This issue of Ministry Today is all about using the power of media to effectively communicate God’s message, and it’s as important as any we’ve published in the magazine’s 31-year history. That’s because our society today is increasingly dominated and driven by the media, and for believers to communicate the gospel, we must not only understand the media, but also be ahead of the curve in using it.
Recently I had the privilege of speaking to a group of students at Valley Forge Christian College in Pennsylvania. Among other things I shared, I spoke on the topic of learning to write for digital media. I actually talked about some of the concepts addressed in this issue, even quoting Hollywood movie producer Ralph Winter and other contributors.
These were young, eager people preparing themselves to serve in ministry, trying to get the tools they need for the future. Why they wanted to hear from a journalist who learned the ropes of the media industry on manual typewriters and who graduated before the personal computer was invented is beyond me. Yet I am a veteran of learning to navigate the tumultuous waters of change—and when it comes to the media world, things are changing like never before. I never could have envisioned a world of Facebook, Google, iPhones and text messaging when I started my career. But I reminded these students that they’ll likely experience more change in their own careers than I have in mine.
If you’re young, the same may be true for you. But even if you’ve had decades of ministry experience, you face the same dilemma as someone fresh out of college: Are you effectively communicating the message God has given you? Media—and how you use it—plays a huge role in answering that question.
As followers of Jesus, we have the privilege of responding to the world we live in with the Good News, no matter what the circumstances. Yet Christians have traditionally lagged behind the world in coping with technology and societal change. (That has nothing to do with the gospel and everything to do with paradigms of the Christian subculture.)
Because of this, it’s crucial for us—especially those in full-time ministry—to listen to leaders who are “bilingual” like Phil Cooke, our guest editor for this issue. They are citizens of God’s kingdom who know the language of Zion. But they also know the cultural language expressed through media that the world listens to.
Phil and I have been friends since he worked for Oral Roberts shortly after graduating as a student at Roberts’ university. We first met when I was a guest on Richard Roberts’ TV show in the 1980s and was impressed by a sharp young producer behind the camera. As I got to know Phil, I could see he had a passion to influence culture through media. I also watched him during a season in which he cast caution to the wind, quit his job and moved his family from “Tulsa-rusalem” to be a type of missionary to Hollywood. Today, though he still spends a significant amount of time working in the Christian media industry, he’s had enough success in the secular arena that people take notice when he recognizes an emerging cultural trend.
I’ve had dinner with Phil and his lovely wife, Kathleen. I’ve visited his offices in Burbank, Calif. We’ve collaborated on projects, and he’s become our company’s go-to guy for anything having to do with the media. If you’ve read our magazines, you’ve likely seen his byline often in print and online.
So when Ministry Today General Editor Lindy Lowry suggested him as a guest editor, I jumped at the idea. I knew the material would be good—as good as any we’ve had in the magazine. Whether in his books or behind the camera, Phil’s always produced top-notch content. And his Rolodex of names—including everyone from Joel Osteen to Ralph Winter—adds a richness and texture no one else could do when dealing with the topic of messaging and media.
Given Phil’s credentials, I encourage you to not just read this issue—devour it. Put these principles into practice in your own ministry. Lets start a movement of believers who will reclaim the airwaves—and every other medium—to advance God’s kingdom in our day.