In May of this year, a shocking story made headlines. Someone riding his bicycle on the MacArthur Causeway, a busy road in North Miami Beach, happened upon the grisly sight of a man attacking another man by eating the flesh off his face. Eventually, other witnesses arrived and shouted at the man to stop. The cyclist, Larry Vega, called the police, who soon showed up and, after trying to stop the attack by shouting, shot the attacker dead.
When my husband told me about this the day after it happened, I responded by saying, “It’s gonna be awhile before any of them will be able to get that image out of their minds.” In fact, as we continued to discuss the incident, we agreed that these people—the victim, the police, and the witnesses—will never be able to get the image of the attack out of their minds. Images have a way of imprinting themselves in our minds, and once they stick, they’re there to stay.
All I have to do is think about the first time I drove to Manhattan after the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001. Having moved to New York City in 1999, I had driven up I-95 toward the City many times. I always knew I was getting close to home when I saw the towers in the distance. But when I drove home to New York from Washington DC a few days after the attacks, instead of the familiar scene, I could only see was smoke where the towers used to be. It was disorienting, to say the least. The image of the Twin Towers had become part of the landscape, and without them, I didn’t recognize New York City from a distance for a long time.
I have many other examples of images—photos, paintings, videos, memories—that have been impressed in my memory, from the Afghan girl on the cover of my dad’s National Geographic in 1984 to the posters of Michael Jackson and Madonna that plastered my walls in the early ‘90’s, to the photo I took of my husband the day we met, which hung on my fridge for months, giving me something to look at while we talked for hours on the phone—him in Seattle, me in New York. Once, shortly after I began using Twitter, someone I did not know “tweeted” a link to me, and when I clicked it, I was suddenly looking at a very graphic pornographic image. I wished I could give my brain a bath.
The bottom line is that today, more than ever before, images are everywhere, and just about everyone’s thinking is increasingly shaped by the images around them—whether they know it or not. That’s why I’m excited about a new resource coming out this fall from NavPress. “Worth a Thousand Words: The Power of Images to Transform Hearts” is an interactive digital book written by Dennis Stokes, Ralph Ennis, and Judy Gomoll (with Christine Weddle) that addresses the influence of visual imagery on personal—and spiritual—formation. Created to be a resource for thought leaders, ministry leaders, and ministry practitioners, “Worth a Thousand Words: The Power of Images to Transform Hearts” is a helpful apologetic for why those working in ministry vocations in the twenty-first century must not only be aware of the power of images in shaping our minds, but they must also be equipped to address and engage images in communicating the Gospel to younger generations. More than a merely aesthetic punctuation for the communication of the gospel, images are becoming the very means of communication themselves, and ministry practitioners need to be more fluent in speaking the language of imagery.
Through helpful research data, practical scenarios, and a wide array of full-color images to support their thesis, the writers have achieved an important step toward this “image-language literacy.” With points to ponder, questions for personal reflection, and image exercises at the close of each chapter, this e-book is an informative and practical tool that will leave those who read and engage with the material much more prepared for ministry in the digital age.