Monthly archives: December, 2020

Step Zero in Understanding Internet Ministry

So, you are intrigued by Internet Ministry, but you are intimidated.  Who are these people on the internet?  What do they need?  How can I, a pastor who barely feels confident with email, help these people who seems so different?  Why won’t they simply come to church and relate to me in a way comfortable for me?

Janet is a former police officer.  She was pulled over on the side of they road on an Interstate and was rear ended by a distracted driver.  As she was recuperating at home, her mom had a stroke, since “she was home anyway”, her brother and sister decided mom should move in with her.  Almost before she knew it, two other family members arrived courtesy of relatives who felt that, while she looks after her mom, she can look after poor “Uncle Bruce” and “Cousin Sandy”.  Now she is dealing with her chronic pain, mourning a life plan that changed unexpectedly, and feels trapped and taken advantage of as she is now a staff of one in an ad hoc family nursing home.  She can barely leave home, but needs someone to talk to her about vocation and calling.

Henry is bi-polar.  He lived his life feeling not good enough.  He didn’t do well at school.  His marriage fell apart when his wife no longer could deal with his mania and depression.  She took their two kids as he looks at his life and wonders “why would God create a person like me or a life like mine”?  He needs a word of hope and to know that he is worth the journey toward healing that he knows he needs to begin.

Running Cloud is an indigenous American.  Her mother was the community medicine woman, and her father was a presbyterian missionary.  Between the two she was gifted with deep faith and an ability to speak within the culture she called home.  Then her father died.  When her mother died she found she needed to be there to help her people in their spiritual life.  But a big church opened up close by that preaches loudly and slickly the prosperity gospel.  She now fights the message that the reason her community is poor is because they refuse to become like the people in the mega church.  She needs someone who can theologically help her bridge the chasm caused in her community as she increasing identifies the message of that church as true “Christianity”, instead of the mission work of her father.

I get it!  As pastors, we get comfortable buried in the tasks of ministry.  We are constantly preparing that next service.  We are writing newsletters, leading Bible Studies, doing weddings and funerals.  You just wish these people would schedule with the Secretary to catch you and talk to you in your office, on your turf.  But they won’t.  They are searching the internet for answers and the people with our ability to answer their questions don’t seem to be there.

However, Jesus didn’t just teach in the synagogue, he went to where the hurting people were.  He dined with sinners and walked among the “unclean”.  That is when ministry is truly transformative.  We want to learn how to make our ministry look like that.  But there is that learning curve.  Will we do it?

I met these people (though names were changed, of course) in my first month.  I reached out and discovered that harvest that alluded me, as I was kept busy doing tasks in a nearly empty building.  That was how I discovered the need and my calling.  We need to face the learning curve to reach these people searching for us, together.

Retirement Letter

My PMM Friends & Pittsburgh Presbytery Partners,

It’s a desire to leave a place a little better than you found it. This is a letter meant to share what I know, what I’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help Presbyterian Media Mission’s (PMM) move further into the future.

But before I retire, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as Director of PMM. Because all that I’ve learned in my time has helped me in many endeavors beyond the mission work I headed up for 36 years, I’ve learned much from many of you close-up and from a far. You made me a better person grounded in the faith and hope found in Jesus Christ!

Throughout these years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and church communities take care of each other in new and wonderful ways just through permission given by PMM to do something new and creative in caring for one another in sharing God’s love.

I’ve struggled, mourned with grieved families searching for answers — and found grace in their allowing me to capture their stories through an interview for Passages.

I’ve been truly blessed meeting people and working with them from many different walks of life: Fred Rogers, David Newell (aka Mr. McFeely), Steve Allen (musician, author, actor, creator of the Tonight Show), Mike Farrell (M.A.S.H.), Ken Wales (Christy), Michael Rhodes (Christy, Romero), Sir John Templeton, Helen Walton, Terry Bradshaw, Edmond Nelson, Tunch Ilkin, Gary Anderson, John Stuper (World Series winning pitcher), John Fife, Ben & Carol Weir, Ken Bailey, Ken Hall, Gayraud Wilmore, Pat Brown (GA Moderator), Noel Paul Stookey, David Bailey, and a number of other people of what some would consider notoriety in life and faith.

I’ve learned from Dennis Benson that everyone has stories within them, to share with you and others, but there needs to be a sense of trust and comfort in telling their stories, then once the story is captured it is produced into a radio show. What a unique and meaningful service for listeners spanning 30 years.

I’ve had a paralyzed man tell of regaining his sense of touch, and a wounded woman shot in the head and left for dead tells her story of learning to walk again! What a powerful tribute of their willingness to share a demanding time in life that might just help someone else going through a difficulty.

I’ve seen people whose lives have been changed through the Church caring for them by helping them have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own.

I’ve seen young teens through Survivors interviews remind me of their actions to care for those that don’t look like them, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other as sisters and brothers in faith.

I’ve seen people discover a future unfold through celebrating “Free the Hostages, The Party Pentecost, Come In Out of the Cold at Advent, The Mister Rogers’ Sweater Drive to keep a neighbor warm, Christian Leadership in the New Testament, and feeding the hungry during the summer through Home Runs for Hunger.” Campaigns and materials trying to help make a difference!

I’ve been helped by colleagues in producing award-winning productions “most importantly,” the real reward was the story shared and the impact it made on listeners/viewers/readers. It is hard to count, but having realized through quality feedback, much has been learned that led to improvement in telling stories over the years.

I’ve discovered highly valued electronic storytelling has benefited me with so many meaningful relationships that was never imagined when I first started down this path of ministry and mission. It was encouraged by Dennis & Marilyn Benson, Gordon Bean, Harold Scott, Jim Boos, Janet Edwards, Dottie Ingram, Ruth Rylander, Bill Rusch, Dick Sigler, John Silbert, Keith Conover, Dick Baker, Johnnie Monroe, Susan Vande Kappelle, Beth Merry, Joan & Roy Humphrey, Jon & Lynn Clark, Bill Wolfe, Steve Smith, Jim Mohr, Dennis Molnar, Ron Wanless, Herb Miller, Wayne Yost, Dave Dawson, Bruce Stevens, BJ Randolph, and so many others in over 4 decades with PMM in my having served on the Board of Directors and as the key staff person.

PMM has been a joyous work, a love most of the time, in trying to figure out the best way to say or do something that can bring meaning and purpose to peoples lives!

Not just when there’s a need for a story to be shared, not just when my own narrow interest was at stake, but over the full scope of a lifetime, to help folks from all walks of life experience through the love of God, change can and will happen.

I want to thank my wife Tina for being supportive with our three children by our sides through the years of serving the Church through PMM. Our church family at Crestview Community Presbyterian Church has been supportive in so many ways.

I plan to help when asked and not get in the way of the next steps for PMM.

And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: we are not perfect but are faithful in carrying out the need to share stories of faith and hope that are the most valuable asset in being Christ’s Church in the world today.

Take care,
Gregg Hartung

Looking to Flipping the switch to Personal Communication in 2021!

The story started in 1980 for what is known as Presbyterian Media Mission (PMM), a cooperative media ministry, indebted to Pittsburgh Presbytery who rallied: the Presbyteries of Redstone, Kiskiminetas, Upper Ohio Valley, Beaver-Butler, Washington, Shenango, West Virginia, Eastminster, and then The Synod of the Trinity to share in this unique opportunity to reach out to people and serve churches through the media for the last four decades. Passages Radio Shows featuring people sharing their stories of faith from all walks of life was the centerpiece to a number of different creative storytelling projects as an outreach to people beyond the churches four walls.

At the heart of every communication is a person. In this year of so much adversity and need for diversity we find that every church is back to being about the basic function of sharing the Word
in people staying connected as God’s people.

So the switch this year was flipped to have education, ministry and mission all turn to help people stay connected through a cross-section of traditional and non-traditional communication reaching more people for some churches than ever before in recent history.

There are two ways of proclaiming the Gospel through traditional and non-traditional media:

  • There is a time when the Church, in the name of the Gospel, speaks to/with the world about the church. This kind of communication is sermons, worship services, bible discussions and prayer.
  • Then there is when the Church, in the name of the Gospel, speaks to/with the world about the world. This programming suggests that the audience may not understand religious words and forms. This kind of communication addresses problems and issues which bring pain and suffering to the world (hunger, racism, environmental issues, etc).

The community of faith has no substitute. It is our understanding that there is no form of communication that can provide the complete faith experience like being God’s gathered people. “Where two or three are gathered I’ll be in your midst,” is what Jesus Christ taught us in the tapestry of faith wrapping our individual faith walk with a corporate journey we do together.

PMM began joining the information highway of life in using digital communication in 1997 as Paul modeled using the Romans highway system to take the Gospel to more people.

The combination of personal with traditional media is the order of the day! Each church finds that churches are as unique as individuals and that to do what the next church down the street is doing doesn’t work anymore. A custom approach to communicating for each congregation as the “mass” that once was associated with media is no longer there. Media on a personal level through social media has flipped us to a custom approach in reaching people because the phone is as common as a pencil or pen in communicating.

So Presbyterian Media Mission (PMM) is flipping the switch to help individuals and churches to move to a personal approach to sharing our stories of faith for a new day!

Thank you for forty years of supporting media ministry.

Gregg Hartung
PMM – Director

Missionary in Media Introduces Himself

Hi, my name is Rev. David Roberts and I will be bringing a new direction to PMM. In my senior year of High School, back in 1982, I first became involved with PMM. I met a wonderful visionary and pastor named Rev. Dennis Benson, and took a production class that taught how to produce media for the church. Hearing his vision for the church, sparked my imagination to see that the church was not something that occurred in a specific building or a specific denomination and was regulated to predefined ways of ministry. God and God’s church is much bigger than that!

I did not go straight into ministry. My initial studies were in music and technology. I caught the initial bug with programming the first home computers that were connected to the family TV and graduated to my first Apple II as soon as I could get one. I worked in technology and electronics for my first 40 years until I received a call to go from that world back into ministry.

My grandfather, and father were both Presbyterian pastors and my great grandfather was a Congregationalist pastor. As a PK, I grew up as part of the ministry as all our families do. When I turned 40, After a planning session with my wife Jamie, I left my job and went to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and got my M.Div., as I also was a student pastor of a small church in West Virginia. Meanwhile, I reconnected with PMM and met Gregg Hartung, and helped and learned from him as part of my seminary experience.

After graduation, I got an inner ear infection that made me temporarily lose most of my hearing. Being in a silent world for a few weeks took me to the Internet where I could communicate by text. My only daughter Molly, got me on a new new service called MySpace. From their I got into the beginnings of Internet gaming. As people who I played games with found out I was a pastor, I was amazed by the depth of questions they asked and the deep needs they had for answers I seemed to feel were very basic.

Eventually the people that owned and ran the game board I was on. Asked If I would start an Internet church. I replied that I had no idea what an Internet church would be, but if they built their vision of an internet church, I would be happy to spend my off evenings there as a resource and pastor. I expected a few isolated chats from time to time. What I got was 3000 visits the first week. It was then I learned the internet was a place God was sending me too.

Now, with Covid, many other pastors and churches have stumbled on the internet as not only a way to speak to their congregations at home. But, they also soon discover the huge numbers of people that are tuning in from all over the world. We as a church need to figure this out. We need a place where we can study, share experiences, discuss and learn. That will be the direction that will be added to what PMM is about to become.

So, that is who I am as one of those delightful stories Dennis would expose us to on Passages. I truly love and appreciate the entirety of PMM’s ministry and hope to see those ministries to continue to function. But I also know that we have a bright and essential ministry before us. I hope you will continue your love and support as we start being something new!