Speaking truth to a darkening world
By Ronald E. Keener
Robert Jeffress uses the public media to address a broad audience, not just Christians.
The pulpit of well-known First Baptist Church in Dallas is a “megaphone” from which to be easily heard in evangelical Christianity, and Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress has amplified it even further in his skillful use of radio and television.
“As our culture continues to deteriorate, I believe there is an increasing need to act as salt and light in a decaying and darkening world by presenting God’s truth through every avenue that is available,” he explains his use of media. “Many times Christians just end up talking to themselves, rather than those outside the church. I view invitations to speak on television and radio as an opportunity to share God’s truth with a broader audience.”
Church Executive fielded a few questions to him about his media ministry:
What has been your ministry in radio and television in the past 20 years of your pastorates?
Media has always played an important part in my ministry. In my first pastorate, we broadcast our services on a 1000-watt station in a town of 5,200 people. During the time I was pastor of my previous church, First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, TX, a businessman in our church approached me about taking our local ministry broadcast to a national audience and underwrote the first year’s cost.
The ministry, Pathway to Victory, has continued to grow since I became pastor of First Baptist Dallas and now airs on hundreds of television stations and cable systems around the world. The radio version of our program launched nationally August 1 with 283 stations. Media is just one more way to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It seems you have ratcheted up considerably your appearances on Fox News and perhaps other talk outlets. Do you find that Fox is more open to receiving opinions and viewpoints from you than other networks and shows?
My experience has been that, in spite of what many believe, the Fox News Channel is not composed of a bunch of ideologues pushing a particular viewpoint, but instead they are serious journalists who are interested in exploring all points of view when it comes to controversial topics. The phrase “fair and balanced” is more than a slogan for them, it really is their objective. I believe that is why they enjoy consistently high ratings.
Do you have a strategy in appearing on particular talk shows and news programs?
We have a wonderful media department that really takes care of all that. They just tell me where to go – so to speak! – and when.
What sort of help do you get from the church’s communications staff in preparing for these occasions?
Our media team handles all the logistics of any appearances, makes our church members aware of them, and offers helpful critiques.
What would you have said if Piers Morgan (on CNN) had asked you if homosexuality was a sin – as he did to Joel Osteen?
Read my book! Seriously, I have never backed away from that subject. I would have said that yes, homosexuality is a sin just as is adultery and premarital sex. They are all distortions of God’s plan for sexual fulfillment. Since God thought up the idea of sex, he knows how it can be enjoyed best: in a lifetime commitment called marriage between one man and one woman.
What do you suggest to other pastors in terms of speaking out on the tough topics, and how they can handle them well?
Every pastor must remember his prophetic mandate to deliver a “Thus says the Lord” to both believers and unbelievers. In both the Old Testament and New Testament, God’s messengers did not restrict their messages to believers only but they spoke to the world at large. Of course, you know what happened. Very few prophets had fan clubs! They were stoned, flogged, beaten and beheaded.
One pastor has told me: “Pastors who shy away from being ‘political,’ develop a casuistry for being silent. They claim they should not be involved in ‘political’ things when the real problem is spineless wimpish-ness.” How do you feel about that?
Here is the real question: Does God care about the slaughter of millions of children through abortion, the wholesale effort to remove any mention of his name from the public sector, or the efforts to legitimize homosexual behavior? All you have to do is look at the Bible to answer that question. If God has not changed and hates those practices, promising to judge those nations that engage in them, then every pastor has the responsibility to speak out.
What would you advise pastors when dealing with the media?
First, be courteous. Even if you disagree with their point of view, there is never a need to be rude. Second, be brief. Anticipate what questions you might be asked and carefully craft your answers in sound bites. Finally, be relaxed. Smiling while you speak can be very disarming, even to the harshest critic.
How can pastors say the “hard truths” of the Gospel while loving people and explaining unrepentant behavior?
I think we follow Jesus’ example of being what I call a “velvet-covered brick.” Jesus was always hard in his convictions, while being soft with people.
What do your congregants say to you on Sundays after you have been a commentator that week?
They are always very affirming. I serve a great church filled with great people! I have a team of 300 prayer partners in the church who pray for me during those interviews.
Robert Jeffress is the author of Outrageous Truths — Seven Absolutes You Can Still Believe (WaterBrook Press, 2008). His media ministry has recently published the first issue of Pathways, a monthly magazine.
Truth is abhorred by masses
You have had some controversy since you came to Dallas when you preached on the gay agenda, and maybe other topics. How were these occasions handled?
Actually, my first experience with controversy occurred when I was pastoring in Wichita Falls, TX, and spoke out against two homosexual children’s books Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies. A member of our church had checked out the books from our local library, and I refused to return them.
The resulting two-year firestorm gained national attention. We were attacked by the ACLU, People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and just about every left-leaning group you can imagine.
Recently, Alan Colmes interviewed me on Fox News radio and played excerpts of some of my sermons since I’ve been in Dallas about Islam, Mitt Romney and Mormonism, and homosexuality. Suffice it to say, Alan is not a fan! My experience has been that the seventeenth-century Jesuit Priest Baltasar Gracian was correct when he said, “Truth is abhorred by the masses.”