Event signals boom in media

Faith-based business is big business. That much was clear from a day at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention.

The 63rd annual NRB gathering, at the Gaylord Texan Resort earlier this week, was the place to discuss the latest in digital broadcasting equipment, check out what’s new in fund-raising software, and consider tour options to the Holy Land, including one that offered a “spa extension.”

Visitors could peruse a handful of new books on The Da Vinci Code, which remains a best-selling novel and comes out as a movie in May. Then they could try to distinguish between the tomes, all competing to help Christians challenge the history and theology of the novel.

Stargazing opportunities arose, with appearances by Christian broadcast celebrities such as the Rev. Charles Stanley and Janet Parshall.

A dizzying number and variety of ministries, including several in former communist countries, came to NRB to raise their profile. The venerable Salvation Army was present to explain that, along with doing relief work, it generates one-minute radio spots of Christian inspiration heard on more than 1,000 stations.

“Think of ‘The Rest of the Story with Paul Harvey,’ ” said Major John Jordan.

This year’s NRB convention drew about 6,200 conventioneers for workshops, panel discussions, speeches, worship services and a 125,000-square-foot exposition hall with more than 300 companies represented. Some radio groups, such as Dallas-based Probe Ministries, broadcast live from the hall.

Elsewhere at the hotel, conventioneers could choose from a range of workshops and panel discussions, such as a Monday session on worldwide threats to religious liberties. Speakers included a Swede, a Canadian and a Texan – U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

NRB is, in the main, a Protestant evangelical group, representing Christian radio and TV broadcasters and the ministries that provide those broadcasters with programming. But print media were a major presence, including Christianity Today International, which publishes Christianity Today and other magazines.

Eric Reed was on hand as leader of the company’s media relations “rapid response team,” aimed at getting Christianity Today editors and writers quoted in the mainstream media.

He noted that this company has placed marriage counseling inserts, tailored to Catholic couples, in some copies of the magazine Marriage Partnership. The copies with inserts are then distributed by the Archdiocese of Chicago to parishioners. “It’s a bold new venture for an evangelical publication to partner with a Catholic archdiocese,” he said.

Evangelicals are hardly a monolith, theologically or politically. Mr. Reed described Christianity Today as offering a “centrist evangelical” perspective.

How does he define that term? “Carefully,” Mr. Reed said with a laugh.

Near the Christianity Today booth was an area of the exposition hall reserved for Holy Land tour group companies. Alon Bareli, president of marketing for Israel Vision Tours, said improved security in Israel had led to booming business.

“All the flights are overbooked,” he said.

Evangelical Christians are some of Israel Vision Tours’ best customers, and Hispanic evangelicals have begun to visit Israel in significant numbers, Mr. Bareli said.

El Al, Israel’s national airline, used this year’s NRB for the first meeting of a panel that will offer advice on how to serve Christian tourists. Panel members include John Hagee, a San Antonio-based televangelist with close ties to Israel.

Another, less likely country represented at NRB was the Bahamas, which hopes to increase faith-based tourism.

“It has tremendous potential,” said Don Cornish, a tourism officer working the Bahamas booth.

Mr. Cornish noted that, though it’s not widely known, a group of English Puritans called the Eleutheran Adventurers settled in the Bahamas in 1648, pursuing religious freedom. Another possible draw for evangelicals, he said, is that the Bahamas is the base for televangelist and author Myles Munroe.

Technology dominated one section of the exposition hall. Among the booth occupants: Telescript Inc., which provides teleprompters for the White House.

More and more churches want teleprompters, said Andrew Wischmeyer, a Telescript sales manager. They’re used by “praise team” singers who haven’t memorized the lyrics of new material. Pastors also use teleprompters when taping messages given to prospective members through CDs or other media.

Even in the high-tech age, few if any preachers have come to rely on teleprompters while giving sermons, though.

“You’re going to want somebody speaking from their heart and head,” Mr. Wischmeyer said.

Vacation? Short break? Day trip? Get Skip-the-line tickets at GetYourGuide.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Dallas Morning News, USA
Feb. 25, 2006
Sam Hodges

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday February 28, 2006.
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