Consumers of some digital news sites can be forgiven for wondering if the end might be near.

This week alone there’s been stories warning about increasing nuclear threats in the Middle East, the start of World War III, warnings about an outbreak of the Bird Flu, and even the suggestion that Monday’s total solar eclipse will mark the return of Christ.

Journalists have long worked to grab readers’ attention, and in an increasingly digital age, efforts appear to have intensified.

Yesterday’s digital version of The New York Times included a post that wasn’t intended to be published. It was instructions to its email team encouraging them to:

Write a short intro that introduces/sets up the article, but doesn’t summarize it fully. Try to employ curiosity gap and not give away too much in the inbox. We want them to click to read the piece.

 Every news site wants your click, so they’re working hard to frame things in a way that will compel you to do so.

The challenge with the quest for clicks, of course, is that it often leads to sensational stories that not only raise your curiosity, but also your blood pressure. We allow editors and writers to fire us up, and sometimes, to unhealthy and unproductive levels and places.

To that end, I remember a pastor once asking the question: Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?

He went on to explain that thermometers merely measure the temperature, but thermostats control it. As Christians who care deeply about the culture because it impacts people’s lives both here as well as in the life to come, we want to be thermostats.

How can we accomplish such a goal?

Phillips Brooks was a pastor perhaps best known for writing the beautiful Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Rector of Boston’s famed Trinity Church, he was known to preach boldly and unapologetically about both God’s love and truth. He also had a reputation for being unfazed by trials that came his way.

Wrote one newspaper reporter in Boston, “The day was dark and gloomy, but Phillips Brooks walked down Newspaper Row and all was bright.”

Christians have both an obligation and an opportunity to help set the temperature in culture. Our words and actions matter and can make a difference. How we respond to events can go a long way in how those events unfold.

When New York State officials voted for and then cheered the expansion of abortion rights, Focus on the Family spoke out and warned about the consequences of championing a culture of death. But that’s not all we did. The ministry decided to broadcast a live 4D ultrasound in Times Square.

It turned out to be the largest pro-life rally in New York State history. More than 20,000 people stood there on a sunny Saturday and saw the image and heard the heartbeat of Abby Johnson’s baby. There was some yelling and negative chants from protestors, but we chose to confront death by shining the light on life.

The apostle Paul was a thermostat, not a thermometer. His legendary missionary travels set the tone and tenor for the expansion of the Christian Church. Writing to believers in Corinth, he provided a blueprint for engagement then – and now:

“Be on your guard,” he urged them. “Stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love” (1 Cor. 16: 13-14).

When we stand firm in love with courage and boldness, we can help control the temperature of the climate of culture.


Image from Shutterstock.