From time to time I get calls from upset followers of different ministries that I’ve highlighted through posted secular media articles. I rarely comment either way, but just share the media stories. When I respond to those concerned readers, here’s my thinking:
1) We need to be aware of what the culture is saying. A long time ago, I worked with a ministry leader who bragged that he never read the newspaper, because he didn’t want to be bothered by criticism of him and his ministry. It made me wonder why there would be that much criticism (where there’s smoke there’s fire?). Plus, the result was that he lived in a bubble – completely unaware of how the secular world viewed what he was doing. Are journalists sometimes wrong and do they have an agenda? Of course. If you think any type of reporting or writing is objective, then come back to earth. But just because newspapers or news programs report biases or inaccurate stories, the power of the media mandates that we stay aware of what they’re saying, and in the right cases, respond appropriately, or cultivate media relationships that would help correct those perceptions.
2) Living in a Transparent Culture. I’ve written on this before, and yet pastors and ministry leaders continue to think they can do things without anyone finding out. In a digital age, someone’s going to know you’re downloading sermons from the Internet. Someone’s going to learn about your Rolls, and the oceanfront home. All it takes is a few clicks on Google to find out about that old DUI conviction you thought everyone had forgotten about. Why do pastors keep saying they have college and even graduate degrees, when all it takes is a phone call to find out otherwise? Why do they use titles like “Bishop” inappropriately? Why do they think church or ministry employees will always cover for them? But as various newspapers and other investigative programs show, even governments are posting their records on the web. You can just about find anything, anytime, so start living your life like an open book.
Are the people in these newspaper stories like Elmer Gantry? I don’t think so. I certainly hope not. But in the 21st century, media ignorance isn’t an excuse. If we can’t live a life of integrity on our own, the technology of “search” will force it upon us.