EDITOR’S NOTE: July 25 is Southern Baptist Media Day in the Southern Baptist Convention. Added to the SBC calendar in 2019, Southern Baptist Media Day is set aside to celebrate how God has used and continues to use Southern Baptist media in His mission.
Are you looking for a source of trustworthy information and inspiration?
In today’s world of misleading, confusing or sometimes-false news stories, Southern Baptists have one historic source of trustworthy information and inspiration: Southern Baptist media.
“In a world mired in trivial and troubling Internet and news media content, Southern Baptist media can and should shine the light of Christ and make a difference for His glory,” said Brian Hobbs, 2021–22 president of the Association of State Baptist Publications.
For close to 200 years, Southern Baptist media have been the go-to source for truthful information on what is going on in the denomination, nation and world.
One pastor’s story
State Baptist papers have been Travis Coleman’s favorite source of information since he was in high school and first sensed a call to full-time Christian service. Living in Florida at the time, he began reading the Florida Baptist Witness. “The news articles and feature stories reinforced my teaching and understanding of Baptist life. I would cut out articles and illustrations from the paper and file them for future use in devotionals and sermons,” he said. Even when he was in college and seminary, his mother saved the papers, often bundling them up and mailing them to him.
After seminary he first served at First Baptist Church of Gulf Breeze, Florida, where he continued his habit of reading and clipping articles from the Florida Baptist Witness. In 1978 he transitioned to ministry in Alabama, first at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Enterprise, and then at First Baptist Church of Prattville, where he served as pastor for 30 years.
In Alabama, “I began receiving The Alabama Baptist, and, well, you know what I did.
“The Florida Baptist Witness and The Alabama Baptist have for decades provided me the information I wanted and needed about what God was doing in our state, nation and around the world. For me, these two influential state papers were essential in my ministry and helped fashion me into the pastor I became. Whether it was information on denominational life, church life or personal life, I benefitted and so did the churches I served,” he said.
Unique and vital role today
Times have changed. Many state papers today, including the Florida Baptist Witness, publish digitally only and no longer publish printed newspapers. However, the need for trustworthy information is “no less important today than it was for me 50-plus years ago,” Coleman said. He believes that digital and print copies of state Baptist publications, podcasts, social media as well as other expressions of Southern Baptist media “can be used by God to speak to those He is calling and help them to be informed and inspired by what Hs is doing in Baptist life to reach our world. I believe all Baptists need to know what God is up to in His world and be informed and inspired as well.”
Hobbs, editor of The Baptist Messenger in Oklahoma, has had a front-row seat to witnessing how Southern Baptist publications have transitioned through the years.
“Southern Baptist state publications have a long and storied history. From reporting on denominational news, to highlighting missions and inspiring stories of changed lives, to speaking into various issues facing the church, these publications have offered a longstanding and needed voice.
“They also serve a unique and vital role today. While the origins of these SBC publications were exclusively in print form, many have expanded their publications to include other offerings. These now include news websites, mobile apps, podcast programs, active social media channels, videos, articles in multiple languages and more. I hope Southern Baptists continue to recognize the vital role our shared publications have,” he said.
Modern challenges and responses
Such expanded communications options for Southern Baptist media have challenged denominational journalists to think broadly and creatively. In May of this year, The Alabama Baptist, at 178 years old, launched a new national publication, The Baptist Paper, “not as a competition piece to any of our media partners but as a way to help reconnect Baptists across the denomination,” said Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Davis Rash.
The motto of The Baptist Paper, she said, is “No Baptist left behind,” explaining that the paper is available digitally, “to reach the masses,” as well as in printed format “for those who prefer to receive their news and information through the mail.”
“Providing an autonomous news source is vital for the health of the group, and ensuring that communication gets to all members allows everyone to remain connected to the group,” she noted.
Southern Baptist media, in today’s multiple formats, help “church members see how God is using Great Commission Baptists to be a part of Kingdom growth,” said Stephen Hall, executive pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church in Trussville, Alabama. “A key unifying factor in SBC life is the way churches work together in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth,” he said. As those stories are shared through Southern Baptist media, Southern Baptists worldwide are connected with one another, he believes.
It takes a team
Behind every Southern Baptist media resource should be a team of Christian communications professionals who are “committed to clear communication, truth-telling and adherence to the highest standards of journalistic standards,” Rash said.
Southern Baptist media wouldn’t fulfill such a vital purpose today without these hundreds of individuals throughout the nation and world.
“I appreciate our loyal, capable denominational journalists greatly! They are outstanding professionals who inform and inspire,” said David Chancey, pastor of McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia.
Known as “the writing pastor” for his ministry of writing columns for numerous community newspapers, Chancey added, “Southern Baptist journalists who are familiar with Southern Baptist life, understand biblical priorities and have a Christian worldview can, I believe, give Southern Baptist readers stronger, more objective news coverage.”
As a Southern Baptist journalist who is involved in the day-to-day task of denominational communications, Hobbs said, “It is my prayer that our publications continue to offer engaging, trustworthy and gospel-filled content.”