Increasing our media savvy will further the gospel faster

Experienced journalists, public relations professionals should be appointed to media outreach positions

Commentary | Brian Hatyoka

Experienced journalists, public relations professionals should be appointed to media outreach positions

Seventh-day Adventist churches need to increase their use of the media to preach the gospel.

Our church co-founder Ellen G. White was clear about this. She wrote: "We must take every justifiable means of bringing the light before the people. Let the press be utilized, and let every advertising agency be employed that will call attention to the work." (Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 6, pg. 36)

If adhered to, White's statement could go a long way toward enhancing effective spreading of the gospel worldwide.

In Zambia, a country with the largest Adventist membership in the denomination's Southern African-Indian Ocean region, the media is not fully utilized as an effective channel through which the church could spread the gospel.

Many church leaders have continued to preach the gospel through usual platforms, such as in churches, at camp meetings and during evangelism efforts. Hence, their messages only reach a limited number of people.

I have shared my concerns with many church administrators on the need to preach through the media, but the church in this country is still lagging behind in this aspect. One reason might be a lack of trained journalists and public relations professionals in Communication department positions for the church who can find opportunities for evangelism through media.

Billy Kazoka, an Adventist and an editor for local radio station Radio Phoenix, says there are a lot of opportunities for the Adventist Church to evangelize through the media without having to pay anything. Doing so, he says, can reach a large and diverse audience across the country and abroad.

For example, Radio Phoenix has a daily program called What the Papers Say, in which the station reads selected articles from submitted magazines and newspapers. The church can take advantage of this to evangelize just by sending church magazines to the station. The same radio station also has a Sunday morning music program managed by an Adventist member -- another platform to preach the gospel through media.

Another way the Adventist Church can attract press or media coverage is by hosting events -- such as Health Expos, an Education Day or Sports Day, or a Music Festival -- and then invite prominent people in society to officiate or attend, and media organizations to cover the event.

Communication leaders might also approach producers and editors to get Adventist guests on talk shows (radio, television) or to run columns written by Adventists (newspapers) on topics such as HIV/AIDS, drug awareness, marriage, finances and more.

To ensure that the church capitalizes on such media opportunities, it is important that church leaders consider electing trained journalists or public relations experts to oversee church communication. Such experts know how to package information to enhance effective evangelism.

These experts are often already members of Adventist churches. They should be elected to manage the Communication department instead of people without journalistic or public relations background.

--Brian Hatyoka is a journalist for the Times of Zambia in Livingstone, Zambia