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22 September 2016

Don't keep quiet! The media needs Christians to be a voice for good

Don't keep quiet! The media needs Christians to be a voice for good

Abi Jarvis who has recently joined the Alliance as Public Leadership coordinator, writes about our forthcoming Voice for Good weekend.

The Evangelical Alliance explain how Christians can be a positive influence in the media 

Many of us want to change the world. But in the daily grind of work, church, family and friends it can be hard to find the necessary time and energy. For some, changing the world may require moving to another country or joining a time-consuming campaign. For many of us, however, we can change the world right where we are simply by speaking up about the things we are already doing.

Johnny Rose’s recent article suggested that Christians “only have ourselves to blame” for the lack of Christian voices in the mainstream media. He said that “we are no longer generating public figures that are worthy of coverage” and that we are “segregating ourselves”. And I think he’s right.

At the Evangelical Alliance we believe that God's people can be effective voices for good in society. Ordinary people can transform their communities and the media can be a great ally in this. The problem is that we too often keep quiet, worried about negative press attention. Jesus may not have faced the modern press, but he spoke in public settings on every issue imaginable. We could do worse than listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”.

The greatest societal change usually comes from within, because we are most qualified to speak on the things that make up our daily life. The most popular sports commentators are often former players. We trust people who are immersed in the world they are commenting on.

In many ways, the local church is still at the heart of the community. It provides a venue for toddler groups, support groups, even business meetings. You can meet people in every walk and at every stage of life. When there is a big local news story (such as a manhunt for a missing child, or a disastrous flood), reporters will inevitably turn to a local church leader for insight on the community.

Sometimes it is the very commitments that we think stop us from acting that provide the best opportunities. The toddler group you manage, or the school run you organise, are environments where parents will talk about how changes to the education system are affecting them. 

The media (television, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, social media) provides a platform for turning our personal knowledge and experiences into a voice for change. It is an opportunity to promote the church’s foodbank or holiday club, and to participate in conversations taking place about local development plans or national political issues.

The media provides a platform for turning our personal knowledge and experiences into a voice for change

The mainstream media reaches an audience that didn’t hear the church notices on Sunday. Speaking up publically is a crucial part of leadership. If you’re frustrated about what other people are saying in the media, then it might be your chance to take the lead. Otherwise someone else will speak instead, and your opportunity to influence the conversation will be missed.

Crucially, we must do this well. Doing something badly can be worse than not doing it at all. To speak in the public sphere and be taken seriously, it’s important to be not just informed but also articulate - and it never hurts to be passionate. The best commentators speak with knowledge of their subject, immersion in the world, and a clear and coherent message. 

We need to speak from a position of trust, in a time and place where our intended message will be heard by the intended audience. We should be the trusted voices speaking out on local and national issues, on explicitly faith issues and on issues which affect us just like everybody else.

If you would be interested in learning how you could engage with media in your community – or maybe even beyond your community – please join us this October. Hear more about why Christians should want to publically share their views on business, politics or education. Learn practical ways to become an effective and trusted public voice.

Be encouraged that you can become a voice for good.

This article was originally written for Premier Christianity and can be found here.