Radio and Television

God-given means for the task

WALTER R. L. SCRAGG, Associate Secretary, Radio and TV Department, General Conference

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:

1.     Five-Minute Daily Broadcast.—Here is a format to which the pastor can readily adapt. News broadcasts of church activities, brief doctrinal presentations, meditations, music and meditation, devotional talks, in­terviews for the day, can all fit into this. It need not demand too much of the pastor's time. A whole week or even a month of programs can be recorded at one time. Nothing succeeds like this in making a pas­tor known in his community.

2.     Open-Mike Sessions.—Somewhere soon an Adventist minister is going to discover the tremendous potential in the open-micro­phone-type program. Those of us who have been interviewed on these programs have been amazed at the response.

3.     Youth Forum Broadcasts.—Needed to­day are pastors and youth leaders who can speak to the young people of the world. Here is a realm for experimentation and new ideas. Young people under the chairmanship of a pastor can bring a fresh in­sight that challenges all ages.

4.     Church Broadcasts. — Not nearly enough is done in this field. More of our churches could find opportunity to broad­cast and televise their church services.
5.     College and University Forums.—From our educated members and faculties we can draw personalities who will com­mand respect and build listener audiences.

6.     Talk Programs.—Today we have sta­tions that are devoted to talk, with little or no music. The church's angle on some topic may be just what the local station is looking for.

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.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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WALTER R. L. SCRAGG, Associate Secretary, Radio and TV Department, General Conference

December 1967

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