It's pretty popular these days to bash local churches producing broadcast TV programs. Even megachurches with adequate budgets for media don't escape the criticism. After all, the history of Christian television shows us that a significant number of programs through the years were downright embarrassing, and if anything, drove people away from the faith, rather than toward it.
But in spite of the mistakes, poor quality, and questionable results of some church efforts, here's 5 reasons I still encourage churches to consider a broadcast ministry:
1) The audience is still significant. Amid all the buzz about people moving to the Internet, the audience for broadcast and cable TV is still huge. In fact, it's one of the key reasons I wrote this post based on secular research that indicates TV is still the most effective advertising medium. If our goal is culture change, then the size of the audience means that TV still needs to be in the evangelism mix.
2) The audience still responds. The last generation of Christian TV viewers were incredible financial givers. Their response to media ministries built universities, hospitals, and some of the largest mission outreaches in history. This generation hasn't proven to give at those levels, but if you can engage them with an honest message, and amplify that message across multiple social media and other platforms, they still may respond sometimes financially, and sometimes through action.
3) In today's culture, the visibility of television programs matter. Ask a nonbeliever about a major Christian figure today and chances are, those with TV ministries are the most likely to be named. Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Billy Graham, Brian Houston, Andy Stanley, T.D. Jakes, Jack Graham, and others are known around the world because of their exposure on television. And for most pastors and leaders, it's not about ego, it's about giving the message visibility.
4) In many cases, churches already have most of the elements in place for a TV program. The Sunday service is happening weekly, the pastor is teaching, and many churches are already filming their services with multiple cameras. It's not a major step from shooting a service for streaming or social media, to developing a broadcast TV program.
5) TV cuts through the barriers. People can slam the door to someone knocking, refuse to listen to someone share the gospel at work, and stay away from church, but you'd be surprised how often people stumble onto a Christian TV program and actually stick around. I've personally seen letters and emails from people who's lives have been transformed simply because they clicked on a Christian program and decided to watch. One man actually checked into a hotel room with the intention of committing suicide. When he sat on the bed, he accidentally sat on the remote. It turned on the TV and a Christian program was playing. He listened long enough to accept Christ, put the gun down, and go back home. I can give you plenty of other stories as well.
I know you can give me lots of reasons churches shouldn't do TV, and there have been plenty of mistakes in the past. And we could certainly stand to see more creativity as well as correct theology when it comes to programming. But the truth is, television is still a powerful medium, and if we'll take the time to understand how it works, and how it connects with an audience, it still can be an important element in sharing our message with today's culture.
An internationally known writer and speaker, Phil Cooke has actually produced media programming in nearly 50 countries around the world. In the process, has been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter, and in Africa, been threatened with prison. And during that time through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California he's helped some of the largest nonprofit organizations and leaders in the world use the media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture.