I read with some interest the piece you had on your website about “What Will it Take to fix Christian TV”, and obviously had a couple of observations and comments.
First of all, it’s good that people are talking about this subject at all. I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to “fix” Christian TV, that means at least it exists! If it weren’t for a handful of men like my Father, Pat Robertson, Lester Summerall or even Jim Bakker, Christian television would not be available as we know it today. At least we’re not debating, “How Do We Get Christian Television at All!”
Because of these pioneers the transmitters, studios, remote trucks and hardware are in place…now what we do with those tools is another story altogether. What gets hard to deal with at times is the fine line between debate and criticism. (And both are healthy if done properly.) I suppose anything in life could be debated or criticized, but the question should be, “Will it do any good?” Many times people criticize out of frustration, a lack of power, a lack of knowledge or to simply make themselves feel better. We are all different and have varying motives. Many times those on the receiving end, either don’t know or don’t care, and that’s OK too.
The title of this article was interesting to me, (I’m not sure who wrote it or who conducted the poll, but it obviously denotes that something is broken, and needs to be fixed.) Couldn’t the title have been, “What’s Happening in Christian TV and How Do We Make it Better?” To me, this perception is a little like going down to a new car dealership, looking at a Ford Mustang and asking, “What will it take to fix this new car?” Well, to the designers and engineers of that model, there’s nothing wrong with it, and does the job just fine. To a Chevy guy, it’s a piece of junk and needs to be crushed! Anything, anywhere at anytime in history could be criticized as to it’s relevance or significance. The Eiffel Tower was one of the most hotly debated projects in French history. Many saw it as a beautiful architectural masterpiece, others as an eyesore that needed to be torn down.
The other issue that needs to be discussed is, “What is Christian TV designed for?” Is it to, “Preach to the Choir?”, so to speak. Is it for only Christians to watch and enjoy? Is it designed to inspire one’s faith? Could it be used to teach and to entertain? Or could the technology possibly be used as a tool to evangelize the unsaved and unchurched both here in America and around the world? Well the answer is obvious…it’s to do all of those and more in my opinion. Exactly what kind of programming is the most effective will never be agreed on, and could be discussed until Jesus comes, but I can’t get into all of that in this short response.
Trust me, creativity is not the issue, I’ve got a stack of show ideas on my desk six feet deep, and many of them are pretty good! (Unfortunately we did turn down the Christian Wrestling show…sorry. I know you wanted to direct that one.) For a long time I was a huge believer that if we could simply spend more money, (or change how our medium is funded) we could make everything all better. For the most part money helps, but it is still only a small part of the equation. Viewership, ratings, donor response, spiritual impact and financial return must always be taken into consideration when doing a TV program and those with the fattest pocketbooks don’t always generate the greatest return in those categories.
Do we need to spend the money first to garner a large audience? Or do we wait for the large audience before we spend the money? Many programmers seem to be stuck in a kind of “Chicken and Egg” scenario. Then we must factor in what gets people to tune in and support any ministry? The slick production values, the lighting, the music, the message, the personality of the host? If the program happens to be a movie or documentary, what makes that compelling? The stars, the subject matter, the production values, the graphics, the spiritual content? Again, everyone is looking for something different.
I’m curious to know if these kinds of articles or attitudes exist in other forms of Christian media. (i.e. – Movies, Radio, Music, Internet?) Do those industries need to be “fixed” also, or simply improved? We all want better programs, bigger budgets, more creativity, more authenticity, etc., but saying “Christian Unity”, is a little like saying, “Arab Unity!” We all have our own ideas, perspectives, opinions and theories of who Christ is, and how the good news of the Gospel is to be preached and communicated effectively.
What I get excited about is those who don’t just sit on the sidelines and criticize or pontificate, but those who light a candle in the darkness. Some of the greatest programs to air on TBN recently were done by production companies who didn’t have a checking account full of money, but a heart full of faith. The tools for doing TV production (i.e., cameras, lights, editing systems, etc.) have plummeted over the last few years and there is no excuse for not getting in the game! If you have an idea that will revolutionize and evangelize the world, then “Go for it!” When God guides, trust me, He’ll provide.
I wasn’t one of your respondents to the “poll”, but had I been, I would have fallen into the “Christian TV Doesn’t Need Fixing” catagory. But is does need improving and refining, as all forms of media do. Trust me, I am going to do everything in my power to make that happen and raise the level of the ocean, so to speak. I’ve been in this indusry for over 30 years and we are getting better, but there is much more to do, so it’s time to stop debating and time to start shooting and editing!