Creative LeadershipEngaging CultureChristian Media

It’s Time to Change Course in Media

OK – over the last six months, we’ve discussed some pretty seedy stuff. TV evangelists getting divorces, and yet not missing a day in the pulpit or on TV, allegations of very weird financial and personal improprieties, and the strangest sexual stuff we’ve heard in a long time. We discussed it and debated it, and I think it’s time for a change. Our job isn’t to focus on the lurid, it’s to look ahead at the media possibilities out there. How do people of faith tell their story in a media driven culture?

Over the last six months, we’ve seen how people can screw it up, but the question remains, how can we do it better? So let’s start with some people who are doing it right:

First, let’s start with Miss HIV – a documentary film by Jim Hanon at Ethnographic Media. Powerful stuff. I saw it debuted at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood a few weeks ago, and I highly recommend it. It takes a tough look at a difficult topic. Jim directed The End of the Spear, and Beyond the Gates, and I’ve been a fan of his creative ability for a long time. Check out the website and movie, and look for the upcoming projects Ethnographic Media is doing.

Second is Web Serials. Josh Sikora is only a few years out of college at Biola University and had a remarkable revelation. He wanted to be a “Hollywood Director,” and realized it would take at least 10 years to achieve that dream. However, Josh also knew that in 10 years Hollywood as we know it, might not exist. So he created Renaissance Pictures, and set out to build a web entertainment company that would reach the digital generation. His web based serials may one day change the way we watch movies and TV.

Finally, Scott Derrickson is in Vancouver right now directing Fox’s remake of the classic science fiction thriller: The Day The Earth Stood Still. It scared the daylights out of me when I was a kid, and Scott’s $80 million remake is going to be amazing. My wife Kathleen and I visited Scott and his wife Joyce on location last week, and he showed me the pre-visualization scenes, and it will be impressive. Scott’s a believer, and through sheer talent and skill is working his way through mainstream Hollywood. He directed last year’s thriller “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and is on a major trajectory.

All these people are impacting the culture in original and innovative ways. They’re not preaching, they’re using their skills and gifts to tell the stories that are important to them. Instead of the mansions, luxury cars, financial questions, sexual issues, and more crap that have been heaped on a lot of Christian media organizations and personalities lately, it’s refreshing to see men and women who are creative, passionate, and committed to their faith and to their art. Let’s start celebrating these and others, and hopefully, the rest will fade into the sunset…

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  1. Good points, and you're certainly welcome to walk away and not participate in the blogsphere. But the technology's there, and millions of people are using blogs on a daily basis. In our case, I've found few – if any – places where we can openly discuss faith-based media issues opening and honestly. Certainly there are people out there who'd rather criticize than be constructive. There are even nuts, who try to take advantage of the forum. But if you read the responses at any length, you'll discover that this and other blogs motivate, educate, and inspire people to raise the standard of the Christian media projects they're involved in.

    Since you're new to blogging, here's a tip: Responses are generally supposed to be short and sweet 🙂

  2. Since there's been a televangelist theme, I saw an article in the Orlando Sentinel regarding Joel Osteen that had some very positive things to say for a secular source.

    Included in the article was reference to the success of his books, the fact he's lived in the same modest home he and his wife have had for 13 years despite the increase in his fortunes mostly as a result of his books, until just recewntly that he drove the car his father drove until he died for 9 years, that he has not received a salary from the Church for the last 2 years and that his television ministry does not ask for money yet despite this about $30 million a year comes from viewers responding to the ministry.

    Despite whatever theological concerns I might have for Joel, and I have them, from the perspective of someone who is positively presenting themselves in terms of ministry in contradistinction to many of the issues we've seen over the past 6 months, I'll take the risk of saying there's someone who is doing a very good job in this arena.

    I hope that continues and others take note.

  3. When it comes to theology and sharing our faith we often get pressed into the common, somewhat stereotypical modes of communication – preaching and evangelization. Focus tends to be on the preachers and pastors to get the job done, much in the same way that some groups in society often look to police, school administration or government officials to get things done, while not doing much themselves. However, it takes All of us to make a positive impact that will change the trajectory of those around us. It is possible for us to use All of our gifts and talents to make a difference in the lives of others, bringing glory to God. I am excited to see those sharing their faith, through the compelling use of their gifts given them by God.

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  4. Hi Phil,  1 of the "musts" for future media is… We have to find the content (or encourage the content) that's going to be "Must-See-TV" for Christian audiences. Advertisers will flock to it once it happens. Then there'll be more money in the kitty to produce even more. But, how do we get from here to there? guys like yourself will help to prod the creators of such shows onto better and better work. I think that once we see this surge of great Christian media, a bunch of people will be thanking you. so, keep engaging the conversation, Phil! I keep telling other creatives about this blog – I feel it's a great place on the web.

  5. I am new to blogging…early 2007 and have found some of the blogosphere very enlightening but much of it is merely rhetoric without a face.  Faceless, in that there is no accountability for what one says, with no requirements or qualifications for opionions.  Just as some like to "hear themselves talk," there are those who like to read what they write.  I strongly suspect that much of what I read via the bloggers isn't backed by mature and seasoned experience…more a mix of "wannabes" and pseudoexperts.  Neither does that qualify me at the age of 58 to be a hear all, know all or do all Christian.  Though, I have been around the block a few times…born again at the age of 16, worked in nearly every capacity of the local church including, youth, evangelism, music, H.C. pastor, Bible college teacher, authored two books, licensed minister since 1990, an Army veteran with a Captain's rank, and careerwise, a partner in an anesthesia group practice LLC…sorry, a mouthfull.(lol)

    Phil, in view of your "four point discussion list for 2008," this brings to light my point for what purpose in the long haul do these blogs really serve…other than sparring with or one uping a fellow believer or nonbeliever, all for the sake of proving a point.(lol)  Exactly where is the fruit, other than a kudos or a "that-a-boy-pat" on the back from fellow bloggers who frequent each others blog sites.(?)  The cyberspace information networking exudes negative criticism, condescension, gloating over the failures of others and a general spirit of discension all in the name of dialogue and exchange of ideas.

    Does the web produce the Gospel concept of, "And they added to the church daily?"  Is knowledge being gained to produce a more mature believer that might impact his/her world in a well defined way?  Or, is it more the, "gaining of knowledge that causes one to be "puffed up?" ICor.8.1   The internet may be a 21st century venture of new information systems to further spread the Gospel but I don't see it as a major venue for building the body of Christ.  Websites for local churches are resourceful and fulfill a purpose.

    My elderly mother (a good Methodist) was saved at a Benny Hinn crusade.  It was Oral Roberts' seed-faith teaching of the 60's and Kenneth Hagin's "prosperity teaching" of the 70's  that enabled my wife and I to send our children to 12 years of private Christian education including college (ORU)…debt free upon graduation.  I learned the Biblical laws of sowing and reaping (a law of reciprocity) as a young Christian that allowed me to be the success I am as a professional and businessman.  I could not do, financially, what we do for others, today, had we not experienced the "prosperity teaching" of the Hagin's and Copeland's.  Phil, when you and others have reached the masses of people like those I have mentioned, built schools and orphanages and given away several airplanes like those I have mentioned, then come to me with your ideas of where they have all gone wrong.  I know what it is to have a six figure income for >15 years and my wife and I live in a very modest house.  As long as their books balance and the IRS has no qualms, I don't care whether Hinn, Copeland, or Meyer live in a half million dollar house or a three million dollar house or own a $21,000 commode.  A woman said to me once, "I thought you would be living in a mansion."  No, just not my style.

    "Stumbling block to the culture…mmh?  There are some who will find fault no matter what you do; you dress too fancy, you dress too causal, you wear those weird looking black rimmed glasses, that ring is too big, your hair should be up and not down, your hair is pink, you look like your Dad and the list goes on and on.  Jesus was a stumbling block to his culture, as well as a "rock of offence."  The Christian cannot live in a politically correct bubble…if we did such, we would get little accomplised.  More people are being reached with the Gospel than ever before.  There will always be the Bob Tiltons and the "old" Jim Bakker's.  They are "givens" in the world we live in.

    My bigger concern is cyberspace producing the equivalent of what TV has done to the generations of the 20th century.  Already, the stats reveal that the average adult spends 11 hours/week on the internet with an overall adult participation of >80%!  I fear, also, what it will do to families, marriages, and relationships in the body of Christ.  With the communication problems between our neighbors, in our families and between our Christian brothers…compounded by the blackberry, ipod, techno frenzy compulsion, we are set for a plethora of insurmountable problems in and out of the church.  These blogosphere forums produce more open ended rhetoric than bonafide solutions to complex issues facing the church.  I'm sure ORU and its Board of Regents, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, et al., are accessing these blog sites on a daily basis to see what their next move should be.

    As a believer and professional, my time and energy are too valuable.  I am not convinced these forums produce a healthy atmosphere that is capable of tackling issues that face Christians because of attitudes with agendas, preconceived ideas and misinformation.  I further see it as not an avenue for "correcting" the perceived and often biased "ills" of the church.

    Discussion(?)…yes, but it must be done with true mutual respect where there is accountability for one's statements, ideas and perspective.  

  6. "Strong judgments"…not anymore than my predecessors.

    I think I made my point.

    Sorry, to have rattled cages…twas my intent. 🙂

  7. For someone who has no time and effort for blogging and who modestly claims he's not all that qualified and then gives his resume, you sure seem to have a lot of time for blogging and seem to make some pretty strong judgments appealing to your resume.

    Blogging is not acedemic papers.  It is not the news media.  It is interested people following the thoughts and expertise of someone in an industry of interest which allows for somewhat casual interaction and maybe even a little learning along the way.

    I'm glad its here.  It provides a means to learn and interact and is a medium that many find helpful.

  8. No offense taken on my end.  You appear to be upset that the scandal at ORU was discussed both from a direct media approach as well as the impact upon Christianity in general.

    Most of the people discussing it in the limited context here were like myself and you directly tied to ORU, you by your family and me by having been a student there.  Others are professionals in the media field.

    Believe me, the treatment here was far more objective and kind than anything you would find in a vast majority of sites and blogs on the web. 

    I'm glad you have high respect for Oral Roberts Ministries.  I have respect for it as well and the affect upon my life, most of which, not all though, has been positive.  It grieves me that the issues there, many of which I saw in my 5 years there, (I was a double major), experienced, and now see 22 years later, how they have developed and their results.

    I respectfully don't think you've made much of a point other than to express your belief apparantly that it is wrong to express concern, or any level of judgement, over the impact of the situation there currently, and to consider the impact of the accusations made, and the underlying facts which to many give a serious appearance of impropriety.  The focus here, as best I can see has been on the response of the ministry and particularly the focal point, Richard Roberts and whether those responses have been effective in terms of how the play in the media, the Christian Community and the non-Christian Community. 

    The reason I found this site and have chosen to post is precicely because I think the treatment has been remarkably balanced, fair, respectful and kind; overwhelmingly so, when compared with the great balance of treatement on the web in general.

  9. First – thoughts about the discussion preceeding:

    Heard of the "Inklings"?

    Maybe we can consider this a 21st century version.  Though this is a discussion about all media impact on today's culture, the Inklings were more focused on literature and fantasy with a Christian emphasis.  The groups biggest members were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (and their sons).

    It was partially because of lengthy, frank and honest discussions with his fellow Inklings that C.S. Lewis turned from a life of atheism to Christ.  Yes, the group allowed athiest.  The Christian Lewis wrote both books of Christian apologetics (teaching) and fantasy stories and novels.  Several (like "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe") were read aloud (along with others like maybe Tolkein's "The Hobbit") in the Inkling meetings.  His fellow Inklings were probably his most severe critics as well as consistant and mutual allies and friends.  They didn't start the group with the idea that greatness would come out of it, but it did.

    Thanks again Phil for starting this blog where I can rub shoulders with others (current and future greats in media) with a common dream – to take a message of Love and the Savior, in a media form, to a spiritually starving culture.

    To my fellow – "Cookelings"(?) – I appreciate the support but have also taken seriously the constructive criticism.  I can only hope things I've said or done helped or inspired others in even a small way.

    That said – some thoughts about "Changing the Course of Media":

    Phil, are you slimming our discussion to just the dramatic arts?  I thought Christian media included the preachers.  Just like C.S. Lewis didn't bring his "Mere Christianity" to read in the Inkling meetings, if you say so, I'll keep my points focused on the dramatic arts.  I have some thoughts about the "crap" heaped on preachers but I won't spout until I know it's part of your "change".

  10. Whether we like it or not there will be change in favour of what the Lord wills but we can be on the side that works with Him or that is against Him – whichever happens, God will accomplish His purposes despite the will of man. But I think that there is a strong undergrowth of media that is being made to honour God and a greater exposure of what is done in the dark both in the Church and in the world. There is a harvest of righteousness which is life and peace and a harvest of sin which is death. There is a greater sense of spirituality now than ever before both from the world and from the church or at least is being more recognised. Non(un)-believers are coming out saying how they look to the stars and psychics (and other mediums)for guidance without caring anymore what others think. Our willingness and trust in God is paramount on what the next level of films and TV programmes will be made for the web media and traditonal models of entertainment & information media.

  11. Do we really believe that God has a clue on how the media works? Do we think that God knows technology and its applications? Do we actually believe that God can do extraordinary things in the media that have not been done before or put to better use? Because if we do, maybe we won’t get so caught up about Hollywood? Maybe we would stop deifying Hollywood the way we do to the point where we are just paralysed by their size or seek their approval of us like the armies of Israel who were caught up with the size and words of Golaith and the Israelites who were so intimidated with the size of giants in the land that they called themselves grasshoppers – without the help of the giants!

    I think we are the ones who underestimate what we are capable of doing in the Lord because our trust is not in Him but our own abilities (whether it is the abundance or the lack of them). As powerful as the church is as divided we are. We because we do not understand authority, unity or love from the Lord’s perspective. If we were one with diversity we would be universal in our approach in the media because we would use our differences to show and reflect Who God is and who we are in Him. Church needs to operate as a family primarily not an organisation. New Testament church is done like family and that has always been God’s heart from the beginning – family. By this will all men (media world included) know that we belong Jesus by the love we have one for another.

  12. Wow ameriKan,

    I find your post quite interesting to read…  But one of the first things that pops out to me is that you seem to be contradicting yourself a bit.  You admit that you find some blogs to be enlightening.  If you don't agree with them and think that there is no positive use for them, then maybe you are missing the whole point.  They are there to bring enlightenment. 

    While I agree that there is a ton of "who cares" type of blogs out there… There are also very relevant, very thought provoking, very enlightening blogs as well.  Sometimes being able to discuss things brings about new connections, new perspectives, and more depth in a person.  This is what happens when you start objectively reading and giving feedback to other people's opinions.

    Maybe you could even read my post and recognize that this particular blog has been effective.  I think most posts here show respect, and even when they get personal, are still done with a mutual respect that provokes thought.  Your post was a good example, while I may not agree with all you say, there are things that I can get out of it that make me at least think. 

    I also wear several hats.  One of my hats is a software developer.  Technical blogs help me almost every day.  Microsoft engineers often have their own blogs, discussing programming tips, tricks, and helps.  I have several that I keep up to date on.  I also follow this blog (fairly recently), and some photography blogs.

    And more directly, we do have some people that have posted here that have current ties to ORU, and I think they have given us perspective, and we have helped them see what the outside sees, and former insider views as well.  Not only that, but there is at least one active person here, that I am praying for because of his ties into that organization… Someone I would have never met – or known to pray for,  had it not been for Phils topics, and for his willingness to discuss his viewpoint. 

    As far as accountability.  When you are viewing, participating in, etc any form of media, you have to use discernment.  And not only that, sometimes it is still good to know what the unqualified people think as well.  When you are on the side of producing media, knowing what the public is thinking is really as important as knowing what the message is that is trying to reach them.

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