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Stop Dividing Media Between Religious and Secular

A reader raised an interesting question on what this blog should be about. He felt that all I deal with is “mega-churches” and “TV ministries,” when the truth is that out of the 20 posts on that day’s front page of this site, only 6 had anything to do with those subjects. So those stories don’t even make up a third of the issues I deal with on a regular basis.

And the truth is, some of those ministry leaders do impact the culture. Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are regularly on the best-seller lists, Rick Warren has sold more books than any living writer, and is heading up a major, global AIDS initiative, Brian Houston from Hillsong has launched a TV network, and it was large (and often small) churches that made the biggest immediate difference after Hurricane Katrina. That’s why I don’t write them off so easily.

My point is that I believe we’re moving to a convergence of Christians who work in explicitly religious media, and Christians who work in secular entertainment. Sure we all have issues with the kooks and con-artists in the religious media world. Plus, we have problems with the cheesy, cornball nature of the production values of many programs. So we need to keep raising the standard and holding each other accountable. That’s why I love the give and take – and the occasional “sparks” – on this site.

But let’s not overlook that some churches and ministries are actually making a remarkable difference out there, so I’m not interested in blowing that off. Let’s celebrate people who work BOTH in religious media and in secular media. Even Hollywood has recognized the market, so the least we could do is the same.

The convergence is happening. I’m seeing more and more church media producers crossing over into the mainstream media world, and Christians who have only worked in secular media moving into the religious media world. Let’s look at the two coming together and figure out what the paradigm is at that level.

Let’s stop being “either/or” and use the best of both worlds to really impact the culture.

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  1. I have heard "The Media" referred to as
    The Liberal Media.
    The Male Dominated Media.
    The White Media.
    The Jewish Media.
    The Religious Media.
    and The Secular Media.
    Ironically they all convey their opinions using "The Media" or "Their Media". Who is "The Media"? There is one "Media" and if we are part of it then we are "The Media". Instead of distancing yourselves from "The Secular Media" you should be distancing yourselves from with the kooks and con-artists in "The Religious Media". There is enough talent in Hollywood to create a quality product not just a Christian product. A product that has mainstream appeal and does not just preach to choir. Christians who work in explicitly religious media, and Christians who work in secular entertainment need to be walking the walk instead of talking the talk.
    As a TV viewer I want to see good writing and acting. I don't want to be preached to and I don't want to be beaten over the head with a message. I identify with the Christian Character on Studio 60 not the Christians on The 700 Club or TBN. So far "The Secular Media" speaks to me. What can "The Religious Media" say to get me as a viewer? Don't answer, "The word of God".
  2. Phil I think you are correct in that producers of Christian media and Christians in working in the mainstream industry can peacefully co-exist, and maybe even work & thrive together.

    There are many good preaching/teaching programmes on religious media that rival the best of more mainstream/self help tv and don’t have to just be limited to cable tv or preaching to the choir…yeah these shows are peppered in with manipulative money grabbing evangelists, but last time I checked the movie listings there were a dozen poor features playing in the midst of three really amazing films.

  3. It's the "either/or" that makes "neither soar." I truly believe the paradigm for Christian entertainment will evolve completely when we stop relying on predisposed marketing results to dictate distribution avenues for products, then let that determine what content is produced. In a business that is dictated by pre-sells neither the big Hollywood players, nor the church are willing to take the risk to go into unchartered territory. We are tapping into the arterty for the heart of Hollywood but many times keep tapping the same veins based on a chart of track records and pre-conceived stereotypes of what the imagined audience will support. Then something happens to blow away that notion and everyone is confused by the result. As the church moves to the left and stops the demand for "in your face" Christianity for their supposed niche to support and Hollywood moves to the right allowing the message to meet the story; we will be able to "bridge" the gap and a True Renaissance for the Christian Artist will evolve. This is the freedom that allows an artist/filmmaker to impact our culture. If you look at the paradigm from the opposite ends (Facing The Giants –The Passion of The Christ) you will see the common denominator is that both films reflected the true vision of the artist, unadulterated by predisposed marketing. A connection to God is not Christian or Secular, it is Universal. A need placed deep inside every human being that they long to experience. Stories crossing "the bridge" will help pull people toward God. If you don't get people on the bridge, you can't get them to the other side. Now is the time to get the marketing guys to see from the bridge and take the risks to nurture and brand this converged audience. 

  4. I Corinthians has some really helpful things to say about God's activity in cultural influence. Here's a preview (3:6-9)… "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers." It's so easy to get caught up in the dire needs of our audience for both excellent media AND a risen Savior. I am constantly forgetting that all we do is from Him, through Him and to Him, but I bet God never does! 

  5. I love Wech's comments "either/or" makes neither soar.  Here are a few points to underscore that.

    Phil's point that we are approaching a convergence between the "Christian Media" and "Media Christians" is an important point.  I think it goes a long way toward dispelling this notion of "copying the world", as an earlier blogger called it.  What that heck does that mean anyway?  The truth is, the church has matured at a glacial speed in the world of mass media.  It has taken us til the end of a century to learn what advertisers knew fifty years ago.  A didactic approach is the least effective way to modify behavior, while story and image circle our thoughts until they find a place to settle in and nudge us to change.  Is that "copying the world" or is it finally beginning to understand the rules of the game to be effective.
    And our understanding of story only begins to scratch the surface of what we have been slow to acknowledge.
    As I work with students in film, I'm passionate about preparing them to be surprising, provocative, faith saturated filmmakers in Hollywood, Baliwood or wherever that miracle of money and movies come together.  But, I'm also passionate about sending them into church media because they are the John the Baptists warning churches that the message may not come to them in the expected fashion.  Story is messy and truth is messy and we have to stop pouting that the masses do not flock to a sanitized product simply because it has an inspiring message.  Those JtB's are a great hope to me that the church will become the greatest advocate and patrons of genuine art created and produced by the brave, creative and faithful among us.  So, I don't view "TV ministries" and "mega churches" as narrow.  They are the slender thread that connects us to the global church.  Please, Phil – keep raising the bar.
    The last point I would make as that the blogger who complained about spending time on "Mega Churches" and "TV Ministries" seemed to imply that media minstries were simply vanity pursuits of the elitist.  And that they drained resources and attention from more necessary ministries to the poor and homeless.  This may have been a valid criticism in the past.  But, the truth is – the world needs both.  Christ found time to tell stories and feed the 5000.  So should we.

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