Christian Media

What’s Right About Christian Media

As a Christian who’s a producer and consultant in the media industry, I often actively criticize our industry as a voice who’s calling people to a higher standard. On the other hand, as a critic, it’s easy to overlook the great things Christian media is accomplishing. That’s why I wanted to balance the scales a bit and look at what I consider to be some of the best things about Christian media:

1. Distribution. The truth is, it’s tough to find a city or town in America that doesn’t have a religious radio or TV station or cable channel. The pioneers of Christian media were strong in the “business” of media, and today, the giants like Salem Communications, Trinity Broadcasting, Daystar, and others have covered the country with Christian broadcasting. Even overseas, God TV, HCJB Radio, the Far East Broadcasting Network, and others have taken a message of faith literally to the ends of the earth. The value of Christian broadcasting facilities and networks is in the billions of dollars, and our reach is significant.

2. Quality. While there are certainly far too many churches, ministries, and stations using out-of-date equipment, with facilities that are in bad shape, the major media organizations and ministries have made a real commitment to quality. Trinity Broadcasting has finished their digital conversion, The Crystal Cathedral is fully HD, Joel Osteen’s program has a look all it’s own, Salem Radio boasts state of the art radio studios – the list goes on. Some have committed to multi-channel digital, others to HD, and today, even small churches and ministries have caught the vision for how quality can help reach a larger audience.

3. Visual Liturgy. Churches are realizing the power of using video as a companion to worship. Companies like “The Work of the People” in Houston are helping pastors understand how to incorporate powerful images into the worship experience. Websites like churchvideoideas.com, churchmedia.net, worshiphousemedia.com, and more help guide churches into using visual media more expressively.

4. Education. The first Christian media workshop I attended more than 10 years ago featured a TV station owner teaching how to get your brother-in-law to help you build sets for free. I walked out. But today, the National Religious Broadcasters, The Reach Conference, Biola Media Conference, Technologies for Worship, Compass Academy, and others are training a new generation of Christian communicators.

5. Pastors Who “Get It”. While an earlier generation of pastors and ministry leaders pioneered radio and TV, most of them didn’t really understand how to use it effectively. They were often great preachers, but were limited by their lack of knowledge of the media. Today, people like Joel OsteenJim Reeve, Erwin McManus, and many others have embraced the media, and are pushing the boundaries of what it can accomplish.

6. Independent Producers. While some of the major networks are making change happen on a limited scale (check out some of the excellent programming Paul Crouch Jr. has introduced at TBN), most of the sea change in the industry has been at the hands of independent Christian producers. With limited funding, and inadequate resources, a new generation of producers are moving in new directions with short films, feature documentaries, interactive DVD’s, branded content, and other integrated media. They recognize that tomorrow’s TV will be on a cell phone, and to reach the next generation, we have to get into the flow of media change. The next Christian media pioneer is probably working away right now on a computer in his dad’s garage.

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5 Comments

  1. While I find the reply comments interesting for coffee house discussion, they leave one gaping hole in their logic. I have long been an advocate, along with my pal in #6, for a Christian network to become a powerhouse network that could rival the big four seculars. You would think that could happen in America where 80 percent of the people claim they have a belief in God. Think about that last statement. 80 percent of the people claim they believe in God, yet Christian Television is not able to become the force so many of us wish it could. The question is, why? The problem is not non-profit verses for profit. For the most part the problem is that Christians are far to critical of each other. So often we fail to agree and support each other. "This program lacks… That program fails to preach the gospel… That program – ugh, can there be a more embarrasing display of television…" Within ten minutes of martin luther nailing his complaints to the whittenberg door, we began breaking into an endless array of denominations, many times with what appeared to be the interpretation of a single verse. While we can easily agree on a choice to root for in a Superbowl contest where the vast majority do not live where the teams hail from, yet we cannot support each other when it comes to the work of faith – and we wonder why we fail to win the world for Christ. I can see it now, a Christian version of survivor. three catholics, three baptists, three southern baptists, three lutherens, three pentecostals, three reformers, all locked on an island where they have to vote each other off one by one. I'm not sure they could agree on how on to pray for the rice before they eat. Just wait until one of them gets voted to exile island (pergatory for some, hell for others), and watch the back stabbing start. Wait a minute, I just changed my mind. This could be the most entertaining program ever created! The secret to changning the world of Christian television? 1) a Cohesive Christian community that whole hartely supports the work of Christian television. 2) A Christian Madison Avenue that would teach corporate america to create advertising that would not degrade the programming it's ads are being placed into. I forgot to metion the budwiser ad that goes into my Chrisitan survivor. Three Amish gentlemen sneeking away from the prayer meeting and into the barn for a Bud – you know who you are!!    

  2. Phil, hard to see this Christian media thing as half full given my cynical Christian nature – which I know God is working on, but God Bless you for trying …  you had to stretch for these I’m sure. Do you think Christian broadcasters will buy in to the latest religious film trend?  What was your take on this at NRB?  Why not take some of the money that these television networks require their teachers and preachers to “donate” for air time and buy some of these films after they have made their DVD runs and thus create a balance to the lower cost studio shows? To answer my own question … please correct me if I am wrong … I doubt the scenario above will happen much until the inverted not-for-profit nature of most Christian television networks is changed.  Think about how an average Salem Comm. station would be run if it was non-profit.  Its programming would probably mirror that of TBN or Daystar in a radio sense. To that end maybe the Fairness Doctrine you mentioned in another post would be a good thing for Christian producers … because it would force the non-profit Christian networks to VIOLENTLY shift their program creation mentality and strategies.  Imagine if your pal in #6 above had to run his shows up against a Muslim producer … on the TBN network… he might rethink his creation strategy, perhaps go outside his usual contacts, pour some money into production, buy a Fox Faith film for air, etc. etc.  Would that be a bad or good thing for creating better "Christian" television programs?

  3. JP good reply. Pass the sugar for my mocha-latte brother…     Do you honestly believe a Christian network would ever rival the big four in this day?  You do have great faith friend.  Perhaps after the tribulation and during the 1,000 year reign of peace for those who become believers then, but not today.  I believe the power of the FLESH in America is too strong.  The entertainment choices of that 80% are just like the divorce rate, no difference between "Christians" and "non-Christians". Believing in God vs believing and acting in God slashes that 80% down to probably 20% at most, what do you think? I am posting mainly about production craft/story quality and not about message per se.  Your criticisms seem to focus on message. Think of the profit-non profit argument from a pure production/story sense and not a message sense.  The profit motive is what makes secular film and television have quality – its a natural filter.  If it or he or she doesn't make money, its cut.  That's not true for non-profits especially Christian networks … so long as a minister is making his donation to the network, he gets his air time independent of quality – prime if the $$ are really good.  Again I mean quality related to production craft/story … not message!  Example: The message of Lost, Hero's and the like is totally unGodly perhaps in some cases morally neutral,  but the quality of the production craft/story is very high. Let me ask you this, is TBN a ministry or a Television Network? From a production craft/story quality sense, can a Christian program or film created by a Christian non-profit ministry have quality?  Name me a few and I will watch.  Regarding "a Christian version of survivor" I would watch your series …  so long as those guys were all Jesus freaks and you were right up front with it. Imagine ministers forced to excercise their faith in pressure packed situations – unheard of!    If you had audience share, I bet the advertisers would adjust their beer commercials for that 80% … maybe advertise for non-alcoholic beer.

     



     

  4. To point #1, in my travels to third world countries, it is amazing the power of TV and the role Christian TV plays there. 

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