Leadership: On Being Interviewed on TV and Elsewhere

Mark Woodward posted a very insightful post comparing Mark Driscoll’s TV interview by Piers Morgan with Billy Graham’s TV interview by Dick Cavett many years earlier. Driscoll came across poorly; Graham appeared masterful. Why the difference?

Mark sagely concludes,

The major difference as I see it is that Graham spoke with authority and [Driscoll] did not. In response to pointed questions, [Driscoll]’s sentences started most often with “I believe that . . . ,” whereas, in a short collection of interview clips from Graham’s life,  his sentences rarely start with “I believe”—even when asked directly what he believed.  No, his responses are “Christ taught,” “God says,” and “the Bible teaches.”  More than once, Graham says, “It doesn’t make any difference what I believe” and then proceeds to speak as the oracle of God.

I think that nails it. When we argue statistics and opinions and preferences, we lose — because that is not our real motivation. We obey because we believe that God’s word has authority. Therefore, if we are speaking to anyone as a Christian about Christian values, we should speak as messengers of God, not philosophers or  politicians. It’s enough that God said it.

Of course, that might excuse sin by those who aren’t saved, but they’re, you know, lost — and therefore we are prohibited from judging them (1 Cor 5:12-13). Our place is not to urge them to live as Jesus commands but to come to faith in Jesus — and then to live as Jesus commands.

When we speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet 4:10-11), the interview is no longer about why but about submission — which is a very tough area for many interviewers who often are, after all, nominal Christians.

The interviewer could ask you why you think that’s God’s will, and you could properly decline the question as irrelevant or answer it if God has revealed his purposes. But it would be a very different conversation — one predicated on faith, not humanism.

Now, not many of us are called to do national TV interviews. But we are all called to speak to friends and neighbors about God and his word. And I wonder: Does Mark’s insight bear on those conversations?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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9 Responses to Leadership: On Being Interviewed on TV and Elsewhere

  1. Price says:

    Perhaps one with Brother Graham’s experience and education could speak more authoritatively than others less trained. It seems there would be a fine line between authoritative and arrogance… humility isn’t a bad thing to keep in mind.

  2. hank says:

    I’m with Jay. Even though Graham refused to preach the truth about baptism, at least he was confident and unapologetic for whatever it was he believed. Too many now are afraid of rubbing the wrong way and so they preface all of their beliefs with “to me”, “in my opinion”, “I kinda believe that”, etc.

    Marshall Keeble used to say:

    “Preachers need to preach the Truth –bear down on it. We don’t need to make friends, we need to save souls.” –

    I think he was right.

  3. Bob Brandon says:

    I dunno; the Pharisees said “God says” even when they were face to face with the Son of God. See where that got them. And if Billy Graham was wrong on baptism, then, by our expectations, why should anyone defer to his authority – his opinions – about anything else?

    After all, the Apostles’ Creed starts “I believe…” There’s nothing namby-pamby about the Apostles’ Creed.

    What is not considered seriously is the demeanor of the interviewer: Piers Morgan is an experienced product of both the British tradition of confrontational journalism and the News Corporation school of sensationalism. He’s not trained to be a sympathetic interviewer.

    Now, what I’d like to see is Tom Wright vs. Piers Morgan; Bishop Wright would be a much more formidable opponent if only because he knows what he would be getting into. Not sure Mark Driscoll was properly forewarned.

    American interviewers are far, far more deferential. Our most confrontational would be considered too sycophantic for British expectations.

    Paul met a similarly unsympathetic audience in Athens, and we do not know of a meaningfully sized congregation forming there as in Corinth, Thessalonica, Philipi, or Berea. So we shouldn’t use interview performances as a measure of competence or maturity.

  4. monty says:

    While Dr. Graham was perhaps more charismatic than Driscoll, I didn’t really see where Driscoll failed to meet some standard for TV interviews. I thought he did a decent job really, considering the interviewer(not many more people more arrogant and attcking than he.)

  5. Roger Scully says:

    Totally agree with Monty…

  6. JMF says:

    The things you liked about Graham were the exact things that made me reject him. The last thing I am interested in is someone that has all the answers. I grew up in the COC. We had the answers.

    Driscoll’s presentation was far more attractive in my view, and I am no Driscoll fan.

  7. I greatly respect Graham. To say, “Jesus is Lord” as opposed to, “As for myself, I believe that Jesus is Lord,” is a big difference. The former is not popular in a pluralistic society, but it declares faith in Christ as a singular reality, rather than just suggesting it as a “better idea” in a religious marketplace.

  8. Alabama John says:

    Isn’t it possible any of can and could of missed something in the Bible?

    If we did, and I should say when instead of if, do we feel we will be welcomed in to Heaven or not?

    To think we must have it all just right is scary.

    If our main goal other than loving God, is to bring others to loving Christ, Graham has out done us all combined.

    Sure puts him on a much higher pedestal of those that follow the intent doesn’t it.

    I too was brought up being taught often from the pulpit to hate Graham and all he stood for since he was of the devil himself.

  9. Chris Pierson says:

    This is VERY much the difference between communicating with post moderns and moderns. Moderns like that type of authority and post-moderns are suspicious of it. We, like Paul, ought to be very careful who our audience is…

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