First, a word of gratitude about last Sunday—the service was wonderful and the music was beautifully done. I am grateful for such a deep pool of talent in our Church Family— so deep, in fact, that the morning worship music created an atmosphere fit for a classic Billy Graham Crusade. Thank you for your continuing commitment and tremendous gifts.
One thing that struck me about the whole recollection of the life of Billy Graham was the importance of the media in the advent of Dr. Graham’s Crusade ministry. William Randolph Hearst was so deeply moved by his experience at the 1949 California Crusade that he sent a memo to his newspaper editors to Puff Graham. I mentioned this in the sermon; but I want to reiterate it here, for I think it is important. Hearst understood the power of the print medium to influence a nation in a positive way. He heard a message he felt others should hear, so he helped open the door for that. I fear that our national media, post-Watergate, became so engrossed in its power to depose others that it neglected to consider the power of a good word, an encouraging word, a word of hope.
As a journalism student, I heard the conversations of the place of media in the public interest—both as watchdog and encourager. There is a real rush of power in influencing public opinion, but there must be a keen sense of responsibility in making sure the mission is balanced and truly serves the public good. As in anything, when we enjoy a certain kind of negative power too much, we jeopardize our focus on the more positive ability to change the world for good. When the negative is pointed out, it should be accompanied with the hope that this will help stem the tide and restore the good. In other words, what is the greater purpose in all that we do?
I think about our lives and the stewardship of our influence, which has been heightened by access to the internet and other forms of quick expression of ideas. Vehicles like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and the like—I know that even these are dated—empower us to help others form opinions, to build up or tear down reputations, to raise alarm or offer reason, to point out problems or affirm the good—in short, personal influence in our day is greater than it has been at any point in history, for everyone has a forum. Someone will listen to that voice and be affected, no matter how off-the-wall the idea happens to be. We have known the power of gossip for ages; there is evidence in ancient writings of gos-sip. Even the scriptures in places like Exodus 23:1 warns of spreading false reports.
I want to be an encourager. Yes, there are some problems that need to be addressed; and there are proper ways to do so. We need to remember that it is one thing to point out the bad, but it is not helpful unless it offers some kind of solution to the problem. I have watched parents with their kids in sporting events. Parents come from two camps: they chastise their children, embarrassing them while ordering them to do better; or they encourage them in what they did right and help lead them to a way to improve and grow. That is key to personal development. It also puts forth the greater purpose: do they want to win the game or do they want the child to learn the character-building principles that make her/him a better ballplayer and person?
The same is true of the way we deal with issues in our world. Are we in it only for the gotcha moment, or are we more interested in helping the world become a better place? There was much that Jesus could and did seek to correct. He pointed out problems, but never without solutions. Jesus was truly the way, the truth and the life. Dr. Graham’s experience reminds us that we sometimes need an advocate to open a door as we follow responsibly what God has empowered us to do and be. Oh, to be that door of good in someone’s life!