Communicating Christ in a Digital Age
While most of us are either asleep, getting ready for church, or already on our way to worship, “Day of Discovery” is beamed by satellite all across the country. The half-hour program is broadcast at 7:30 A.M. each Sunday on the PAX network and other major affiliates, covering more than 80 percent of the United States and Canada.
Baxter, the program’s executive producer for more than fifteen years, prepares about thirty segments a year and travels with the production crew, which films in Bible lands such as Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and Italy. He and his team also produce biographies of well-known believers such as Eric Liddell, Oswald Chambers, and George Washington Carver.
“Our goal is to produce programming targeted to people who are open to spiritual things,” said Baxter. “We don’t assume biblical knowledge. Our Bible-lands productions present in a discovery format the reality of the events and places as recorded in the Scriptures—all in an effort to tell the greatest story ever told.”
Baxter’s ministry often opens up unique opportunities. One popular segment that aired in 2001 featured the three faiths of Jerusalem. Baxter and his team interviewed two rabbis and the Islamic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from his home in Ramalah, north of Jerusalem. Jordanian Imad Shehadeh (ThM, 1986; ThD, 1990), president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary, and a Jewish pastor represented the Christian perspective. Each religious leader was asked to compare and contrast the three faiths of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Baxter said, “In the program we simply presented the differences, giving guidelines for evaluating any faith.”
From Art to Theology to TV
After graduating from Biola University with an art degree, Baxter found himself unsure of his next step. “I had a desire to serve the Lord in a full-time capacity, but I was not sure what to do.”
His brother-in-law, Dennis Eeningenburg (ThM, 1973), suggested that he attend Dallas Seminary to gain a biblical foundation “so that I would have the ability not only to work with others in communicating the gospel, but also to be able to develop communication skills,” said Baxter. “That was one of the best decisions of my life.”
During seminary Baxter began working part-time in television production. One of his first productions after he graduated included a monologue of Dallas Seminary professor Reg Grant in a dramatization about our Seminary founder Lewis Sperry Chafer. Yet even after earning his degree from Dallas, Baxter remained unsure of God’s direction for his life. “I was open to being a pastor or missionary but felt that God would somehow use my aesthetic sensitivities in communicating truth in another way.”
His instincts were right. After a brief stint with Youth for Christ TV in the early 1980s, Baxter returned to Dallas to serve as producer of Dallas Seminary’s video ministry, and later became executive producer. One of his projects was to produce a video series featuring Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost’s book, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. The goal was to bring the Gospels to life by filming at actual sites in the Holy Land.
Baxter and Dr. Grant scouted the land of Israel for two weeks before bringing Dr. Pentecost over for the filming. “Jeff was such an encouragement to me, as I was a novice at this process,” Dr. Pentecost said. “We taped the course out of sequence, and Jeff had mapped out all the sessions for me ahead of time. He was quite skillful at putting things in order so that it all ran smoothly.”
With the help of Dr. Grant, Baxter spent several weeks editing the presentation of Dr. Pentecost’s material. The final result pared thirty hours of lecture into six tapes, each of which includes two twenty-two-minute segments. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ video series is available through the Dallas Seminary Book Center.
RBC Ministries, formerly Radio Bible Class, is best known for its devotional “Our Daily Bread.” “Day of Discovery” is an arm of RBC Ministries, which has been teaching the Word of God for more than sixty years, helping viewers, listeners, and readers better understand God through the Bible. The program teaches about prophecy, social issues such as domestic violence, reasons to believe in the Christian faith, and principles that apply the wisdom of the Scriptures to life.
Dallas Seminary graduates and professors continue to serve as valuable resources for the truths Baxter delivers to viewers. “Often we use biblical authorities, many of whom have come from DTS. Over the years I’ve called on Drs. John Walvoord, Howard Hendricks, Eugene Merrill, Darrell Bock, Bob Pyne, Charlie Dyer, Haddon Robinson, and others.”
“God providentially directed [my] steps by honing my producing abilities in television,” said Baxter, who is married to Sandra and is the father of three. “I am grateful that DTS helped shape my convictions, set a standard of excellence, and encouraged creative communication of the gospel. My years at Dallas Seminary forced a disciplined study of the Scriptures that gave me a script for life and for the programs we produce. It’s awesome and humbling to think that each week ‘Day of Discovery’ reaches the equivalent of several Rose Bowls full of people. But the real payoff for me is when someone writes and tells us we made a difference.”
What kind of difference? In the words of one viewer, “I always thought I was alone in the world struggling with everyday problems. When I saw this program it was reaching out to me, telling me there’s hope for everyone that seeks the Lord in faith. Then I knew that there was hope for me and my family.”
Communicating “the greatest story ever told,” one of Jeff’s favorite descriptions of the gospel, is not reserved for preachers and teachers alone. The Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20) calls all believers to share the good news of Christ. Thanks to the medium of television, Jeff’s audience is broader than most. And he relishes the challenge of using television for God’s purposes, enlightening the minds and hearts of those who seek Him.
Want to see God’s Word come to your living room in full color? Set your VCR before you head off to church next Sunday.
“Day of Discovery” is offering Kindred Spirit readers a free video of two productions titled, “Ten Reasons God Became a Man.” Order by writing to Day of Discovery, Box 263, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-0263, or online at dayofdiscovery.net.
Kelley Mathews (ThM, 2000) is a freelance writer in Garland, Texas. She has recently coauthored a book on women’s ministry, which is slated for a summer 2002 release.