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Award-winning TV producer focuses on Jesus’ relevance

GREENVILLE, Ill. (BP)–Bob Briner has won Emmys, Golden Eagles and Freedom Foundation awards for his sports specials, tournaments and documentaries.
He once served as promotions director for the Miami Dolphins professional football team and later co-founded World Championship Tennis and the Association of Tennis Professionals.
He produced “Dravecky — A Story of Courage and Grace,” recognized as the 1993 Evangelical Film of the Year.
But in 1997, Briner’s priorities center in Greenville, Ill., where he disciples 20 male and female student athletes each semester at his alma mater, Greenville College. He also spends countless hours in the library writing books that communicate his central message — Jesus is relevant for all of life.
The author of “Roaring Lambs” and “Lambs Among Wolves” published in 1993 and 1995, Briner signed a contract in 1996 with the Baptist Sunday School Board’s Broadman & Holman Publishers to produce five books. He chose B&H, he said, because they “had the best idea of the ministry and business combination, how to be the best steward of the writing.”
His first B&H book — “The Leadership Lessons of Jesus, Vol. 1” — will be released in September. Briner worked with Ray Pritchard, pastor of Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Ill., as coauthor.
“We haven’t done a very good job of strategically placing the gospel in leadership areas,” Briner said. “Producing godly CEOs or godly secretaries of state is really expensive. I’m not talking just in terms of dollars, but the kind of commitment that it takes both for the would-be leader and the institution that’s committed to developing them.”
Leadership is a noble calling, Briner insisted. Some Christians have “shied away from aspiring to leadership” out of a false sense of humility, equating leadership with self-promotion. “What we need to understand is that some of us are called to leadership.”
A call to leadership must be accompanied by a commitment to excellence, he said. For that reason, he shows the film, “My Fair Lady,” to college students he is discipling, emphasizing the importance of looking your best, speaking well and learning to be comfortable in executive board rooms.
“We need to think about those things, not in a superficial sense, but for the sake of the gospel,” Briner said.
In his book, Briner addresses 52 passages from the gospel of Mark, each in a short chapter. The book is designed for individual or group study for Christians desiring to grow as leaders.
“I hope that we’ll get parents, pastors, our Christian colleges and Christians in secular colleges to think about the whole area of leadership and to see leadership positions as a mission field,” Briner said.
He cited positive and negative examples of Christian leadership at work.
“The church didn’t abandon sports,” he said. “For whatever reasons we were there and showed up, and now the gospel has a tremendous acceptance all throughout sports and from the major leagues down to the little league.
“We’ve done a good job of ministering to, discipling athletes and their wives,” Briner continued. “Now we need to figure out how to get the really committed, mature Christians in sports out into the marketplace more.”
On the other hand, he said Christians did not seek leadership roles when television emerged as a new medium.
“I could go for weeks in television and never find, not just another Christian, but even anybody who had a sympathetic attitude to the gospel,” Briner said. “We need to get people who are competent and committed and classy to be in the areas where programming decisions are made, where it’s determined what kind of message is going to spill out into 93 million homes every week.”
He praised some recent efforts at addressing spiritual themes in television through series such as “Christy,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Promised Land.”
“There’s a very intense interest in spirituality now and we need to capture that for the gospel and for Jesus,” he said.
While his book addresses 52 leadership topics, Briner listed top qualities for a Christian leader as the ability to create order, create unity and lead with compassion.
“Compassion is caring deeply about the best for the most people. That doesn’t mean that you don’t sometimes deliver painful kinds of messages,” he said. “Good leaders take care of their people. Great leaders take care of their people’s people.”
Briner is no longer actively involved in his television production company but instead is focusing on being a steward of his life experiences.
If asked by a grandchild what he did with his time in his later years, Briner said, “I didn’t want to have to tell him, ‘Well, I made a shoe deal for Michael Jordan’ or ‘I got the NCAA Final Four into three other countries’ or ‘I put another tennis event on television.’ I wanted to tell him that at least to the best of my limited ability I have tried to make some difference for eternity and tried to be obedient to what I thought Jesus was telling me to do.
“The obligation is really strong to make my life count for the kingdom. I enjoy life, but I don’t rest easy. I really need to redeem the time,” he said.

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  • Linda Lawson