If you’ve read this blog for very long, you know that I’ve struggled from time to time with naming specific people, churches, or ministries, who have done some pretty stupid things – especially in the media. From supposed “prophets” who sell prophetic soap, to TV evangelists that so clearly focus on a poor, urban audience and rake in the money, there are times I want to rip them to shreds in print. Part of the temptation is that those are the posts that most people read – not only here, but on other sites as well. Gossip sites like TMZ, PrezHilton and others, are some of the hottest blogs on the net. So in my desire for a wider readership, it’s tempting to take the critical approach.
On the other hand, my personality is more about being an encourager – pointing out what we’re doing right, rather than what we’re doing wrong. That’s a big reason I travel across the country teaching at workshops, seminars, and conferences. I rarely get paid anything, and even then they usually cover just the plane ticket or hotel room. But I still value those opportunities so much I’m willing to spend that time reaching out to encourage other producers. There are a lot of really good people slogging away in the trenches, creating innovative media projects that are making a difference. And rather than slam the lazy ones, I’d much rather congratulate the creative producers out there.
So despite the occasional temptation to nail the boneheads, the “encouragement thing” is what I’m really called to do.
But the big question is “Why do so many media ministries keep shooting themselves in the foot?” We live in a transparent culture, where it’s far too easy to find out information. Years ago, I worked with ministries that wouldn’t allow us to film any shots of the private jet, or show the Mercedes or mansion. They didn’t want the partners to know about them. Back then, it was easier to keep the riches a secret. But today, it doesn’t take much of a Google search to find everything from the DUI from your college years, to the yacht you keep down at Newport harbor.
But how do we get the message out? Do we publicly humiliate these guys? The problem with that approach is that it tarnishes the good guys as well. When the bad TV ministries are exposed, experience indicates that donations to the good ministries also drop, hurting the terrific things that the best media ministries are doing out there.
But can we afford to keep quiet? I’m always embarrassed that secular news organizations expose some corrupt or excessive media ministries because it’s something the Church should have done first. But time and time again, we’ve seen that if believers can’t keep our own house in order, God will expose it through unbelievers.
That’s why I want to call media directors and faith-based producers to challenge these excesses. I spoke with one media director who works with a pastor who recently went through a nasty divorce, and yet never took one Sunday off. Forget rebuilding your life and ministry – this guy never even paused for a single second. He’s supposed to be teaching his congregation about holy, Christ-like living, and yet not only can’t he keep his own marriage together, but he refused to even acknowledge that it’s a problem. I had to ask that media director – “Don’t you see something weird here? How can you continue to give your pastor a nationwide media voice, when you know this isn’t right?”
He said he viewed the pastor as being like King David in the Old Testament. Although David committed adultery, God never pulled him from his position as King. But I reminded the media director that although God used David in a powerful way, he was the political leader of his time – not the spiritual leader – as a pastor is today. And sure enough, God used Nathan, the spiritual leader, to hold David accountable.
Just last week I met another media director who works for a pastor (of a very large church) who was arrested in a city park allegedly with his pants down, cavorting with homosexual men who frequent that location for sex. Once again, he continued in the pulpit, in spite of the wide newspaper and media exposure (so to speak). One more time, I had to ask, “Aren’t you embarrassed? Don’t you find it offensive to the gospel that he continues in ministry as if nothing happened?” But he shrugged his shoulders and replied that some church leaders had finally pressed the pastor to get counseling, and he was seeing a therapist (although still ministering from the pulpit each Sunday.)
I get absolutely no rush writing these words. In truth, it depresses and saddens me. But as Christian communicators, how can we continue to support these guys? How can we justify it? Is a paycheck that important?
If you’re a media leader in a church or ministry, take that responsibility seriously. You’re not just pointing cameras or setting up slide shows, you’re giving that ministry leader a major platform to the community and eventually the world. You’re “aiding and abetting” as they say in law enforcement. If you see something out of character speak up. Act like the leader God has positioned you to be. Question decisions, ask for accountability, and speak to the elders or other respected leaders if you feel lines have been crossed.
Because as media leaders, I believe we’ll be just as accountable one day as the people we work for….