NRB attendance up 15% at wide-ranging convention
Participants heard from key religious leaders and potential presidential candidates, focused on militant Islam and current cultural topics and gained insights into emerging facets of communications.
Attendance was up 15 percent over the 2014 convention, NRB President Jerry A. Johnson reported at the final session, Feb. 26 at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Among Christian leaders and Bible teachers addressing the evening sessions were Ronnie Floyd, Robert Jeffress, Priscilla Shirer, Alistair Begg and Billy Kim.
Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said Christians must awaken from their slumber and come together in prayerful unity to seek God for the "next Great Awakening in America" toward fulfilling the Great Commission across the globe.
Johnson, in his annual "state of the association" address, urged members to remain strong by holding to a right perspective on the Bible, on human life and on marriage, as well as remaining committed to excellence and an understanding of what it means to be created in the image of God.
A longtime Southern Baptist leader, Johnson took the helm of the NRB in November 2013 after two stints as president of Criswell College in Dallas and other leadership positions with various SBC entities, boards and committees.
"We are communicators and our first mission is to advance biblical truth," Johnson said in speaking from Genesis 1 and emphasizing the "inspiration, the authority, the infallibility, the inerrancy and the sufficiency of Holy Scripture."
Concerning the importance of biblical marriage, Johnson noted, "The National Religious Broadcasters dare not pitch their tent toward Sodom or sit at the gate."
Challenge of Islam
Concerns about militant Islam were voiced by a number of speakers throughout the convention, with most of the Feb. 24 daytime sessions focusing on the biblical, cultural and security challenges of Islam. (See related Baptist Press story).
Best-selling author Joel Rosenberg, at a Feb. 26 dinner, said America is in danger of destruction in the face of not just the rise of apocalyptic Islam but also the mounting death toll of unborn children.
Rosenberg and his family moved from the United States to Israel last August and now have dual citizenship. He and his wife Lynn started the Joshua Fund in 2006 to mobilize Christians to aid Israel and its neighbors in the name of Jesus.
Rosenberg pointed to three "mortal threats" to the United States:
-- "America is not simply in a season of decline but is heading towards collapse, towards implosion."
-- "America is not simply at rising risk of attack by Iran and the Islamic State (ISIS) but is heading towards the risk of annihilation."
-- "America is not simply heading towards a season of strained relations with Israel but is headed towards total abandonment of the Jewish state."
Drawing from God's commission of the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:1-9), Rosenberg encouraged broadcasters, as watchmen on the wall, "to listen to the word of the Lord, to watch for threats and to warn the people come what may."
Sudanese Christian honored
Mariam Ibraheem, who spent six months in prison in Sudan for refusing to renounce Christ, received the NRB President's Award on Feb. 25.
Jerry Johnson said Ibraheem had been "prosecuted by her government for crimes of so-called apostasy and adultery because she married an American Christian man."
Sudan, which is governed by Sharia law, holds that apostasy -- the abandonment of the Islamic faith -- is a crime punishable by death.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of Me," Johnson read from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:11.
Through a translator Ibraheem thanked "all the Christians around the world" who did not ignore her in her plight. She promised to pray for them "just like they prayed" for her.
Prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee opened and closed the NRB convention, respectively Feb. 23 and 26.
Walker, son of a Baptist pastor, said his faith guides him in his political and private life, and it undergirded him amid statehouse opposition during his first term in office. He said he is "still trying to decipher" if running for president "is God's calling."
Walker touted the virtues of the traditional family, saying, "Strong families start with strong marriages," and he underscored the importance of protecting innocent lives.
Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor who recently ended his six-year program on Fox News to consider a possible presidential bid, said he visited the Golan Heights in Israel, just 250 yards from the Syrian border, where he could hear the explosions from that nation's ongoing civil war.
Huckabee said too many Americans -- especially Christians -- are on the sidelines watching "with the world on fire."
"We can't afford to be anything less than firefighters," he said, noting there are many "pyromaniacs" on the loose.
"We are at war. It's not that we are facing one; we are in one right now," he insisted.
David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and author of a new book "Counter Culture," said on Feb. 26 Christian communicators cannot speak out on some social issues yet remain silent on others based on how they will be received by the culture.
Platt said he is encouraged by the church's involvement in fighting such problems as poverty and sex trafficking but is "simultaneously concerned by the lack of zeal on issues that are just as just as important, if not more so, like abortion and sexual immorality and so-called same-sex marriage."
"On these issues, so many Christians and church leaders are strangely quiet," Platt said.
Ryan Anderson, a Heritage Foundation fellow specializing in marriage and religious freedom issues, said America's cultural health is declining in most categories.
Of 31 cultural indicators in the Washington think tank's latest Index of Culture and Opportunity, most "are heading in the wrong direction," Anderson said, including the marriage rate, unwed birth rate, fertility rate, single-parent households, teen drug use, sexual abstinence among high school students, religious attendance, labor force participation, unemployment rate and student loan debt. Among the exceptions are the abortion rate, divorce rate and school choice enrollment.
NRB members also focused on a range of cultural issues with panel discussions Feb. 26 on homosexuality, marriage, pro-life issues and religious liberty and free speech concerns.
Also during the meeting:
-- New research reported during the NRB sessions included surveys on same-sex marriage and Christian media influence.
A survey released Feb. 24 found that 81 percent of Americans agree that government should "leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage" in their daily lives, at work and in the way they run their businesses. The survey, commissioned by Family Research Council in partnership with NRB, also found 61-percent support for the right of states and citizens to uphold traditional marriage.
A survey by LifeWay Research for NRB released Feb. 25 found that two-thirds of weekly churchgoers and evangelicals say they tune in to Christian radio and television on a regular basis, yet two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) rarely or never watch Christian television.
-- Roma Downey, known for her role as the compassionate angel Monica in the TV series "Touched by an Angel," and her husband Mark Burnett provided a nine-minute preview of their latest production, "A.D.: The Bible Continues," during the Feb. 23 opening session. The next evening, NRB members screened the entire first episode.
A.D., a 12-part series that will launch Easter Day on NBC, is a follow-up to their widely acclaimed production "The Bible." Burnett said A.D. will tell the story of the early apostles and the religious and political leaders of their day.
"Normally, it is tough to get the mainstream media to tell our story," Burnett said. "This is not narrow-casting cable, this is NBC," he continued, noting the network launched an ad campaign for the miniseries on Super Bowl Sunday.
-- In the second annual Digital Media Summit on Feb. 25, focusing on how digital technologies can be used by Christian communicators, Robert Edmiston, one of the speakers, held his smartphone aloft to demonstrate the unprecedented opportunity Christians have to share the Gospel with the world.
"This is where people are gathering," Edmiston said. "And we need to be there. We need to be presenting the message of Jesus" to them. A member of the British Parliament's House of Lords, he oversaw the 2011 launch of yesHEis, a website of more than 7,000 items to help Christians share their faith.
-- A Film & Entertainment Summit also was held Feb. 23. Among new films and documentaries screened during NRB was "[+]MORE," a documentary by Awana.
-- The NRB board of directors adopted resolutions on religious liberty, prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, the FCC's "heavy-handed regulation of the Internet," the FCC's auctioning of television broadcast spectrum and racial and ethnic reconciliation.
-- Actor Chuck Norris was honored with the NRB Chairman's Award, with NRB chairman Bill Blount, president of Blount Communications Group, noting Norris' "promotion of positive family values" and the example of his Christian faith. Norris starred in the network TV series, "Walker Texas Ranger" and has been the lead in 24 motion pictures. He also is a New York Times best-selling author and a columnist on WND.com.
-- Mike Kellogg, longtime host of Moody Radio's "Music Thru the Night," was inducted into the NRB Hall of Fame, while John Ankerberg of "The John Ankerberg Show" received the William Ward Ayer Award for Distinguished Service.
Next year's NRB meeting will also be held at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, scheduled to meet, Feb. 22-25, 2016.