Nashville, TN – More than 4,300 media and ministry professionals from across the nation and around the world gathered February 23-26 for the National Religious Broadcasters' 2015 International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, TN.
Participants heard from key ministry leaders and cultural experts, focused on militant Islam and current cultural topics, and gained insights into emerging facets of communications.
Attendance was up 15 percent over the 2014 convention, NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson reported at the closing event on February 26 at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Among Christian leaders and Bible teachers addressing the evening sessions were Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Dr. Robert Jeffress, Priscilla Shirer, Pastor Alistair Begg, and Dr. Billy Kim.
Floyd, President of the Southern Baptist Convention and Senior Pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said Christians must awaken from their slumber and come together in prayerful unity to seek God for the "next Great Awakening in America" toward fulfilling the Great Commission across the globe. (See related story.)
Dr. Johnson, in his annual "state of the association" address, urged members to remain strong by holding to a right perspective on the Bible, on human life, and on marriage, as well as remaining committed to excellence and an understanding of what it means to be created in the image of God.
A longtime Southern Baptist leader, Dr. Johnson took the helm of the NRB in November 2013 after two stints as President of Criswell College in Dallas and other leadership positions with various SBC entities, boards, and committees.
"We are communicators and our first mission is to advance biblical truth," Dr. Johnson said in speaking from Genesis 1 and emphasizing the "inspiration, the authority, the infallibility, the inerrancy, and the sufficiency of Holy Scripture."
Concerning the importance of biblical marriage, Johnson noted, "The National Religious Broadcasters dare not pitch their tent toward Sodom or sit at the gate."
Challenge of Islam
Concerns about militant Islam were voiced by a number of speakers throughout the convention, with most of the February 24 daytime sessions focusing on the biblical, cultural, and security challenges of Islam.
Best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg, at a February 26 dinner event, said America is in danger of destruction in the face of not just the rise of apocalyptic Islam but also the mounting death toll of aborted children.
Rosenberg and his family moved from the United States to Israel last August and now have dual citizenship. He and his wife Lynn started the Joshua Fund in 2006 to mobilize Christians to aid Israel and its neighbors in the name of Jesus.
Rosenberg pointed to three "mortal threats" to the United States:
Drawing from God's commission of the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:1-9), Rosenberg encouraged broadcasters, as watchmen on the wall, "to listen to the word of the Lord, to watch for threats, and to warn the people come what may."
Sudanese Christian honored
Mariam Ibraheem, who spent six months in prison in Sudan for refusing to renounce Christ, received the NRB President's Award on February 25. (See related story.)
Dr. Johnson said Ibraheem had been "prosecuted by her government for crimes of so-called apostasy and adultery because she married an American Christian man."
Sudan, which is governed by Sharia law, holds that apostasy – the abandonment of the Islamic faith – is a crime punishable by death.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of Me," Dr. Johnson read from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:11.
Through a translator Ibraheem thanked "all the Christians around the world" who did not ignore her in her plight. She promised to pray for them "just like they prayed" for her.
Prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee opened and closed the NRB convention, respectively, on February 23 and 26.
Gov. Walker, son of a Baptist pastor, said his faith guides him in his political and private life, and it undergirded him amid statehouse opposition during his first term in office. He said he is "still trying to decipher" if running for president "is God's calling."
Gov. Walker touted the virtues of the traditional family, saying, "Strong families start with strong marriages," and he underscored the importance of protecting innocent lives. (See related story.)
Gov. Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor who recently ended his six-year program on Fox News to consider a possible presidential bid, said he recently visited the Golan Heights in Israel, just 250 yards from the Syrian border, where he could hear the explosions from that nation's ongoing civil war.
Gov. Huckabee said too many Americans – especially Christians – are on the sidelines watching "with the world on fire."
"We can't afford to be anything less than firefighters," he said, noting there are many "pyromaniacs" on the loose.
"We are at war. It's not that we are facing one; we are in one right now," he maintained. (See related story.)
David Platt, President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and author of a new book Counter Culture, said on February 26 that Christian communicators cannot speak out on some social issues yet remain silent on others based on how they will be received by the culture.
Platt said he is encouraged by the church's involvement in fighting such problems as poverty and sex trafficking but is "simultaneously concerned by the lack of zeal on issues that are just as important, if not more so, like abortion and sexual immorality and so-called same-sex marriage."
"On these issues, so many Christians and church leaders are strangely quiet," Platt said. (See related story.)
Ryan T. Anderson, a Heritage Foundation fellow specializing in marriage and religious freedom issues, said America's cultural health is declining in most categories.
Of 31 cultural indicators in the Washington think tank's latest Index of Culture and Opportunity, most "are heading in the wrong direction," Anderson said, including the marriage rate, unwed birth rate, fertility rate, single-parent households, teen drug use, sexual abstinence among high school students, religious attendance, labor force participation, unemployment rate, and student loan debt. Among the exceptions are the abortion rate, divorce rate, and school choice enrollment. (See related story.)
NRB members also focused on a range of cultural issues with panel discussions on February 26 addressing homosexuality, marriage, pro-life issues, and religious liberty and free speech concerns.
Also during the meeting:
New research reported during the NRB sessions included surveys on same-sex marriage and Christian media influence
A survey released February 24 found that 81 percent of Americans agree that government should "leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage" in their daily lives, at work, and in the way they run their businesses. The survey, commissioned by Family Research Council in partnership with NRB, also found 61-percent support the right of states and citizens to uphold traditional marriage.
A survey by LifeWay Research for NRB released February 25 found that two-thirds of weekly churchgoers and evangelicals say they tune in to Christian radio and television on a regular basis, yet two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) rarely or never watch Christian television.
Roma Downey and Mark Burnett preview A.D. The Bible Continues
Roma Downey, known for her role as the compassionate angel Monica in the TV series Touched by an Angel, and her husband, award-winning producer Mark Burnett, provided a nine-minute preview of their latest production, A.D. The Bible Continues, during the February 23 opening session. The next evening, NRB members screened the entire first episode.
A.D. The Bible Continues, a ten-part series that will launch Easter Sunday on NBC, is a follow-up to their widely acclaimed production The Bible. Burnett said A.D. The Bible Continues will tell the story of the early apostles and the religious and political leaders of their day.
"Normally, it is tough to get the mainstream media to tell our story," Burnett said. "This is not narrow-casting cable; this is NBC," he continued, noting the network launched an ad campaign for the Season 1 series on Super Bowl Sunday. (See related story.)
NRB hosts second annual Digital Media Summit
After an incredibly successful debut last year, the NRB Digital Media Summit returned last week with a star-studded list of speakers who excel in Web, mobile, social media, and content strategy.
Among those who spoke at the all-day event on February 25 were Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist at Canva; Justin Wise, CEO & Founder of Think Digital, Inc.; and Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of LifeWay Research.
Kawasaki, the former chief evangelist for Apple, gave the audience ten recommendations for optimizing social media, including “be valuable,” “be bold,” “be gracious,” and “be curious.” (See related story.)
Also speaking at the summit was Lord Robert Edmiston, Founder of Christian Vision (CV), who spoke of the unprecedented opportunity that Christians have to share the Gospel with the world.
"This is where people are gathering," Lord Edmiston said as he held aloft his smartphone. "And we need to be there. We need to be presenting the message of Jesus" to them.
In addition, author and Break Point Co-Host Eric Metaxas moderated a panel featuring Katie Harbath, manager for policy at Facebook; Casey Short, digital ministry consultant for web development agency Five Q; and Shalini Trehan, head of digital content for the pro-life organization Live Action.
NRB debuts Film & Entertainment Summit
A Film & Entertainment Summit was also held at NRB15. The daylong event on February 23 brought together Hollywood entertainment professionals, distributors, filmmakers, and executives for keynotes, panels, and seminars.
Speakers for the day included, among others, notable filmmakers and industry thought leaders such as Simon Swart, EVP of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; Christopher C. Chen, Co-Vice Chair, Sr. VP of Endgame Entertainment; DeVon Franklin, President/CEO of Franklin Entertainment; Michael Van Dyke, TV Packaging Agent/TV Lit Agent; Todd Komarnicki, Producer of Elf; Scott Waugh, Co-Founder of Bandito Brothers; Phil Cooke, Founder & CEO of Cooke Pictures; and Ted Baehr, Founder and Publisher of Movieguide®.
Also included in the day was a pitch-a-thon, which offered filmmakers a unique opportunity to pitch their story, script, or even a finished product one-on-one to representatives of participating distribution companies.
Chuck Norris receives NRB Chairman’s Award at closing session
Actor Chuck Norris was honored with the NRB Chairman's Award, with NRB chairman Bill Blount, President of Blount Communications Group, noting Norris' "promotion of positive family values" and the example of his Christian faith. Norris starred in the network TV series, Walker Texas Ranger and has been the lead in 24 motion pictures. He also is a New York Times best-selling author and a columnist on WND.com.
Next year's NRB Convention will be held February 23-26, 2016, at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. In 2017, the convention will be held at the Marriott World Center in Orlando, FL. This year’s convention was NRB’s 72nd.
This report was compiled by NRB Staff, with contributions by writers Tom Strode, Erin Roach, and Dwayne Hastings.
Published: March 5, 2015