Christian communicators from across the nation and around the world gathered February 27-March 2 for Proclaim 17, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Orlando.
Participants heard from key ministry leaders, media mavens, and leading voices in society, while also networking and checking out new resources, services, organizations, and upcoming films.
Among the Christian leaders and Bible teachers who spoke were five who each highlighted a “sola” of the Protestant Reformation to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which was the overarching theme for Proclaim 17.
Dr. Tony Evans, Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, preached on “Sola Gratia” (by grace alone); Dr. Erwin Lutzer, Pastor Emeritus of Moody Church in Chicago, addressed “Sola Fide” (by faith alone); Dr. Mac Brunson, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, preached on “Solus Christus” (through Christ alone); Dr. R.C. Sproul, Founder and Chairman of Ligonier Ministries, spoke on “Sola Scriptura” (by Scripture alone); and Dr. Barry Creamer, President of Criswell College, addressed “Soli Deo Gloria” (glory to God alone).
The five solas, Creamer related, declare that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, revealed through Scripture alone to God’s glory alone.
The glory of God is independent of man and is eternal, universal, objective, and absolute, Creamer said, “but it’s not fully realized until we participate in it.”
NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, in his annual "State of the Association" address, reminded Convention attendees that “NRB is first and foremost about advancing biblical truth.”
“The Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God,” he said, and it is powerful as it is preached and taught.
“This is what we’re about. This is who we’re about – the Lord Jesus Christ,” Johnson added.
And while NRB will continue to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus, Johnson also said “If you’re in the government and you’re trying to take away the freedom of speech or religion or the press, NRB is a fight club and you better get used to it.”
Religious Liberty Focus
This year at the Convention, there were several sessions highlighting the issue of religious freedom. In one, three clients of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) described their battles for religious liberty with the understanding that their cases and others like them will likely determine the future of religious freedom in America.
“I firmly believe that within the next decade or so how Christians are going to be treated in employment, in the public square, in churches [is] going to be decided in court cases, in the halls of Congress, in administrations,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, who moderated the panel.
At a session sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, two Heritage experts – Ryan Anderson and Roger Severino – outlined the decline of religious liberty during the eight years of President Barack Obama’s administration and their hopes for its revival.
Eight years ago, shortly after Obama’s first inauguration, “It’s unlikely we would be having a session on religious liberty,” said Anderson, a senior research fellow at Heritage, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. “And the reason why is eight years ago religious liberty was not threatened in the United States.
“We’re only having that discussion now in such a high-profile way in the United States because for the past eight years religious liberty has been under assault in an unprecedented way,” he said.
During the final of four public policy sessions, Convention attendees were encouraged to be gracious and to endure amid the cultural struggle by a panel featuring the Benham brothers, “The Activist Mommy,” and syndicated columnist David Limbaugh.
Elizabeth Johnston – whose “The Activist Mommy” Facebook account was suspended in February after she used Scripture to comment on homosexuality – called for Christians to take a stand and, in so doing, encourage one another.
“Billy Graham said, ‘Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, it stiffens the spine of others,’” she said. “I believe through our example we can stiffen the spine of others.”
Johnston urged the broadcasters to be bold with the platform God has given them. “[E]specially stand arm in arm with your brothers and sisters when they are taking hits for the Gospel,” she said.
Eight Summits and Tracks
In addition to hearing from those in the public domain, Convention attendees heard from speakers from various industries through the eight summits and tracks that took place during Proclaim 17.
During the Digital Media Summit, attendees heard from author Jefferson Bethke, whose topic was “The Sure Way to Fail in a Digital World.”
“If we’re in any type of digital media, we need to be able to synthesize. We have to be able to boil down the big picture and communicate that in a way that’s synthesized and concise and straight to the point,” he said.
Bethke also noted that “we’re going from an information age to a story age,” and that as Christians, “we have the greatest story ever told; we should be telling it.”
At the Radio Summit, Chuck Finney, Founder of Finney Media, guided radio program hosts and associates through a set of data about specific reasons people tune into Christian radio stations.
He summarized the data by saying “Your listener wants you to be like Jesus in tone, music, and Scripture.”
The overall reaction from listeners is a preference for Christlikeness in all areas, Finney said. This attracts and retains people, but also achieves the goal of reaching hearts and glorifying God through every new endeavor in Christian radio programming.
During the Church Media Summit, attendees were told that livestreaming services can give churches huge opportunities.
Phil Cooke, President of Cooke Pictures, said each year Hollywood publishes Q Scores, an algorithm of the influence of celebrities.
“In 2016, when they came out, for the first time the top six most influential celebrities in Hollywood were YouTube stars,” Cooke said during the “Streaming is Broadcasting” session of the Church Media Summit.
“Out of the top 20 positions, 11 were YouTube stars, which means people that are producing programs in their parents’ basement or in the spare bedroom are now the most influential people in Hollywood,” Cooke added.
That’s a clue for what churches should be doing, Cooke concluded.
Other summits that took place during Proclaim 17 included the Film & Entertainment Summit, the TV Summit, and the Great Commission Summit. There was also a Professional Development Track and a Pastors Track, with speakers including Eric Metaxas, Lee Strobel, and P. Satish Kumar.
In addition to the more than 80 speakers, this year’s Convention featured around 200 organizations that showcased their products, services, and resources on the floor of the Convention’s award-winning Exposition – the largest marketplace dedicated to Christian media professionals.
Among the exhibitors was Museum of the Bible, the Convention’s Platinum Sponsor, which offered attendees a firsthand look at some of the technology that will be used in its 430,000-square-foot museum scheduled to open on November 17 in Washington. A prototype of the handheld digital guide debuted in the exhibit. The museum in Washington will use cutting-edge technologies to provide guests with an immersive and personalized experience as they explore the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible.
“The exhibit brought the Bible to life and intrigued me to dive deeper into what is an ancient text,” said Convention attendee Stephanie Eckstein. “I would definitely want to visit the museum, and it also inspired me to want to visit Israel.”
Also on the Expo floor was the all-new Learning Arena, which featured speakers from Convention exhibitors, showcasing relevant education and training on new technologies, products and services, and ministries, among others.
More than 30 topics were presented in the Arena during the three-day Exposition, including “Book Publishing in the 21st Century,” “New Digital Ministry Trends for 2017,” “Using a Custom Branded iOS + Android App for Your Organization’s Communication,” “Leveraging the Power of Streaming Technology to Attract a Broader Audience,” and “Sales and Marketing in the Christian World.”
While much of the Convention and Exposition is geared toward ministry and media professionals, NRB also hosts events for college students – including three 24-hour challenges, which were sponsored this year by Christian Vision (CV).
The 24-hour CV Film, News, and Audio Challenges began at 9 a.m. on Monday, February 27. For the Challenges, teams of no more than four students prepared an original short narrative film; produced an original NRB news report package (3 video pieces); or wrote, recorded, and edited a 2-3 minute audio production with a length of 3 minutes or less — all created within a 24-hour time frame and incorporating a required theme, line of dialogue, and prop.
Winners were announced and recognized — receiving trophies and cash prizes — at an awards ceremony emceed by Lauren Green, Chief Religion Correspondent for Fox News Channel, on Tuesday, February 28.
NRB Media and Special Service Awards
On the last day of Proclaim 17, several awards were handed out to recognize the service and works of outstanding ministries, programs, producers, and leaders.
At the Media Awards Luncheon, 15 awards were presented in the fields of Church Media, Digital Media, International, Radio, and TV.
During the Closing Gala Dinner, Special Service Awards were presented to nine recipients, including Dr. Alveda C. King, Director of Civil Rights for the Unborn, who received the Chairman’s Award from outgoing NRB Chairman of the Board Bill Blount.
Earlier in the week, awards were also presented to Brod Boyd, Principal of Abram-Leslie New Media Consulting, (Individual Professional Member Award) and Bernard Marcus, Co-Founder of Home Depot (President’s Award). (For the complete list of 2017 award recipients, click here.)
Next year's NRB International Christian Media Convention will be held February 27-March 2, 2018, at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. In 2019, the Convention will be held in Anaheim, California. This year’s Convention was NRB’s 74th.
This report was compiled by NRB Staff, with contributions by writers Tom Strode, Erin Roach, and Michael Smith, and RuthAnne Irvin.