Roger and Greg Flessing
have been involved in media projects for more than 30 years. Roger
is vice president of communications for the Billy Graham Evangelistic
Association, including WorldWide Pictures. Greg is president of
Fresh Air Media in Auburn, Calif., and produced the musical Touch
Felt Round the World at the Assemblies of Gods 2000
Celebration in Indianapolis. The brothers spoke recently with Hal
Donaldson, editor in chief.
PE: What media projects
first whet your appetite for this kind of ministry?
I was fascinated by the microphones and the PA system at church.
Several wonderful Christian gentlemen took me under their arm and
let me learn how to run audio when I was 14 or 15. Even before that,
Greg and I would get a tape recorder from my fathers school
and record music for Christmas and Thanksgiving and other events.
We had an 8 mm movie camera and that was fun making movies.
GREG: I remember
at 13 or 14 standing on a table in the back of the old Bethel Temple
auditorium in Sacramento running the only spotlight for a Youth
for Christ event. They used to have rallies once a month and they
were a big gathering point. It filled the building with high school
and college students. Working that spotlight led to being involved
in music in those settings and became the foundation for several
years of traveling and doing music.
PE: What have been
some of your most fulfilling projects?
GREG: Some of
the Billy Graham global missions events have been in that category.
"Stand in the Gap" with Promise Keepers was certainly a very special
day and unique event. I think there have been some other projects
that were not as visible or as big that touched folks and made a
difference at the right time.
with Mr. Graham for the past 20 years certainly has been fulfilling.
Ive been able to follow him as he went to the Soviet Union,
Romania, Hungary places that seemed impenetrable before the
Iron Curtain came down and see firsthand how God was working
from that side. And then to go to China a number of times and even
to North Korea seven times. Its interesting to see how God
is working and His church is alive in so many places of the globe
where we just dont know it.
Im happy to be
involved in reclaiming another area for the gospel and that is through
movies. At WorldWide Pictures were revitalizing our movie
ministry and weve been able to do theatrical releases and
made-for-television movies. Were seeing double the response
of our normal television programs both in ratings and in first-time
commitments. Of the people who call in, nearly 50 percent are first-time
PE: Where does WorldWide
Pictures fit into the communications ministries of Billy Graham
ROGER: We have
12 areas right now including the Internet, radio, television, magazines,
publishing, movies and public relations. We have our own advertising
agency, the response center, direct mail, graphic service and the
broadcast department. About 130 employees serve in the communications
This year is the 50th
anniversary of WorldWide Pictures. From what Ive understood
in my conversations with Mr. Graham, people in Hollywood approached
him about taking his crusade and putting it on film. He and his
associates didnt want to do that as much as they wanted to
find stories that would be able to hit a mass audience. People who
wouldnt come to a crusade tent but who would go to a theater
needed the gospel just as much. The question was how to get outside
the walls of the crusade tent and into the marketplace. The answer
was WorldWide Pictures.
PE: People have said
that Hollywood, the news media and other media entities are the
most influential forces in the world today. What should believers
be doing to influence the messages that are bombarding people?
should be a part of the media. Its far more effective if believers
are writing the scripts, producing the programs and directing the
events than if they remain on the outside just trying to boycott
something objectionable. The media didnt shift overnight,
and we cant expect some kind of Damascus Road experience that
will just take it back. But there can be a gentle nudging that will
move it back. Christians are in wonderful positions. God has found
His new Daniels and Joshuas who can be influential at a critical
period in our history.
GREG: We underestimate
the power of prayer; we leave that as the last step of something
we might do when all else fails. But prayer needs to be the first
step of whatever we do. We pray for those in leadership and government;
why not pray for those in leadership within the broadcast industry,
within television, films, news media and related areas?
Second, as a concerned
believer, you need to respond thoughtfully to something offensive
in the media. Unfortunately, Christian responses at times tend to
be harsh and ugly. People also make the mistake of responding to
an isolated issue, like an objectionable word. They often fail to
address the bigger issue, which tends to leave Christians looking
like they arent in the real world. For Christians to be heard,
media administration needs to believe that Christians actually understand
the world in which they live.
A third way believers
can influence the media is to watch selectively. People may not
realize that they cast their vote by what they watch. You can say,
"I dont want to watch this," but if your TV is on during those
programs and youre buying all the products that are sponsoring
those shows thats not much of a vote against that material.
Finally and this
is important become a friend with people in media. Few people
have the opportunity to meet Peter Jennings or Dan Rather, but they
could introduce themselves to local news reporters or radio personalities
and really work at becoming a genuine friend. A genuine friend can
express concerns for, support for, affirmation for good stories
and good communication.
PE: If you could speak
to a group of ministers and lay leaders of a local church, what
would you tell them about utilizing the mass media or communication
systems to get Christs message out?
tell them to be careful. A lot of churches want to have a radio
or television program, with the mistaken belief that they can win
an entire city for Christ if they can just get their pastor on the
air. The media create tremendous opportunities to make the gospel
look good in front of a lot of people, but we have an equal opportunity
to make the gospel look bad in front of a lot of people. We have
a very critical audience out there. I understand that we cant
compromise or water down the message, but I think we need to present
the gospel on TV, on radio, on the Internet, on CDs, in our news,
whatever, with excellence.
GREG: Far too
many churches end up spending a lot of money and time and volunteer
resources and ineffectively communicate the gospel. Too often their
efforts reinforce stereotypes of a church service in front of an
unbelieving world. On the other hand, Id say there are ways
to create advertising or promotion for your church and special events.
The foundation can be built through how you respond when it comes
to things like letters to the editor or opinion-type responses that
get ink in local newspapers. The kind of ministry-related events
and activities you support can get your communitys attention
in a positive way. These can promote your church within the media
in a local market and do so with an affirming Christlike character.
PE: Where do you see
communications going in the next 10 years and what should the church
be doing to stay current with communication trends?
must still come back to a one-on-one medium. The Internet, despite
being a medium for mass communication, created a tremendous one-on-one
environment. You dont usually see a lot of people sitting
around the computer screen; that computer screen is a one-on-one
vehicle. You need to talk to people one-on-one, and radio is one-on-one.
Were finding that, in most cases, people watch television
by themselves. So, our communication, whatever the medium is, still
has to get the message across one-on-one. I think that is what Billy
Graham has done very well. He understands this is personal evangelism
done on a mass scale as opposed to mass evangelism.
abreast of technological developments allows a church to access
tools they may well be able to use in their publications, radio
or television programs, their Web sites or in their services. This
doesnt mean the pastor or church board jumps at the first
thing. They do some evaluation, look carefully and then make decisions
that try to keep it current.
PE: How can the average
person guard his or her heart from ungodly messages in the media?
ROGER: We need
to live by a good old-fashioned word called conscience. There are
just certain things that the Lord whispers and says, "Son/Daughter,
thats not pleasing to the Father." Our job is to follow Christ
through this thing and not check Him out at the edge of some activity
and say, "You take the night off, Im going to go do this."
Were to follow Him at all times. Ive been amazed in
following Jesus at where Hes led me to a lot of places
that I wouldnt have gone. But there were wonderful lessons
and wonderful people and wonderful ministry opportunities along
GREG: A while
back I read Jerry Manders book Four Arguments for the
Elimination of Television. He was involved in a very well-known
advertising agency. After being involved with TV most of his life
trying to make people buy a product or service, he had discovered
four solid reasons why people shouldnt watch TV. I wish a
Christian had written that book. Its message so echoes a Jesus response
to what mass media can do to people. If you choose to turn the switch
on you are basically allowing someone else to make the decision
about content. The images you see, the messages that are delivered,
are totally in someone elses hands. When you talk about how
to guard your family or guard your heart from ungodly messages,
amazingly the number one issue is straightforward: be extremely
selective about what you choose to be exposed to.
PE: What advice would
you give young people wanting to be involved in the arts or communications?
GREG: Those are
really tough career choices because they deal with very subjective
evaluations. What is good art or good directing or good camera work?
All of those things tend to be very subjective and, consequently,
you have to have a strong stomach and be really convinced that it
is your territory and calling. Youre going to have to work
hard, be really committed to developing your skills, absolutely
convinced that your talents are honed before someone else is going
to believe in you. But, there are tremendous rewards personally
and huge potential for the kingdom of God for those who invest their
talents in these areas.
is powerful and we need to encourage our young people to reclaim
it. That is why Im a big fan of the Fine Arts Festival. Films
are a wonderful way to tell the gospel in story form. They are todays
parables. They are the ways we communicate to people today. Video
creates a message that, when the Holy Spirit takes it, drives the
gospel right into a persons heart.
If you look at the history
of Christian television, Pentecostals were at the forefront because
they had the faith to step out. I would hope that each individual
church would encourage the creativity in their young people and
older people and offer outlets for that creativity. We, as Christians,
should be the most creative people in the world because we are the
children of the Creator. Yet, we tend to shy away from that creative
thing like somehow it is wrong or were going to get in trouble.
I think God wants to celebrate this creativity. It is part of the
creative process that is still going on in the universe that God
wants to find creative ways to show His love to this lost world.