digital world but have become fascinated by and adopted aspects of new technology, are considered digital immigrants (Prensky, 2001). Social media can be an influential way to announce upcoming events within the church (McKinney, 2014).

Media Ministries of the SDA church

There are many media ministries associated with the church. These include print, radio, television and internet based media such as YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram. These media reach countries all around the globe. The SDA church has a long history of media-based communication, having grown out of the Millerite Movement of the 1840s which made heavy use of the print media.

In the publishing industry the two main publishing houses are Review and Herald and Pacific Press situated in North America. They among numerous publishing houses around the world. In radio there is The Voice of Prophecy which founded in 1929, Quiet Hour Ministries founded in 1937, Your Story Hour founded in 1949, Amazing Facts (which is also a magazine) founded in 1965, Adventist World Radio founded in 1971, and 3ABN Radio founded in 2012. In television there is Hope Channel founded in 2003, Adventist News Networks which is the official SDA news channel, Faith for Today founded in 1950, It Is Written founded in 1956, Breath of Life which more directed at African Americans, Loma Linda Broadcast Network (LLBN) founded in 1997, 3ABN founded in 1984, and South Africa has its own television channel named Isambula TV.

Research Problem

The Media and the Church: How has the Media contributed to the Growth of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church?

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study is to see how the use of the media has impacted the church. To find out how the use of media has helped the SDA church as a whole grow, how it has helped the different participating churches grow and how it has improved member relations.


1. The media have helped the church spread its gospel to a variety of people.
2. The use of media has helped the church grow tremendously.
3. Church members have become more united and know each other more intimately as a result of using the media.
4. People use their phones while at church and sometimes they are encouraged to post live videos.
5. It is easier to send a prayer request to the whole church as opposed to one person.

Significance of the study

Many churches are using media to communicate with their members, spread the gospel, preach, reach and bring in new members. Churches do not usually get feedback from the people they reach. Churches are unaware of the impact they have on the people they are trying to reach or the members they communicate with. This study will help the churches know how their use of media is impacting their environment and how they can improve its effectiveness.

Several authors have written on various issues relating to social media and the church, but none have really focused on the SDA church. This study will focus on the SDA church specifically; the feedback will be given by church members representing all generations. The SDA church differs in many ways from other Christian churches thus studies done focusing on other churches may not always be applicable to the SDA church.

Definition of Terms


Media refers to a wide range of communication outlets or tools that are used to store and deliver information or data (Business Dictionary, n.d.). For the purpose of this study the media will refer to radio, television, print (publications and magazines) and social media (including internet based networks such as WhatsApp).


For the purpose of this study growth refers to the increase in membership numbers, improvement of church member relations, and interest non-members in the SDA church.

Seventh-Day Adventist Church

The SDA Church is a Christian religious group that keep the bible seventh day Sabbath (Saturday). They base their beliefs on the bible and believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ. They believe in baptism by immersion and that salvation is through grace. They serve a living God. Their Sabbath day begins Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. For the purpose of the study the church refers to the members and not the infrastructure (building).

Chapter Two: Literature review

Often the media is blamed for the terrible things that happen in this world but we need to remember that terrible things happened long before the modern media were invented and even more terrible things happen where the media are not allowed to function. It is not easy to adapt one’s ministry to the Information Age. The churches use of mass media complements the more conventional (traditional) means of communication such as pulpit, one-to-one and family visitation. Information is an essential an essential social and cultural resource for all people, not just a commodity with commercial value. In this period of the information revolution, people should not be surprised that many traditional methods are abandoned (Comiskey, 1985).

History of the SDA Church Media

The mission of the SDA church is to make disciples and to share the message to everybody. The church believes that when all have heard the message than the Lord will come. The pioneers of the SDA church first began their work when they were teenagers. Many of the leadership positions were held by teenagers and young adults in the early church. They had to personally travel to the different areas of the world to do word of mouth ministries.

John Nevins Andrews (1829 – 1883) was a SDA minister, missionary, writer, editor and scholar. He was the first SDA sent to countries outside North America. He was the most prominent author and scholar of his time. He played a fundamental role in the establishment of Adventist theology. Third President of the General Conference and he became an editor of the Review and Herald (now known as Adventist Review) (Knot, 2013). Joseph Bates (1729 – 1872) was a seaman and revivalist minister. He was the founder and developer of Sabbatarian Adventism. He was known as the ‘apostle of the Sabbath’ and wrote several booklets on the topic. He contributed to the early publications of the church (White E. G.). Ellen Gould White (1827 – 1915) was a prolific Christian author and one of the American Christian pioneers whose ministry was instrumental in founding the SDA movement that led to rise of the SDA Church. She had the spiritual gift of prophecy and her writings showcase the hand of God in Christian history. Her and her husband formed the SDA Church (White E. G.). There were more pioneers that travelled the world spreading the gospel at their time.

The design of churches changed after the reformation to reflect a wider shift from a networked, social form of religion, to one where spirituality was broadcasted to more passive consumers (Lewis, 2016).

Media Used Today

Print Media

The bible is the oldest book ever written. In bible times it was merely scrolls handwritten by people who were inspired by God. Later it was made into a book which is divided into two testaments, the old and the new. It was written in three original languages namely; Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Nowadays, the bible is translated into many different languages.

Along with the bible. the SDA church has many books by different authors such Ellen G White, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write about God’s message. Bible commentaries help people understand what the texts mean and how to interpret them. The SDA has many publishing companies that publish and distribute a variety of books to all the parts of the world they can reach. Many churches distribute books, magazines, pamphlets, CD’s/DVD’s and other printed material to their members and visitors (ANN, 2012).

Broadcast Media

TV and radio have helped reinforce the idea that they would quietly receive information rather than joining in the service (Lewis, 2016).


Radio is the most inexpensive form of media distribution and one that reaches many people. People can listen to the radio at home, in their car, on their phones, etc. It has advantages over the other mass media such as television and magazines in terms of being handy, portable, easily accessible and cheap. Many poor communities can only afford a radio. To have the church on the radio is a way to reach these people. About 97 percent of the population is reached by the radio. Radio being a convenient form of entertainment caters to a large audience (Kamat, 2012).

The SDA church has many radio stations that cater for different people. The Adventist World Radio reaches 80 percent of the world’s populations and it is broadcast in 77 major languages of the world. 3ABN. which is also a television channel, has different branches to cater for different groups such as, Latinos, Australians and they have a station dedicated to music alone (ANN, 2012).


Many people today are feeling the effects of an ever-intensifying society. The television ministry reaches millions of people. They broadcast in different languages so that everyone can hear and receive the gospel in their own language. Hope Channel in Africa broadcasts Hope Channel International in English and Hope Channel Novo Tempo in Portuguese for Angola and Mozambique. Hope Channel is planning to expand their channel to accommodate indigenous languages because there are many people who do not speak English or Portuguese in Africa (ANN, 2012).

Digital Media

Bible believing churches can effectively use social media to communicate to their members by announcing upcoming events, sharing audience specific information, and knowing the best time to post on these sites (McKinney, 2014). It is not strange for large organizations to interact with its members and promote their message via digital media. However, the democratic nature of digital media is allowing the church to play a much more unusual role in such a traditional hierarchal body (Lewis, 2016).

The SDA church has several websites such as https://www.adventistmission.org/, https://www.adventist.org/en/world-church/general-conference/, Helderberg Church and Pretoria Eastern Suburbs Church have a Facebook page, and many churches have WhatsApp groups.

How Church Members Use Social Media

1. Communicating with members and to encourage others in their church.
2. To point others to interesting articles related to Christianity and church life.
3. To share the gospel.
4. To share prayer requests.
5. To share activities and ministries in the church.
6. Growing membership
7. Fundraising.

(Rainer, 2015)

Some church leaders are noticing the opportunity social media creates to change their relationship with members (Lewis, 2016).

Impact and Effectiveness of the Media

Buzz Plant is a Christian-based digital advertising agency that conducted a survey in 250 churches. Less than half of the churches surveyed reported that they think that social media is the most effective method of communication, and 25% preferred the more traditional methods. The reason behind these findings may be the lack of knowledge of the effectiveness of social media in the church. There is a clear divide in a generation that fully understand social media, and one that speaks an entirely different digital language (Pittman, 2012).

The relationship between the churches and the media is one of uneasiness, fear and suspicion. The current church leaders did not grow up in the information society. The media has given man the idea that they are powerful and thus led them to believe that they no longer need to look to God and the churches to supply for his powerlessness (Comiskey, 1985). In contrast to the conventional top-down model of preaching Christianity via trained priests, digital media is enabling many ordinary Christians to have one-to-one conversations about their faith with non-believers (Lewis, 2016).

Churches have moved from relying heavily on audience participation in their services over the last few hundred years, to a passive model where the congregation receives a presentation. Many people in the church have bought into the idea that what happens online is virtual, rather than an embedded part of our everyday lives (Lewis, 2016).


Uses and Gratification Theory (UGT)

The Uses and Gratification Theory is an approach to understand why and how people actively seek out specific media to satisfy specific needs. It is an audience-centered approach to understand mass communication. Diverging from other media effect theories that question “what does media do to people?”, UGT focusses on “what do people do with media?” (Katz, 1959).


The SDA church uses an integrated marketing communication approach to spread the gospel. The work can be, and has been done by one form of media alone but the use of all the media complement each other. One single and clear message is being sent out by all the media. Digital media have made the bible and other print media provided by the church more accessible.



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Media Church Uses and Gratification Theory Research Seventh-Day Adventists



Title: The Media and The Church