"Napkin Theology" an Example of One Man Influencing Culture Creatively
- Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Perhaps you know the feelings. They're not uncommon to so many of us who believe what the Bible says, but wonder how to get the message to the masses, or even if we could articulate what we believe in a clear, cohesive, friendly manner to someone of a different viewpoint with whom we are blessed enough to converse.
For the last several years I've followed the trend back towards Christians-Creating-Culture (as opposed to doing the other "C"s we've become known for - combating, critiquing, and cocooning ourselves off from it, to borrow terms from Dick Staub's excellent book, The Culturally-Savvy Christian). So when I came across the efforts of one humble individual who was responding to God's call by "Helping Christians better understand and share their faith using just a pen and a napkin," I was intrigued. Much more so when I realized that the "Napkin Theology" videos Stan Ward was uploading to YouTube were of good quality (thanks to project videographer Robbie Jones of Pine Cove Christian Camps), useful as training tools for believers, and primers for unbelievers.
Then consider that I know the guy. In the early 90s, this gentleman and I had as much influence on each other as anyone, studying theology and ministry together at college for 75 percent of the year, and going crazy with summer campers together at a Christian youth camp during the remaining 25 percent (but I digress; you can read more about those experiences here).
Needless to say, I had to talk to Stan about how he came up with the clever, insightful, and just-funny-enough videos in which his crude drawings and storyteller's voice merge to illustrate invaluable theological points. Consider, for example, how even in the middle of Stan's current fair-minded series on the various worldviews that are out there he lightens the mood right off the bat by reminding us that "philosophy can be boring, but cows make everything fun!" This was one man with one small idea, responding to God's push, creating something tangible and useful to the Kingdom. In other words, doing that which so many of us would hope to say about ourselves. Surely he's got something valuable to share...
Crosswalk: Stan, did I see something that said you got your inspiration for Napkin Theology from something Phil Vischer of VeggieTales fame had written or said?
Ward: Yeah, it was a Christianity Today article that came out last fall. The title was "Platform Agnostic: A Conversation with Phil Vischer."
My takeaway from it was there's basically two levels of visual media that are really influencing culture right now. It's either high-end media, i.e. Avatar, or low-end media, like YouTube. So the VeggieTales style of Saturday morning cartoon-style media has lost a lot of its ability to influence. That was my takeaway. Sometimes I'm not entirely true to what I read (laughs), but that was my conclusion after reading the article.
CW: So reading this article stirred something in you that made you say, well, maybe I can't do the high-end media, but I could do low-end stuff? And what brought you specifically to thinking you could create this Napkin Theology spot?
Ward: The first thought was, yeah, there's a lot of people that can put stuff on YouTube. But surely that would be an outlet. The second thought was, "What can I do that's YouTube-able?" The class I teach at Brook Hill is a Christian Worldview class that covers the whole year. The first semester covers constructing a Christian worldview, the second semester then goes into non-Christian alternatives. And with most of my weekly lessons I always try to have some sort of illustration that sort of summarizes what we've talked about, that helps to illustrate some main idea. It's usually just something I can draw on the board quickly.
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