Interview: Ronald Harris, CEO and Chairman of the NRB Executive Committee

The executive committee of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) held their last meeting at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, as they closed a successful convention and exposition, on Wednesday, February 16, 2005.

This year’s annual NRB Convention and Exposition, the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated to serve those in the field of Christian communications, featured several highlights, including the launch of the new NRB Tech lab and the presentation of the largest expo in the organization’s history.

Additionally, the NRB executive committee elected Ronald Harris, the executive vice president and CEO for Criswell Communications in Texas, as the new chairman and CEO for the NRB. Harris, who last served as the NRB’s secretary, will lead the executive committee for the next three years.

The following is the full text of an interview with Ronald Harris at the floor of the Anaheim Convention Center on Tuesday, February 15, 2005:

The executive committee this year released a handful of resolutions on traditional marriage and the family. Were you involved in penning any of those resolutions?

The executive committee for the NRB was involved in looking at and agreeing to these resolutions. To a degree we debated on the wording of these paper to see what would best express what we meant in the key areas facing Christian communicators today.

What do you suspect will be the key change under your leadership for the NRB?

I don’t know if there will be a great change, since I feel we already have a real strong sense of direction. I think in many ways, the more we work together, our focus is honed a little tighter so that we can see where we can have the greatest impact as Christian communicators.

The association of National Religious Broadcasters really is here to facilitate Christian broadcasters to do what God’s called them to do. So even though we will work with resolutions, if you look at them from the most part, those resolutions are meant to encourage us as Christian broadcasters and communicators to do certain things.

Occasionally we will highlight or look at something and say this is not right. But most of the time, it is to encourage Christian broadcasters to use the tools God has given to impact the culture around us. Whether it be cultural issues like the media or other various legislations that we feel is detrimental to the quality of life God intended for us to have, or whether it be issues of a personal spiritual nature, these are all things we need to emphasize.

Will you be working more closely with the FCC during your term?

Dr. Wright is our president, and he is there in the capitol area. We have an office at Capitol Hill as well. He and our staff working there will be working very closely with the FCC, and actually it will be a privilege for to me to step into the circle of what they’re already doing in that area.

One of the things that I want to do was well is to make sure that as Christian broadcasters and communicators we have a personal spiritual relationship that must be maintained. It is not difficult for us to get so involved in the mechanism of what we do or the structure of what we do that our own personal relationship falls back a little bit.

One of our NRB members, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who has a radio program, “Revive our Hearts”, recently put on a little booklet of cautions for those who are in ministry. One of those cautions really hit home was she talked about talking further down the road than walking. In other words, we are great communicators and we often know what to say and we will talk about certain areas of our lives where we follow according to God’s plan.

But we may get ahead with talking and our lives won’t exactly reflect what we’re telling other people to do.

It’s a great caution for all of us. Ravi Zacharius, who spoke at the Saturday night opening, was quoted in the NRB newspaper as saying that we build structures and ministry structures, but sometimes our personal relationships with God are diverted because we get busy maintaining the structures. By personal relationship I mean the fresh daily encounter and guidance with God.

Its almost ludicrous to think that we, whether it be in leadership or in the sphere of influence in Christian media, think we could be effective in proclaiming truth if our relationship is not fresh. There are mechanics in radio, and there are the mechanics of the newspaper. You can easily get caught up in all the mechanics of that, and write the things that you know need to be written, but go back to your room and realize, “I’m not there.”

All that said one of the things that I want to keep in our forefront is to continue striving for excellence in what we do. We can’t let go of the creativity of what we do. We cant let go of engaging in culture as we should with God’s word. But we can’t do all those things at the expense of who we are personally and individually in our relationship to God and Jesus Christ. This is the challenge: It’s easier to do something than it is to be. In our spiritual lives, it is easier to do things, such as lead workshops, be on the air, and write articles. That part, to a degree, is easy. The harder thing is maintain the spiritual relationship in the depth of our hearts.

I said this earlier to someone who asked me about this. It seems that we’re going to build a wonderful conveyer belt that functions beautifully, but nothing of great substance will be on it. It will operate, but what is coming down the line is not life changing.

So we’ve go to be as balanced as we could. Reality is that everyday is not likely to be balanced. But we’ve got to keep enough of a handle on all of it so that our lives become balanced in communicating at the same time.

You mentioned “speaking about the culture and impacting it with your personal confession.” How would you reach this message to the new younger generation so their culture may also be reflective of this confession?

I wish I had the answer to all of the “hows”. I think that’s a struggle. But the main thing is that God has not stopped the creative process, so if we have a desire to engage in certain age groups and demographics, different facets of culture, God’s not going to say, “sorry you guys, you’re are on your own.” But it goes back to having that freshness in the communication with God, where we are seeking him constantly and how we need to do what we do.

In Isaiah, it talks about God being behind us and saying, “turn left, turn right”.

You’ll hear a voice behind you saying, “turn left, turn right”. That’s the voic e of God.
To me the image I get is a step by step process toward where we need to be. We’re talking about engaging culture. How do we go about doing that? That’s the way we need to live our lives, in such a close relationship with God, so where everything that comes along, we seek his will and his direction.

It may be something that flows logically, where we’ll say that’s a no brainer, that’s how we do it. Louis Palau at the international luncheon yesterday talked about how instead of going in and holding a Billy Graham type of crusades, he has festivals, he’s got rock groups and he’s got extreme sports, he’s got all these, but he said these are nothing.

But people are there, and he is able to preach God’s word.

He has found a way to engage a segment of the culture. And the amazing thing is that as he begins to preach god’s word, they don’t leave. And I would say the same thing. Looks like they’d go “Ah, I’m going to go back over to that rock group.” But when he is there speaking, God’s word is powerful and strong, and there is still a hunger for that.

And I think we don’t need to shy away from placing God’s word out there, in today’s culture, no matter what this culture may be.

We think we need to fix God’s word so it fits better. But God says my word will not return void. Put it out there. And that’s not to say we don’t need to be sensitive or creative, but we also don’t need to back up and say, “I’m going to have to gloss over these areas and eliminate those areas, otherwise people wont listen to this because they are of a different culture or background or age group.”

We need to put God’s truth out there and it will work in the hearts of the people who hunger for that truth.

So this is very much of a spiritual ministry.

Absolutely. If it’s not, what is this? If we don’t have that connection personally then we are technicians and we’re not Christian broadcasters.

That’s not to say we can’t hire somebody to come in and outsource the job. But for those of us who are Christian broadcasters or communicators, it has got to be a spiritual relationship that impacts everything we do. Engaging the culture can take different facets. It can be alerting Christians to certain legislations so that their voice will be heard.

But I love the story of Acts 19 where Paul is in Ephesus. And in fact, I’ve been there often times, and tour guides will tell the story of what went on there.

But they had idol makers there as a big business. And these idol makers are saying, they were in trouble because Paul is preaching Jesus Christ. There is no account of Paul boycotting or telling the people to boycott the idol shops. He’s teaching people Jesus Christ, and here, on their own, the people are setting aside those inanimate objects made by man, and it’s impacting the culture of their day. Not boycotts, not marching on the idol makers, but simply embracing God’s truth and changing their hearts and changing their lifestyles to conform to God’s truth. And it brought about an enormous economic impact that resulted in notoriety. So much so that the people began to kick Paul out.

Wouldn’t it be exiting to know that through your newspaper, and through Christian Broadcasters, that as God’s truth was proclaimed, people’s hearts were so changed, that the divorce rate will go down? And crime on the streets will be less?

When you go back to the welsh revivals that took place in centuries passed, they say the police had to form a choir because they had nothing else to do. An awakening was taking place.

Just to think of the impact that Christian media could have on our world today: If only it changed people’s hearts, it will begin to change the culture. So it’s powerful so that’s why I think it will be a great honor for me to be able to be a part of what God’s working through them also.

Was there anything at the exposition that really caught your attention that you would like to share with others?

The expos are always a wide gamut of things; it’s always fun to go to. There are things that will fit one ministry and maybe not fit another. Tour groups over here, different countries, equipment and growing up as a broadcaster you look to the latest equipment and you go “wow, these are fun to play with these tools.” And a lot of that is there.

But it’s exciting to see that we have in our hands phenomenal resources that will help us accomplish what God puts in our hearts to do.

And not everything’s going to fit my need. I may work in radio now and somebody else has TV cameras over here. But now one of the big areas, and maybe this is one of the areas to talk about is church media, where they will have all sorts of things that will enhance the media involvement in local worship experience. And that is a phenomenally growing area because more and more churches are being involved in their media presentation as churches may use clips in their sermons, and of course, we are familiar with words on the screen. But now, they are creatively doing things that are enhancing that. That’s a growing area, and just because that happens in the confines in the church structure, it is still media related. And NRB really wants to be a home for those who are in this area, who are growing in church medium.

Ronald Harris, the newly elected chairman and CEO or the NRB, is the executive Vice President and CEO for Criswell Communications, which includes KCBI-FM, 90.9, Dallas. He has served the station for 12 years as program director, operations director, general manager, and now Executive Vice President and CEO. Ron has worked extensively in both radio and television. His credits include producer/director of the ACTS network’s “Invitation to Life” and producer/director for seven years for the Southern Baptist’s networks, “ACTS Awards” live telecast. He created and hosted an award-winning talk/variety program, “First things first,” which aired nationally in syndication.

He is a graduate of Texas Christian University with a major in Radio/TV/Film. He is currently on the board of directors for National Religious Broadcasters, Southwest NRB, Hope for the Heart, and on the advisory board of Elizabeth Home. *

*Biography courtesy of the NRB