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 While there are certainly far too many churches, ministries, and stations using out-of-date equipment, with facilities that are in bad shape, the major media organizations and ministries have made a real commitment to quality.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 Osteen, Jim 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.