What is the Future of Christian Media?

I’m working on a book on the future of Christian media and I’d love to know your thoughts.

Will Christian media (particularly radio and TV) exist in 5-10 years?

Will it look like it does today? Will it be effective?

What will it look like?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 at 12:00 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • http://ministrymarketingcoach.com Chris Forbes

    I think Christian movies and music media we know now will exist in the net 5-10 years but will increasingly be dominated by the influence of secular-owned companies.

    Hollywood, New York, and Nashville know there is an audience in the Evangelical market and they want to dominate it since it is one of the few larger segments that it pays well to target. I look for them to seek to dominate the Christian conference circuit further too.

    Right now older media companies are using their higher production quality to attract believers. Some Christians will follow the mainstream media funded path until that eventually dries up. The media moguls don't really like us, it's just business to them.

    I look for Christian independent media to proliferate in the years to come as some Christians follow the "Indie" trends seen in the general market now. I think the shape of Christian media will change and become more independent faster if believers get over their star-struck desire to be accepted by the mainstream media.

    With such a large TV raised Boomer cohort heading into retirement, I think there will be TV, but it will be fed through Internet channels. As far as I am concerned, I wish most of the TV would go away. :-)

    Same goes for radio, I wonder if satellite radio will become more widespread.

     

     

     

     

  • Carl Brandon

    Christian media is becoming and will become so broad that it difficult to ascertain what is Christian truth.  Christians are being influenced by culture to the degree that they seek out those who will tell them what they want to hear, and not what the gospels teach.  The pendulum swings to the left in the years to come.

  • http://typepad.digidsolutions.com jarrod Skeggs

    I agree and disagree with your point here. I don't think it will ever be hard to discern truth. We, as Christians, must measure the truth based on sound biblical principles and doctrine. But for folks who are new to being a Christian, this definitely could be a problem. I think however, with the immense amount of content that is created and delivered today that the common threads will be easier for folks to pick up. Also, I think that those that may create and post errant information are probably more easily corrected.

    Christians seeking out what they want to hear is nothing new. That has been going on since Christianity began and unfortunately will never end. I wish this weren't so. 

  • Mary Hutchinson

    I agree with Barry.  Christian media is here until Jesus comes.  But we have to be more creative as there will be more competing for the viewer/listener's time than ever.  Yes, it is all about the story, how we tell it. 

  • http://petersmythe.org Peter Smythe

    I'm no expert on ministry or media, but I can throw in my opinion as an educated benchwarmer, so to speak.

    The question of where will Christian media be in the next five to ten years is more of a question of culture than an issue of message (assuming that the message is the same across the media spectrum).

    Personally, I believe the days of the big-box ministries are numbered. The boomer generation grew up in a culture where there was the six o'clock news and a small number of television channels to watch. Culturally, this generation tended to arrange the daily or weekly schedule around the set times of favorite television shows and the like. As the American economy continued to flourish, this lifestyle arrangement worked for a generation. While cable has tried to make inroads by offering all kinds of channels, etc., these folks have been set in their ways so there hasn't been much of a change. Media ministries have grown up with this generation and generational mindset and have concomitantly flourished.

    My generation and my son's generation are quite a different story. I am a working professional who spends less than 2 hours a week in front of the television set. I no longer subscribe to newspapers, don't have a home telephone (just a cellphone), and virtually all of the information that I receive during the day is through the web. Indeed, my professional office is now "web-based" where most of my work is paperless. Television ministries and their broadcasting times are completely irrelevant to me and my working lifestyle. While I am dedicated to the propagation of the Gospel, I have no interest in continuing a ministry legacy or supporting a media dinosaur. Frankly, with the advent of podcasts, e-books, and websites, if a ministry's offerings are not available upon demand, then I have no use for them. The only exception to this is church or convention meetings.

    My son, a tween, is even further removed from the idea of static times and dates than I am.

    With the ebbing of static broadcast times will come the downscaling of "national" ministries altogether. In the past, ministers have sold books, cassettes, DVDs, CDs, and just about anything else in order to prop up their media ministries. With the availability of free podcasts, blogs, ebooks, and the like, benchwarmers like me have no incentive to buy product (the Gospel should be free anyway). Fewer sold books means fewer stations and fewer broadcast times which means less "face" time for the national minister (this may or may not be a good thing). And less face time also means lesser donations and smaller ministry organizations.

    Radio and television will always be around and some ministers may try to continue on that track, but they and their supporters will pay an increasingly high price for a smaller audience and dwindling influence.

     

  • Jeff Reid

    Along with that, I think what Phil told us a few weeks ago is amazing! He was at the Biola Conference, and had met media creators who had never heard of the "big players" in Christian media. I think, tap into them, and you'll find the future of Christian media, as it should be. (Also, there needs to be a more sophisticated "test audience". So, ministries can tweek their shows, guaging their work from a realistic response. Not just showing it to the choir).

  • breaklight

    Christian media does not necessarily mean godly media. Christian media will transform into godly media which means it will take on the approach of reflecting the characteristics of God through His people (and even unbelievers) in everyday life – lifestyles. There will be very creative programmes which will no longer be geared to just Christians as in the way nature, using rain as an example, is not just geared to Christians but also to unbelievers (actually it is for everyone). What you do with it is totally up to you (the need for wisdom). There will come a generation of Christians who will no longer be held back from fulfilling their creative callings in God and will altogether be relevant in the media to the point where they will begin to unveil the eternal creativeness of God in the media and show the world what the media is really meant for – HIM (Ephesians 3:8-10). There is no competition in God’s Kingdom once you know Him and what He requires of you to do for Him. There is a future for Christians in media no doubt. It will be a very interesting future starting today. For me it is just a matter of time when those who know their God shall be strong and do exploits – exploits in the media world included.

  • http://www.inthatdayteachings.com Robert Winkler Burke

    Excellent posts all!

    The future?  Just look at Phil’s website.  Every workday he posts an interesting new blog or two attempting to discern the truth about something important to our interests.  Then the blog is open to truth aggregation by accepting cogent comments from intelligent people around the planet.

    Hm… This is very open, transparent and altogether good.  Compare this to the diode-casting from major ministries.  No opposing views accepted.  No transparency.  No urgency.  Just fiat.  Just because.   Just same old, same old.

    Now, everyone wants to look into the future.  But God keeps it sort of veiled, because that’s how he sets things up.  But he lets His friends know a thing or two.

    So, building on Phil’s excellent model, future ministry would have multifaceted broad appeal, would attempt to teach “higher” truths, would employ lots of parables, poems, on-demand videos, interpret modern culture tales and movies, songs, relate to current events, still employ scripture, yada yada.

    Oh, and free resources.  Via the internet, modern ministries wouldn’t sell so much.  They’d give so much.  Like make available listings of free Bible software, free Jesus movies, free video on demand, free spoken Bible sites, free Bible word search sites, free instruction, free lessons on how-not-to-get-extorted, free lessons on how-to-recognize-stage hypnotism in ministry events and leaders,  all truth available for free.

    And then there is doctrine:  In the future, great ministries will work on one main goal.  And that is enlightenment unto indwelling.  Hearkening back to Jesus’ admonitions that the Kingdom (which is He, Himself) of God is within you, and Colossians’ secret that God lives in us, modern ministries will hold their spirits and truth accountable to this main thing:  Does it make more manifesters of Christ?

    So this kind of automatically excludes the prideful heads of ministries, because humility is where all is at.

    And prophets, well they must be prophets.  They could prove themselves, like the newspaper in  J. K. Rowlings’  world of Harry Potter, by publishing a kind of “Daily Prophet” giving us a spiritual weather report.

    Maybe this is the kind of report Phil Cooke is herein doing.

    Then again, I could be wrong.

  • Elizabeth Conley

    I hope Christian Media will spend a bit less time "preaching to the choir" in the future.  Further, it would be helpful if when they did preach to the choir, they preached something enlightening to them.  I guess what I'm saying is:  I hope Christian Media targets its audience better in the future.

    If a work is supposed to be Evangelical in its affect, shouldn't it appeal to people other than Evangelicals?   Shouldn't nonbelievers be intrigued, rather than annoyed, bored or otherwise put off? 

    If a work is supposed to edify Christians, shouldn't the content be something more than a hackneyed run up and down the Roman Road again… and again… and again?  I'll have a few of such tiresome tracts in my in box the next time I download.  Since they're all addressed to people active in ministry, it continually strains my credulty that the authors imagine this is appropriate.   Boy do I wish I had some of the stuff these boys are snorting.  It must be an amazing psychotropic to keep them happy for so long on the same little hamster wheels!

    It would be awesome if audience targeting practices became more effective.

  • Elizabeth Conley

    " Every workday he posts an interesting new blog or two attempting to discern the truth about something important to our interests."

    Yepindoodles!  'Tis a very good thing!

  • http://www.sermonspice.com Daniel Temple

    I think the future of Christian Media from this point forward will be in increasingly better hands than it ever has been; not because of the failings of the past, but becasue of the democritization of the future. Rather than the power and influence resting in the hands of a relative few who communicate to millions, influence will be (and to significant sense has already begun to be) disseminated to thousands of communicators who have audiences in the hundreds. It is kind of like a reverse industrial revolution for media.

    I tend to agree with most of the sentiments expressed previously the only caveat I would add is that progress tends to move alot slower than we, the early adopters,  would like it to. Most of the commenters here probably posted on phones, set their tivo schedules from work, and cant wait to see if Mr. Jobs will unveil the new 3G iphone in the next couple of weeks. While this is very fun and I am certainly no exception to this grouping, I have to remember that I still help my friends set up satellites and facebook accounts because I am the geeky guy that works at an internet company.

    I in no way disagree with the exponential increase in on-demand media, certainly I have benefitted from its advent. The way I see it, is that whoever figures out the way to make it truly accesible and sustanable to the non-technical masses (religious or secular) stands to make a large sum of dough. I would also like that persons name and e-mail address and we can have a nice chat.

  • nate

    As far as pastors (with right heart/motives) broadcasting their sermons over television..that's coming to end I believe. 1. My generation, 30 somethings, don't tithe as we should anyway, and we definitly don't give to people ask for it all the time. Sadly, pastors (with the wrong motives) will increase on television.

    As far as pastors broadcasting over the internet via podcast..well that's going to go through the roof..no doubt.

    When it comes to movies..being a filmmaker myself I see the production value and writing of films with christian themes greatly increasing in the near future. I also think this will be combated with movies with very anti-christian themes, more specifically documentaries.  PBS and History channel love to play documentaries that sort of appear christian on the outside, but are very much the opposite. The thing about documentaries, is they are excepted as fact much more than a narrative film.

    I own a company that creates sermon illustrations. The need for short powerful videos for worship services is only increasing as more churches buy projectors and presentation software.

    I also think people will share more short videos of inspiration much like they do the poor power point  ones with the midi soundtrack .

    Finally, I think the closer we get to the Lords returning, we will see television programs that will effectively blur the lines of truth. Shows that appear to tell the truths of God but are only disguised lies.

    -nate

     

     

     

  • http://whatsyourlifeworth.googlepages.com Anthony Peterson

    I think the future of Christian media will be evrything from big budget feature films to no budge You Tube sermons like this one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-H7JmbSDJ8#JjYB6dxQArM

  • http://www.inthatdayteachings.com Robert Winkler Burke

    Phil and Elizabeth, If I may be allowed to expand on the future of Christian media:  Enlightenment unto indwelling of God will happen primarily through maturity of spirit.

    Maturity of spirit will first require a certain level of expectation de-programming.  Viewers now expect a ministry program must have the typical exhortation, guilt, entertainment and extraction; but not necessarily any teachings and examples of indwelling of God.  So, do the opposite!

    Show how lights are dimmed spiritually by pandering to these less than mature expectations.  Show how stage hypnotists perform techniques often quite similar to televangelist techniques.  Show how pilots who are taught to fly but never fly; well… they never fly.

    Mature eyes are open to a great many things.  Surely the height of spiritual awareness is not always imparted by a Neuro-Linguistic Programming pattern interrupt shout of “BOP!” or “TAKE-IT-TAKE-IT-TAKE-IT!”  Nor is maturity to be had in the quick martial arts head-tilt takedown maneuver of throwing a wave of kinetic energy via a minister’s open palm wiggled back and forth on granny’s ever-trusting, pink-locked forehead.

    Mature media ministry will be sheep-centric vs. shepherd-centric.  In other words, God indwelling increases when you praise actions of the God-indwelt (as I did here of Phil for raising this topic and this website) vs. sending accolades to a leader because his or her vanity requires it.

    Mature ministry is creative.  See Derrin Brown’s YouTube clips of his secular U.K. TV program demonstrating advanced wiles of showmanship and psychology.  He astounds and edifies while creatively proving certain points.

    Imagine a Christian program with each episode more creative than the last, making Kingdom of Heaven truths known in this day.  Imagine a pastor humble and brave enough to trust he or she could get advanced precepts and lines going in actual people, different people who are the stars of separate episodes of teaching.  You would see a mature shepherd in the background, encouraging the maturing and “enlightenment unto indwelling” sheep in the foreground. 

    The viewers might say something like this: “That shepherd got those sheep manifesting Jesus at a high level!  Each episode he does it with different people, with them doing different aspects of our Lord’s nature!  We are beginning to see the Lord’s return.  It’s not all about mega-wealthy-in-dollars shepherds!  No, why it’s all about mega-wealthy-in-spirit-and-truth sheep!  These common folk take the shepherd’s advanced teachings, and they actually start to shine like Christ, like Moses’ face must have shined from seeing God!  We can actually see God shining in these people taught of the Lord.  It’s an interesting cloud of witnesses.  All captured on video!”

    And that, or any number of different things like that, my friends of Phil Cooke, will be the day.

  • David

     

    I agree with the concept of Narrowcasting, including alternative media, (e.g., Broadcast Flash on tiny screens, custom wiki concordances per lecture or documentary, or an invitation to services on your cellphone courtesy of Bluetooth, as you drive past the church transmitter.)

    I'll also add that the armed forces have benefited from video gaming multipliers. We should be as astute: it's Chaos Theory on their end and Cartoon Insipidity on ours.

    Imagine if video games– not aimed at tots but at the most dangerous time, teens– could give a level-by-level (milk before meat) incentive to choose Christ Principles to "win" or progress to the next challenge?

    Christianity has its own Heroes, ancient and modern. I was helped through teen age with printed biographies of saints and moral men; video games can serve as their media replacement.

  • ralph winter

    lots of great posts.  not sure i am as positive about the future of "christian" media. it will be around, but will it be effective?  i think less effective. i think free television will decline (as it is doing now) and i think feature films will become bigger and smaller. more big event films from the studios,and more small films from filmmakers.

     in general, our "christian culture" seems more intolerant and out of touch.  Especially regarding politics.  i look forward to the new ideas of the current students and filmmakers who are playing with the new paradigms.  i believe our future lies with pockets of  resistance in the culture, developing new ideas and media forms, that makes an impact.  i am a big believer in short films and their potential impact: not quite commercials and not quite movies.

    otherwise, flashy ways of showing sermons, or self servings stories will never reach beyond the"choir".  5-10 years won't show much change, but 20 years will.  hey Phil, write about that!

  • http://www.spirit-knight.com Bryan Mero

    I hope that the next wave of Christian programming involves telling a good story.

    I've been involved in writing a comic book for the last four years called Spirit Knight. It's not set in Biblical times, the main character is a normal person with problems and he is trying to find his way. The stories are loosely based on Biblical characters, Gideon, Elija, etc but set in the modern era.

    We have been very successful in selling our stories at comic book conventions such as WonderCon in SF (belieive it or not) but we aren't sure were we can go after this. Where is the TV station that has Christian friendly programming that includes original series? That is what I am hoping for in the future of Christian media.

    Don't get me wrong. I appreciate what God.tv and others are trying to accomplish in their programming but to really bring in viewers, believers and not, there needs to be good story telling and not just preaching. Preaching may have it's place but what about dramas, action, sci-fi, historical and other type of tv series that could all be based on Biblical principals? This is what I hope for the future of Christian media and I'm trying to do my part by writing stories with straight forward and underlying themes that will entertain and also bring Biblical truth to the forefront.

    -Bryan

    http://www.spirit-knight.com

    http://www.reelfans.com

  • http://www.thinkvirtue.com SolShine7

    As long as Christians on this planet then there will be Christian media. We are God's living media. Our lives are meant to reflect His glory. But when it comes to movies, TV and radio I think independent efforts will do the best. Things like Tyler Perry's movies that do well at the Box Office because they already have a good supporting fanbase.  

    As an indie filmmaker and screenwriter I look forward to whatever creative way God will use people. 

  • Elizabeth Conley

    "

    Christianity has its own Heroes, ancient and modern. I was helped through teen age with printed biographies of saints and moral men; video games can serve as their media replacement."

    I agree that we need our heroes.  My favorite epic tale is Beowulf.  Since version hit the silver screen recently, I waited 'til it came out in DVD and watched it on a quiet night when everyone else was sleeping or otherwise occupied.

    Boy was I discouraged.  What possessed the writers to twist the character of each protagonist into something dark and depraved?   They took a great epic full of rich, fascinating characters and turned it into a synopsis of a season in "Days of Our Lives".  It should be a crime to destroy classic literature that way.

    Beowulf has been beloved for about 1300 years because it's rich and complete as it stands.  They would have been challenged to include enough of the greatness of the epic poem in their screenplay if they hadn't included their gratuitous filth and degradation.  Since they wasted so much of the movie on their own dark fantasies, they hardly touched upon the elements that made Beowulf a classic.

    I'm all for heroes, and I don't mind a fatal flaw or two.   There's a limit, however.  Too many productions of recent years seem to have lost track of that limit. 

    Have you watched Battle Star Galactica lately?  What a crock!  To hear those writers tell it, there's not a decent person left in the universe.  It's not hard to see why the Cylons want to exterminate the humans.  After the first 20 minutes it became clear that in their case, genocide was euthanasia.  Now I root for the Cylons, though I haven't watched another episode! 

    So all I can say is this:  Please, please, please bring back the heroes.  They don't have to be perfect, but it would be better if they were decent.

  • Cecil Van Houten

    I've only been an occasional visitor to this blog although I'm familiar with Phil's book, "Branding Faith".  But having worked in and around Christian media for almost thirty years (that would be Christian radio and the music business, on the business side not as an artist) I had a few thoughts I wanted to add to those already posted.

    First to the question of whether Christian radio and TV will exist in 5 or 10 years, I would say, undoubtably yes.  Some, probably a shrinking percentage, will look much like it does today.  Those ministries that stay locked in a relatively fixed mindset will continue to appeal to the (literally) dying percentage of believers who prefer their media the way it's always been.  Some ministries that stick with the same model may try to add some technology to their outreaches in a half-hearted attempt to reach a different audience, but it will be just that – an 'add on', not a paradigm-shifting rethinking of how they utilize new media.  I'd put many of the traditional TV ministries (from the Hour of Power to TBN's sideshow antics in that category) as well as some of the more traditional radio networks (Moody) and stations. 

    Some radio and tv ministries are working hard to be cutting-edge in their use of new media and they're beginning to shift their emphasis away from the traditional delivery systems, FM or AM radio programs and syndicated TV placement.  Not surprisingly, those that are led by progressive-thinking leaders will have a better shot at reaching a new and different audience.  But still, the obstacle they may face is the content itself.  I'm not big on labels but no matter how you categorize your ministry approach or style (emergent-this, neo-that, etc.) the content and how it's presented is going to have to reach an audience that is more theologically, ethnically and culturally diverse than ever before.  Feeling safe that you've targeted a 55+ audience in the midwest who faithfully send in their $25 bucks a month isn't going to cut it.  Ministries are going to have to be distinct, rich in content and relatable in presentation. 

    I think there will be the K-LOVES and other larger networks but they'll hit a plateau in reach and audience size pretty quickly, especially given the direction the broadcasting economy is moving.  Bigger stations in major markets will still do pretty well, but the non-comms will probably fare better than the commercial stations.  Smaller markets?  It's a crapshoot.  Most owners, as they get older, are selling while the value is still there.  Multiple HD paths and channels are the future, to the extent FM radio has one.  But even given that technology, stations are going to have to be much more adept and skillful in creating online communities where their listeners (present and hopefully future) will congregate.  Any company that's sinking millions into buying FM licenses these days is risking a very slow long-term return on investment.  If they even ever recoup. 

    Many people of faith under the age of 35 don't listen to Christian radio.  It doesn't meet their musical or spiritual needs.  Not that the product is all that bad, although in some cases it's horrendous, but it's just an outmoded model that doesn't meet their lifestyle needs.  They feel no sense of obligation to listen or to support it and why should they?  It's their parent's station, not theirs.  Things in the culture are changing, not as quickly as technology is, but Christian media is notorious for being a generation behind.  That may have worked with the baby boomers, but it won't with Gen X or anyone who follows.  The inability or unwillingness by so many to fully embrace that reality is the biggest impediment to future growth.  The sad thing is, when they die there are going to be very few around to mourn their loss.  Nobody's going to care.  Not much of a testimony to their stewardship.

    There aren't many Christian TV stations.  They're probably going to slowly go away too.  And the syndicated programs, or those that run on a TBN, will find dwindling audiences as viewership continues to fragment.  Interestingly, EWTN (the Catholic network founded in 1981 by Mother Angelica) is doing quite well in viewership and financial resources.  It's a small but faithful audience.  On the other end of the scale, the pseudo-psychobabble-Christianity-lite that Joel Osteen presents may do surprisingly well, short of a major scandal or financial implosion.

    So 5 or 10 years out, yes I believe there will still be Christian radio and TV, but its viability will be increasingly challenged by new media and creative visionaries who can more adeptly communicate the message of the gospel.

    Will it be effective?  It depends on who's measuring it.  If you look at Arbitron or Neilsen ratings, the numbers aren't high to begin with.  One of the good things that's happening with books like "Branding Faith" and "Brand Jesus" by Tyler Wigg Stevenson (and others) is there's the beginning of a convergence between people of faith who are both creators of and consumers of Christian media.  Again, the old models which lasted for a generation or more, are going away.  More slowly in some parts of the country and some aspects of media, but the end is not far away.  Even the National Religious Broadcasters have a mindset they call 'growth' but which is, in fact, 'fixed'.  Not to cast aspersions on anyone or any particular ministry, but at their most recent convention in Nashville, the major 'issues' were not so much technological but governmental.  Threats from the evil empire (secular American society) that would curtail the freedoms religious broadcasters enjoy; a problematic FCC that wants to push localism (a good thing in and of itself) but through means that would bankrupt many stations.  Not much talk about how relevant (I hate that word, but…) their ministries are or who the audience of the future is and how they're going to be reached.  The business-side seminars focused more on how to squeeze more money out of existing (read:  bluehair) donors than the need (and one would think, desire) to reach new audiences.   

    What will be effective is the well-funded, well-designed and well-targeted media outreaches that meet the audience where it is.  In our consumerist culture (and Christianity is just one more choice among many), people aren't going to come to us.  We have to reach out to them, speak their language and above all, be authentic and honest in our approach.  That, perhaps more than anything in my experience, is what's been lacking in much of Christian radio and TV for a long time.  "Oh no, we have all the answers so come to Jesus…"  "Jesus loves you, as long as…."  We've put the gospel message in a wrapper that is for the most part irrelevant and unappealing to the world of which we are a part.  As a consequence, the world flips the bird at most Christian media.  Frankly, some of the time, I do too.

    I'm not involved in film making so I can't speak to that aspect of media at all, but my hunch would be, as others have said, that smaller, indie films will probably have a a brighter future than big studio productions.  A Fox Faith sees what 'Passion of the Christ' did and thinks, we can spend 7% of that budget, put out some cutesy predictable crap and Christians will flock to see it.  I mean, a lot of Christians went to see 'Facing The Giants', which despite what I'm sure were good motives on the part of its producers, fell short on many levels.  Is there going to be a motivation then on the part of secular filmmakers to create good art for the Christian market?  Of course not.  Why would they when they see Christians producing crap and thousands of other Christians buying tickets to see it?  I believe we are, collectively,
    very poor reflectors of Christ's nature back into the culture.  And since the gospel is counter-cultural at heart, how successful should we expect Christian endeavors to even be?  Are we creating content (Christian music, radio, tv, film, etc.) to sell to other Christians?  Is it a commercial enterprise at heart?  Sure, economics play into it but really…what is it we're all about anyway?

    One other area that I think touches on radio and TV is Christian music.  The industry is in the midst of a downturn; again, the old models aren't working.  Not just that CD sales are down and downloads (legal or illegal) are up, but it's becoming more relationship-driven than just sales driven.  From social networking sites to podcasts to YouTube…all of it…artists and consumers are connecting on a totally different level.  Is the music industry to blame?  Sure, in part.  The whole mentality of corporate rock – that is, the creation of music from an economic or formula-driven perspective – is just as alive today as ever.  It's led to a narrowing of artistry and style which is why so many bands and solo acts sound alike.  It's easier to copy something than create something new.  Today's music consumer has a more organic relationship with the artist; the music that is distinct, creative and expressive of truth is increasingly indie-based.  Just as with radio and TV, the big three Christian record labels will still be around in 5 or 10 years but their complexion will be different.  People are going to look back at the 80's and 90's and think…what on earth were they doing? And this is a good thing, people are going to be asking, what is Christian music anyway?  Is it something that overtly shares a gospel message or is it any music created by an artist who is a Christian?  I think of U2 and Johnny Cash and T-Bone Burnett and Bob Dylan as Christian artists as much as 33 Miles, Mercy Me or Natalie Grant (although she's hotter than any of them).  What's going to be Christian music in 5 or 10 years?  To quote Charlie Peacock in the last issue of CCM Magazine, "The sum of Christian music's contribution will be underutilized and underappreciated by the church and viewed as irrelevant by the world.  I see no reason to believe that the cumulative catalog of music will increase in value and popularity."

    So what's the challenge?  We're drowning in information – what we're sorely lacking is meaning and context.  The current and next generation of Christian communicators will need to tackle that as much as they'll need to determine what emerging technologies will be most adept at communicating the message.  There are lots of different streams of communication in the culture – which stream is Christian media going to be in and who will it touch? 

    There's a difference between teaching and transformation.  New media is great at bringing the transformational message of the gospel to people.  Teaching, doctrine, all the petty "there's only three big issues that should matter to Christians" mentalities will slowly (and not without a fight) fall by the wayside as a better representation of what faith and belief means is communicated.  Transformational messages can be broadcast; teaching messages will be narrowcasted.

    As creatives, we need to be honest and bold enough to re-examine our ethics and methods.  If we're going to express and communicate faith in a real way to a world that, for the most part, doesn't give a damn, we have to be willing to risk the relative safety of the evangelical subculture, get out of our coccoon and engage the world honestly, creatively and respectfully.  Anything less will be doomed to fail.  Life is problematic; we don't have all the answers; and even in a global sense, America isn't the guy in the white hat anymore.  Can we accept that challenge?  Can we express our faith and our humanity, flaws and all, or are we going to continue to play games that the world can clearly see through; games that diminish the potential of the gospel to reach and transform lives, and through lives, the culture?

    And that's just the next 5 to 10…think about the next 10 to 20.

     

     

  • Darren Moorman

    I hope that it will take on a new face, a new look, and I hope that Christians in media start making films that have an impact on culture and not just the choir. Phil, you are in the right place to help guide this, keep up the great work my friend!

  • Elizabeth Conley

    "That shepherd got those sheep manifesting Jesus at a high level! Each episode he does it with different people, with them doing different aspects of our Lord’s nature!"

    That would be living the dream, Robert.  May it be so.

  • http://www.getgeekstrong.com Granata

    On the subject of Big Media producing and marketing media for Christians increasing, I agree. It's already happening. I first noticed it when Christian acts were signed to secular labels and later when movies, television and literature followed suit. I don't, however, have a problem with it. In fact, if a Christian has a product with a Christian message that they want produced and a secular corporation is willing to bank roll that, great! I'm not too worried about Hollywood censoring or polluting anything for two reasons:

    1. If censoring/polluting of the intended message happened enough, then the intended market will stop paying attention, meaning less profit to be made. Surely the check writers realize this.

    2. American Christians are bombarded with watered down, pop-psychological, muddied gospels all day long already. If one more product is produced under the guise of being "Christian", it will just be another subject that they'll have to study to find the truth in it and discard the rest. I'd hope that any intellectually responsible Christian would do that.

    I expect independent media to take a lot more consumer mind-share in the future. But I think the issue stated in point two above still applies. Instead of being muddied by check writers, however, it will be the content creators who may muddy the waters.

    The issue I struggle with here, is the definition of "Christian Media." There seems to be a lot of confusion about how that is defined and, as a consumer, I'm tired of trying to figure it all out. If it edifies my spirit, I'm happy. If it sends me to a dark place, I won't buy it.

  • http://www.understandingevangelicalmedia.com quentin schultze

    Dear Phil:

    Thanks for raising this important question!  I always appreciate your thoughts.

    I organized a group of 40 researcher-writers during the summer of 2007 to conduct extensive research on the topic of the future of Christian media (or evangelical media). The resulting InterVarsity Press book just came out. We've put material and web links on a book-related website, so you might give it a look.  We have not promoted the website, so your readers will be among the first to see it:

    http://www.understandingevangelicalmedia.com

    One struggle we had was defining "Christian media" in the midst of so many changes, from Christian video to Christian comics, and from Christian theme parks to Christian YouTube videos, even from Christian public relations to Christian advertising–all of it being changed partly by financial shifts and partly by technological developments. I am still tracking Christian book publishing since I write, publish, edit, and agent books. We also asked a major mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews what they thought about Christian media (essays address those topics directly).

    I hope you will write a book on the topic of the future of Christian media! I'd love to hear what you have to say. I also welcome any thoughts on our book. My contact info is available via my website, below.  If you are going to be in West Michigan please let me know.

    Best wishes,

    Quentin Schultze

    http://www.quentinschultze.com

    Professor of Communication

    Calvin College

     

     

     

     

  • Dave G

    "Feeling safe that you've targeted a 55+ audience in the midwest who faithfully send in their $25 bucks a month isn't going to cut it."

    This is the single comment that actually touches on the real economics of the 'Christian Media' world. The programs and stations that many of you seem to have such disdain for are there because their audience continues to exist and pony up…

    The new audience everyone desires to reach in 'new/innovative/relevant' ways has to be paid for somehow and none of the extensive posts above posit an actual business model.

    I anticipate a very high churn rate in the 'new world of Christian Media' as launches flame out for lack of a sound business model.

    Yes, our methods need dramatic reinvention. But the world we all want to reach with relevant messages is unlikely to pay us to deliver them to them…

     

  • Cecil Van Houten

    Dave G. makes a salient point.  My post was primarily concerned with the issues of mindset and content of future media.  I do believe content will be the biggest differentiator between those who are successful and those who are not.  But interactivity and ease of use will be the most important factors in terms of facilitating the content.  No effort will thrive in a new media environment until the cost-of-delivery and cost-to-consumer issues are resolved. 

    Even the most cutting edge of today's methodologies will be 'old' in five to ten years.  I'm not enough of a futurist to have the answers, in fact they may not even exist yet.  The challenge is integrating the best (most accessible and affordable) media technology with quality, zero or minimal-cost-to-consumer content.  That's a leap ahead and apart from where we are today.

  • Leslie I T Assih

    As long as Jesus Christ is Lord, God the Father is on His throne and someone is paying attention to (and doing what) the Holy Spirit instructs, there will be Christians in media and there will be Christian media maybe not in the way we are doing it the moment, whatever the technological state will be in the future. We definitely are beginning to get more and more entertainment from believers that is crossing into mainstream circles but it will be great for Christians to truly discover their own identity and be more in the leading of things rather than copying from the world and/or just being another alternative. Jesus Christ is not an alternative, He is the real thing. That said, Christians will need to make media that is both inreaching and outreaching and sometimes just great entertainment that is godly even if it may touch some very ugly and dark sides of life.

  • http://davidtonen.com/ David Tonen

    • http://philcooke.com Phil Cooke

      I tend to agree with you David.  Customizable media is changing everything.  We’re certainly seeing that played out on cable TV…

  • Alex MacDougall

    If there is a nationwide revival, it will be bigger than it is now.  If not, it will be smaller than it is today.
    Alex MacDougall

  • Jack M.

    It should be a short book.  “No.”

    • http://philcooke.com Phil Cooke

      Why Jack?

  • guest

    The movement has been hijacked and used to promote ultra-conservative, highly intolerant political agenda.  The present Christian religious right bears similarities to the Islamic conservatives.  Perhaps the groups will realize their common goals and end their inter-denominational feud.  (All parties are monotheistic, praising the same divinity.)
    It would be good to see religions set aside their proprietary dogmas and work together to serve the one same God.  
    Alas, most of the religious media is used to promote cohesion (isolation/segregation) of each religions’ followers, rather than promoting openness and brotherhood.  

    • http://philcooke.com Phil Cooke

      Keep in mind that “monotheistic” means ONE god, not the SAME god…

  • David Carver

    I think the future of Christians using their gifts of the Holy Spirit in the media is as bright as ever.  The means of producing are more and more available to the creators, and the means of distribution are ever widening. 
    “It” will look like whatever the Holy Spirit inspires.  Some things will look like the old, and some things will be new.  Of course it will be effective.  When the good news is made known people respond, as they have from the times of conversations around a fire – to tweeting – to broadcasting around the world.  What an exciting time to be alive. 

  • http://lesdossey.com Les Dossey

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Christian media caught up with and/or surpassed hollywood in terms of quality, fx, production, sound and so on. 

    We need 21st century writers to emerge with compelling story lines that connect with 21st century human hearts. :)

    and producers have to lose their fear of producing something with street cred

    Would love to see a die hard or dirty harry or mission impossible flick with a Christ theme.

    P.S. Your talk today at Wave cut through this x-consultants heart. I will never again call myself a consultant. Thanks

    Only the Best,

    Les Dossey
    Now Business Growth
    nowbizgrowth.com 

  • http://twitter.com/erikparise Erik Parise

    After I read this I had a discussion with some friends on their thoughts about this subject, and being involved in media myself, it made me think about where we are heading and the direction we need to take. Things that came up in the discussion, especially concerning Christian TV, were mostly in a negative manner with a feeling of a lack of being able to effectively communicate with generations, especially those of the 18-35 age range. Other topics consisted of the need for a resurgence against a generational stagnancy; a genuine approach to telling who Christ is more than people telling us about themselves on a program – selling and telling us about their products more than selling or telling us about how Christ can change their lives; or, even who He is and tell His story.

    I believe there are some who have a genuine heart and are credible at being able to balance the ability to tell His story and share their own. Everything that involves being in the spotlight comes with a price and sometimes a feeling of giving off a certain persona to others, as well as, not sharing faults or failures we have as christians at times. There lies a Catch 22 where perfectionism comes into play. It’s where the world looks for us to fail, after which they say, “I told you so,” yet they are also searching for something genuine and real … a longing to find more to this life. R-E-A-L, a Re-surging Effort of Authentic Love. People love a person of passion, they can see through the fakers.

    There are majors and careers that did not even exist 10 years ago which revolve solely around the internet. Technology grows at such a rapid pace that 5 years ago we did not have Smart TVs, Smart Phones, and Tablets … devices where now an individual can watch what they want, when they want it. So how do we, as christians, create compelling quality shows and film to compete against National Broadcasters and Distributors? We do not … rather, we join them just like Jesus did with so many (many of whom were considered by others to be outcasts) and His character changed their lives. We create quality authentic programs on National Broadcasts and we work with major Distributors to create films – films the whole family can come and watch; not always pushing Christ but showing His characteristics, His love. 

  • Rick Wilson

    Long form – no future at all.  Short form – all kinds of possibilities.  When we can communicate with compelling, relevant stories and pictures in circles of conversation the way Jesus did – we’ll have a future.

    I’m always troubled when the word Christian is used as an adjective – what really is ‘Christian media?” Isn’t it always better to use the word as a noun?

  • Steve Newton

    Will Christian TV be around in 5-10 years…Yes, but hopefully it will look and feel much different than it does today.   
     
    I’d like to see a younger demo 18-34 take over the controls, get more involved and reach out to this next generation in a creative way….of course it all takes money and lots of it.

  • http://twitter.com/rkabutz Rudolf Kabutz

     The future is created as we engage in it. So the future of media for Christians will be created as committed passionate people conceptualize and produce relevant material using appropriate channels to communicate with suitable people.
    Radio and TV are both very engaging types of media that can be enhanced by the newer types of media that have appeared. Will you and I take up the challenge to converge the suitable media in such a way that the wide reach of mass media can be enhanced? The future of radio and TV is not an abstract thought, it is a real tangible issue that we can help mould.

  • Tedd Clayton

    Hi Phil
    I’m afraid that the future doesn’t look that good if we don’t stop the foolishness thats happening with the major networks that are suppose to be distributing our content… I refer to the LA Times today http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0323-televangelist-feud-20120323,0,7963175.storyWhen will we stand as a body and say enough is enough… We can do programming to win souls but this has to stop before anyone will take our product seriously… Their are so many talented people in Christian Broadcasting… to many to mention here… But somehow we have to get our big brothers and sisters at ALL of the Christian Networks (not just TBN) to see that these extreme lifestyles are tearing us apart and making all of our good works for not… Its time to start winning souls and stop the abuses… God Bless…

  • Tedd Clayton
  • Jim Colerous

    Phil, I just read your interview on Charisma, and agree wholeheartedly with your findings.
    You might like to check out the quiet sane approach of Dr. George M. Flattery, who as Chancellor of Global University has founded http://www. Network211.com to reach 10 million in 10 years on the Internet. 42 months since the system was launched over 4 million have been reached. The stats are on the Project 10 Mill button.
    As a minister for 54 years, I have seen the sane approach and am volunteering my time to assist on this team.
    Jim Cole-Rous

    • http://twitter.com/PhilCooke Phil Cooke

      That’s the kind of thinking we need to be doing Jim…  Thanks for the link…

  • M2D

    We’re working on it at M2Dmedia,org and totally indie as well, we can’t even stomach the thought of secular Christianity. We are only moments away from breaking in (God willing).
    This was a great read and I am deeply blessed to know that there are like minded individuals out there.

  • Ryan McLean

    Informal (and hyper-personal) podcasts, blogs and videos distributed through channels such as iTunes and YouTube will provide ON DEMAND biblical answers to real questions people are asking.

    Gone will the days be of a preacher trying to reach thousands of people with one message.

    The future will be creating relevant content that people can find themselves…not something that they tune into.

    Just found your blog as you are coming to my church (HOPEUC) next week. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • Elizabeth Conley

    In that Christians create it, market it and buy it, most of American media is Christian.  Trouble is, much of it is pretty dark and depraved.  On the other hand, we've got more options than ever before.  There are literally hundreds of TV channels streamed into many homes, and more coming every day.  There are so many types of media formats that I can't keep up with it all.  So I think the future of Christian media is more choices than ever before. 

    Christians are going to choose well, choose poorly, and everywhere in between.  I hope that Christians will get educated about how to make conscious, informed decisions about what they choose. 

    My husband is very loving and kind.  He is always trying to find ways to make technology work for me, because he knows I'm something of a Luddite.  A few years ago he programed our dish network receiver to display a special list of programs he thought would be of interest to me.  Much of it was stuff I had never watched before.  For the week that followed, I watched several hours of shows intended to entertain women.  To my surprise, I found that these shows were full of negative messages about family, marriage and adult men.  They also tended to make me feel irritable, sad and resentful.  At the end of the week we vetted the list of channels on "Mom's List" very carefully, adding some and dropping many.  Most of what was dropped was considered to be "women's" channels.  We concluded they were unwholesome, at least for me.

    In conclusion, I think the future of Christian media is more choices than ever before.  I hope the future of Christian media use involved greater awareness of the consequences of our choices.

    PS- What I mean by "dark and depraved" is not so much sex and violence as a normalization of low moral character and tragic mental illnesses.  Where have all the decent, likable characters gone?  Where are the heroes?  Why are the "good guys" so twisted and disturbed?  It doesn't make sense, unless the creators of this material want to harm their audience.  Weird, to say the least.

  • David Holland

    The big Christian television networks are living on borrowed time. They are one piece of unfriendly legislation away from being relegated to the backwaters of digital cable. They are the happily-grazing dinosaurs right before the giant meteorite hits the Yucatan Peninsula.

    The meteor in this case is either an ala carte pricing mandate for cable companies or a repeal of the “must carry” law. Both are likely if Democrats increase their majorities in both houses of Congress as seems likely at this time.

    Radio, on the other hand, or more accurately “portable digital audio content” is about to experience a renaissance.

    Nevertheless, the real future of Christian media lies, not in preaching, but in story-telling.

    I don’t mean to minimize the value and power of preaching and teaching–particularly in the context of live events. But where “media” is concerned, the power to communicate the truth of the Gospel will lie with those with the skill to weave that truth into a compelling narrative fabric in a world where the lines between “Christian” and “secular” media have blurred or disappeared altogether.

    Movies, shorts, viral videos, novels, allegories… these will increasingly be where the relevance and action is five to ten years from now.

    It’s back to the campfire–where the storytellers will inherit the earth.

  • Elizabeth Conley

    "But where "media" is concerned, the power to communicate the truth of the Gospel will lie with those with the skill to weave that truth into a compelling narrative fabric in a world where the lines between "Christian" and "secular" media have blurred or disappeared altogether."

    Wow, I think you're spot on here!   

     

  • http://typepad.digidsolutions.com Jarrod Skeggs

    David, do you mean story telling like Jesus did? Parables? Stories that may or may not be completely understood? You hit the nail on the head. I never really thought about this until a conversation I had about 6 months ago with a friend. Because I grew up in a very regimented denominational religion, I just assumed that church and Christianity was equivalent to 3 Hymns, taking up the offering, and a 3 point sermon followed by an altar call. 

    If Jesus is the model, then Jesus is the model for everything right? 

  • Sandy Brownlee

    I think you're right on target.  I think that people are hungry for meaning, hungry for story… hungry for cosmos in the midst of chaos.  The public in general has been innoculated against our stereotypical way of delivering pre-packaged truth, and the body of Christ hasn't helped anything by insulating ourselves within our little  Christian subculture.  I think if we are willing to get off the safety of our wide, well-worn paths used for delivering and marketing the gospel, and get "back to the campfire" that we could have a creative renaissance.  In Christ, we bear the imprint of the unimaginably infinite Creator, so let's create – really create something that will soar above the stereotypes.  The potential is enormous.

  • http://pisgahview.net David Carver

    Will Christian media (particularly radio and TV) exist in 5-10 years?
    Yes. The advent of radio did not spell the end of printing, and television did not put an end to radio. As the long as the distribution medium exists Christians will use it.

    Will it look like it does today?
    Probably not. Christian programs will evolve just like secular programs. More distribution outlets leads to more productions; giving creative folks the opportunity to jump into the mix in new and creative ways.

    Will it be effective?
    I suppose that is determined by how you evaluate effectiveness; ie, money, ratings, critical acclaim, revival, cultural change, conversion, teaching, popularity… To many the gospel has always been foolishness, but to those that are being saved it is the power of God. cf. I Corinthians 1:18-20.

    What will it look like?
    I hope we see more drama and documentaries added to the talking heads. I see the future as more of an additive process than a subtractive one. Broadcast television's best suit is live production. There is a dynamic there that does not exist in other media. The internet and IPTV are best at video on demand. A big challenge today is letting folks know where they can find a program among the ever inncreasing number of distribution sources.

    David

  • RJ Alvarez

    What will Christian media look like in 5-10 years?  Let me take a stab at it….

    Sadly, some of it will look the same.  Many of the current "heavies" (who've been around since the 80's) are either not paying attention to their changing audience or are  too slow to make any changes.  Many Christian media sources, whether they be TV or radio, are often behind the curve and are often reactionary instead of being revolutionary.  I ought to know; I worked in that industry for over a decade. And some of the worst-produced 'shows' out there are 'Christian.' These same groups keep asking the same questions year to year but fail to implement any real changes to their methods.  Many stick to the well-worn paradigms–and then they're stuck when their leaders pass from the scene.  No one out there is reinventing themselves to reach people in new ways.  If there are, they are too far and too few….

    Some, on the other hand, will change.  Some out of necessity, while others in creative breakthroughs.  The message of salvation is still the most important content we as Christians have to give, along with grace, mercy, forgiveness, and the courage to stand for truth.  Until Christ returns, that message must get out there, but it won't be through the current fare.  Can anyone really be drawn by flashy preaching–name it and claim–get your green healing cloth–everything will work out well–mentality.  Content is still king in today's consumer-controlled technological era, so whether you're talking about TV, radio, movies, podcasting or anything else coming down the road, Christians need to produce materials that uphold biblical values.  The challenge in doing that is using language and storytelling that tells the truth, that isn't stuck in the Ozzie and Harriet mindset, yet doesn't sound glib or patronizing.  And it's got to be in a real language that everyone else speaks today–hopefully with humor and transparency.  Too many hate Christians–and they don't really know why.  They do because we're lumped in with rigid rules and narrow-mindedness.

    Why do people flock to 'churches' like Oprah Winfrey's when it's the same old tired new age rhetoric?  It's because they've wrapped enough truth in it to make it palatable and comfortable. If Christians want to be on the media playing field with everyone else, we need to be doing it as well as–and in fact better–than everyone else.  

  • breaklight

    I heard recently, that deception is where there is enough truth to make the lie look credible.

  • http://dailydevotions.com.au Cameron Bailey

    I can see Christian media becoming smaller and larger!!  The feature films industry will grow or at least keep tracking at the same rate as it does today and ministries will move to podcasts/short segments for mobile devices. Adding the word into the busyness of everyones lives in short sharp bursts.  I can see much of a future in long winded preaching, its about short stories touching hearts.  If everything aligns I can see episodic TV or chat working but it needs the right people with the right skills and most importantly churches/Christian organisations seeing the benefit of this style and investing in it both financially and with time and effort.  

    Nothing new to Phil here just really repeating what he and guests on his podcast are saying (Leonard Sweet I think)

     

  • http://typepad.digidsolutions.com Jarrod Skeggs

    I think Christian radio and television 5 to 10 years from now may be irrelevant, much like local and national news will be. Considering the immense cost of broadcasting on either a local or national basis for television and radio, I think most ministries will opt for "narrowcasting" instead of broadcasting. In other words, they will leverage the power of podcasting and creating and delivering content so that folks who are interested in their ministry can subscribe and easily get all new content. This is happening more and more today with "news". When I watch my local 6:00 p.m. news in Atlanta, (a very rare occurrence mind you), I can only stomach about 5 to 10 minutes of it because its either very negative or already old news. For most people today, myself included, I realize that there are hundreds and in many cases thousands of sources for news today. I prefer to get my news in a very focused manner. I follow technology and new media news very closely and I follow many different sources. The reason I follow a lot of different sources is that there are so many different "spins" on the same story. Being able to quickly see two or three different stories on the same event or announcement helps me form an objective opinion about the event myself. It kind of goes back to the whole Wiki idea in that the 6:00 p.m. Local or National News Anchor isn't the only one who can report good news or might have some sort of story to share.

    So, in essence, I get my news when I want it, I consume it when and where I want to. In fact, at present the same is true for me as it relates to Christian media. I don't watch Christian TV or listen to Christian radio, I subscribe to podcasts of the ministries that I find relevant to me, my life and where I am at in my relationship with God right now. I attend church regularly and the Pastor at my church certainly speaks into my life, but he's not the only Pastor that does so thanks to the advent of podcasting or "narrowcasting". 

    The question I have is will podcasting become what Christian TV has become to folks like myself. I honestly can't stomach most of it. As you mentioned in your book Branding Faith, this is probably because most of it is so hideous. Frankly, the bar is set very very high and most ministries don't hire a firm like yours to help them present a broadcast image that supports the brand. 

    I think that only the strongest and most cash rich ministries will continue to truly broadcast. I would say too, that even those will learn and understand the benefits of Rich Media or Digital Media Publishing, the concept of creating content once and then delivering that content in everything from High Definition down to files optimized for audio and video podcasting and everything in between. The reason for this is that, like it or not, it's all about the consumer with media today. We want control of what we see and when and how we see it.

  • Barry Armstrong

    I began attending NRB and other media conferences in 1975. I can’t tell you the number of times the informed leaders and futurists among us have given christian media 5 to 10 more years. As long as we have creative and passionate communicators of the Gospel, there will be christian media.

  • David Holland

    Yes to parables!

    I’m thinking primarily in terms of fiction and documentaries–short form and long. For a the written form, take a look at a novel by Leif Enger called “Peace Like a River.” It was a secular release book that sold very well, and yet is one of the most powerful advertisements for Christianity I’ve ever seen.

  • Elizabeth Conley

    I just finished reading "Peace Like a River".  Thank you very much for mentioning it.  I tracked it down through our local library.  It was great!