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Craig Parshall, General Counsel

 

Staying in Ephesus

May 18, 2011

Near the end of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he wrote a surprisingly contemporary observation regarding Ephesus, that politically powerful, spiritually pagan, economically burgeoning city in the Roman Empire. We read this in I Corinthians chapter 16, verses 8 & 9: “But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” Those two realities, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and preserved in the canon of Scripture, describe well the current media technology landscape facing Christian communicators today. On the positive side we see that with the variety of “new media” technologies available, our members enjoy a “wide door for effective service.” At the same time we can say, with Paul, “there are many adversaries.” I was reminded of this contrast once again when NRB member attorney Joseph Chautin recently drew my attention to an FCC public comment docket regarding the purchase of a PBS station by a Christian television network. More than 400 citizen comments have poured into that federal agency, protesting the idea of a Christian broadcaster replacing a public broadcasting site. Many of them contain vitriolic attacks of the most extreme kind. A large number of complaints described the Christian content of that broadcaster as “hate speech.”  One public commenter described the Gospel content of the Christian TV broadcaster as “a specific agenda of hatred and division,” contrasting it with the supposedly “scientifically accurate and unbiased adult programs” of PBS. This label of “hate speech” has been the popular rhetorical weapon of opponents of the Christian message. It was used in the past decades against those pro-lifers who oppose abortion. More recently the secular left has denounced as “haters” those who preach the reality of sin, as in the case of homosexuality, or those who are bold enough to share the stark differences between the true Christ of the Bible and the mischaracterizations of the Savior in Islam or other religions.

Yet, at the same time, we have broad, exciting opportunities to use “new media” technology to share the Gospel around the world, a "wide door for effective service” as Paul described it. Take one “new media” platform as an example. In addition to the Twitter feed of Dr. Frank Wright, NRB’s President and CEO, numerous ministries of NRB members have also taken advantage of Twitter, including Family Life Today, Grace to You, Love Worth Finding, Back to the Bible, Crosswalk.com, and Revive our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, just to name a few. When David Wilkerson, founder of Teen Challenge and Times Square Church, recently died, Facebook pages were filled with reflections and anecdotes about his legacy and his personal impact on the lives of others. In countries that are closed to the Gospel, believers text Bible passages to each other on their cell phones. There are now a variety of Bible-related apps available for the iPhone and Android.

Our job here at NRB is to facilitate the “wide door” of technology for Christian communicators, while at the same time warning of the “many adversaries” who would block our message. Since last year I have been examining the threat of censorship against Christian communications on these “new media” platforms and the results show a clear and present danger of anti-Christian censorship. Through our new venture, The John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech, I will be releasing in the coming months an extensive report on the problem along with some possible solutions. But one thing is clear: this is no time to retreat from that particular “Ephesus” in which our organizations labor; instead, we should steadfastly “remain” in the work as Paul did, using every technological opportunity, and preparing for every adversary.