Monday, May 15, 2006

Secular Media, Sweeps Week and Sensationalism

One month ago KFOR Channel 4 out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma sent a reporter and photographer to Enid, Oklahoma to interview me regarding the recommendation for my removal as a trustee of the IMB by other trustees, the eventual unanimous rescision of that same recommendation, and the possibility of me being nominated for President of the SBC.

During the thirty minute interview I was gracious to everyone involved in the controversy, briefly articulated my concerns about the direction we seem to be moving as a convention, but emphasized my belief that the SBC continues to remain a wonderful convention with exciting opportunities to take the gospel of Christ around the world and is a convention filled with multitudes of wonderful, conservative evangelicals.

When it was over the reporter said they would be running the interview during "Sweeps Week," the week in May when television stations try to get their highest ratings in order to increase the next quarter's advertising rates. I found it odd that the television station would find this newsworthy enough for such a prime spot.

That is, until I saw the advertisement this weekend regarding the interview. The title of the advertisement was "Baptist Blowup" and the reporter stated the controversy had the attention of "the world" and might eventually rip the SBC.

Good grief. Talk about sensationalism.

The interview will be on the news Tuesday night. I know what I said, and I can guarantee you there is nothing controversial in it. The exaggeration of the consequences of the controversy is another reminder to me that the secular media will do all they can to emphasize controversy and pay little attention to the good news of Jesus Christ or the good being done by the SBC and other conservative evangelical organizations.

This is also a reminder to everyone in leadership in the SBC that we ought to resist the tendency to emphasize the non-essentials, quit the silly political games and agendas that distract from the gospel of Jesus Christ, and think long and hard before we take any actions that could have repercussions throughout the secular world.

Let's focus on the gospel and taking Christ to the nations. I'm in the SBC for the long haul and will work toward reform, always in a spirit of love, and look forward to the future as a Southern Baptist.

In His Grace,



Kevin Bussey said...


I see a reality show in this!

Anonymous said...

I too am a pastor. In a recent conference, we hosted a pastor who is very prominent nationally, and also sometimes controversial. The news media swarmed like flies. I saw it as an opportunity to focus on the gospel and proclaim the name of Christ. The media saw it as a sensational way to boost their ratings and highlight controversy as they did in your case. Some lessons are learned the hard way :)
You are right on in our need to minimize the non-essentials and stay determined and focused on the Good News. The constant bickering makes me weary. Thanks you for your spirit.

Bob Cleveland said...


I hate to say "I could have told you", but I could have told you!

I had the privilege of serving our city, here, as a City Councilman from 1980 to 1984. I thoroughly enjoyed it, albeit I wouldn't want to do that again.

All too often, when the news would pick up on something that happened in a meeting, the story bore little resemblance to the meeting itself. Eventually, I just quit talking to reporters.

On the other hand, the media IS the world. I expect nothing less than what they do.

God will, of course, use it, and satan will once again have shot himself in the foot.

brad reynolds said...

Thank you for this post. This is certainly something on which we agree. I fear the world will see this convention as a "Baptist Blowup" and I fear that diferences over non-essentials is at the root and will bring shame on the name of Christ.
May you and I do all in our efforts to be united on the Fundamentals and cooperate on missions and to display such union at the convention.

Bro. Robin said...

We can still have healthy debate over the non essentials. But these are internal issues and best kept among Southern Baptists. Anytime you cooperate with the devil, he will twist it to fit his agenda.

I was glad to see you stand against the trustees decisions concerning private prayer language and baptism. While we may not see eye to eye on these issues doctrinally, I still believe we can cooperate in sending missionaries to grow God's Kingdom. Those two issues should not be factors in who we send.

I pray we don't elevate this issue any more to the secular media for them to twist and reflect badly on the work God is doing among Southern Baptists. May we all seek God's wisdom at this time in our convention.

Anonymous said...


I'm so sorry for what happened to you, in getting suckered by the television crew from OKC. But, your experience is much more the rule than the exception. Always remember: in an era in which ethics has been reduced to "whatever works," controversy translates into ratings, which is always going to win out over even-handedness, because the bottom line is the idolatry of the "almighty dollar." And, that is not cynicism--it is simple reality in our wider culture.

But, the real reason I am writing is to inquire about what has happened with the decision of the man you asked about nominating for the presidency of the SBC. In any meaningful use of words, "the first of the week" is coming to an end. Last time I checked, Sunday is still the first day of the week.
And, even if you view mistakenly Monday that way, you can't proceed too far into Tuesday before you run up against the transition to Wednesday, which is clearly "mid-week."

So, Have you talked to the man since then... maybe today? Has he made up his mind, or is he still praying and working it through?

Remember what is at stake here. When this man assured you that he would make his mind by "first of the week," it was his word to you--which is apparently now being stretched. But, when you reported his promise in your blog, it became YOUR word to your growing multitude of readers. And, every day is just that much closer to the annual meeting in Greensboro.

Whether you realize it or not, and whether you have any desire for it or not at all, a rapidly growing number of your SBC brethren are, because of your courageous stands and your loving response while being attacked and defamed, looking to you for leadership. When, in 1517, Martin Luther tacked his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church, he was simply an outraged unknown young theology professor in a fledgling school (the University of Wittenberg had only been founded in 1502) in a small city asking for a debate about wrong theology and practice. But, because he was willing to be God's instrument, by the Lord's strengthening, and to come to the point of saying, "Here I stand; I can do no other," history--including the basic gospel message of those in the SBC--is dramatically different.

Praying for the Lord's clear guidance and empowering,
Your fellow servant

Anonymous said...

Thank you from all your 70 year old or younger brothers. I know your HEART and stand with you in defending the TRUTH of JESUS CHRIST, TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

Kevin Bussey said...

I remember the headline on Channel 5 News in DFW after Dilday got fired, "Battling Baptists." God save us from ourselves!

Scotte Hodel said...

As a faculty member (and an occasional University Committee chair), I have been interviewed occasionally by the press.

Without exception, they've been inaccurate every time. In once case, what was listed in quotation marks was in fact the opposite of what I'd said.

Yet I still read the editorial page every morning. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

If only the SBC could learn from Foursquare's founder, Aimee Simple McPherson...
In essentials we have unity,
In non-essentials, we have liberty
In all things, we have charity.

I was a Foursquare pastor and that "ideology" spoke to me. But then again, essentials in one denomination may be different essentials in another?

Lord, prepare Your bride!

yugaidemeht said...


Remember even though, the devil's tool was the news media. God had a plan for it. We don't know what it is or why God allowed it, but He did.

As a former news photojournalist, remember that you are always on the record when that camera is in your office.

Bob Cleveland said it best, "and satan will once again have shot himself in the foot."