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Mark McClendon: Only the local church can counter the “digital cocoon”

November 7, 2019

Mark McClendon the WEA GA MC (left) on stage with Godfrey Yogarajah ,the Deputy Secretary General of WEA

Mark McClendon, who will emcee much of this week’s General Assembly, has witnessed many gripping stories of human transformation during his 33 years of Christian media outreach in Indonesia. He has also become convinced that only the local church is positioned to do effective discipleship.

As an Indonesian representative of CBN since 1998, McClendon has concentrated on contextualizing the gospel message for the local culture. His and CBN’s goal, as he puts it, is to “present the gospel in a way that feels like your next-door neighbor is telling the story.”

The results have at times been quite dramatic. McClendon recalled one man who watched a CBN Indonesia program and felt a great hunger to read the Bible. He and his wife contacted the CBN counseling center, came to faith in Christ, and promptly started sharing the gospel with their entire community.

In another case, a rural villager saw a CBN broadcast on the village television set, which is hung outside in a tree during the dry season so that everyone in the village can watch. He wrote down the counseling center’s phone number and put it in his wallet. Six years later, when his family was facing a crisis, he found the card still in his wallet and called it. Shortly thereafter, he and his family became Christians.

But McClendon also realizes the limitations of what he does. “We can preach the gospel to millions through media,” he said, “but we are not positioned to make disciples. Only the local church can do that.”

In the last five years, McClendon’s partnerships with Indonesian congregations have flourished. “When we came offering to serve and empower the local church, all the walls came down, regardless of denomination,” he explained. “They have the calling and the capacity to disciple others, but they appreciated having us come alongside them and help them be the best version of the church they could be.”

McClendon will lead a workshop Friday on the use of creative media, the Internet, and digital technology in disciple making. He is especially concerned to help the church combat the “digital cocoon” that is drawing youth into a different worldview.

“We are just trying to adjust to today’s trends, but in 10 years everything will be different,” he said. “We are battling the collective impact on our youth of tens of thousands of messages from social media, YouTube, and so on. We have to keep up, because the changes taking place around us are phenomenal.”


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