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Pastor Ted's formula for media savvy


Pastor Ted Haggard and his flock at New Life Church have been riding a surge of publicity this month. First there was the trip to Israel, where Haggard and a team of other Christian evangelicals met with Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu. Then it was off to Jerusalem for a tte--tte with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to talk about the relationship between evangelicals and Jews.

Back in the United States, the gregarious Haggard, who heads up the National Association of Evangelicals as well as Colorado Springs New Life megachurch, was inundated with requests from the talking titans.

Here was the lineup, in the words of Haggard's niece, Carolyn Haggard, as she was trying to juggle her uncle's schedule earlier this month.

Friday (the 13th)

Interview with Barbara Walters location TBA.

[Bill] O'Reilly will start taping at 5 p.m., so a car will pick you up at the ABC taping location and take you to the FOX studio. They would like you to discuss the environment and two other topics that you think are significant for the evangelical community. They are giving you a long block, so 8-12 minutes.

Also this Friday, Dateline will be here in the Springs for the Mill.

Sunday (the 15th)

Dateline (NBC) will be here on Sunday.

An ABC crew for the Barbara Walters special will also be here on Sunday. Although, I'm trying to figure out how that will work best because Dateline will be here, as well. Miss Barbara was a little disgruntled since she has built her career on "firsts" and the Dateline piece will air earlier than the ABC piece ... so, note to self: definitely don't chat with Barb about Dateline. Rob (producer for ABC) would LOVE it if you'd touch upon heaven during your sermon Sunday ... so, just something to think about . . .

Wednesday (the 18th)

Tom Brokaw will be here at New Life Church. His schedule has changed, so he will be arriving in the Springs on Tuesday and would like to spend time with you on Wednesday ... Since Tom is not able to attend a Sunday service, I thought it would be great if he went to the staff meeting Wednesday morning and then did his sit down interview with you at afterward. Then, he'd like to do a walk-through of the church with you, and so maybe you two could connect after Executive Staff Meeting?

"Whew!" Carolyn Haggard summed up. "Now, we just need CBS (since we have FOX, NBC, and ABC), and we'll have quite the week!"

Whew is right! To prepare for the onslaught, on May 10 Haggard sent to New Lifers and friends of the church the following tips on "doing a good job ... representing born-again, Bible-believing Christians."

1. If a camera is on you during a worship service, worship; don't dance, jump, etc. Secular people watching TV are touched with authentic worship, but jumping and dancing in church looks too bizarre for most to relate to. Remember, people watching TV news are not experiencing what you are experiencing. They are watching and thinking. Worship indicates sincerity, dancing and jumping looks like excessive emotionalism.

2. If reporters want to interview you, talk with them, but use words that make sense to them. Speak their language. Don't talk about the devil, demons, voices speaking to you, God giving you supernatural revelations, etc. Instead, tell your personal story in common sense language (I was a drunk but God changed me and now I'm sober, I'm grateful, etc.).

3. Don't be nervous. Be friendly and open. Reporters typically don't have an agenda, they authentically want to know what we do and why we do it. For example, Barbara Walters is working on a story about heaven and will interview me and get some supporting shots from the church ... Since we believe in heaven, we are, in fact, a good source. So, if she talks with you, don't be spooky or weird. Don't switch into a glassy-eyed heavenly mode, just answer, "Heaven is real. It's the place where God will be fully present with his people. He will reward people in heaven. Heaven is better than Colorado Springs." Say it straight and clear. Don't worry (Yeah, sure!).

Come to think of it, many of Pastor Ted's guidelines could really come in handy in all sorts of encounters ...


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