LOS ANGELES — Gale-force winds may already be here, but a discussion about “The Approaching Cultural Storm” led by top Christian media consultant and producer Phil Cooke is scheduled for a super session on Wednesday at the National Religious Broadcasters 75th Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.
“There’s such a disconnect between how Christians see themselves and how the world sees them,” Cooke, who is co-founder of the LA-based Cooke Pictures, told Together LA on Friday. He said that he’ll be doing a lot of talking about his new book, “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Their Credibility and How We Get It Back?” at Proclaim 18 (Feb. 27 to March 2) and using it as a background for hosting the session.
“What we discovered while researching and writing the book will be shocking to many Christians in America,” said Cooke, whose book was co-written by Jonathan Bock. “If you’re interested in why Christianity continues to disappear from the culture, and how to turn it around, this is the book for you.”
Heading into NRB’s Proclaim 18, which kicks off on Tuesday, we asked Cooke some questions about Christians and media, and the convention where hundreds of media professionals are expected to attend.
Together LA: What are you doing at NRB and what are your goals with Proclaim 18?
Phil Cooke: The NRB Convention is the one place where we can meet churches, ministries, and nonprofit clients and potential clients who produce media programming, all in a single week. It’s the international meeting place for Christians involved in media, so it’s a very productive week for our team at Cooke Pictures. This year, I’m also hosting three different “super-sessions” – two with the filmmaker’s track, and another that covers a very important topic: “The Approaching Cultural Storm.”
TLA: What will you talk about in regards to your new book, “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Their Credibility and How We Get It Back?”
Cooke: My new book has really taken off, and I’ll be doing quite a few media interviews at the convention. But I’ll also be using the new book as background for hosting “The Approaching Cultural Storm” session. My co-writer, Jonathan Bock and I look at why there’s such a disconnect between how Christians see themselves and how the world sees them. What we discovered while researching and writing the book will be shocking to many Christians in America. If you’re interested in why Christianity continues to disappear from the culture, and how to turn it around, this is the book for you.
TLA: What is the importance of NRB in general? How about to you personally?
Cooke: The NRB began as an organization to promote Christian broadcasting. It began with radio stations, then expanded to TV, and now includes film and online, digital media. It’s primary focus is assuring that there will always be a place for Christian broadcasting in America, and that our rights to proclaim the Christian message will not be hindered or restricted. We’ve also expanded into a massive teaching event, and have educational tracks for radio, TV, film, the Internet, and one for college students who study broadcasting, filmmaking, and digital media.
TLA: Is media part of the solution for Christians to get our credibility back? How so?
Cooke: No question. We live in a media-driven culture. One British study indicates that the average person today is bombarded with up to 5,000 media messages every single day. We check our iPhones 110 times a day. We live in the most distracted and disrupted culture in the history of the world. As a result, sharing our message on multiple media platforms is absolutely essential. In the gospels, Jesus spent His life where the people were. In those days it was the temple square, the marketplace, or social gatherings like weddings. Today, the people are online, watching TV, listening to radio, or in movie theaters. We need to be there. In fact, keep in mind that today, by population, Facebook is now the largest country in the world. Who’s sending missionaries to that country? Who’s planting churches in that country? We shouldn’t just think of “missions” in terms of geographical boundaries, but also think in terms of digital boundaries.
TLA: Can you tell a favorite story about how you observed God working through a specific media project you did?
Cooke: Billy Graham passed away recently, and I’ve been remembering that 22 years ago, the ministry asked me to “produce a Billy Graham TV special that someone who would never watch a Billy Graham program would watch.” As a result we produced a prime Time TV event called “Starting Over.” It was broadcast globally and because it was television, it was the first time Billy had preached to 50 different countries at the same time. The Los Angeles Times reported that more than 2.5 billion people viewed the program globally and insiders at the Graham ministry told me that it generated 1 million phone calls for salvation. I can’t think of a better way to show the impact of sharing the gospel through media.
TLA: What do you look forward to most about this year’s NRB convention?
Cooke: Helping inspire and motivate a new generation of Christian media professionals. We can’t keep doing what we’ve always done. We need new ideas, new creativity, and new energy. The Bible says God never changes, but trust me, everything else does. People change, trends change, styles change – we need to make sure we’re proclaiming an unchanging gospel to a world that’s constantly changing. We need to learn to speak that language, and I love teaching young filmmakers and media producers and challenging them to change the world.