When Should Christians and the Media Talk About Church?

In response to Facelift’s suggestion for a media related post…

We all saw the recent beat up by the Daily Tele regarding the gay lobby. We’ve also seen the recent reporting regarding Mercy Ministries. We later heard one of the girls involved convincingly validating the reporter’s content, although the allegations were denied in turn by people representing Mercy. You never know how much of the truth is being reported unless you are directly involved.

I was involved in a matter reported in various respected papers, and had the chance to see how the events were twisted to suit the reporter’s agenda. On the other hand, the media frequently have a valuable role outing things that society should not accept, including events in the church. For example, exposing hypocrisy (to put it mildly) in the behaviour of some previously popular televangelists.

Can churches and Christians trust the media? If churches can use press releases for good PR, should Christians feel free to expose churches bad PR (behaviour) to the media when nothing else has worked?

Is it just a matter of knowing the journalist well enough to trust them?


20 thoughts on “When Should Christians and the Media Talk About Church?

  1. Generally no – you can’t trust the media. But there is no point in avoiding them either – they’ll just make something up. Obviously some journo’s are better than others, but they all have editors who have their own slant on things.

    One of the things I think that in many discussions that have been had overtime on different incarnations of SP is Paul’s instructions about people that have been wronged especially within churches – go to your brother/sister first etc.

    It seems that in many of the stories told because that person might have been a person in authority those rules are no longer deemed to apply.

    In the context of going to the media to me that is not a first recourse. It may be that it is never an option, on the other hand it might be exactly the right thing to do especially if people are being abused in some way.

    Ya just gotta remember whistleblowers in effect always seem to be deliberately vilified, marginalised and ex-communicated – even when they are plainly and painfully right. Where is the media then??

  2. The Tele thing turned out to be an exaggeration rather than a beat-up. There was substance to their report, but they used ‘mums & dads’ instead of ‘husbands & wives’, probably because this was far more emotive. There was a lobby in NSW. The Premier confirmed this.

    So this illustrates the way in which the press takes a story and expands it to sell papers. In this case it actually made the issue and issue!

    However, the press generally is shown to have a lack of understanding of Christian spirituality, so, on this basis, its reporting could not be accurate, unless a Christian journalist with understanding of Christian principles and methodology did the story.

    Hating Hillsong has become a tall-poppy type trend with the media, so the reporting is not trustworthy, since most journalists don’t give a rip about them. Sales come frst, then the sensation-level, hen the story, ten the facts, lastly he truth.

    Now any negative occurrence in Christian circles has to be in some way associated with Hillsong to give the story an edge. That is wrong.

  3. I think that a part of the media’s interest in Hillsong is a reflection of broader society’s concern about an organisation which is growing in economic, social and political power, but appears to be a “closed shop” and turning away from scrutiny by the wider society.

    If Hillsong and CCC were to engage with the media more, this interest would abate. But it would also require a certain level of transparency on the part of these churches.

    There is nothing to be surprised about in the level of media interest. If the leaders of a new Muslim or Hindu movement were buying up large amounts of land, building auditoriums and flying above Sydney in helicopters talking about areas of the city they had not yet reached, there would also be a certain amount of concern in the community. People would want to know what the central beliefs of the movement were, who was in charge and what kind of political influence they had.

  4. ‘People would want to know what the central beliefs of the movement were, who was in charge and what kind of political influence they had.’

    Well, hey an get that information from their websites in about three minutes.

    Political influence isn’t always totally calculable, otherwise we’d know the result of elections before they took place!

  5. I agree that if all other attempts to communicate with management have failed, and if people are being abused, it can be good to go to the press. But how brave you would have to be to do so, knowing the treatment that whistleblowers from any organisation usually get. I was impressed by the demeanour of some of the Mercy girls.

    There’s a difference between outing something to seek revenge and outing something to help prevent other abuses from continuing as a last resort.

    There’s also no need to go to the press over essentially theological differences.

    A church culture that covers things up and hurts those who trust it needs to be broken somehow.

    Many times its not necessary to go to the media though. The issue may not have enough magnitude. Talking to people within the organisation would be a first port of call. If there are elders, talking with them. Certainly refusing to be part of a culture of silence is important, although sensitivity is still important in how things are handled.

    If an organisation is corrupt or abusive, it should eventually be exposed. You’d hope in the case of a church that they’d listen to the warnings before things got bad enough to go to the media. If after many warnings they still refuse to listen and the media does get involved, they only have themselves to blame.

  6. You can’t be sure to get the central beliefs of a movement from its website. The website is frequently marketing. How much of that is really the case can only be found from the testimony of those who are or have been a part of the movement.

  7. I think the media are generally against churches like CCC and Hillsong as they take the view stance in behalf of the common Australian- that they bring in American Christianity. That’s what that reporter not long ago on this website seemed to be looking into. He went to the CCC Pre$ence Conference and didn’t like all the giving talks and messages. He questioned the guest speakers from America.

    He’s aware of the Senator Grassley case over in America and I suppose he wants to look into CCC’s financial records to see if they are conducting themselves properly or following the American Pente-cost-a-lot way. I don’t think the common Australian wants to see the American type of Pente-cost-a-lot Church in this land, brainwashing the common Australian into the give/submit/don’t think mentality. This is why I think reporters in Australia have their eyes on these churches, especially at these conferences that allow American Preachers, teachings/influences onto our shores.

    My two cents anyway.

  8. So the CCC Presence Conference was held in Darling Harbour and would have cost a fair bit, but with thousands attending where else could they go? Why wouldn’t they take up offerings. Why is it a reporter’s business how a group raises funds to pay bills?

    Of course offering were been taken, and maybe a couple of big pushes to help offset costs, but was all the teaching on money? Or did John Bevere talk on honour and straight talk for believers, and Phil Pringle exhort the movement to take the world, and Steve Munsey preach for people to see the greatness and power of God in their lives, and the potential of believing God?

    Did the reporter out his hands in his pockets and throw in a few token coins, or did he attend the whole Conference for nothing?

  9. FL, you are assuming that it is valid to put on a Christian conference in a major venue, and then ask is it reasonable to take up an offering to offset the costs. Of course it is, if you assume that the conference is valid.

    But why not ask if it is a justifiable use of financial resources for a Christian organisation to put on such an extravagant show? Could the message be put out in other ways? Maybe by training up 12 people and getting them to go out to different parts of the country to train other people?

  10. God doesn’t seem to mind us using rented or purchased venues. He seems to think it’s valid.

    I believe there were many people who made decisions for Christ. Does that in any way validate it for you? Probably not.

    But what’s any of this to a reporter whose only interest is a story? How can he make an objective assessment when he knows nothing about what is happening?

  11. I think the Presence Conference cost $50 per ticket for all 4 days this year, to cover costs. (That’s a pretty good rate, actually, for venue hire.) I don’t object to venue hire if the crowd is likely to justify it, but would also hope that the cost would not prevent those church members who can’t afford it from attending. Not that I had any desire whatsoever to go myself!

    What were the offerings for? I am guessing there were several miracle offerings, where you are encouraged to give in the hope that God will respond by granting you the miracle you’ve been praying for, and love offerings for the speakers. Is that correct – anyone who went?

    I strongly dislike ‘Miracle’ offerings. They are manipulative, and are too close to peddling the gospel, or buying God’s free gifts. I am happy to give to an offering for a cause, but I know I don’t need to pay God to answer my prayers. He blesses me when I least deserve it. Praise Him!

  12. It’s important that the Grassley inquiry is followed through. Those churches are powerful, and of course, power corrupts, and they are opaque, so there’s no knowing what goes on. Plus they have very trusting congregations. A perfect environment to take advantage of people.

    I would like to see transparency in all churches. An honest group won’t mind. The congregation won’t mind seeing money spent on things they are united about, either. So there is nothing to fear. To its credit, the church I attend is transparent financially.

  13. I am so wrong. It cost $150 – or $120 for earlybirds. $50 was for childminding over 4 days (good childminding rate). So, that would have assisted with costs. It may not have covered them completely. It would also have been pretty expensive for many church members.

  14. I’m even more wrong! Try $180 full price. $120 was if you registered during the 2007 event for the 2008 event. Single night sessions were $50 each.

  15. Lordoqu went. Has she talked to you about the conference recently, RP?
    Maybe you can talk to them about it since she’s not wanting to post up here anymore.
    I’ll see what I can do as well. I’m sure she has allot to say.

  16. It becomes a problem using Darling Harbour when an awful lot of money was spent on developing CCCOF for just that sort of event. A lot of complaints were made about that. The last few weeks before the conference, the preaching was designed (it seemed) to make people feel guilty if they didn’t go. As if it is the only place God meets with His people.

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