Journalists don’t have much time for Christians and Christians don’t have much time for journalists. My friends still joke that a Christian journalist (like a civil engineer) is a contradiction in terms.
The media subculture and church communities hardly intersect. I think this is because increasingly young adults don’t live in suburbs but industries. Our friends are from work, not the people in our block of flats. A suspicion of the media means it’s been rare for Christians to choose media as a career.
I became a Christian when another 2UE journalist, Russell Powell, invited me along to his church in 1985. I was astonished. The sermon was a lecture on a chapter of the Bible, followed by 15 minutes of question time. It was the first place I had encountered where Christianity seemed sensible, credible and rational. However, it still took six months of discussion and debate with Russell and others for me to be convinced that Jesus had died for my sins, had risen again and should now be my Lord. Sticking points were the historicity of the New Testament and the related issue – that Jesus really did rise.
After becoming Christian, it was so tough being a Christian in the media, that for several years in the late 1980s, I discouraged Christians from heading into the media. It’s tough for three reasons.
First, shift work in the media makes any sort of regular commitment to church or Bible study very difficult. For two years I worked Monday to Wednesday, 4pm – midnight, and, Saturday and Sunday, 4am to midday.
Second, the media is an extremely cynical industry. This means evangelism is very difficult and the people around you will be constantly throwing up issues causing you to doubt your faith.
Third, media people tend to be creative and aesthetically conscious. Churches that have an emphasis on strong Bible teaching are sometimes weak in this area of style, with some almost explicitly anti-creativity. Other churches which may have more style are sometimes light weight in their Bible teaching. They tend not to have enough intellectual fibre to properly arm the young Christian in the media for the cynical attacks they will encounter.
These problems led us to start Christians in the Media in 1990. We wanted to help each other stay Christian and to encourage other Christians to head into the media. There were issues related to being a Christian in the newsroom we needed to discuss, but people at church needed so much background that they weren’t really able to give advice. In 1997, after graduating from Moore College, I started to work for Christians in the Media full time.
The Christians in the Media Network is now focused on strengthening the existing Christians in the media by teaching the Bible, to help cynical shift workers will stay Christian. But importantly we are also reaching out to our media friends through, for example, culturally appropriate events.
In God’s kindness, several media people in Sydney have come to love and trust Jesus. In each case, this has happened, not through big rally-like events, but through long conversations over months and reading the Bible with other Christians working in the media. Media people are used to public relations spin doctors only telling half the story, and so are cynical of people bringing messages.
I think this cynicism means that our friends in the media would probably, on average, ask more difficult questions in researching the gospel than others who are investigating Christian faith. However, because we communicate ideas for a living, the Christians in the media have the potential to be better than average at communicating the gospel to others.
Dominic Steele, founder of Christians in the Media