The Truth About Christian Magazines

I’ve had a lot of email in recent days about some comments I made to a reporter that recently ended up in the current issue of Charisma magazine. People seemed to think I must have been misquoted. When I finally saw the article I was relieved to know that the reporter basically got my words right. I love relational expressions of God’s life among people whether they meet in a home, a building or a tree! It is Jesus and his presence that matters not the locality. I’m not a banner waver for the so-called ‘house church movement’ and see many of those who are exhibit some of the same attributes of building their own kingdoms that we in other franchises of church life. I honestly think Jesus is tired of it all.

I have also talked to people who were upset with an editorial in that issue that says some disparaging things about people that don’t attend sanctioned Sunday morning events that have ‘church’ printed on the marquee out front or the bulletin they hand you when you walk in. I don’t know, I haven’t read it yet. Some want to start a letter-writing campaign to help the editors ‘see the light.’ I chuckle at the notion. By all means write. I often write to editors to at least give them another perspective, but I don’t ever expect it to change the nature of the magazine. That isn’t going to happen because entrenched Christian magazines are not primarily serving the kingdom, they are serving their business plan. And their business plan is to stay in business by increasing their market share and if they can sneak a bit of truth in while doing that, so much the better.

What many people seem to misunderstand is that Christian magazines are most concerned with printing the truth of God’s heart and light in the world. That is one of the most deceptive things about them. Don’t get me wrong, that’s what most publishers THINK they are doing, but when you get behind the inner workings of a magazine today, you discover how much they serve the bottom line by serving up articles that their readers WANT to read. It’s the fulfillment of 2 Tim 4, actually, where people “gather around themselves those who will say what their itching ears want to hear.”

Even if some of the editors thought various expressions outside of organized religion were valid expressions today, they couldn’t say it outright. They would have to couch it in deniable words so as not to tick off their readership. How many people into relational life do you think subscribe to Charisma? I don’t. It’s a fluff piece of celebrity worship for the charismatic renewal. People who know God and how he works wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to find God’s truth there. That’s not to say it doesn’t show up there once in a while, but it has a high noise to signal ratio. Way too high for me.

What they can do is run an article about house church that isn’t totally negative, but to keep their readers they preach the old, ‘gotta go to church’ rules so they won’t think their editors have gone daft. It’s a game. That’s why disgruntled letters make little difference. They can run them on the ‘letters’ page to let those people think they have a voice, but it will not affect their direction as a magazine. They are not looking for truth, but to keep their jobs and keep their readership. Cynical, you say? Nope. That’s business.

I’ve written articles for magazines, that editors have told me they truly love, but cannot print. “Even though I love what you’ve written here and think it is the truth, I cannot print it in this magazine without 20% of our readers canceling their subscriptions in anger. If 20% cancel their subscriptions our entire market plan goes belly up and we won’t print another issue.†That’s how it works. See it for what it is. Enjoy the truth that slips through, but don’t live under the illusion that these editors are the gatekeepers of truth for the family. They cannot afford to be, even if they did have that kind of wisdom. All the major magazines even use focus groups now to find out just what their readers want to hear so they can serve it up to them month after month whether or not it is helpful to God’s work in the world…

Crazy? Probably. But Paul told us the day would come. Lo and behold, we’re smack dab in the middle of it. It’s quite a ride. That’s why can you keep your eyes on him and don’t freak out when people miss the truth because of their vested interest. Just keep living it, one day at a time and loving one person at a time. That is the way God works in the world. That’s more powerful than any editorial in any Christian magazine…

Truly!

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16 Comments
  1. J June 2, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    Amen to your ending comments Wayne. The Truth is the Truth and their is nothing we can do about it. God is who he is and we simply need to love Him. He will simply never change. Hopefully, we will change and conform to him, instead of expecting him to conform to us. We seem to be so caught up in ourselves. Day by day and moment by moment Jesus is the truth and he will set us free to worship and simply love him more.

    I am so encouraged by the living, breathing body of Christ. Without that, what else matters?

  2. J June 3, 2006 at 2:08 am

    Amen to your ending comments Wayne. The Truth is the Truth and their is nothing we can do about it. God is who he is and we simply need to love Him. He will simply never change. Hopefully, we will change and conform to him, instead of expecting him to conform to us. We seem to be so caught up in ourselves. Day by day and moment by moment Jesus is the truth and he will set us free to worship and simply love him more.

    I am so encouraged by the living, breathing body of Christ. Without that, what else matters?

  3. Tyler Dawn June 3, 2006 at 8:11 am

    Wayne, could you please give us the quote? I don’t get that magazine (we only get hunting, gardening and country life magazines around here) and would really like to see it. Thanks!

  4. Wayne June 3, 2006 at 9:16 am

    Tyler,

    What quote? Are you referring to my quotes In the Charisma article? They used a bunch and their stuff is copyrighted and they pretty well hammer anyone who passes the article along to others…

    I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to quote one here:

    “I would say a lot of house churches are incredibly unhealthy. They’re led by people who have their ego all twisted up. If it’s manipulative, the smaller the environment the more dangerous it is. Some tend to be very narrow theologically. It’s conformity based: ‘You either believe what we believe or you’re not welcome here.’ They’re sometimes much narrower than congregational groups.”

    Wayne

  5. Jean June 3, 2006 at 9:55 am

    “If it’s manipulative, the smaller the environment the more dangerous it is.”

    I can vouch for that. The congregation we left three years ago was small and shrinking. It was not a house church, but they saw themselves as “family”–as in, the pastor has a say in everyone’s lives…
    And now I hear they are down to about 15 people, basically a house church that meets in a paid-for 45 year old building. I was told two things when we left: the pastor said that leaving a church is like a divorce, and a member said that once God places you in a church you are not to leave unless you move out of town. Oh, and that our son was killed because we weren’t living right and somehow deserved it (implied). There’s some serious damage being done in the name of the body of Christ. But I don’t have to tell you that.

    I agree with you about the magazines having to protect their vested interest. It’s no different than a conformity based congregation telling you that’s where you will find truth, rather than seeking it out from the Life and Truth himself. It’s all filtered through human paradigms.
    Charisma Magazine has an online forum with an extensive discussion about Barna’s Revolution.

    http://forums.strang.com/viewtopic.php?t=7564&sid=503af7922e8d4762b3df476449df9a40

    Some really good comments there peppered with some really scathing rebuttals. Gotta protect the IC from all those rebels! Of course this is not their paid publication, so folks are more free to air their opinions; there are also threads about covering, legalism, etc. (also with lots of rebuttals!) Not for the faint of heart…and so unlike the loving repartee among the folks at the God Journey forum! 🙂

    Jean

  6. Tyler Dawn June 3, 2006 at 11:11 am

    Wayne, could you please give us the quote? I don’t get that magazine (we only get hunting, gardening and country life magazines around here) and would really like to see it. Thanks!

  7. Wayne June 3, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    Tyler,

    What quote? Are you referring to my quotes In the Charisma article? They used a bunch and their stuff is copyrighted and they pretty well hammer anyone who passes the article along to others…

    I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to quote one here:

    “I would say a lot of house churches are incredibly unhealthy. They’re led by people who have their ego all twisted up. If it’s manipulative, the smaller the environment the more dangerous it is. Some tend to be very narrow theologically. It’s conformity based: ‘You either believe what we believe or you’re not welcome here.’ They’re sometimes much narrower than congregational groups.”

    Wayne

  8. Jean June 3, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    “If it’s manipulative, the smaller the environment the more dangerous it is.”

    I can vouch for that. The congregation we left three years ago was small and shrinking. It was not a house church, but they saw themselves as “family”–as in, the pastor has a say in everyone’s lives…
    And now I hear they are down to about 15 people, basically a house church that meets in a paid-for 45 year old building. I was told two things when we left: the pastor said that leaving a church is like a divorce, and a member said that once God places you in a church you are not to leave unless you move out of town. Oh, and that our son was killed because we weren’t living right and somehow deserved it (implied). There’s some serious damage being done in the name of the body of Christ. But I don’t have to tell you that.

    I agree with you about the magazines having to protect their vested interest. It’s no different than a conformity based congregation telling you that’s where you will find truth, rather than seeking it out from the Life and Truth himself. It’s all filtered through human paradigms.
    Charisma Magazine has an online forum with an extensive discussion about Barna’s Revolution.

    http://forums.strang.com/viewtopic.php?t=7564&sid=503af7922e8d4762b3df476449df9a40

    Some really good comments there peppered with some really scathing rebuttals. Gotta protect the IC from all those rebels! Of course this is not their paid publication, so folks are more free to air their opinions; there are also threads about covering, legalism, etc. (also with lots of rebuttals!) Not for the faint of heart…and so unlike the loving repartee among the folks at the God Journey forum! 🙂

    Jean

  9. Tyler Dawn June 3, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks Wayne for the quote, I couldn’t agree more! Oftentimes, the more close knit the group, often the less hospitable it is to anyone who doesn’t mesh in right away.

    Jean, I checked out that link. Yikes!!! That sure stirred up a hornets nest. I was shocked at the reaction to Barna’s article by the original author, guess I have been gone from the IC for too long…. lost my perspective. Thanks for posting that.

  10. Tyler Dawn June 3, 2006 at 8:04 pm

    Thanks Wayne for the quote, I couldn’t agree more! Oftentimes, the more close knit the group, often the less hospitable it is to anyone who doesn’t mesh in right away.

    Jean, I checked out that link. Yikes!!! That sure stirred up a hornets nest. I was shocked at the reaction to Barna’s article by the original author, guess I have been gone from the IC for too long…. lost my perspective. Thanks for posting that.

  11. Theresa Lode June 4, 2006 at 9:50 am

    Wayne- You are absolutely right. I am a freelance writer and have written for a few Christianity Today publications. They are in business for business and their target audience is Christian. These folks are not about ministry—-they’re about money. (Which of course is okay.) About Charisma—I could never get past their ads; I find them repugnant.

    Living in the Nashville area, we’ve been blessed to become friends with some folks in the music industry. Ditto for that too.

    Thanks again for your kingdom work, Wayne. The message Father has put in your heart refreshes us.

  12. Theresa Lode June 4, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Wayne- You are absolutely right. I am a freelance writer and have written for a few Christianity Today publications. They are in business for business and their target audience is Christian. These folks are not about ministry—-they’re about money. (Which of course is okay.) About Charisma—I could never get past their ads; I find them repugnant.

    Living in the Nashville area, we’ve been blessed to become friends with some folks in the music industry. Ditto for that too.

    Thanks again for your kingdom work, Wayne. The message Father has put in your heart refreshes us.

  13. Eric Wilbanks June 5, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Wow. That was harsh. Makes it sound as if folks who work for Christian magazines are evil.

    I know you didn’t mean it that way…I’ve read enough of your stuff to know better. But it seems a bit dangerous to draw such deep lines in the sand. For example:

    It just so happens that the people who read your blog and other writings (like myself) do so because, for the most part, we LIKE what we’re hearing. Does that mean we have “itching ears” and that you’re doing the scratching? I sure hope not.

    I served in the IC on pastoral staffs for almost 15 years. Eventually I reached a fork in the road, disillusioned by the utter vanity of it all. So I spent several years exploring this new “revolution” as Barna called it. I developed a pretty strong distaste for the IC. Then one day it hit me: Despite my obviously superior way of looking at life (uh-huh…), God was still using the IC to change millions of lives every year. I wasn’t sure whether to be appalled or humiliated.

    I now take a softer approach. While I am still passionate about this “revolution,” I now look with compassion and concern at the millions still struggling to make it work inside the IC. That INCLUDES IC voices such as Charisma and Christianity Today, among others. I want to help them (though I am not convinced that I can). So I keep working at it, chipping away, all the while living this dual life because my heart is elsewhere.

    I encourage you to remember from where you’ve come. God has shown you much over the years that has SLOWLY transformed your way of thinking and behaving. That’s the way He does it. And there are many in Christian publishing that are on the verge of starting this journey that you and I have taken, if we don’t scare them away.

    By the way, I happen to know Lee Grady (Charisma editor) personally and he is as committed to the cause of Christ as anyone on the planet. I don’t always agree with him (or the contributors to Charisma), but I know that in his heart Lee is doing everything he can to help in the process of making disciples.

    Thanks for all you do and say.

    EW

  14. Eric Wilbanks June 5, 2006 at 10:41 pm

    Wow. That was harsh. Makes it sound as if folks who work for Christian magazines are evil.

    I know you didn’t mean it that way…I’ve read enough of your stuff to know better. But it seems a bit dangerous to draw such deep lines in the sand. For example:

    It just so happens that the people who read your blog and other writings (like myself) do so because, for the most part, we LIKE what we’re hearing. Does that mean we have “itching ears” and that you’re doing the scratching? I sure hope not.

    I served in the IC on pastoral staffs for almost 15 years. Eventually I reached a fork in the road, disillusioned by the utter vanity of it all. So I spent several years exploring this new “revolution” as Barna called it. I developed a pretty strong distaste for the IC. Then one day it hit me: Despite my obviously superior way of looking at life (uh-huh…), God was still using the IC to change millions of lives every year. I wasn’t sure whether to be appalled or humiliated.

    I now take a softer approach. While I am still passionate about this “revolution,” I now look with compassion and concern at the millions still struggling to make it work inside the IC. That INCLUDES IC voices such as Charisma and Christianity Today, among others. I want to help them (though I am not convinced that I can). So I keep working at it, chipping away, all the while living this dual life because my heart is elsewhere.

    I encourage you to remember from where you’ve come. God has shown you much over the years that has SLOWLY transformed your way of thinking and behaving. That’s the way He does it. And there are many in Christian publishing that are on the verge of starting this journey that you and I have taken, if we don’t scare them away.

    By the way, I happen to know Lee Grady (Charisma editor) personally and he is as committed to the cause of Christ as anyone on the planet. I don’t always agree with him (or the contributors to Charisma), but I know that in his heart Lee is doing everything he can to help in the process of making disciples.

    Thanks for all you do and say.

    EW

  15. Wayne June 6, 2006 at 9:33 am

    Eric,

    I tried to respond here, but it turned out to be something I wanted the other ‘noncommnent’ readers to check out… So you can read it at: http://lifestream.org/blog/?p=319.

    Wayne

  16. Wayne June 6, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    Eric,

    I tried to respond here, but it turned out to be something I wanted the other ‘noncommnent’ readers to check out… So you can read it at: http://lifestream.org/blog/?p=319.

    Wayne

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