National Religious Broadcasters' 54th Annual Convention
Anaheim, California Convention Center
Theme: "Announce His Message"
January 25-28, 1997
Reported by: Dr. Ralph G. Colas, Editor (Adapted by BDM)
Fundamental News Service
American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC)
P.O. Box 19, Wallingford, PA 19086-0019
(610) 566-8154 (voice)/(610) 892-0992 (fax)/firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), born on April 12, 1944, as an affiliate of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), held its 54th Annual Convention and Exposition January 25- 28, 1997, in Anaheim, California. While it had been announced there would be 5,000 registrants, the actual count was a little over 4,000. Numerous countries were represented as the NRB continues to encourage and assist broadcasters all over the world. The International Advisory Committee functions under the direction of Dr. David Clark.
The NRB has grown from 50-60 members to 858. It ended the fiscal year in the black with more than $250,000 in its Legal Defense Fund. This organization represents over 800 radio stations along with 200 television stations.
The goals listed by Dr. David Clark, newly elected executive committee chairman, were freedom of access for gospel broadcasting, improvement of quality in broadcasting, and the fostering of fellowship among broadcasters. Among the 30 NRB members receiving special recognition were: Richard DeHaan (Radio Bible Class), James Dobson, Jack Hayford, D. James Kennedy, Charles Stanley, George Sweeting, Mike Trout (FOTF), and Pat Robertson.
At the first press conference, Mr. Robert Straton, NRB's outgoing chairman, and Dr. E. Brandt Gustavson, NRB president, reported that square feet used in this year's exhibition hall was 100,000; last year it was 82,000 square feet -- 250 companies and organizations rented that space, which provides a major source of income for the NRB. Sony Electronics loaned more than $100,000 of equipment to assist with broadcast and production needs.
The opening general assembly on January 25th. was emceed by award-winning musician Larnelle Harris. NRB chairman Robert Straton welcomed those in attendance and said these next few days will be a "time of fellowship, growth and learning, and we hope fun and relaxation."
Awards were given Saturday evening to several individuals and programs. "Promise Keepers This Week" was honored as the Radio Program of the Year, while "Day of Discovery" (RBC) was given the TV Program of the Year award. Keynote speaker Wellington Boone, the ecumenical founder and president of Wellington Boone Ministries (Atlanta, Georgia), and a popular speaker at Promise Keepers rallies, began by asking everyone to hug one another. This, he indicated, was because of the different creeds and races represented.
Boone exhorted the audience to follow the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, emphasizing the inner cities of America. He also declared Promise Keepers to be the fulfillment of Malachi with the outpouring of God in the last days. Boone called for the unity of Christians, "If God is your father, then I am your brother. We are already one in Christ." He concluded "May you not let the world of natural birth grow faster than the world of spiritual birth. Would you get behind and support your black brothers as Jesus supported His disciples?"
Pat Boone, who serves as an official representative of Israel for tourism, and is a member of Jack Hayford's Church on the Way, urged everyone to make the trip to Israel between 1997 and the year 2000. Boone also attempted to explain and defend his entrance into the music world of Heavy Metal. His picture in major newspapers shows him decked out in a black leather vest and the cover of his new album says, "Pat Boone in a metal mood. No more Mr. Nice Guy." In one week 8,000 copies of his album were sold. An interesting sidelight is the report that Boone's parents, wife, and daughter, Debby, opposed Pat's turn toward Heavy Metal.
It was announced that the 4th Annual Concert of Prayer will be held May 1, 1997, at hyper-charismatic Jack Hayford's Church on the Way, Van Nuys, California. These concerts of prayer were described as "a growing phenomena."
Dr. Stephen Olford, who was scheduled to speak, was unable to attend because of heart bypass surgery. Taking his place was Dr. John MacArthur, Jr., of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California. Using II Corinthians 5 as his text, MacArthur presented the concept of reconciliation, pointing out that God is the One who extends grace to sinners. "The true doctrine of Christianity shows God loves sinners and seeks to reconcile with them," MacArthur said.
Monday, January 27th., began with the Plain Truth Ministries breakfast. This is the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) which was founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. (Apparently many invited to the breakfast did not attend for there were a number of empty tables.) Greg Albrecht, editor of The Plain Truth, was the emcee. Two videos made by WCG were given to all in attendance. They were "Creation or Evolution" and "Babylon, Past, Present ... and Future." A third video "Victory at Jerusalem" was to be made available later.
Dr. David Clark, newly elected NRB chairman, spoke and likened the WCG to a modern reformation. He said this is seen by the NEW ATTITUDES; before the WCG was isolated, now they reach out to evangelicals. They are also being built upon NEW AUTHORITY -- the Word of God, and acknowledge NEW ACCOUNTABILITY -- to brothers and sisters in the Lord.
The president of the WCG, Dr. Joseph Tkach, Jr., was introduced and he related his religious journey to the truth. In 1986 his father was chosen as successor to Herbert W. Armstrong. Joseph, Jr., then followed his dad in the role of leadership. Several teachings of the church bothered him so he began to share with others what was wrong with Armstrong's doctrines. As a result, there were three major denominational splits. The membership which was once 145,000 is now under 75,000 and the income declined from $150 million to $30 million.
The three main dissident groups are the Philadelphia Church of God, the Global Church of God, and the United Church of God. They all teach various percentages of what Armstrong taught. Ted Armstrong, who left his dad's church in 1978, is leader of the International Church of God. When asked why this group kept the name, Worldwide Church of God, Tkach said they desire to win the name for Christ.
The WCG, which has 51 acres of land in Pasadena, California, along with 72 buildings, has started marketing their property. They are seeking to bring their Ambassador College into a working relationship with Azusa Pacific University along with Fuller Theological Seminary (two theologically liberal institutions). [Actually, almost a month prior to the NRB Convention, WCG announced it was closing Ambassador in May, 1997.] Their church splits have not only created the loss of 40% of their ministers, but has caused many families to experience great divisions. When questioned as to his own personal salvation experience, Tkach replied "Everyone had their own experience. Many of us came to Christ in the Worldwide Church. Herbert Armstrong, in spite of errors he taught, had a high view of Scripture." He added that back in 1988 they "abandoned the teaching of British Israelism and now have racial reconciliation meetings."
Asked what the NRB could do for them, Tkach said, "Give us opportunities for radio interviews, decrease your skepticism because I expected a warmer reception from Christians than I have received." Plain Truth Ministries is already an associate member of the NRB and has applied for membership in the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). [Richard C. Dean, president of WFMZ-AM-FM-TV in Allentown, Pennsylvania, wrote an article titled "Open Arms: Welcoming the Worldwide Church of God" for the convention issue of the NRB's Religious Broadcasting -- "Never in my 60 years had I witnessed such a wholesome and positive reawakening within any group or denomination," Mr. Dean wrote. "This was a dramatic move in the right direction."]
A statement issued by the WCG leaders declared "We believe our journey out of the world of cults, unbiblical teaching and legalism into the mainstream of the body of Christ can help us minister to others, helping them to avoid similar pitfalls." However, when examining WCG's new doctrinal statement, one has trouble considering it to be an Evangelical, much less Fundamentalist statement on basic doctrines -- namely, the Scriptures. They offered the Bible as "the fully reliable record of God's revelation to humanity." One can ask if the Bible is "God's revelation to humanity" or is it just a "record" of it? A reliable record to tell us about God's revelation is not the same as God's revelation. A Fundamentalist would declare that "the Bible is God's revelation of His Person, His works, and His will for humanity."
Included in Monday's and Tuesday's schedule were 40 workshops. Most of them were related to the technical aspects of broadcasting. However, several dealt with leadership qualities and fund raising. Resolutions adopted by the NRB were on the Fairness Doctrine, Digital Television, Family Viewing Hour, and Personal Attack and Political Editorial Rules. (The NRB resents stations being compelled to carry broadcasts of those whose honesty, character or integrity is not in keeping with the principles held by station owners and managers.)
The International Luncheon on Monday, January 27th., was emceed by Dr. David Clark, NRB International Chairman. The event was sponsored by the Southern Baptist Radio and TV Commission, Fort Worth, Texas. Jack Johnson, president of this SBC's commission, said their programs have a potential audience of 400 million with at least 100 million listening at this time.
Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, and president of Samaritan's Purse, began his address by showing a video clip from ABC World News Tonight where Graham was featured as the "Person of the Week." He both organized and directed an effort to deliver one million shoe boxes filled with gifts and supplies for children victimized by recent wars in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia. The budget of Samaritan's Purse is $33 million. Graham said, "I never worry about funding. The Lord provides for us."
Looking ahead he said his plans are that when he takes over as leader of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), he will bring Samaritan's Purse right into BGEA. Concluding his remarks, Graham said "It really ticks me off when I read in Christian publications and hear by media about someone's failures. Let's stop doing that." (One can wonder if Paul was wrong when he withstood Peter and rebuked him because Peter was in error. Galatians 2:11-13. Is a word of rebuke not only in order but also commanded by Scripture? Ephesians 5:11)
The "Evening Celebration" was the highlight on Monday evening's schedule. The speaker, who frequently addresses Promise Keepers rallies, was Church of Christ (baptismal regeneration) pastor Max Lucado. He took as his theme "The Faithfulness of God." "God cannot love you more than He does right now. His love does not come and go. It is not based on what we do but who we are" he stressed. "God is faithful even when we are dense, even when we are slow, even when we are confused, even when our minds are too small." Lucado concluded with Romans 8:38, which says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Emcee Goodeye added, "This has been wonderful evening. We pray that you are refreshed."
The final day began with the All Media Breakfast sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ International. Dr. Bill Bright reported that the "Jesus Film," which was produced by his organization, and at the NRB was given the President's Award, has been translated into 450 languages. He added that the film had been seen by more than 900 million people.
Keynote speaker, Dr. David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, San Diego, California, has a radio program, "Turning Point," which is heard on 460 stations. The press release said "Dr. David Jeremiah has frequently spoken at Moody Pastors' conferences, Alumni Week, and Founders Week. He has been the guest speaker at conferences, colleges and seminaries across America. In 1988, he became president of Christian Heritage College." Jeremiah said that he had missed only one NRB convention in 25 years.
The Women's Luncheon on January 28 featured Beverly LaHaye, long-time advocate for women and Judeo-Christian values. She founded Concerned Women for America (CWA), which now has 600,000 members. Speaking from Ephesians 6:10, LaHaye underlined the phrase, "Be strong in the Lord." She shared how she became a pastor's wife with a poor self-image. II Timothy 1:7 helped her overcome that problem.
In private conversation she shared her uncomfortableness in being a keynote speaker at a conference sponsored by the followers of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church ("Moonies"). She indicated she did not know it was the Moonies Conference until a few days before she left for it. She felt by then it was too late to cancel her appearance! (Unification theology teaches that Jesus failed in His mission because He was unable to establish the "perfect marriage" and father "perfect children." The Unification Church also teaches that a sinless world can only result from a "sinless family.")
Mr. Robert Straton was emcee of the Anniversary Banquet, which was the closing event of this year's convention. World Vision was the sponsor of the black tie affair. Though the event was $50 per ticket, a strong appeal was made and then an offering received to raise $40,000 for computer needs at the NRB headquarters. Dr. Joseph Stowell III, president of Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois, was this evening's featured speaker. Ecumenical CCM artist Steve Green, Sparrow Records, followed Dr. Stowell with a final musical package at this three and-a-half hour function.
David Clark, newly elected NRB chairman, told Christianity Today, "As an organization, we'd love to see more women emerge in leadership and in the organization. But we're way past the glass ceiling." (Four of the thirty members of NRB's board of directors are women, and one of its eleven-member executive committee is a woman. Clark said women are producing and hosting some of the best religious programs. "The challenge is that 65 percent of women are working, and it's difficult to target them during the day" (3/3/97, Christianity Today). [Women have five of the top twenty syndicated daily "Christian" radio programs of five minutes or less, including the most widely aired show by a female broadcaster, Mary Whelchel's Christian Working Woman. Whelchel's show is on 450 stations on the Moody Radio Network, and is in eighth place overall. Whelchel, a 56 year-old divorcee, says, "Women have been slow to break into broadcasting because many stations are run by older men who have strong ideas about women teaching."]
In conclusion, here are some observations (by Dr. Colas) regarding the NRB's 54th annual convention:
1. NRB's 90-member board of directors includes leaders who maintain membership in the National Association of Evangelicals as well as the National and World Councils of Churches. A large number are of the Charismatic/Pentecostal denominations.
2. A major source of the total income that keeps the NRB solvent comes from their annual convention. NRB leaders are making plans to purchase land and to build their own building.
3. Questioned last year about pro-homosexual Tony Campolo and another radical, Mike Yaconelli, speaking at regional NRB meetings, Bob Straton said a change was being made and the NRB's executive committee was going to exert a larger measure of control. The Southwest Regional recently featured Jim Bakker as a mainline speaker. (Bakker was present in Anaheim signing hundreds of copies of his book, I Was Wrong at an autograph booth.) When Dr. Brandt Gustavson was asked if the NRB would have Jim Bakker speak at a future national NRB convention, he responded, "we will not say we will never use him, since he has repented."
4. AWANA Clubs Clubs International was an exhibitor for the first time. AWANA also was an official sponsor and provided the delegate badges this year. This indicates a greater involvement and identification with new evangelical organizations. (AWANA charters local churches that are members of National and World Council of Churches, providing that church says it is not "supportive" of these liberal apostate church councils. The NRB, as well, accepts groups that remain a part of the ecumenical machine.)
5. The Toronto Airport (Vineyard) Christian Fellowship exhibit was a very busy place. Not only did their representatives distribute Spread the Flame, their official publication and videos, but also spent much time in hugging and praying for miracles and prophetic insights. This is the group where they have laughing revivals, people braying like donkeys, barking like dogs, twitching and spending a lot of time stretched out on the floor. (This reporter declined their invitation to let them pray over him so he could "secure the blessings.")
6. The Voice of Prophecy booth provided books and tapes of their programs. As usual, the fact that they are part of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church was not revealed!
7. Some of the other exhibitors were Strange Communications, publishers of Charisma and Promise Keeper's New Man, Liberty University; Minirth-Meier New Life Clinic; Dominion Network; Regent University; The Salvation Army; and CDR, which is the radio network of Cedarville College (GARBC).
8. Though at times someone would call for humility and less glamour and glitz, the very opposite came to the forefront. With Hollywood stars participating, the enumeration of music awards, the applauding not only the music but even the messages, this only detracted from glorifying the Lord.
9. The NRB is larger and stronger than the NAE which brought it into existence in 1944. While some speakers this year had more Bible content, none identified the apostates, Roman Catholicism, or those who accept extra biblical revelation, as being a threat or danger to the people of God. It is not necessarily what they say, but what they fail to say that creates the problem. The matter of declaring "the whole counsel of God" is conveniently ignored for the sake of unity.