I recently watched an interview with Jeff Fager, the executive producer of 60 Minutes, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. While 60 Minutes has had its problems, it has been the most watched television show of its kind throughout its history - nothing has come close to rivaling it.
Fager said that 60 Minutes has never done audience surveys, it has never asked audiences what kind of stories they wanted 60 Minutes to produce. The 60 Minutes philosophy has been to produce journalistic stories with integrity and high production standards. When it has failed to do this, when it has not done its homework, it has, according to Fager, apologized and set the record straight.
Fager spoke about many audience comments over the years that said (in effect), “I didn’t think I’d be interested in how widgets in lower Georgia were made, but your story drew me in and I enjoyed it.” The power and attraction are in the story, in the integrity in which it is conveyed.
Why doesn’t the church have as much faith in the Bible and the Gospel as 60 Minutes has in its journalistic and production values? 60 Minutes is not “seeker-sensitive”, it is not doing audience surveys, and yet people respond as they do to no other competitor. This doesn’t mean that 60 Minutes ignores communication principles, but it does mean that they focus on the power of the story.
Why is so much of the church afraid to teach what Jesus actually said about denying ourselves and losing our lives if we want to follow Him? Why don’t we teach Leviticus? Why must we entertain with self-centered music and messages? Why don’t we admit our mistakes?
Maybe seminary students ought to study 60 Minutes.
I’m reminded of the story of Ben Franklin going to see the evangelist George Whitfield preach. When someone asked Franklin why he was going since Franklin did not believe the Gospel, Franklin replied along the lines of, “Yes, I do not believe what he preaches, but he does.”
Is it possible that 60 Minutes has more faith in its message than the professing church?