Pastors and the Press

Some leaders view the media as damaging to the church. Here's why I believe the press is one of our greatest allies.
A few months ago, the religion editor of the major daily newspaper in southern Colorado called me about doing a long article on me, New Life Church and the World Prayer Center. The paper has done a lot of coverage of our church ministries through the years, but this time they were asking to do a long, front-page profile that would tell my life story and dig deep into the impact New Life has had on Colorado. The journalist wanted to sit in on our staff meetings, conduct in-depth personal interviews with me, my family and associates, and even travel with me on ministry trips.

When he called, I knew I had two options. I could strong-arm him, put on a fancy show, give him limited access and create a clean, super-positive front. Or, I could let him do the story he really wanted to do. I could help him see the truth of my life and the ministry of New Life Church.

I chose the second option because I believe the press is our friend. Newspapers, magazines and television are a blessing to the body of Christ. If we work with them and help them do their job well, members of the press will help us--even if inadvertently--get our message out to the public. Let me explain.

Because of the freedom of press provided by the First Amendment to the Constitution, journalists and reporters have a legal right to tell stories as they see them happening. Obviously, they are never completely without bias, but they do not have to submit to the strong-arm of government or market authority forcing them to tell only certain points of view or expose only certain stories.

The people who worked on the Bill of Rights--the first 10 amendments to the original Constitution, which were established in 1791--included a host of wonderful ideas in the First Amendment. Along with free press, the amendment provides for several other freedoms we enjoy, including religion, speech and the right to assemble and petition our government.

As the First Amendment Center explains on their Web site, the amendment is "our blueprint for personal freedom and a hallmark of an open society... Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be persecuted, the government might well establish a national religion, protestors could be silenced, the press could not criticize government, and citizens could not mobilize for social change."

We as local church pastors and parachurch ministry leaders ought to appreciate and support the freedom of press, just as we appreciate the rest of the First Amendment. Freedom of press allows us to highlight the good in our ministries, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and to promote positive ideas in the public sector. The press helps us to tell people about all the good things God is producing through us.

At the same time, the press is a healthy check for us. When certain ministries or leaders make poor decisions, the press certainly has the option of highlighting those mistakes. This is good for us--it encourages us to continue to walk in integrity, to stay focused on our mission, to be life-giving and not self-serving.

I know some of us have been stung by the press. There have been times when I have been disappointed with the way certain stories have been told about New Life Church or the World Prayer Center. But by far, the press has been a good friend to me and to everyone at New Life Church, and to most of my partners in other ministries.

There is always the risk that the press will choose to lie about us, but we should make that their option, not ours. We ought to tell them the truth, and encourage them to publish and broadcast the truth.

Simply put, the press is a friend of the body of Christ. We should not just befriend them when they are printing positive stories and then shun them when they have negative stories to report. We should see the press as another level of motivation to maintain integrity and to do our jobs well. If we are faithful to God and His calling, the press will be a major part of our platform to proclaim the awesome love of Jesus.

Ted Haggard pastors New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is the author of many books including The Life Giving Church (Regal) and Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century (Nelson).

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