This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily represent the views of anyone but myself.
Christians have been distributing information to large audiences for a very long time. In the time of Jesus, a person would go to a public gathering place like a temple or the top of a hill to preach a sermon to a large audience (take the sermon on the mount for example). Modern-day media has become a new “mount” from which sermons can be cranked out. Adventists have long been using television to air sermons, but I wonder… do sermons have to come in the form of a pastor getting up in front of a congregation and preaching in a church? Could an individual be a “living sermon” just by going about their life? If so, why not film it for others to learn from? What other forms could a sermon take? For that matter, what other forms of TV would be acceptable viewing for Christians? Could a sitcom be transformed into a modern-day parable? As I ponder this, I wonder if there isn’t an opportunity to make Adventist TV a little more diversified.
If I am honest, I have to say that I feel like there’s not really a good Adventist TV option for Adventists under 60 (not including kid’s shows). As I sit here writing this I’m in my mid-twenties and I’d guess that if you asked other Adventists my age, at least 90% (if not more) would agree with me. I’m definitely not trying to be negative – Hope Channel and 3ABN are nice stations for an older audience – they just don’t connect with younger demographics in the way I’d love to see. Just compare those websites to a site like MTV. I’m not promoting MTV’s content, just pointing out that they know how to market to youth. Importantly, they have changed their presentation over the years to maintain their “edge.”
Now I know there are going to be some “old-school” people out there who will say something along the lines of, “Well friends, if you don’t like what is available then maybe your media preferences have become polluted.” That’s bogus. I, along with many of my peers, simply find a good chunk of what is available to be boring. This doesn’t mean I find the subject matter boring, just the presentation. A savvy business person would view this as an opportunity to innovate–they would ask themselves, “How can the Adventist doctrines and experience be translated into new forms of television?”
I decided to take on that very question and I came up with a few ideas (if you come up with some of your own, I’d love to hear about them in the form of a comment below):
What I Want to Watch
To break it down into it’s simplest form, I want to watch TV that echoes what Philippians 4:8 says and doesn’t stink. How about some reality TV! People are interested in people. From a production standpoint, it is far cheaper to produce than a sit-com and therefore would make a good candidate for getting content up fast. Stuff like:
- Random acts of kindness caught on tape
- Extreme sports evangelism (snowboarding, surfing, etc…)
- Following a pastor through seminary
- A week in the life of a physician / conference president / teacher
- A vegetarian cooking competition
- A weight loss show with an Adventist twist
- Document life at a one-teacher school
- Teens talking to “real” people out on the streets about God
- This list could go on and on…
Some cool Adventist reality TV would be great, but it’s not the end-all solution. I would love to watch an Adventist sit-com that had good morals and set a good example. It would be even better if I learned something from it (a person who could weave a Bible verse into a weekly sitcom without being cheesy would earn my full respect). Let’s face it, after a long day at school or work, young people like to watch TV to relax. It would be awesome if there was something worthwhile for them to consume that they wouldn’t deem as “lame.” What if there was a show about young Adventist professionals dealing with workplace issues, relationships, family, etc… I know I’d tune in. Now, I’m not talking about entertainment for the sake of wasting time. But I do think that there can be a meaningful convergence of entertainment and utility.
How I Want to Watch It
I long for an Adventist Hulu. I wish I could watch programs like those listed above on an Apple TV, Roku, Boxee, Google TV, XBOX or Playstation console. I’d love to see an internet only station–something along the lines of Revision 3 (that would require way less capital to start up) – I could hook that up to my TV with a simple cable and tune into some awesome Adventist programs. Best of all, I’d love to see 3, 4, 10 stations all producing their own content. Sure there might be some bombs, but again, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Let me add that I’m more than willing to watch web-quality video that isn’t made to the highest possible TV standards. Short clips are great. Anything is better than nothing.
I would donate a ton of money to a station that had these shows. Of course, the graphics would have to be great. Anyone directly involved would ideally be under the age of 30. Programs with music for 30 or 60 minutes aren’t great for this audience – this audience has a short attention span and wants to pack as much into each segment as possible. I’d love to see a prime time lineup that could rival that of ABC, FOX or CBS–so good that it would actually peel younger viewers away from those networks to watch. The core content of a “youth” Adventist channel would essentially be the same as the “older” channels but presented in a different way–you don’t talk to a teenager the same way you talk to a retiree. I know we’ve got the talent within the church: people to set it up and run it, writers, actors, etc… While I like a good sermon just as much as the next guy, I still wish I had some other viewing options.