Over the holidays, I got to play a very, very, very small part in a much larger effort to bring both a hot tasty meal and warm friendship and fellowship to people who would normally be alone on Christmas Day. At some point in the future, I might write further about how important it is to meet both of those needs.
A local reporter was present at the event and interviewed a man that she knows from his involvement in the local business community. The end result was an article that was genuinely favorable, but one that placed this one individual at the center of the story, when in fact, this was a group effort involving dozens and dozens of volunteers. To be fair, it’s possible that this person did not know the whole history of the event in question.
It’s the third time in a few weeks that the local paper has not gotten the story right, where the story involved something church-related or of a “religious” nature. While it’s not objective journalism, I think sometimes the best reporting on a thing like this one can only happen when someone within the story itself does the writing. Also, churches need to be more sensitive when a member of “the fifth estate” shows up and assign a press liaison to that person. Perhaps everyone else should be told not to speak on behalf of the organization or event, but to refer questions to someone else.
There’s a whole lot I could write here about how the media generally misses the nuances of Christian — and especially Evangelical — event coverage. We need more Christian young people to study journalism. My wife says the potential for errors multiplies greatly when you’re dealing with small town newspapers.
But I want to put some positive spin on this.
While thinking this over in the 24 hours since I finally got around to reading the story, I was reminded of something seemingly unrelated that Frank Viola has written in many of his books that deal with the house church movement. (Told ya it was seemingly unrelated!)
Viola says that when you visit a home church, if it’s running ideally, when you walk in you won’t get a sense of who is in charge. Different people participate by contributing different gifts and any teaching you get is organic, springing up from within the community, and possibly coming from different voices on different weeks. There isn’t the compelling need which we have as humans — similar to the need to put things in ‘boxes’ — to identify the “Alpha person” and give them a place of honor. Viola would say that the Holy Spirit is in charge. Not a particular individual.
That’s probably what bewildered the reporter. She was looking to “get the story” as reporters do. And really, there were a couple of people “in charge” that she could have interviewed if she was doing her job properly, and those two are humble enough that they wouldn’t allow the story to center on them.
The “star” of the show that day was the Christian community — and a few others who were drawn into the current of generosity that was flowing that day — who were manifesting the grace of God being outworked in love and service.
And if you find yourself being interviewed some day, that’s where you should directing the “credit.” The pop and rock stars who accept their award by saying they “want to thank God,” may not always be sincere, but their words have the right idea. That would have worked well in this situation.
A Canadian pastor, Dennis Anderson shared a few years ago in a sermon, and it has stuck with me ever since…
“There is no limit on what can be done for God, as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.”