The story of my life was captured on slides. Some families used printed pictures, but my Dad captured all the important moments in the life of our family on slides. Periodically we would have a family slide show and look at the pictures of yesterday. Since my Dad was very organized, all these slides are in boxes and placed in chronological order, with a detailed caption written on the cardboard portion of each slide. These boxes of slides are a history of my life.

Who uses slides anymore? When my parents died, and I inherited the slide boxes, I wondered what in the world I would do with them. I also received the slide projector and the screen, but who knows how long these antiques will work in the projection of my life pictures. For several years I have been wondering what to do with these valuable pictures that tell the story of my family.

This Christmas my children gave me a wonderful gift. It is a Digital Film Scanner/Converter. This amazing little tool allows me to place a slide on a tray and insert it into a little box. A couple of clicks then turns the slide into a JPEG digital image. Suddenly the antique slides of my childhood can be used in the varied ways that a digital JPEG can be used today. Already I have e-mailed some of these pictures to my kids to show them how the new tool works. At Thanksgiving of this year, we will have a family slide show, but this time the pictures will come from a laptop and be seen on a large flat screen television. The pictures are the same, but the format has been changed. To match the name of this tool, my pictures have been “converted.”

Now that is a word we use in the Christian faith. Often, when we speak of conversion, we are talking about it on an individual basis. A person might speak of his or her conversion to faith in Christ. My experience with the Digital Film Converter has caused me to think of conversion in other ways. How can churches experience conversion? What can churches do to preserve the beautiful image of the gospel of Jesus Christ but format it in a way that is accessible to people today?

Talking about change in the church is sometimes threatening to people because they think you are trying to change something about God or Jesus or what we believe. That is not what I am talking about. The picture of God’s love and grace needs to remain the same, but the way it is presented, or formatted, can change to meet the needs of people today. If we approached ministry with this in mind, what kind of conversion might happen in our worship, discipleship, and mission as churches? What difference would that make in our congregations?

A new possibility is unleashed as conversion to a new format happens. As I looked at some of the pictures from my early life, I realized that these have only been seen by a small circle of people in family slide shows when we would darken the room and gather around the screen. Now, placed in a different format, the picture above has just been seen by more people through the distribution of this newsletter than ever before. When my mother took this picture of my Dad and me in the first year of my life, I am sure that she never considered how it could be shared the way I am sharing it now. In a new format, the picture has become portable and mobile. Isn’t that what evangelism is all about? We take the picture of God’s love in Jesus Christ and put it into a format that can be shared with those outside the family circle.

Many churches feel like family slide shows where we gather in a small circle and show the pictures we all love to see. How can we convert the format of the faith pictures we are viewing in a way that our community can see the pictures we love to see? Perhaps these are the conversations we need to be having in our churches. The conversion to a new format will not be the same in every church. Context is important to know how to convert the old slides to a new form. What will work in your context? Talk about it in your church. How can we convert the beautiful slide of God’s love and grace that we have enjoyed in our family circle to a new format (JPEG) which will allow us to make the message portable, mobile, and engaging? Healthy churches learn how to make this conversion.

Do you get the picture?

David Hull
David Hull joined the CHC team in 2014. A native of Louisville, KY, David has been an active leader in community and denominational life for 35 years. Most recently, he served as pastor of First Baptist, Huntsville AL for twelve years. Previously he pastored First Baptist, Knoxville TN and churches in South Carolina, North Carolina and Kentucky. His wife, Jane, is pastor at Union Christian Church in Watkinsville GA. He is a consultant for CHC and the coordinator for CHC-Southeast.