Thinking Out Loud

September 26, 2017

Remembering Canadian Christian Television Pioneer David Mainse

Canada has lost an iconic Christian broadcaster whose influence extended from shore to shore of this country, lasted many decades, cut across denominational and demographic boundaries and continues to be felt with the daily ministry of 100 Huntley Street.

Global News:

Rev. David Mainse, founder of Crossroads Christian Communications and Canada’s longest running daily Christian talk show 100 Huntley Street, has died at the age of 81.

…Under Mainse’s leadership and direction, what began in 1962 as a weekly black-and-white, 15-minute broadcast that aired after the nightly news on a small Pembroke, Ont., TV station grew to become an expansive family of not-for-profit ministries.

Those ministries included international multimedia programming, an international relief and development organization, a broadcast school (that trained communicators from more than 80 countries around the world) and a national prayer centre that staffs more than 100 volunteers to field 30,000 calls each month, providing 24/7 telephone prayer support to Canadians.

…It was a result of Mainse’s vision (which was motivated by a desire to see Christian programming in primetime) and his team’s argument before Canada’s broadcast regulator in the early 1980s, that the CRTC determined there was merit to the idea of allowing religious groups to own and operate broadcast stations. This was an opportunity that had not existed in Canada for 50 years.

Lorna Dueck, recently appointed CEO of Crossroads wrote:

I’ve lost my mentor, dear friend, and champion – Rev. Dr. David Mainse who passed on to his Heavenly broadcast seat. Oh the people he will meet!

The family posted this announcement on Facebook:

…David’s passion for Jesus spilled out into every area of his life and fueled him as an enthusiastic evangelist, visionary leader, and beloved mentor to so many. Having been in TV ministry since 1962, David was greatly loved by countless people with whom he connected daily, sharing the love of Jesus and wearing his heart on his sleeve. He was a man of impeccable integrity whose public and personal life were in clear alignment, enabling him to powerfully impact the masses and the individual…especially his family. Through his words and actions, David lived out his oft-quoted words, “One soul is worth more than the whole world.” His life-long desire was to see precious lives transformed for all eternity through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ…a desire he satisfied with great success.

Although he will be greatly missed, David’s influence will live on through his family, the ministry he founded (Crossroads), and the many lives he touched and inspired in his beloved Canada and around the world during his 60+ years of ministry…

Visit the website; click either one of the images here.


Related:

Earlier this summer I shared my own reflections of working for David and Crossroads in this story.

 

 

 

Advertisements

September 22, 2017

If Peter and Paul Had YouTube Accounts

What if Gospel writer Luke, instead of writing the Book of Acts, had lived at a time he could have instead made a series of videos? That’s the question I was asking myself last night after a friend turned my attention to a collection of 176 YouTube videos (if I counted correctly) by Matt Whitman under the chronologically-ambiguous name, The Ten Minute Bible Hour.

He describes his purpose at a Patreon page:

I like talking about the Bible and Christianity in a way that’s useful, sane, and hopefully funny. I’d planned to be a Major League Baseball player and President but I accidentally ended up being a pastor instead. I studied fancy history, theology, and philosophy stuff so I could impress people at parties by telling them I’m a college professor, but I kept bumbling my way back into church, which does not impress people at parties.

The bottom line is that even though I’ve tugged at the leash of this thing, I really care about the Bible, the Church, and the God I believe is behind them. I also love trying to talk about it in a way that makes sense to normal people who use normal words and ask normal questions and laugh at normal funny things. Talking about God and the Bible on the Internet often gets weird, confusing, and crappy, but I’m hoping we can do it differently, and be one part of something bigger and good. That’s why I make the Ten Minute Bible Hour.

Let’s watch a sample filmed on location in Rome:

But let’s face it, you can’t film in Italy every day, right? So let’s have a look at a typical edition of TMBH; this one is about Stephen, the first Christian martyr and trust me, a few minutes in, he actually gets there.

So now we’ve introduced you to The Bible Project and Ten Minute Bible Hour.* Say you don’t have time to read the Bible? Finding the translation you own hard to understand? Suffering from ADD issues? Seems you’re slowly running out of excuses when media like this exists.

Want to know more about Matt? So we did we until we landed at theologymix.com and found this:

Matt Whitman believes in God and thinks things are funny. He was raised in Fort Collins, Colorado before moving to Chicago where he graduated from Trinity College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He met his wife Camilla on his first day of college in his first class. They’ve got three kids together and now live in the mountains of beautiful western Wyoming where Matt works as the Senior Pastor of the Lander Evangelical Free Church.** Matt’s a teach-straight-through-books-of-the-Bible kind of guy and uses his appreciation of history, humor, culture, and narrative to help people understand God’s Word.

In addition to church and family, Matt throws a lot of time at film-making. He writes, acts, and directs and also hosts a YouTube program called The Ten Minute Bible Hour in which he teaches books of the Bible in a tight, informative, and funny format. Matt is the editor and co-author of the book Putting God in His Place: Exalting God in the iCulture published by Nextstep Resources. In addition to writing and film, he enjoys rock music, competitive team sports, and travel. Connect with him on Twitter @MattWhitmanTMBH.

So…back to that Patreon page. Admittedly Matt’s got a full-time gig, but he would probably be encouraged to have more people on board with him. This is quality material and I’d encourage you to find the time to check out more of his videos.


*So The Bible Project guys are in Portland, Oregon and Matt’s in Western Wyoming. Something in the air in the Northwest?

**Matt was teaching college history and doing some ministry part-time when he agreed to fill the pulpit at the church for three months in the Fall of 2010. It’s been seven years.

 

 

September 4, 2017

The Degree to Which We Confer Celebrity

Filed under: Christianity, media — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:18 am

For several years while it was in its heyday, it was my custom to try to catch part of a slightly delayed broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show on WHAM-AM radio in Rochester. Some of it resonated; some did not. I am a fiscal conservative though I recognize its liabilities and pitfalls.

At the time, Limbaugh would often be away and leave the program in the hands of a guest host. That was the case on Friday, September 5th, 1997. I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the fill-in, but will add it here if someone can document it for me.

On the previous weekend, the world had woken to the news of the death of Princess Diana in the very early hours of Sunday, August 31st in Paris. Days later, the outpouring of public grief continued and the guest host was asking the provocative question — radio being an entertainment medium after all — “Would we be paying as much attention if, for example, Mother Teresa had died?” Calls poured in. The contrast was well-chosen; the Catholic nun was revered worldwide, but hardly had experienced the paparazzi chasing here each time she ventured out.

And then it happened.

Coming out of a commercial break, words to the effect, “I’ve just been informed that the thing we’ve been debating here has in fact happened. Mother Teresa had died.”

It was eerie.

You probably found out some other way, but that is how I learned of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of Missionaries of Charity. You know how they say you always know where you are when ______ died? Well that’s my story.

The similarities and differences between the two women were striking. That is probably better left to better writers than I. The criteria for celebrity is always intriguing. 20 years later, the death of Diana still overshadows the death of Mother Teresa, whose passing two decades ago might appear as a footnote on tomorrow evening’s network newscasts; though I expect greater mention in Europe than what we see in the US and Canada.

Which brings us to…

Tomorrow morning on the blog we have an exclusive, full-length article about the Dalit people of India. I have been in development with this with the author for about a month, and we’ve met twice to discuss it. For security reasons he cannot be named.

I could have run it anytime in the last 72 hours, but being the Labor Day Weekend in this part of the world, I told him that I would hold it until Tuesday, never realizing the coincidence of the tie-in to Mother Teresa’s death 20 years ago tomorrow.

Be sure to check back.


Image: The New Royalty World (click picture to link)

August 28, 2017

Media that Wasn’t Meant for Christian Insiders

A typical Friday night or Saturday night at my house might consist of sitting by the computer and spinning the giant YouTube wheel. This past weekend, the wheel spun to songs from the musical Godspell.

When I was very young, myself and my friend Cliff boarded a Toronto city bus and rode for forty minutes to the Bayview Playhouse to see the production that some others at our school were talking about, having seen it on previous nights. Despite growing up in church, I had minimal exposure to live music at a professional level and the quality of the band, the singers, and even the lighting and sound was certainly impressive. It didn’t hurt that the cast and musicians included Victor Garber, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Gilda Radner, Dave Thomas, and Martin Short, and the show’s musical director Paul Shaffer.

But while I wouldn’t have articulated this way at the time, I can also report with great clarity that two things struck me that night.

First was the Jesus story itself. I had never before seen the story arc of the four gospels in a single presentation. Years of Sunday School suddenly came to life! You can’t make this stuff up. It’s awesome. I keep coming back to the phrase “If Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.” (Philip Yancey attributes this to Walter Wink; though Voltaire, with an entirely different motive, said something similar.) The life of Christ; the teachings; the miracles; the conversations with seekers and critics; it’s all — if I can be permitted this indulgence — the making of great theater.

Second however was the power of contemporary music to convey the Jesus story. I think that night planted the seeds which would cause me to go on to become an ambassador for what was to be called “Jesus Music” and later became known as “CCM” or “Contemporary Christian Music;” and to want to do this in a country where Christian radio, as well as access to the artists and recordings were basically non-existent.

But Godspell had its critics among Evangelicals.

Problem One: The musical originated outside of the Evangelical bubble. How could Christians support something that wasn’t composed by one of their own. John Michael-Tebelak, who wrote the spoken parts of the play describes being overwhelmed by the joy found in the Gospels and decides to attend an Easter Vigil at a nearby church. “I left with the feeling that, rather than rolling the rock away from the Tomb, they were piling more on. I went home, took out my manuscript, and worked it to completion in a non-stop frenzy.” Jewish composer Stephen Schwartz wrote the music.

Problem Two: Jesus was seen as being portrayed as a clown. This assessment is clearly off-base. If anything, the costume used with most touring companies more resembles the look of Robin Williams as Mork from Ork. The idea was to capture the joy the playwright in the previous quotation found lacking. To this day I have never seen this choice of wardrobe as in any way diminishing the character of Jesus, though if it were historically accurate, Jesus would have stood out in a crowd in ways the texts indicate he did not.

Problem Three: There is no resurrection. Wikipedia elaborates:

The “Finale” begins, loud and in B-minor, with Jesus wailing, “Oh, God, I’m dying,” and the community answers: “Oh, God, You’re dying.” Jesus dies and the music comes to a rest. The women of the company sing “Long Live God”, and the men join in with “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” in counterpoint, as they remove Jesus from the fence and carry him out (either offstage or through the aisles of the auditorium). There is controversy over the fact that there is no obvious resurrection of Jesus present in the show, although it can be interpreted that either the singing of “Prepare Ye” in the finale or the curtain call (where all including Jesus return to the stage) is representative of the resurrection…

Stephen Schwartz notes the following in the script:

Over the years, there has been comment from some about the lack of an apparent Resurrection in the show. Some choose to view the curtain call, in which JESUS appears, as symbolic of the resurrection; others point to the moment when the cast raise JESUS above their heads. While either view is valid, both miss the point. GODSPELL is about the formation of a community which carries on JESUS’ teachings after he has gone. In other words, it is the effect JESUS has on the OTHERS which is the story of the show, not whether or not he himself is resurrected. Therefore, it is very important at the end of the show that it be clear that the OTHERS have come through the violence and pain of the crucifixion sequence and leave with a joyful determination to carry on the ideas and feelings they have learned during the course of the show

(This is also as cited in Wikipedia: CapsLock as in the original)

Again, I can’t say how much the musical means to me on a personal level. On that one night, I saw the power of music to convey the Christian message, and this exposure partly set the trajectory of my entire life. But as I was brushing my teeth on Saturday night, two thoughts hit me.

First: Godspell wasn’t written for Christians. It wasn’t even supposed to be that successful, at least where I live. In Toronto, the plan was to hire local performers and produce a few dozen shows for subscribers. Instead, the show moved up to the Bayview Playhouse where I saw it, setting what was then a record run of nearly 500 performances.

Second: I think this is where I get my love for media that is capable of starting conversations with people in the broader marketplace who would never set foot in a church. Those media vehicles we sometimes describe as “crossover” in nature, even if some of them didn’t originate with us in the first place.

  • This is why I like Godspell.
  • This is why I endorse The Shack.
  • This is why I defend the sermons of Andy Stanley.
  • This is why I review and quote from Rob Bell.
  • This is why I refer people to Bruxy Cavey’s church.

When someone is willing to take the message out there and do it in a way that resonates and find an audience with the secularist, the humanist, the cynic, the skeptic, the critic, the seeker, the sinner; at that point I’m on board. “Go for it;” I’m cheering, “Rough edges and all.”

The video clip below is from a newer cast.

 

 

 

 

August 20, 2017

Google Now Provides the Information instead of Referring

Like many of you, I couldn’t help but notice that increasingly, Google was giving me the answers I was looking for right on their results page, without my needing to make a second click. Appreciating the convenience I didn’t really pay much attention to this, until publishing and media watcher Tim Underwood linked to a piece at Mashable titled, Google is Eating the Open Internet.

The rather opened my eyes to the present situation: Instead of being a site which refers you to people who have the answers, Google is now seen as provider of those answers.

But the affect on the websites from which the information is culled — the creatives and researchers who do the actual work — is devastating. Example:

…Brian Warner, founder and CEO of CelebrityWorthNet.com, understands perhaps more than anybody the power of Google’s wall-building.

Warner started to notice the content from his site appearing directly on search results pages in 2012. Two years later, he got an email from Google asking to scrape all of his data, which he turned down. Another two years after that, Google did it anyway, and the impact was catastrophic.

“It was extremely painful, it was extremely devastating,” Warner said. “We got to a point where our traffic was down 85 percent from a year or two earlier.”

Search for the net worth of any celebrity at random today—let’s say, James Earl Jones—and you’ll get the number ($45 million) and a short biographical blurb pulled from CelebrityNetWorth.com with credit and a link…

And later, the broader application:

…There’s also a steady stream of more subtle indications of Google’s inward pull appearing every day—features like on-site hotel booking, restaurant menus, spa appointment tools, and dropdown recipes to name just a few.

These tweaks might sound minor, but Google’s position as the web’s central nervous system means they can have a big impact on smaller businesses that orbit it.

In the long run, though, there seems to be a pretty glaring hole in this plan. That is, as Google likes to reassure wary publishers, it’s not in the content business.

The company ultimately relies on reference sites like Wikipedia, IMDB, Fandango, and the CIA World Fact Book to compile and update the information it uses.

If Google continues to choke these sites out, what incentive will there be for new ones to come along? …   (emphasis added)

   Then early this morning I caught up with my Saturday print edition of The Toronto Star and columnist Heather Mallick was saying the exact same things about Facebook in a piece titled, Like it or not, Facebook Owns You. For her it gets personal:

…We donate to the Guardian to keep it free for everyone, but remember that we do this because former editor Alan Rusbridger made the numbers clear. In 2016, Facebook “sucked up $27 million (U.S.) of the newspaper’s projected ad revenue that year.”

Facebook was the interlocutor, the middleman who slipped between readers and journalists and siphoned off the money. When I step onto the thing for even a moment, I make money for Zuckerberg. I work for him, not the Toronto Star.

I wouldn’t mind being followed for weeks by ads for the hand vacuum (designed in England, made in Malaysia, which is why I despise Dyson) I ordered five minutes ago from an online retailer with no discernible connection to Facebook.

But I do mind that my salary was effectively lower this year because Facebook knew this, its targeting having destroyed the print and online ads on which the Star itself relied.

I take a dim view. With less money, I’ll buy fewer things advertised on Facebook, but it doesn’t care. It’s in the business of attention, not retailing. Its hands are clean.

Of course they’re not. They’re loaded with lucre, and they’re taunting people individually and en masse, damaging quality of life and eating freedom. You are owned…

For my Christian readership at this page, this is important. Obtaining the “answers” or “results” one is looking for without clicking through to see the full context of the page from which the mighty search engine derived them could be devastating, especially as the field of material offered grows to include things of religious or theological interest. At best, all of our online sites are somewhat subjective, including this one.

But I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

 

June 20, 2017

Christian Television from the Other Side

Filed under: Christianity, media, ministry — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

Forty years ago, I was getting up daily at 5:30 so I could down a quick breakfast, catch a 6:00 AM Toronto bus to the subway, and by 7:00 be on the set of 100 Huntley Street, North America’s longest running daily Christian talk show, plugging in microphones and doing all the things for which an audio technician is responsible. I worked for the production company, Crossroads Christian Communications for a grand total of only five months before getting caught in the middle of a situation where a former friend, also gifted in audio, arranged for his mother to make a large donation so that he could basically steal my job. I was moved over to another area — the music department — where I would love to have stayed for a lifetime, but for the fact they already had a music director and after a couple of months of growth, the organization staged what would be the first of many job cuts.

Last week 100 Huntley Street had its 40th anniversary. In all of their various celebrations, I have never once been asked to be among the former staff invited to the party. I guess I wasn’t there long enough.

I do have a story to tell. It’s a shared story, one highlight of which is being a part of that miracle morning where the first show went to air on the Global Television Network. We all stayed overnight, but there wasn’t much I could do with a studio that wasn’t ready, given that the audio system is applied only after the set is completely dressed and much of the lighting work is done. I would say that by 5:30 AM we did not have a working studio. By 9:30 we were on the air. It was a 90-minute show back then. Today it’s 30 minutes.

My other memory is approaching the host and senior producer — a husband and wife team — and asking if an upcoming music guest could be given a block of time instead of the usual spacing out of songs at various points in the script. They agreed, and what happened when Keith Green started ministering to people on the program was unforgettable.

Today, Christian television is not in high regard in several quarters, including among the evangelicals who were responsible for its growth. The format has been exploited for profit and for ego, and there are too many people out there creating a fragmented viewership. Contemporary Christian Music gets a somewhat negative attitude from many as well. I find it interesting that the two vehicles — the two media you could say — that God used so powerfully in my life are now looked down upon by so many. 

From the other side, the inside, I can say that to the extent I knew the hearts of my co-workers, the desire to produce an excellent program each day and the desire to see the message of Jesus go out over the air was first and foremost. I know there is much skepticism about this today and I’m sure there are those simply in it for the paycheck, but at that time, the young skeleton crew and office staff with whom I worked were forging something new, something vital, something that was all the motivation anyone needed.

While a university student, my goal was to work in Christian television. An opportunity in Virginia to study at CBN University fell through because, in order to achieve accreditation, the school couldn’t accept foreign students in its first year. I looked at studying journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, but in this country, the feeling is that working journalists should be fluent in both official languages. After four years of college, suddenly people were probing into my high school marks in French, which were not great. That left a journalism program in British Columbia which was further than I wanted to travel at that stage of life.

And then along came 100 Huntley Street. I walked out of a set of exams right into a job doing the thing I wanted to do, but was caught in a series of circumstances — a major equipment failure on air being one — over which I had no control, but still took the blame. I didn’t know the power of arrangement back then or I would fought harder to keep my job, stood up for myself, and exposed the politics of the organization whereby a large donation by a relative ensured someone getting a job. I was young. They were inexperienced in managing a large enterprise.

However, all that said, I believe God had other plans for me and that having fulfilled my dream, however briefly, he wanted me to move on and do other things. A couple of decades later I began to see how the various pieces of the puzzle of my life were starting to fit together to form something useful, though in all the intervening years, an actual title, desk, office or salary have proved unattainable. I relate to the missionaries who serve for an entire career and then have nothing material to show for it. I often wonder what a lifetime at Huntley Street would have looked like.

I do congratulate the people at Crossroads Christian Communications. In the last few years the daily program has been rebuilt and restructured and I believe is something its former critics can actually enjoy watching. It’s the sixth longest running television program in the world of any genre, not just talk shows; and every weekday morning the production staff and on air guests walk into that studio and by 9:30 AM, the miracle I experienced 40 years ago is in many ways repeated.

 

May 28, 2017

If This is Hipster Christianity, The Church is in Trouble

Filed under: Christianity, culture, media — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:12 am

I will be the first to admit that not everything that appears on my computer screen in the course of a year is G rated. A few things might not even be PG-13. I tend to censor violence more than sex, but the latter has its limits; too far and we’ve crossed the line into p0rn0graphy. As for swearing, I find 99% of it unnecessary.

But nudity, sex and coarse language were what was on offer in the first episode of a 32-minute HBO series we tracked down and watched on Thursday night.

Why did we watch it?

It was the subject of a four-page spread in the current print of Relevant Magazine.

Of interest to Relevant were two things. First the setup: The key character is a former youth pastor who gets into stand-up comedy who discovers his wife is having an affair. Right away we see a conflict between the guy’s still-Christian worldview contrasted with what his wife has become and what the people in his profession already were. The second thing the magazine found interesting were a couple of clips where the same person is driving in New York listening to audio sermons by Joel Osteen.

I can see that from Relevant’s perspective the latter was a bit of a curiosity piece. It deserved one of those one-paragraph mentions in a sidebar toward the back, where the magazine offers a large variety of reviews of books, movies and music from both mainstream entertainment and Christian subculture.

But not four pages.

Furthermore, because the series is based on the actor’s real life, my wife wondered what the real life cheating spouse in the story would have to say about the manner in which she is portrayed. I trust the producers got her to sign a waiver.

I like Relevant. I often will check out their music reviews and then go to YouTube and listen to the solo artists and bands they feature. From that, I get to listen to some trending new music I might otherwise be oblivious to. I appreciate the book and movie reviews as well.

This was not that.

It was a four-page feature.

I really hope that in subsequent episodes of the series, there is something redemptive here that justifies the opener. I just would hate for anyone to be watching this because of a perception that Relevant had “recommended” it to readers.


I contacted Relevant Magazine online early Friday for a response but they did not reply.

 

 

April 25, 2017

The Modern Church Dilemma: People Belonging Before They Believe

Filed under: Faith, family, media, reviews — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:55 am

Movie Review: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

It’s become a recurring theme: Someone wants to help out at church but their spiritual status is not-yet-arrived, ambiguous, or hard to authenticate. Parking lot duty? Not a big issue; but many seeking an avenue of service are looking at the platform; so many of these requests involve music ministry or something related.

That’s what’s at the heart of the movie The Resurrection of Gavin Stone which after a brief theatrical run is now releasing on DVD. In this case, the protagonist is looking to be involved with the church’s annual drama production. His theology is sketchy, to put it kindly. But in addition to being very good at acting, he’s also a former child star still possessing considerable name recognition.

The director isn’t really torn. She sees this as not conforming to the requirement that platform participants share a testimony of life change through Jesus Christ. But the senior pastor, who also happens to be her father, is more open to the possibility that God is offering the church a rare opportunity to do something which will both bless the actor and bless the church.

So for the first premise-introducing one-third of the film it’s a simple matter of laying out the plot. During the next third, my attitude was, “This isn’t that bad.” But by the final third of the movie they had won me over. Even my wife who is usually a tough critic when it comes to Christian cinema was very positive toward the film.

It wasn’t the authenticity of the portrayal of the various characters, though that was extremely good. It wasn’t the realism of the sets and location shots, though they were well done. Rather, it was the genuine nature of the problem; namely that churches we know are wrestling with this issue all the time now and someone has finally fleshed this out in a screenplay.

Fans of The Middle on ABC-TV will recognize Neil Flynn who plays Gavin Stone’s father. Tangential perhaps, but interesting that Middle co-star Patricia Heaton has been a force behind Affirm Films. Not so tangential was my wife’s comparison between The Resurrection of Gavin Stone and Heaton’s Moms Night Out. Worldwide rights for this picture however were purchased by WWE Studios, and wrestler Shawn Michaels has a significant role in this picture as well.

In the first few minutes, we recognized a hallway from Harvest Bible Chapel’s Elgin, Illinois campus where much of the filming took place. Again, it’s entirely plausible that a church like Harvest would face a dilemma such as what to do with Gavin Stone.

At the end of the day, this is a romantic comedy. While ecclesiastic nerds like myself might get lost in the doctrinal quandaries of qualifications for service, you don’t have to be a regular church attender or even a Christian at all to get the tension in the plot.

Which is, come to think of it, exactly what the movie is all about.

 

April 20, 2017

How Do You Spell Determination?

There’s an audio clip at the end of this post which may or may not interest some of you. What I want to focus on is not only what’s on that 16-minute audio but also how it came to be there.

The bookstore my wife and I own inadvertently sponsored a YouTube channel. I mean that in the sense that we wanted to call it “The Lost Song Collection” and post songs from the Jesus Music era, a term referencing the days before CCM was called Contemporary Christian Music. Things nobody else had posted. Things sourced from vinyl records. But before we knew what we were doing, the channel had been named after the bookstore and it was too much of a hassle to change it.

One of the things we posted there was a demo of a Christian radio show from that time period, “A Joyful Noise” by Frank Edmondson under the on-air name Paul Baker. But I also wanted to include another I owned, “The Rock That Never Rolls” with Dale Yancy aka Brother Dale.

This was a demo of a Christian radio show from the ’70s that would be scheduled on non-Christian radio stations which at the time had obligations to include public service or religious content, but didn’t want to lose their regular listeners with programming that was uncool. Program demos like this did not include songs, or if they did, the songs were “telescoped” to allow station Program Directors to hear a variety of content in a short time. The show originated in Burlington, VT.

At the time this was produced, the show was airing in Chicago, Montreal, San Diego, Raleigh, Tulsa, Cincinnati, Dallas, Nashville and Honolulu. The show included interviews, comedy, music and mock commercials. It was sent to me back in the day because we were hoping to find a way to bring the show to Ontario. I really wish there were more shows like this today, though Brant Hansen’s work comes to mind.

I looked high and low for my copy of this. It had been sent to me on a five-inch reel-to-reel in a box with a bright green sticker, but I couldn’t locate it, and wasn’t sure what I would do anyway, since the R2R machine has been sitting under my desk unused for 25+ years.

But I knew I had a cassette of it, which, thanks to a flooded basement, we found last week. The problem was, the cassette was jammed and then broke. Fortunately, my wife is very determined.

First, she tried to loosen up the tape in the cassette housing, and when that didn’t work she broke the tape free of the plastic case. At that point I thought the project was doomed. Then she tried to spool the tape off so she could load it into another case, but it kept sticking. So she soaked the tape in water to loosen it up and then spooled the cassette tape on to an empty film canister, and then reloaded into the other housing, sealed the case and placed it in a cassette player and converted it to digital. There are some skips where part of the new cassette continued to jam, but the overall sound quality is surprisingly good for something which survived a flood.

There are probably archaeologists who haven’t gone to as much trouble to reconstruct a relic as Ruth did to restore this. Or crime scene investigators. (Please do not start mailing us your problem cassettes.) I wish we’d taken some pictures.

My wife hates to back down from a fight. And she knew it meant a lot to me. That’s the main thing; she knew it would make me happy. So she took a half day to attempt what I considered impossible. And she knew that if I thought the radio show was all that interesting, someone else might as well. 

I guess radio shows like this really mattered to me back then. While radio isn’t a force in either evangelism or introducing new music as it once was, this represented a golden age for what was then Jesus Music. You never knew who was listening and stories abounded of people who credit their life turnaround to randomly tuning the AM or FM dial.

So how do I spell determination? R-u-t-h. She pulled it off after all. I should never have doubted!

Sit back and travel back in time and enjoy, The Rock That Never Rolls: The Sound of Eternity…

The video ends with some classic KYMS radio jingles which were on the end of the cassette.

April 4, 2017

Zondervan’s “Secular” Ownership is a Blessing, Not a Curse

This fictitious logo was created when Zondervan and Thomas Nelson became one under HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

It was a Christian bookstore that was a million miles off most people’s radar and we found it somewhat by chance. Subsequent searching failed to turn it up in a directory of such establishment, or even the Yellow Pages for that matter. Stocking a mixture of English and foreign language products, it had a ‘Mom and Pop’ type of vibe, though a rather large stockroom suggested it was a mix of wholesale and retail.

I got talking to the manager as I browsed, told him of my industry connection, and noted that he didn’t seem to have any Zondervan books or Bibles in his English section.

“We don’t carry them;” he said; “They’re owned by HarperCollins and HarperCollins prints The Satanic Bible.”

End of discussion.

Well, not quite; he didn’t realize what he was taking on here.

It’s true that under its Avon imprint, the company does carry the Anton Le Vey version of that title — there are many books that use the same moniker — but the sole paperback edition at 9.99US/12.50CDN hardly seems worth considering when compared to the over 6,000 titles Zondervan has, not to mention another 900+ under Zonderkidz and let’s not forget at least another 6,500 published under the Thomas Nelson banner. Add in some smaller labels and the ratio is about 14,000:1.

Still, if he were raising the question today, he could have added that HarperOne currently has a chart-topping title in the Self Improvement category by Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. And let’s not forget Charles Silverstein’s The Joy of Gay Sex (Third Edition).

It’s all dowhill from there; this information is generally used as a basis for attacking the NIV Bible, because those attacks are generally a house of cards theologically, and need some other external reason to exist. The discussion at an Amazon forum on this is always amusing:

C. Goff: I applaud Hapercollins for respecting free speech and publishing books that offer a variety of perspectives.  Perhaps Evangelicals should pool their money and buy an island somewhere, so they can live together in their own theocratic fantasy land. Then they won’t be corrupted by so many sinners who like to think for themselves.

Be Still: Ummm….we did “buy” an island. It was call America, but not look at whats happened because so many people were left to their own “thinking”. Rest assured, corruption commeth from both inside and outside the church. God is the only one good. Not any human.

It goes on and on — there and elsewhere — but I think Joshua really sums up one side of the argument:

Zonderman [sic] is owned by HarperCollins (Satanic Bible, 90% of witchcraft published in world, NIV) which is owned by the devil and Knight of Malta Rupert Murdoch and a Knight of Malta is the first protector of the Antichrist the Pope of the Roman Catholic whore of Babylon church. Jimmy Savile the UK mass child murderer (and mentor of the wife murderer Prince Charles – his other mentor Mountbatten was also a child rapist and a sodomite) is also a Knight of Malta and buried in a Roman Catholic Church in Leeds – he was given a full freemason funeral service. At the 33 degree freemasons receive an Iron cross with a medallion under it and around the medallion is written in Latin: ‘the holy see’ – the Freemason head is the Antichrist – why? – because Freemasonry is also known as the CRAFT and God said in his true and only gospel the King James 1611 bible: Dan 8:25 And through his policy also HE SHALL CAUSE CRAFT TO PROSPER IN HIS HAND; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.

Yikes!

But as the chart below shows, there are a very large number of Christian publishing imprints which have secular ownership.

You don’t want to know about Christian record labels, either. This chart of Christian music market share is from 2014, but not much has changed:

So this is a bad situation, right? That depends on your preconceived biases going into the discussion.

  • Many of the people making the argument are KJV-only, looking for a reason to attack the NIV which, of all the other translations, has always had a target painted on its back.
  • Most of the people making the argument would find a way to reject the ministry of all of the company’s top authors including Rick Warren, Anne Graham Lotz, Lee Strobel, Charles Stanley, Philip Yancey, Henry Cloud, etc. (I will concur, Yancey’s hair could disqualify him from being a Christian.)

But allowing some of these people their fifteen minutes of fame, if Harper’s parent company NewsCorp is basically evil, why would they want to own an imprint like Zondervan?

They bought the company because it looked to them to be a profitable business. They’re in the book business. They wanted to expand. In publishing there are sports books, and cookbooks and science fiction and host of genres of which religious publishing is but one. Furthermore, with a unique arrangement between the company and their printer, mega corporation R.R. Donnelley, they can bring an efficiency to Zondervan’s publishing that can only improve that bottom line.

But what’s in it for Zondervan? They get access not only to HarperCollins’ expertise, but also a distribution channel that brings access to a host of markets they might not otherwise tap: Gift stores, airport boutiques, and foreign market sales just to name a few.

How best to keep your “Christian division” profitable? Leave them alone! Let their acquisitions and marketing people operate with autonomy. Let them do what they do best in a business that they know and understand best.

Back to my discussion with the store manager. What would I say to him differently if we were having the discussion today in 2017.

I’d probably tell him to look no further than the rollout of the new Christian Standard Bible. Happening right now we have a Bible being brought to market by Holman, a division of B&H Publishing, which is a division of LifeWay which was founded back in 1891, and yet they are bringing the new Bible to market a few editions at a time because they don’t have the resources to do it any other way.

However, Zondervan, when they rolled out the 2011 update to the NIV was able to bring hundreds of editions and formats on the same day because they had a parent company who was able to bankroll the whole thing. Furthermore instead of “running out” the older editions, most were remaindered within weeks of the conversion.

Projects like this would simply be a dream if were not for the resources of a major corporation backing them. It also means that these Bible editions are able to reach people in ways that simply wouldn’t happen if the company were still independent.

When you look at the big picture, you have to see this relationship as a blessing, not a curse. In terms of propagating the message of Jesus Christ and building the Kingdom of God, the partnership is a win-win-win.

 

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.