Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Preaching through action. 2015 is shaping up at as big year for Argentinian-born Christian evangelist Luis Palau as his Portland, Oregon-based Luis Palau Association brings its CityServe & CityFest initiatives to the media capital of the world.

New York City, like other cities Palau and his organization have chosen for outreach, is set to benefit from a unique collaboration of faith, civic, business and media leaders. The dual purposes of NY CityServe & CityFest are “to identify, develop, and nurture church-connected, neighborhood-focused collaborations throughout New York City, focusing on justice, mercy, and education…and second, to help churches saturate their neighborhoods with the Good News of Jesus Christ through regional outreaches and evangelistic gatherings, culminating in a multi-cultural evangelistic outreach with Luis Palau in the summer of 2015.” You can learn more about how to become involved in those efforts here.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Luis Palua about his outreach efforts, as well as his thoughts on the how the media can be an important tool for Christians seeking to construct a bigger, more welcoming tent.

JWK: By launching NY CityServe & CityFest, you’re really bringing your ministry to the heart of the media. What, specifically, do you hope to accomplish?

LUIS PALAU: We have, basically, three major objectives. One is the working together of all the Christian churches — pulling together and working together for the city which is the CityServe component. We’re beginning with unity — which people long for. We’re always trying to find a focus for practicing unity. So, that’s our number-one goal.

Number two is to serve the city. The churches are serving the city. I don’t know one that isn’t but by working together, joining forces, and doing multiple impact (ther can be) a better coordination of work…This is not just a one year or two year (effort). Actually the churches will continue to work together for a decade or more as they have in other cities where this has happened. In Portland, Oregon, where we live, in Houston, South Florida and so on, it’s quite noticeable what (our efforts have brought about in schools and other situations.

And then the third thing is to let the city know that there is Good News, Very Good News, through Jesus Christ that can bring back those that have drifted away, those who have gone spiritually AWOL — and bring them back to Jesus Christ…Our own son Andrew was one of those who was brought back  by a festival like this one. We want to proclaim the Good News to the whole tri-state area and do it by everybody working together in unity.

JWK: How has the media been receiving you?

LP: Here (in New York City), we’re still in the early stages. The public launching just took place (on September 23rd) at Calvary Baptist…It was basically just the churches saying “Alright, we’re going forward! We want you to come! We think you have something to offer us!”…So, we haven’t yet (as of this conversation) done (much) direct communication yet…We need to check out local organizations that could help us (with) public relations and with media buys. So, it’s in the early stages…We’re still working with the churches (and) with the business community.

JWK: How important is the media for Christians who want to influence the culture in a positive way?

LP: I’m not sure you can really speak to a city or leave much of an impact on (the) people or society in general unless you engage the media.

Right now, we are a media-oriented culture — and it’s getting to be worldwide. Unless we are in every possible means of communication, we’re not (fully) communicating. To me, Christians engaging in media is really a fundamental calling — just as important as…a preaching evangelist or a missionary. The gift of media — like you have and so many others — are valuable to accomplishing the purposes of Jesus Christ — which is that the whole world hear the greatest news that the world has ever heard of, (a message that includes) the peace of God, reconciliation, forgiveness of sins, power to live (a good) life, to bless the family, to lift up the children and to lift up the poor and so on. I mean there’s no (greater) means. If I had to give every (tool) up except one,  I would stick with media any time because you know you’re touching people in places you never imagined. Media penetrates behind the most severe dictatorships. Media penetrates into the hearts of millionaires and influential people that we’re not aware are listening. (Media penetrates) into the hearts of the hungry and hurting. So, to me, media is the place to be. Then, of course, you need to make the personal contact because people need fellowship and communion with people face-to-face. So, there you go. That’s how I feel about it.

I’ve been in media myself since I was 18 — starting with radio and then television and films. And now social media; We’re beginning to work on it. I think we’re a few steps behind but we’re working on it.

JWK: So, you feel Christians have a little catching up to do when it comes to social media?

LP: Oh, yes, I do believe that. But you know there are people who are already engaged…We do have to catch up fast and make the most of (what’s) available — twittering, Facebook and all the rest of it. The sooner we get in, the better before total confusion takes over. I think already some of that is happening. I think believers need to understand that (social media is) a vital tool that God has placed in our hands. Around the world it has had a very powerful impact in places where — for political reasons — (certain) people would like to keep out the message of Jesus (which is) impossible to do.

So, (the media) is a calling, a serious calling. It’s great to see the many believers who pick it up and make the most of it. We need to collaborate. I think we can help one another — rather than go independent.  Economies of scale will come into play (when) we cooperate with each other and piggyback on each other as used to be done in the print media which, partially, is disappearing.

Yeah, I think we do need to catch up and move fast…The time is as short now as it was ever. It seems like clouds around the world have made people insecure and fearful beyond imagination. Therefore, I think we have a message to give of mental calm and peace of the soul that the world cannot offer (and) only Christ can teach. I am excited by the possibilities.

JWK: You talk about the importance of getting the Christian message out through media. Beyond journalism, how important is storytelling — both non-fiction and fiction — in helping to create a more positive culture based on the principles of positive faith? I’m talking about things like movies, TV, novels, music and the like.

LP: There’s a very fine, delicate way of communicating the Good News via the news departments…Then the films I think are working very well.

We are friends of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. I think they have sort of latched onto to using film and television specials to communicate the Gospel in quite amazing ways. The respect that they’ve generated because of the secular engagement in (Mark’s) Survivor and The Voice and Roma’s Touched by an Angel and then (their production of) The Bible last year and Son of God (has been great). Now, (next) Easter Sunday on NBC, they’re going to have (A.D. which tells the story of the early Church).

We’re in touch (with them). They are on the advisory council for the New York Festival and we’re expecting them, God willing, with all their projects in the media to open doors for all of (Christian storytellers) in the media…They have taken advantage of their influence and (used it in service of their) passion for Jesus Christ. They both love Jesus personally, as you probably know. It’s quite touching…I think it goes in cycles. That  movies (about) Christianity and The Bible (are being being portrayed)  in a positive form by Hollywood and all the powers that be (is) good…I think it’s very valuable.

JWK: Do you feel that the work they’ve done — and the success they’ve had — has helped make Christianity more acceptable in the mainstream media?

LP: Yes, absolutely! You know when they did that miniseries, they had a bit of a hard time getting the serious mainstream channels to (give) them time (but) when they saw the audiences that (it) drew, NBC called them up and said “Please, let’s do something (together). Don’t just go to cable. Come on with us!” I think it’s beautiful (what happens when) you obey God one step at a time. You remember that famous verse “Whoever is faithful in little things is also with much.” They were faithful in taking the first steps and (now) they’re flooded with requests…So, we hope many more (faith-based productions) will take place because the country needs it desperately. Politicians live in one world and media people in an overlapping world but this business of being ashamed of (saying the name of ) Jesus and (public) prayer is going over the top…The media doesn’t have to succumb to that if they are careful and use wisdom.

New York City Mayor Bill di Blasio welcoming NY CityServe & CityFest to the Big Apple:

YouTube Preview Image

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus