Last week the Israeli government took a chance that the success of a few Jewish Media Summits sponsored by the Government Press Office and Foreign Ministry could also translate to Christian media.
According to several believing reporters who attended the first Christian Media Summit, the investment was worthwhile and extremely productive.
“What you have invested in these few days was not in vain,” Stephen Briggs, of HaTikvah Film Trust in England, said during a dinner with Israeli officials. “You have your closest friends in this room and we represent just a small proportion of those who stand with you in the difficult times to come.”
Some 130 representatives of about 70 Christian media outlets located in more than 30 nations gathered for the summit. Israel’s Government Press Office and the Foreign Ministry worked with local believing media — in particular David Parsons, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem vice president and senior spokesman — to disseminate invitations and establish a line up of speakers to explain the Israeli viewpoint of the situation in the Middle East.
“This week of intense engagement between Israeli officials and Christian media from all over the world was very fruitful for both sides,” Parsons told KNI. “The Christians were greatly enriched by the briefings and panels on current challenges facing Israel and the region. And the Israeli participants gained a better understanding of the vast global reach of Christian media, their dedication to truth, and their uniquely gentle ability to persuade others of Israel’s just cause.”
While mostly media from Evangelical streams attended, invitations were sent to a wide spectrum of Christian media including Catholic and Orthodox, Parsons said.
“We tried to make the invitation list fairly broad by inviting Catholic and other non-Evangelical Christian media,” Parsons said. “The aim was not just to preach to the choir but to engage with other Christian who might not be identifiably pro-Israel but were at least objective and curious enough to come learn more.”
After hosting a few successful Jewish Media Summits, Israel’s GPO and Foreign Ministry expanded the concept to Christian media, Parsons said, in order to give them “access to top Israeli leaders and a closer look at the current situation in the region.”
Israeli officials were able to connect with leading Christian media personalities. The heads of several large outlets attended the summit including Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) CEO Gordon Robertson, Trinity Broadcasting Network President Matt Crouch, Good TV International Manager Winifred Yeh, God TV CEO Ward Simpson and author Mike Evans who founded Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the media at a gala reception at the Israel Museum to kick off the summit. Other dignitaries who addressed summit participants included Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and President Rueven Rivlin.
In addition to a range of keynote speakers and panel discussions, Christian journalists appreciated the opportunity to connect with each other.
“It is such an encouragement to me to meet so many people that God has uniquely positioned to do significant things of the Kingdom of God,” said Mark Jenkins, president of Words of Victory Ministries in Richmond, Virginia. “Hopefully we can encourage each other in this work. I hope we continue these relationships.”
Prakash Bishunke, a news presenter from a Nepal television station, said his job is to bring back information on Israel as obtaining visas to the Jewish state is difficult for the Nepalese. While there is no Christian television in Nepal, Bishunke said that believers are eager to hear more about Israel and the Gospel through Christian media presence online and in print.
For some reporters the summit was an introduction to Israel, while for others it was a refresher course. One reporter from the Philippines who has been to Israel several times noted that sometimes familiar relationships need to be challenged. That is exactly what happened to her during the summit.
“At many points in the seminars I had to try to keep my composure because I was becoming very emotional,” she said. “I felt the burden of telling the story of Israel to my countrymen, that we have to protect this nation in order to enjoy it and to keep the friendship.”
A media director from Finland said that while his country is generally pro-Israel and will rally to the causes of the Jewish state, the challenge for all the Christian media present is to reach the next generation “that neither curses nor blesses Israel … to get them bless Israel and not just be lukewarm.”
In his remarks at the diiner, Briggs quoted Isaiah 2:3:
And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
“The nations come up to Jerusalem and take the word with them. That is our responsibility,” Briggs urged. “Every single one of us here has to take back with us that which has been entrusted to us to stand, to withstand and to keep standing.”