Current Research

My research interests focus on the intersections between communication, media, and religion. Some of my current research interests and projects are listed below.

Hybrid Church: what does the future of the church look like post-pandemic? The Christianity and Communication Studie’s (CCSN) Practitioner-in-Residence, Garrett Gerhart, has been conducting interviews with pastors and church leaders across the country on this very question. You can check out his interviews on CCSN’s Facebook page. We plan to turn the completed interviews into a book for pastors and other church leaders as they navigate digital culture post-pandemic.

God-talk and the Manipulative Use of Spiritual language: how do we take the name of the Lord in vain? The pandemic highlighted subtle and not-so-subtle ways Christians and others outside the Body of Christ use Christian-ese and other virtue signaling language to persuade, manipulate, cajole, and marginalize in all types of public contexts. This book offers a communication perspective of what God-talk includes, its effects on our communication with God, self, and our neighbors, and what specific communication habits we can cultivate to eliminate its “un-holy” uses.

Communication Theory and Hospitality: This project offers a critique of major communication theories from Christian perspectives. Henri Nouwen’s notion of “hospitality” in his book Reaching Out is the guiding framework for this analysis. The proposed book encourages readers to ask different kinds of questions about communication theory as they toggle back and forth between communication practice and reflection on such practice, such as: Is my thoughtful study of communication theory helping me to become more Christ-like in my communication with others? Does my communication create hospitable places where God and my neighbors feel welcome? Hospitality is a powerful untapped concept for communication theory.

How to Lead Your Dance with Media and Technology in Mindful and Sacred Ways. In this project we demonstrate how God’s great gifts of media and technology can rob us of everyday Sabbath and impede spiritual growth if not faithfully stewarded through a process described as mindful media attachment. Mindful media attachment helps to promote the “holy habits” of sacred intentionality, sacred interiority, and sacred identity. These “three sacreds,” which arise from a proper understanding of the “grammar and language” of media and technology, ultimately allow us to avoid treating media and technology as ends in and of themselves and to avoid divided affections that drain energy, purpose, and Kingdom service. This book was recently published in 2021 with Cascade Books. Amazon link.

Annotated Bibliography of Christianity and Communication Study: this project is a continuation of Paul Soukup’s 1990 Christian Communication: A Bibliographic Survey. With the help of a team of trained graduate students, we are updating the literature in religious communication that deals with Christianity and communication study from 1990 to present. Approximately 50 different subjects are covered with an estimated 3,500 sources.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as Religious Experience: often referred to as mixed martial arts, UFC is one of the fastest growing and most popular sports in the world. Many fighters profess strong religious convictions and bring their religious practices with them into the fighting ring. Adolescent males with dreams of reaching the UFC participate in local fight clubs. The local fight club has emerged in recent years as a potential valid means by which some young men are seeking, and achieving, a tangible rite of passage experience. These fight clubs provide a type of “religious experience” for their adolescents participants as well, including certain rites and rituals, language, and practices that hold religious significance.

Communication Media and Technology throughout Church History: this project explores the major turning points in communication history and their impact on the Christian Church. Specifically, we are interested in identifying the top 15 or 20 media and technology revolutions that have significantly affected the Church in three main areas: preaching/teaching, fellowship, and worship. The list of media and technology in progress includes everything from roads to the alphabet, the printing press to social media. The past is a gateway to the future, and understanding the past can help the Christian Church understand better how to navigate web 3.0 and beyond.