It appears Mitt Romney has virtually won the GOP race for the nomination. Therefore, it’s time to focus on the race between him and President Obama for 2012. From now until November, I’ll occasionally write about the candidates from a media perspective, so I’ll start here with a couple of recommendations. This isn’t about ideology, it’s about perception and how the candidates engage the media. Here’s one bit of advice each could use:
There are many misconceptions about the Hollywood; these are the biggest myths I've encountered.
1. Hollywood hates Christians. The fact is, Hollywood—and most of the mainstream media—is ignorant of all things “Christian.” Most of the media leaders in this country are simply not people of any faith background, so while it may appear they dislike issues of faith, the truth is they just don’t get it. In fact, the majority of people I’ve encountered at high levels of influence in the industry are very interested when we discuss spiritual issues and have no problem at all with my faith.
2. All I need is a great script. The process of making movies or television programming is complex and multi-layered. Many years ago, a major industry magazine did a feature story on “The Best Scripts No One Will Ever Produce.” Today, at industry gatherings, we still discuss brilliant scripts floating around town and why they’re not getting produced. It’s often a matter of finding the right cast and crew, political or cultural timing, budget issues, legal problems and more. A great script is a critical starting point, but that doesn’t necessarily mean clear sailing for your project.
Regarding my last post on why so many pioneering media ministries collapsed, why did others survive? What did they have that others didn’t? Did God just bless them more, or are there identifiable traits that we could focus on and learn for the future. I think the latter’s true, and here’s a few thoughts why some pioneering Christian media ministries have not just survived, but thrived:
1. They weren’t afraid to change. When Joyce Meyer called me into our first meeting, she had frankly hit a wall. Her fundraising, donor development, TV and mail response—all of it was pretty flat. It took some time, but I had to make her understand how critical it was to change, and that there was no going back. It took a few months of give and take, but when she finally “got it,” a light went on and she never looked back. About that time, her youngest son, Dan, came onboard as ministry COO and helped me take it to another level entirely. He took her to the Hillsong Conference in Australia, and when she saw that, she came back a changed woman. She let us make employee changes, redesign the TV department, lose the dress codes, make some structural changes in the organization, and in a very short time, things dramatically turned around. Now today, Joyce Meyer lives for change both personally and professionally, and her response from donors and her audience is incredible.
Of the classic and pioneering media ministries of the last 50 years, very few are recognizable anymore. As a result, I believe that era is definitely over.
The Crystal Cathedral has officially closed escrow and the iconic glass sanctuary designed by architect Philip Johnson is now a Catholic church. But the sale represents much more than how one media ministry lost it’s way.
Oral Roberts built the most successful media ministry of his time, and the massive financial response built a university. But it became apparent that a second generation of leadership couldn’t sustain it.
Today, his son Richard has left the university and the ministry media outreach is a fraction of the size it was at one time. Now, thanks to new leadership like Mart Green and Dr. Mark Rutland, Oral Roberts University is experiencing a rebirth and explosion in growth, but only because it’s in fresh, new hands.
Every year we make New Year’s resolutions, and every year we forget them by March. But what if we could actually make our goals happen? What if we could actually stick with it?
To make resolutions work we have to first learn how to make change happen in our lives—how to embrace it, and how it use it to take us to the next level. So this year, before you lock in resolutions, let’s study this list of how to position ourselves for change. I’ll pulled these from my book Jolt! and I think they’ll help you in 2012:
We’re seeing a real rise in what I would call “ministry divas.” These are men and women who are pastors, or ministry or spiritual leaders whose focus is more on themselves than the people they serve. As a public service to our readers, the global research team at Cooke Pictures has developed a list of warning signs that someone might be a ministry diva. The following warning signs can apply to either a man or a woman:
1. He doesn’t participate in worship. He only comes out to preach. 2. He’s escorted on and off the platform so he doesn’t actually have to mingle with people. 3. He has multiple assistants—or what some call “armor-bearers” to carry his cell phone, Bible, man-purse, etc. 4. He doesn’t travel that much, but needs a private jet when he does. 5. When he visits other churches, he naturally assumes he’ll get either a seat on the platform or a front row seat. 6. When he promotes his books, he always calls it a “best-seller” even though it wasn’t. 7. He makes ever growing demands on the church for more free time, bigger perks, larger personal staff, etc. 8. He spends more on his wardrobe and cars than the church spends on the children’s program. 9. Divorce is OK for him, because of the ministry pressures he’s under. So when it happens, he doesn’t need to step down or submit to counseling—he doesn’t need it. 10. When he advertises a conference in magazines or other places, his picture is the biggest thing on the ad.
Have you noticed other warning signs we should be looking for?
Whatever you think about the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS), it's instructive to take a look at the strategy. Today, anyone who needs to engage the larger culture to share an important message needs to think seriously about issues like perception, platforms, competition, timing, passion and more. That's why churches, ministries and nonprofit organizations could learn from what's working and not working with Occupy Wall Street.
At our company, Cooke Pictures, our first job is to help our clients get noticed in a crowded, cluttered marketplace of ideas. Then, it's to get that target audience to embrace or act on those ideas. From that perspective, here's a few strategy related thoughts about Occupy Wall Street:
TV telethons have become a staple of Christian broadcasting networks. Nearly all non-commercial networks do them, and they’re a key way to motivate viewers to support their programming. I’m not against telethons, and I’m wide open to any good idea what will help finance better programming. After all, everyone from causes like Muscular Dystrophy, to Public Broadcasting does them regularly, so whatever you may think of the concept, it seems to work. The question I have is: Is it acceptable to re-play or re-run telethons? After all, it’s about raising money, and in the vast majority of telethons, there are “live” elements like telling us the amount of money that’s coming in, the number of callers, and some even have live graphics telling you how many phones are busy, or clocks counting down to the total. (Remember the classic thermometer?)
Of course all of these techniques are designed to increase the urgency and drive people to the phones to give. However, when the show is re-run, all those numbers, amounts, and requests aren’t true anymore. Essentially, are they raising money on false pretenses?
Plus – it opens the door to a lot of confusion on other issues. For instance, recently, Trinity Broadcasting Network announced that Paul Crouch Jr. was leaving the network. But by replaying an apparently old telethon this past week, we see Paul Jr. prominently on the stage throughout the broadcast. That leaves a lot of questions in people’s minds. What’s the truth here?
I’d love to hear your opinion. I’m not even getting into the questionable theology that you hear on some networks, stretching scripture to encourage people to give. Maybe we’ll talk about that some other time. And as I mentioned, it’s not the concept of telethons that’s being questioned here. I’m cool with that. It’s just the idea of re-running something that’s already happened for purposes of raising money.
Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Or should television networks – especially Christian television networks – have more integrity and give us the real scoop on how they raise money?
Nearly 13 years ago, I was working on the CharismaNow television broadcast when Steve Strang handed me one of the most amazing honors in my professional and personal life. My assignment: Interview David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz at Times Square Church in New York City. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of Teen Challenge, and Charisma had already covered the story in print.
I once lived in New York and had the chance to meet both of these stirring preachers. Like millions of others, I was first exposed to David Wilkerson’s ministry through his book, The Cross and the Switchblade, but when I began attending the Brooklyn Tabernacle, I had the enormous privilege of hearing him preach many times. He and my own pastor, Jim Cymbala, were very close friends. They shared similar passions—their hunger to know God, compassion for the lost, and their desire to see the church fully engaged in fulfilling its calling and mission in the world.
You cannot fail if you never quit. What looks like failure today is merely a stepping-stone into your future. The lessons learned through the difficult places along the path will cause you to accelerate into a new level.
Don't allow the frustrations, losses and uncertainty of today cause you to miss your tomorrow. Declare that quitting is not an option. Declare that failure is not an option. Declare that your only option is winning and that today you are stepping into your future.
Everyone needs encouragement. Encouragement helps you reach goals that you thought were impossible. Discouragement will cause you to operate at a lower level than your optimum potential and it will limit your vision.
I read the story of a man who was told by a teacher that he was not very smart. He needed to quit school and learn a trade. He followed the advice of the teacher and became an itinerant worker for 17 years. When he was in his 30s he took an IQ test and discovered that he was a genius. He later became the chairman of the Mensa Society, which requires an IQ of 140 for membership. For so many years of his life, this man operated far beneath his potential. Why? Because someone discouraged him. How different could this man's life have been if he had received encouragement.
Things are tough for many people right now. Give someone a word of encouragement. Give that person a word of hope. Meet their need for encouragement and watch that person achieve a great goal in their life.
We love to hear sermons and speeches about change. We love seminars that encourage us to change. We even enjoy traveling different paths in order to change our scenery. The problem is that we don't like to change.
A Canadian neurosurgeon discovered some amazing truths concerning the human mind's reaction to change. He found that when a person is required to change a fundamental belief or opinion, the brain experiences a series of nervous sensations similar to enduring torture. Our minds simply do not enjoy major changes.
Sydney Harris was an American journalist. He was also a drama critic, lecturer and teacher. Harris once said, "Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we want is for things to remain the same but get better."
It is not surprising that things do not remain the same. Many times situations may actually get better. Prepare for change. Although your mind may react as if you are being tortured, you are not. You are merely in the midst of change—for the better!
I was in New York City years ago shopping with my sister, when a young man stopped me on the sidewalk and asked me for a handout. He was wearing designer everything, so I didn't give him a dime. In this case, it was easy for me to ignore a poor person. After all, this man wasn't poor—he was a con!
People who try to take advantage of our kindness have approached many of us. Street peddlers or drug addicts who trick people out of money so they can buy drugs or liquor make it difficult for the truly destitute who are forced to live on the streets.
Since we don't want to decide who's really poor and who isn't, we tend to look the other way. It's easier to just ignore them.
Rewind this story 2,000 years and something sounds familiar.
There was an expectant mom who arrived in an unfamiliar city and was told there were no motel rooms or boarding houses available. Though she was about to have a baby, she and her husband were homeless.
Nobody recognized her need, so she was forced to give birth in a barn. Her baby's name was Jesus. He became poor so we could have the priceless gift of eternal life (see 2 Cor. 8:9).
Do you recognize the poor around you? This holiday season many of us will shop until we drop and on the way out the door, we'll probably throw some loose change into the Salvation Army kettle to help others. Or possibly some of us will volunteer to feed the hungry during a church outreach.
But helping the poor needs to become more of a priority for all who follow Jesus. So much of His ministry was directed to the poor. Why, then, do so few churches in the U.S. support ministries that meet the physical needs of underprivileged people?
God's Word instructs us to feed the hungry, visit prisoners, care for orphans and widows, and give clothes to those who don't have any. So when we don't make room for these people in our hearts, we are doing what the innkeeper did to Mary and Joseph when they sought a room in Bethlehem. We are turning Jesus away—again.
When you see someone truly in need, allow Jesus to break your heart, so you can feel what He feels for the woman who has to live in a cardboard box, the many who must sleep on bench or the child who rarely eats a healthful meal.
This Christmas—and all through the year—let's make room in our hearts for the poor.
Soon after I graduated from college I gave my life to the Lord. Even though I grew up in a godly home, I treated salvation like a game of Russian roulette. I played around because I figured I had time on my side. Was I ever deceived!
I know today what made me drop to my knees, repent of my sins and ask Jesus into my life: prayer. My mother spent untold hours in prayer crying out to God, "Lord, save my children." She knew back then what I know now: Prayer changes things.
In my research for Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey, I spent time with a shepherd in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado and vintner in California. With each person, I opened up the scripture and asked, “How do you read this passage—not as a theologian—but in light of what you do every day?”
The journey was chock-full of spiritual insights, but one of my favorite stops was my time with Lynne, a shepherdess, who took care of a flock of a few dozen sheep in the fields near her home in Oregon. Not only did we feed and water the sheep together, but we just spent time among the flock sitting in the field, watching the sheep and talking.
During our time together, I was struck by just how much a sheep knows its shepherd. One of the most amazing times I had with the shepherdess, Lynne, was the very first time she introduced me to her flock. I followed her up a muddy path to the upper field where the sheep were grazing.
She whispered to me, “When they hear my voice, they’ll come running.”
Then simply by saying the words, “Sheep, sheep, sheep,” she called her flock. Every last sheep in the field bolted toward her.
That moment was powerful for me. John 10 describes the sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice as a metaphor for us knowing God’s voice. Yet it isn’t just a metaphor—it’s the way sheep really behave. Standing in the field with Lynne and watching the sheep run toward her made that verse come alive in a whole new way. I recognized that just as a sheep is created to know its shepherd, we are created to know God and live in relationship with Him.
During my research on sheep, I discovered a remarkable story from Gary Burge, a professor at Wheaton College, that illustrates the close relationship of shepherds and their flocks. He describes how Israeli soldiers visited a poor village outside of Bethlehem after a Palestinian uprising and demanded that the people pay the taxes they owed. They refused.
The officer in charge gathered up all the animals of the village—primarily sheep and goats—and placed them into a huge pen. A poor woman approached the officer in charge and begged him to release her animals. Because the poor woman’s husband had been imprisoned, her sheep were literally all she had.
The officer laughed at her request. How could she possibly find her dozen sheep in a pen of more than 1,000 animals?
The woman challenged the officer. If she could find her animals, could she keep them?
Intrigued, the soldier agreed.
The woman then invited her 10-year-old son to stand before the pen. He pulled out a flute and began to play a simple tune. As he walked through the fenced-in area, a dozen sheep gathered behind him, following him all the way home.
The officer and soldiers were impressed. They broke into applause, shut the gate and then announced that no one else could use the trick to get their sheep back.
Why did the sheep follow the boy? Because they knew he was their shepherd. And they knew he was a good shepherd. They were not only familiar with his voice, they knew the very tunes he played on his flute—songs he had played in the fields many times before.
That portrait of a sheep knowing its shepherd so well gives me hope that I, too, can know God intimately. For me, spending time with a loving shepherd was a powerful portrait of God’s love for each of us—a love that is tangible, practical and unending. From this perspective, some of the seemingly opposite attributes of God, such as discipline and grace, began to make sense.
Over the course of our time together, I watched a shepherd who truly loved her sheep—it was so evident in the way she spoke to and about them. Whether feeding her animals by hand, changing their bandages, administering medicine or keeping a watchful eye, her love was constantly on display. I also watched when Lynne had to reprimand or punish a sheep by placing it in time out. Even those moments were founded in love and caring for her flock.
The entire time, Lynne wanted what was best for the flock and the individual sheep. She was for them. For me, it was a tangible reminder of just how much God is for us, individually and as His flock.
You are successful to the degree that you empower others! Too often, in today's world, success is defined by the size of your organization, the amount of money you accumulate or how influential your name is. Although each of these things may be found in a successful person's portfolio, they are not true indicators of real success. Success as a leader is measured by the degree that you empower others.
Several years ago my friend mustered up the confidence to tell me about her struggle with lust. Even though she wasn't dating anyone, she was afraid her fixation would eventually seduce her into having premarital sex.
Thinking about her problem made me want to blog about premarital sex, a topic I believe the church often shuns. But why? Christian singles have sex or want to have sex too. And though the Bible prohibits such behavior, that hasn't stopped believers from going too far.
Sadly, some Christian singles behave as if there are no consequences to sex outside of marriage—but there are. Dr. Freda McKissic Bush, a Christian, a board-certified OB-GYN and co-author of Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children, says premarital sex and extramarital affairs can unleash a host of psychological and emotional problems in a person's life.
Dr. Bush says hormones are released in the body that "knit" couples together and "complement the biblical vision of two becoming one flesh." In females, she says, oxytocin is released in the brain when a woman experiences "meaningful touching." And in men, vasopressin is released when a man experiences meaningful touching.
But Dr. Bush says dopamine, the other brain hormone, also "rewards" the body. "The God-given gift of sex is exciting and when the bonding act of love is rewarded with dopamine, we become 'hooked,' even addicted, to this bonding activity with our mate. Within the confines of marriage this is healthy and in accordance with God's intent.
"When an individual begins to search for extramarital opportunities to satisfy their natural desire for a dopamine fix, the consequences include a chemical bond that literally addicts that person to sin."
Are you addicted to sin? My friend was, but she confessed her problem and got counseling. With all the scandals happening in the church today, we can no longer afford to keep quiet about sexual issues. Let's start talking about it now.
Several years ago I regularly struggled with discontentment. I was so disheartened by my problems and life in general that I spent hours seeking God for answers. I would pray in my car, in the office, everywhere. But nothing changed.
The uneasiness I sensed was the last thing on my mind when I went to bed at night and the first thing to flood my thoughts when I awoke the next day. I started to concede defeat and remain unhappy when God spoke to me through His Word.
“For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with good things” (Ps. 107:9, NKJV).
At that moment I knew what God meant. I had experienced many highs in my walk with the Lord. I was used to the Father blessing me every time I sought His hand, so I became relaxed in my relationship with Him. But God wanted more, so He started prodding and creating in me dissatisfaction for spiritual mediocrity.
I cannot adequately describe what God did for me during that season of my life, but I can say I learned never to take His goodness, favor and presence for granted. Yes, God blesses us with earthly blessings, but He is the only person who can satisfy that deep yearning we have for Him because He is the one who creates it.
Don’t settle for business as usual. Step out of your comfort zone and let God move you to a new place in Him.
No matter where you are in your walk with the Lord, whether on the mountaintop of life or in the valley of hardships, stay close to Him and seek His face. He will respond and invade your mediocre walk with Him.
Have you ever read Frank Peritti’s This Present Darkness? I read it maybe 15 years ago and it changed my prayer life forever. The book is about spiritual warfare and what happens when Christians pray—or don’t pray. I held on to every word, comma and semicolon in the book because it taught me the value of seeking God.
After watching Gloria Copeland’s powerful healing prayer in Say It, Sister!, I thought I would invite you to join me in prayer right here on SpiritLed Woman eMagazine. Let’s pray for the lost, our loved ones, broken marriages, our nation, and whatever else in need of God’s intervention.
I believe this world will soon get what it deserves if the church does not repent of its slothfullness and pray more. Second Chronicles 7:14 says: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (NKJV).
Remember several years ago when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake were performing at the Super Bowl Half-Time Show, and he ripped off her costume exposing her chest to nearly 90 million viewers?
The performance caused uproar in the public arena over indecency on TV, and led to bills being passed increasing fines against broadcasters that violate decency standards. But despite federal regulations, the push to saturate our kids' minds with sexually explicit content and products is alive and well in our culture.
The assault on young girls is especially heinous. I was taken aback the other day when I walked into a store and saw racy underwear on sale for girls as young as 5 years old. It's only a matter of time before our sex-crazed society causes kindergarteners to lose their innocence.