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Use media, don’t fear it, speakers tell Christians

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–In an increasingly media-filled world, Christians must learn to embrace and use mass media rather than fear it, speakers at a Christians and Media Conference said Nov. 10 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

The conference, sponsored by Biola University of Los Angeles, focused on how Christians working or considering a career in mass media can have a positive impact on the media and the culture it represents.

“Christians withdrew from mainstream culture for a variety of reasons,” Tom Nash, a professor of communication at Biola, said. “[But] the world is in a mess. It has not worked very well for Christians to be on the side … complaining.”

Nash told attendees that Christians need to be involved in the media to minister effectively in the world.

“It’s a lot harder but a lot more productive to be in the middle of culture making a difference from the inside,” he said.

“We are called to be salt and light. It’s time for Christians to take our rightful place, to become bold, to step to the forefront and to make our voices heard in the culture,” Nash said.

The main speaker of the morning session was Michael Warren, a writer/producer of family oriented sitcoms for Warner Brothers. His credits include “The Partridge Family,” “Happy Days,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Family Matters” and “Step by Step.”

“I’ve seen a tremendous change in the business philosophically,” Warren said. “Words no longer respond to reality. There are no norms. Value is represented solely as diversity. The highest and perhaps only real virtue is tolerance. We live in very dark times.”

This philosophy makes it difficult to produce programming that supports a God-centered worldview, Warren said.

“That’s the world that I work in,” he said. “Creating TV shows in that world is very interesting. How can I make something that appeals to what they’re looking for and also accomplish what I’m trying to do?”

Speakers at the conference agreed that it is necessary for the church to reach into the culture.

David Clark, vice president of broadcast communications for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board and president of FamilyNet, a Christian cable television network, made that point at a luncheon session.

“If the church is going to do the work that it has to do, it’s got to get out of the four walls of the church,” Clark said. “The electronic media should be used for the cause of Christ.”

However, this does not always mean a straightforward presentation of the gospel, Clark said. In fact, he said, some religious programming — the kind that preaches and asks for money — does more harm than good.

“For most unbelievers, that form of religious programming confirms a stereotype which is unfortunately permanently stamped on our culture,” Clark said. “It may do more to inoculate sincere seekers against the gospel than it does to open them up to the gospel.”

Phil Cooke, a producer of music videos and television specials and commercials, agreed with Clark.

“I think there’s a legitimate place for what we would call ‘Christian broadcasting,'” Cooke said during a panel discussion in the last plenary session of the conference. “Christians need to be fed. Our problem is 99 percent of our programming is for that audience. I think we’re out of balance.”

Cooke has produced television commercials for many churches and organizations across the nation, including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He has also produced music videos for Michael W. Smith and Kathy Lee Gifford, among others.

Warren noted it is possible for small Christian companies to compete with larger secular companies in producing quality programming that can make a difference.

“I don’t think the TV networks and the studios have any resource,” Warren said. “We have the creator of the universe as a resource.”

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  • Tony Imms