ACROSS North America more than six thousand radio and television stations daily fill the airwaves with sound. Symphony and cacophony, harmony and deliberate discord, voices that tell truth and lies, and shouts and whispers that battle for the minds of men. It is all too tragic that so little of this sound speaks to the hearts of men. Around the world close to 15,000 radio and television stations vie in a multitude of tongues for our attention.
In the recent Middle East conflict the threats and intemperate statements that filled the air were a major factor in creating tension and inflaming passions. As instruments of propaganda, radio and television have no equal. In the hands of skilled masters of persuasion they can make even black seem white. As purveyors of syndicated evil, lust, and crime, they threaten the very basis of our societies. But this is not their only use.
Paul made bold to proclaim in his day, "Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:18). Today the everlasting gospel cannot be carried solely by the "feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (verse 15). Radio and television are a direct fulfillment of the prophecy that many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" (Dan. 12:4). Daniel's prophetic eye saw great advances in the methods of spreading the gospel. Our responsibility is to see that the best possible use is made of the modern miracle means of communication.
What Can We Do?
We must rethink our budgetary provisions for radio and television broadcasting. At every level there is need for us to consider the part that radio and television can play in hastening on the gospel. This needs to begin at grass-roots level. Nothing will challenge them more or evoke better response than a wisely conceived radio or television program that promises to spread the gospel. Many churches should make radio or television evangelism a regular part of their evangelistic budget, using either a syndicated or locally produced program.
For a number of years broadcasting institutions have benefited from appropriations from the General Conference, division, and union and local conferences, depending on the budget structure in the various fields. Sometimes these appropriations are considered as the total commitment of the organization to radio and television. Perhaps we are still languishing in the use of radio and television in some areas because we do not realize that the funds must be increased if we are to keep pace with developments.
Should we hold back, waiting for others before we give more of our money to these evangelistic agencies? In so many areas the message on the air has been hindered and even cut back because the funds have been limited to the appropriation received from the higher organization. Funds available must increase for these media as they increase for the other great programs of the church.
Imagination and Encouragement Are Needed
Opportunities in radio and television in many lands are just as wide as our imagination. We are not on the air because we have not considered the format of the local stations and adapted ourselves to it. The Voice of Prophecy is not the only format for presenting the gospel. Pastors and evangelists need to think how radio and television can contribute to their programs. Here are some other formats that are worth some thought:
Rethink the Use of Radio and Television
Placing doctrinal or evangelistic programs on radio and television in much of the world is impossible. Government laws frankly forbid it or make it impossible. Prejudice may step in to hamper and assail any attempts that we may make. Does this mean that we should not use these modern media? Much good for the church as a whole and for our cause evangelistically will result from "citizenship" programs. Into this area fall all types of programs that render a service to the public. These may include health talks, temperance programs, talks on training children, family relationships, and obeying the laws of the land. It is good if they are linked with our church, but even this is not essential. Before too long a program that is good reflects on its originators.
Even such strongholds of antievangelism as the Middle East, India, and Communist countries may well fall before a well-conceived citizenship approach. Five-Day Plans are accepted in many areas where we could never hold evangelistic meetings, because they serve the public interest. Programs of this type, free from a church slant and skillfully prepared for radio or television, may well succeed. Through these programs we can help men and women become better citizens and show that we are interested in the whole man. Surely it is our duty to encourage Russians to be good Russians, Poles to be good Poles, Egyptians to be good Egyptians, as well as Americans to be good Americans. In every country we encourage our people to be good citizens until and unless their conscience toward God demands them to make a stand.
As a church, the day has come when we can do things because they are good things to do, apart from any tangible results that we may see for the church. Our temperance and health messages have always been for the good of the community regardless of the results the church may see. It is time for this sort of thing to take to the air. An excellent example of what may be done is seen in the emission educatif of the La Voix de l'Esperance, the French radio program. What untold good this has done and how much praise and influence it has brought to the church! In some areas of the world our work would be impossible but for the foundation laid by this excellent program with its emphasis on health, family life, and good citizenship.
Training of Pastors Essential in This Field
While radio and television can be powerful agencies for good in the spreading of our message, they may also be cruel to the untrained. Many of our men who could and should be broadcasting feel woefully inadequate when they think of what is involved. Actually, most ministers with a little common sense and some sound training can equip themselves for a useful role in broadcasting. Most will discover programs that suit their natural aptitudes as they progress and prepare. By working in close conjunction with a radio or television station, they may be able to present something that would be acceptable to the station and valuable to the church.
To aid in the training of future ministers, departments of communication have been established at many of our colleges. However, not all trainees take advantage of the courses offered. Some prepared for the ministry before these facilities were available. Working with the union and local conference radio-television departments, the General Conference department conducts broadcasters' workshops for local pastors.
These provide actual training in the production of programs and other practical aids. Also available is a manual, Ten Tips on Taking to the Air, produced by the General Conference Radio-Television Department.
An ancient poet declared, "The heavens declare the glory of God." Today, through the miracle of radio and television, we have the opportunity of making this literally true. More programs, more broadcasters, more imagination, more faith, are needed if we are to accept the opportunity that God has so wonderfully given to His people.