In 1998, I attended and wrote a report about the Holy Ghost Congress by the Redeemed Christian Church of God at the old Lekki area in Lagos.
In the report which was published on a Christian media website, I identified myself as the National Coordinator of Journalists for Christ (JFC)
An American journalist who read the article sent me an email asking what the JFC was all about and wanted to know if I would be interested in not only attending the first International fellowship of Christian Journalists in Chichester, UK but nominate some other Christian journalists in Nigeria and Africa.
I was grateful for the opportunity and invited other colleagues as requested. In 2001, the second conference was held in Washington, followed by an African conference in Nairobi, Kenya some years later. Two other programmes linked with my participation in the conferences also got me invited to New York and Florida in the United States.
I didn’t have to write the report titled ‘Worshipping by the seaside’, but I did as a journalist committed to spreading the gospel to the end of the earth through the gift of writing the Lord had blessed me with.
Talk of being rewarded abundantly with the foreign trips for just one story about a vigil you attended! To God indeed be all the glory.
Participants at the conferences were Christian journalists working in secular media since the goal of the organisers, Gegrapha, was to build fellowships of Christians in newsrooms around the world, strengthen them in their profession, and encourage others to join them.
The recurring theme at both conferences was how to be a professional journalist and a faithful follower of Christ. Many speakers shared their insightful perspectives, experiences and testimonies.
Rob Brown of Telegraph Newspaper wrote a report titled “Can You Love Jesus and Journalism” after the Washington conference which I have read many times and meditated on over the years.
The introduction to the report is very apt about the dilemma Christian journalists have to try hard to resolve on the side of the faith they profess.
“Life for a committed Christian working in the Street of Shame is difficult but not completely impossible. We keep telling ourselves that it’s just a game, but reporters can destroy lives”
Reading through the article again on Sunday night reminds me of the need for every Christian journalist to be mindful of how he or she goes about his or her work considering that we are not just journalists, but chosen and peculiar journalists who have been called out of darkness into the marvellous light of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Brown asked three poignant questions in the first paragraph of the article which requires deep reflection.
* Is it possible to be both a tough-minded, skeptical journalist and a committed Christian?
*How do you shine a spotlight on social injustice if your readers are more hungry for celebrity gossips? (as they are now)
* How can you make the case for mercy and redemption if your newspaper ( or any platform) is committed to naming and shaming?
One of the speakers at the conference, Rob Hutton of Mirror also confessed he sometimes found it hard to look at himself in the mirror because his instinct was to be excited rather than appalled by the most terrible human tragedies. I can relate to this in my reporting days and the need for lead stories as an editor. If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead.
Fred Barnes of New Republic also raised the issue of mob condemnation of the sinner and the sin, like when public officers and celebrities get involved in some scandals, without exhorting the sinner to repent.
Loving Jesus and Journalism is indeed tough but not impossible by the grace of God if we allow Him to guide us and not rely only on our professional expertise.
It will require always asking What Jesus will do in whatever situation we may find ourselves. What will Jesus report, How will Jesus write the reports we have to write?
On Judgment Day, God’s standards contained in the scriptures will not be lowered for us because we are journalists.
In whatever we do, say or write, we must look forward to being told “Well done, thou faithful and obedient reporter. Enter into thy kingdom”
By Lekan Otufodunrin