Christian Media

A Big Reason Christian TV Is Growing Irrelevant

The morning of 9/11, I had a brainstorm. Watching the horror unfolding at the World Trade Center, I immediately sent a fax (remember faxes?) to every owner or manager of every Christian television station I knew. I begged them to interrupt their regularly scheduled programming and start reporting on the tragedy in New York.

Obviously they didn’t have the budget or manpower to compete with major news networks, but they could report on the spiritual perspective of what was happening, offer comfort, or help people understand the religious issues behind it. Many took my advice and brought in experts on Islam, Bible scholars, college professors, local pastors, and one station even did a cell phone interview with a person who was actually being evacuated from one of the towers. The response was incredible, and I was hoping it would shake Christian TV stations out of the scheduled programming rut, so that we could build media platforms that dealt with immediate issues Americans are facing.

But since then, for the most part Christian TV has returned to it’s “regularly scheduled programming.” Just this past few days and weeks, we’ve seen major events unfolding internationally in Syria, Pakistan, and Kenya. Most of these events have direct religious implications, and most directly involve Christians. And yet – when it comes to Christian TV – the Christian medium with arguably the largest audience – where is the reporting, interviews, commentary, insight, or Biblical perspective?

It’s tough to find.

Christian television continues to grow more and more irrelevant because we refuse to take the time or trouble to address issues that really matter – when they matter. If you work at a Christian station or network, think about it. I’m all for sermons, Bible teaching, interview shows, and movies. But consider the power of live, immediate programming with experts who can help us understand these world events. Look around at the Christian universities in your area, pastors and ministry leaders who may be experts on the issue, or find other sources of information.

We get upset because secular journalists don’t get the spiritual perspective of what’s going on, and yet, when it comes to TV, are we offering a better alternative?

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35 Comments

  1. Agreed. So much of Christian TV is produced months in advance. The world changes too fast these days for that to be a great idea.

  2. Phil, the problem is there is no money if you do local news programming. Advertisers shun Christian TV. Preachers are the only ones who will pay for the few viewers those stations have.

      1. At Cornerstone TV we just launched a daily program named Real Life. It is live TV created for the purpose of helping our viewers discover the practical truth of the Word. We produce several segments such as Sister 2 Sister and Hard Questions that deal with the headlines and social issues. http://reallife.ctvn.org/ Sure money is always an issue. We will never be independently ad supported. Having worked in networks that are, it is better to stay free from controls. God isn’t short on resources so our trust is in His provision. Pray for your brothers and sisters in media around the world. They are on the front lines of the battle. God isn’t done with mass media.

  3. They are not thinking missionally . . . integrating our faith in the media requires a different paradigm than TV evangelists selling their wares.

  4. With the inexpensive use of camera phones, text and twitter feeds, a network of local ‘correspondents’ and those close to a disaster could speak to the Kingdom values virtually immediately. If I were a pastor/church paying for programming, I would jump at a clause that regular programming would be interrupted to bring relevant information to the believers. Awesome idea,..but I think it is going to the internet.

  5. Amen, Phil. I think that I’ve gone away from most Christian tele-media because there has been such a lack/fear of showing care for “the world.” So ridiculous, yet so prevalent. To give a flip what goes on on our planet, is this too hard to get our minds and our spirits and our tv networks around? Jesus took care of some basic stuff – you’d think we woulda learned that lesson by now.

  6. Christian TV is a reflection of most christians liviing in a bubble away from the world waiting for the rapture instead of going out and reach the people on the streets!

    Unfortunately Christian TV is for Christians when it should be for the Non-Christians.

  7. The problem is there is no advertising. So the program becomes a lot about survival instead of focusing on entertaining/connecting with the audience. The program becomes one infomercial after another. The minister will sit there for 30 minutes trying to figure out how to sell a new product just to make enough money and do the same thing next week. Meanwhile at the end of each show asking you to give a special gift to “keep us preaching the Gospel around the world.” But really it’s to help us pay daystar/tbn.

  8. Well said. Unfortunately, it’s just another example of people living in a bubble, unwilling to engage in what’s happening around us.

    (But then they can’t understand why people view ministries as out of touch & irrelevant)

  9. Right on… Christians need to get uppity and Christian media needs to sound the alarm about “current” events. The Bible tells us that in the end-times we will have wars and rumors of wars. Kenya, Pakistan, China and more are letting anti-Christian thugs bring chaos to the Church.
    I was shocked today when I saw a front page WSJ photo of a grieving Pakistani Woman draped over the coffin of her brother in a make-shift morgue. I then looked at the front page of the local paper… there in a corner, half the size of a business card was a small headline about the bomb that went off killing 70 Christians in a Pakistan church…
    There is a tear in the social fabric. There is fear in the hearts of the believers in Christian values. Even the Swiss are starting to get pissed off. I took note that the neutral nation of Switzerland is getting tired of burkas, niqabs and other face-veiling garments that hide human faces.

  10. Christian radio, although better equipped for quick reaction-cameras etc. being unnecessary-is equally at fault. It’s just “business” as usual.

  11. Implementing this great idea has the real potential to breathe life into their dying networks. Fear of risk, ratings dropping, loss of dollars, and some fearing politically related subjects will continue to keep them stuck while preaching to the choir. The 700 Club will talk politics, but TBN won’t touch the subject, nor allow their guests to even suggest mentioning the President’s name or political issues at hand. Another example of sticking one’s head in the sand.

  12. How could not only Christian media be relevant to society, but also Christians themselves be relevant to the media around them?
    Could Christians be equipped, inspired and resourced to contribute insightful commentaries, challenging questions, probing arguments, and deep experiences to enrich the mainstream media, far beyond a brief Biblically oriented comment?

  13. You are so right Phil. We have missionary friends in Nairobi that had direct involvement with the hostage/gunfire/killings in Kenya. We all need to hear from our Christian brethren in the media. It is so much more meaningful from a Christian perspective. Thanks for putting it out there!!!!

  14. Remember Christian TV is bankrolled by those it sells air time to. They generally do not sell commercials so raising the money to do live news commentary is significant.

    That said Revelation TV in the UK is trying to do exactly that and the Europeans have used more foresight in presenting a fuller slate of programming.

    This is done at the expense of the golden gate imagery and plush studios. That in turn means some will regard it as ‘second rate ‘ and won’t tune in.

    Like it or not too many Christians just want to be told what to believe and not have to get into too much reasoning and understanding.

  15. Great Ideas Phil. The problems though are the implementation. The bell is ringing but who will answer. Without advertising its also about money and time and who will pay for it. Many smaller stations are barely breaking even, if that.

  16. I think it’s more than Christian TV – sadly in 2013 in the West, with church attendance decreasing and an increase in pluralistic views, it’s obvious that we have become an irrelevant oddity. As far as normal people are concerned we have nothing substantial to offer. – and yet we wonder why our friends don’t accept our invitation to come to church with us.

  17. It’s irrelevant already, but what you’re calling for, the 700 Club does to a certain extent. Christian TV on the cable news model is a bad idea. We have too many perspectives that won’t reconcile. What you’re proposing won’t increase the knowledge of the Christians watching. It will devolve Christian television into a crossfire type platform where debate leads to yelling, not truth, and at the end of it all every Christian has mud on their face. As a news professional I’m begging you to consider that television isn’t the answer. The local church is.

    1. In the post I specifically say we shouldn’t be a cable news model. But we do need to address current issues rather than continually broadcast canned programming that was produced months and sometimes years ago. And yes, the church is the answer, but that doesn’t mean we stop reading books, watching TV, or using other media….

  18. ex Ministries founded by G. Craig Lewis does just this on ex t.v, its an internet broadcast where they deal with the current events, from a Christian perspective!

  19. Phil, you are right on with this assessment – it carries over to Christian radio, as well – and it’s not getting any better. A friend of mine (with long time experience in LA market radio) recently resigned as the advisor to the radio station at a prominent Christian university because they had no vision to move things forward and include relevant programming. Sports and music, that’s it. It’s too bad.

  20. I disagree with the assessment of to few Christian TV stations as I have basic cable and get about 5 or 6 channels with Christian content.

  21. Great insights Phil. I am intoxicated with the opportunity in this market. At one end, it sucks it is so behind, but on the other… you’ve got a great lane to capitalize. Keep it up.

  22. I managed Eagle a TV in Mongolia for nearly 10 years. Our station was a Mongolian version of a CNN or FOX News. Everyday we did live news al day with strategic hours of Christian programming. We even had a twice weekly Christian news block.

    Not all of our 136 staff were Christian. Only Christians worked in ministry production, but the rest of the staff was a mix of Buddhists, atheist, shammanists and Christians.

    We covered breaking news live like any other network, elections, bombings, terrorism, natural disasters, etc. We became the number one source of independent news in the country. People on the street would say, “Eagle TV tells the truth” even though we never branded ourselves that way.

    Our strategy gave us enormous opportunities to share Christ and help define what Christianity is for Mongolia

    1. Thanks for posting Tom. I firmly believe that we could learn an enormous amount from what Christians like your team are doing with international media. It’s one big reason we launched The Influence Lab (influencelab.com).

  23. You may want to tune in to theDove TV, it’s such culturally relevant programming we are attempting to produce every day. We have also launched a news only feed on Roku (@theDove Newsroom) as well. I can also say that those at Shine TV in Aukland, New Zealand are also engaging their audience with the relevancy that is needed in today’s world.

  24. The relevance of Christian television won’t change until the business model changes. We’d all love to do more relevant programming and reach more people, but as content creators our hands are tied by the economics of the entire faith-tv industry.

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