Knowing how we started and how we’ve been traveling will help our readers know what we need this week–financially.
“We’re building the train as it’s moving down the tracks,” said Wilmer C. Fields, one of most seasoned Baptist newsmen of his generation in a planning meeting for the launch of the Baptist Center for Ethics some 24 years ago.
Our founding approach became our organizational pattern.
That was the right moral strategy then. It’s the right strategy now.
It is the right moral strategy for an entity that thinks it’s critical to equip church leaders and churches with relevant, practical, centrist, nonpartisan, moral resources in the fullness of time.
The drawback to such a strategy is funding. Funding is never in place before an initiative is taken.
If we wait for funding to be secure, then we would be unable to address real issues in a 24/7 world. Our resources would be a reconsideration of topics rather than dynamic engagement of them.
Moreover, rare opportunities would be missed.
Consider our organizational history of initiatives and funding.
We sponsored timely ethics conferences during the 1990s with the expectation that registration fees, book sales and cassette tape orders would underwrite the event.
That plan worked for several years until the copycat syndrome set in. Other Baptist entities saw our success, thought it looked easy and began sponsoring similar events, which, of course, took them more work than they expected, drew fewer attendees than they wanted, and never met the quality of our conferences.
But the copycat syndrome drained off enough registrants that our strategy became financially unworkable.
We started offering undated, online Bible studies for Sunday school well before churches were technologically comfortable with moving from paper to paperless education resources.
The quality of those lessons is still superior to what I see offered in most Sunday school classes.
Others saw our initiative and soon set off in pursuit of a similar model. They had state convention funding–we did not.
We got neither the needed startup program funding nor the annual sales to make our Bible studies as successful as they should have been.
We were well ahead of the curve when we produced “Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims,” the documentary that aired on 130 ABC-TV stations and got a shout out from movie star Denzel Washington.
We took advantage of a rare opportunity. What other CBF-related entity has had a film on ABC-TV?
Or a platform to tell positive stories about two members of the Abrahamic faith traditions that challenged the destructive cultural narrative that dominated our culture?
We produced “Different Books, Common Word” without funding in place.
Or take “Gospel Without Borders.” We produced a documentary on faith and immigration that brings more light and less heat to the issue; separates myth from fact; examines what the Bible says about treatment of the “stranger;” and shows the experiences of documented and undocumented immigrants.
We did so without producing a partisan piece–and before the issue became so white hot.
We had a goodly amount of funding that covered the documentary from conceptualization to DVD duplication, but not the funding for screenings across the country.
Given the failure of comprehensive federal immigration reform and the surge of undocumented children across the Texas border, “Gospel Without Borders” is even more timely than before, requiring more public screenings in the year ahead.
Or take “Through the Door,” a documentary on faith and prisons–produced as a bipartisan consensus emerges that prison reform is critical as prison costs are busting state budgets–yet without a full recognition that churches are central to meaningfully reducing the rate of recidivism.
Good funding emerged as the documentary was being produced. But it was never enough to cover marketing, promotion and screening costs.
Or take EthicsDaily.TV. We launched an initiative to provide faith-based content to broadcast and digital TV platforms that allow us to reach far more viewers than the number of congregants in moderate Baptist and other churches.
Three of our documentaries are airing on Soul of the South Network. Another broadcast arrangement will be announced next month.
In all these cases, we’ve had to re-edit existing documentaries for different TV run times and get them quality-ready for TV broadcasting. That costs money.
We are ahead of the curve on providing faith-content for TV. We hope funding will follow.
For example, we need to raise $3,000 this week for getting “Gospel Without Borders” ready for TV broadcast.
We are relying on our readers to move from reading to giving. We need you to be co-workers. We are good planters. We need good folk to irrigate the crops, to appeal to a biblical metaphor in 1 Corinthians 3.
This is a doable and necessary appeal.
If 30 EthicsDaily.com readers will contribute $100 each, we’ll reach our goal. If 100 EthicsDaily.com readers will contribute $30 each, we’ll reach our goal.
If EthicsDaily.com readers will give according to their ability, we’ll reach our goal that covers our expenses for this initiative with “Gospel Without Borders” on TV.
Our development approach is tethered to the giving story recorded in Acts 11:27-30.
Each believer gave according to their ability. That means some gave more and others gave less. Everyone did give. Cumulative good things happened.
The $10 gift moves us down the railroad tracks, as does a $100 gift. Together, these gifts will pay for a documentary that will be broadcast on a network that reaches 20 million homes, many are homes where monthly cable and satellite TV bills are prohibitive.
You know who we are. You know our work ethic. You know our centrist approach. You know our commitment to being good stewards of what you have entrusted to us.
You know we seldom ask for money. And when we do, we don’t demonize another party or screech that the sky is falling.
Now is the time, however, to make a gift that will multiply our influence in ways that we never envisioned years ago.
The credit card is in your wallet. The donation is only a click away.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.