ALEXANDRIA, Va.–Acknowledging today’s difficult media culture, Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, urged Baptist communicators to decide: “Am I committed to truth and righteousness and glorifying God or am I committed to some other agenda?”
If there’s any other agenda other than truth and righteousness and glorifying God, at some point, you will make compromises, Smith warned members of the Baptist Communicators Association (BCA) on April 20 during their annual workshop in Alexandria, Va./Washington, D.C.
BCA is a professional organization of communicators who serve in a variety of editorial and visual communications positions principally within Baptist agencies and institutions. BaptistLIFE’s editor Shannon Baker served as 2018 president.
Referring to the BCA’s earlier travel to hear Senator James Lankford speak in the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C., Smith said he previously served in tax services 30 years prior in the same building.
There, he said he “found a lot of pragmatic folk just trying to win the next election.”
At an early age, he began to understand the difference between “being principled and being just totally all out pragmatic and just desiring certain results and not caring about what I had to do to get those results,” he said.
“But for the stranger, the Christ follower, that sort of all out pragmatism never fits our desire to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said, referring to 1 Peter 2:9, which in the King James Version calls Christians “a peculiar people.”
Smith said he laments how Christ followers have totally “lost the stranger element” of being a Christ follower in the world.
“Some of the most popular songs now say stuff like ‘Enlarge my territory. Make me comfortable right here. Bless me, bless me, give me, give me.’ That’s just ridiculous. Peter says that we are ‘strangers’ in a different kind of place,” Smith stressed. “Saints, we are not like the Gentiles and the Canaanites and the Heathens. We are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We are peculiar people!”
Accordingly, he asked, “How do I approach trying to honor the Lord in my work as a communicator, as a reporter, as a journalist, as one who creates media? How do I approach that work?
“One thing I do is I make sure that my motives and my character are pure before the Lord,” Smith said, pointing to 1 Peter 2:1, “Rid yourself of malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander.”
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Smith said, “’Bitterness … leads to blindness.’ … Someone who does not want to be blind is a communicator. If you are commenting on something or if you’re just supposedly objectively reporting something, you don’t want to be blind.
“Some communication is just bad. It’s just lies. It’s just malicious. It’s just ‘fake news.’ Sources have not been examined. Sources have been slanted,” he said.
“So, I try to approach work with my character being honorable before the Lord and avoiding things like malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander.”
By way of example, Smith pointed to the early church, who even when under persecution from the Roman empire, was known for their actions.
People noticed, saying, “They don’t lie. They keep their oaths. They love one another. They don’t put their babies out,” Smith said, making this point: “Even the unbelieving world would look at the Christians who they were going to persecute and see certain characteristics of them that made them distinct in their nature.”
He pointed back to 1 Peter 2:9, “We are a holy nation … a people for his possession.”
“Our greatest desire is to live in such a way that God is glorified by our lives and certainly that entails things like truth, righteousness, and honesty,” he said, exhorting, “You should be excellent at what you do, but you should be peculiar in what you do.”
In other words, as he says to staffers on Capitol Hill, “So you’re in a dirty place, be clean.” Likewise, when he speaks to auditors in New York City “with the consumerism and the Wall Street greed,” he says, “In a dirty place, be clean.”
Furthermore, as a pastor speaking to graduating high school seniors going out into the workforce or going to college, many known for their binge drinking culture, he always says, “In a dirty place, be clean.”
And more pointedly to the communicators, he said, in an “agenda-driven pressroom, be clean. In a click-bait, social media world, be clean.”
That’s the exultation in 1 Peter 2:11, “Be strangers and exiles and abstain from sinful desires,” he said.
Noting secular media thrives on the attention-getting nature of negative news, Smith urged his listeners to not forget to communicate things that are edifying and uplifting in this world.
“I pray that you find stories of endurance where men and women have endured great obstacles because of the solidity of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that you would find wonderful stories of life change where maybe someone was saved as a child, and they lived faithfully for the Lord for years and years. Or maybe someone was an agnostic or atheist for 45 years, and they heard the Gospel when they were 53.”
In any case, he concluded, “I pray that you would enjoy your work. Be excellent in your work. One thing the world cannot take away from you is the excellence of your work.”