Who’s that at my office door and what do they want? A man sticks his head in and says something about deadlines. Doesn’t he realise that there’s a reason the door is closed? My desk phone starts ringing. And at that precise moment my mobile goes off. I look down at my mobile. It’s Brad Kemp, president of the New Zealand Pacific Union. I wonder what he might want.
“Big news James! We launched HopeChannel NZ on September 12,” Brad says.
Breadth, breath and bridges. That is what makes the new HopeChannel NZ different.
“Haven’t you had HopeChannel in NZ?” I reply, distracted by another visitor at my door.
“This time it’s different,” he says.
“Breadth, breath and bridges.”
“Breadth—we used to reach a small fraction of New Zealanders. Since September 12, we have been available to 68 per cent of the population. That’s more than two in three Kiwis. And in many cities like Rotorua, Nelson and Invercargill, we have 100 per cent coverage. It’s a big deal. Today, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is just a simple, remote-control click away in the living rooms of most of the country. And they see us for who we are—a positive community with a healthy lifestyle, vibrant spirituality and love for family. In their homes, we are able to build trust, and that trust will allow us to talk about things that really matter.”
Fair enough, that is news.
“Breath—we have original content produced by New Zealanders in New Zealand for New Zealand,” he continues. “Right now we’re finishing up 100 short films to go on the channel—creative, inspiring, engaging content that’s 100 per cent pure New Zealand. And we’ll be showing the best of global content—major films like Luther and Amazing Grace, cutting edge shows like Masterstroke and Beyond. More than 70 per cent of the material we’ve scheduled on HopeChannel NZ has never been available on free-to-air TV in NZ before.”
OK, well that is news, too. He has got my attention now.
“Bridges—there’s no point having a TV station unless it’s a genuine ministry. And that means it must be fully integrated with the local church, a Bible school, an exceptionally good website with on-demand videos and online Bible studies, nationwide promotion and local content. TV shows that lack bridges to real live churches in the community are simply religo-tainment. Yes, HopeChannel NZ programming will be entertaining. But not for its own sake. The goal is to involve viewers in a relationship with Jesus Christ lived out in a real faith community in their city or town. That is why local churches are the centre of HopeChannel NZ. Because, ultimately, the local church is the spiritual home for HopeChannel viewers.”
“Breadth, breath and bridges. That is what makes the new HopeChannel NZ different. Have you got it?”
I’m scribbling away trying to keep up with Brad. “Ah, yeah, Brad, um, got it. But TV is expensive. Isn’t this a bit, you know, ambitious?”
“Think about it James. We spent more than half a million on an evangelistic series that reached only one city, and only for a few weeks. With HopeChannel NZ we can reach the majority of the country, 24/7/365. It works out to pocket change per person we reach with the message. And when combined with local churches doing outreach, letterboxing, posters and, most of all, just conversations with friends and family, it is powerful.”
OK, well that’s Brad’s opinion. I see where he’s coming from. But what are other people thinking? It all sounds a little too good to be true. I make a few calls.
“Up until now, we’ve largely been having a conversation with ourselves on HopeChannel in NZ,” says Wayne Boehm, HopeChannel manager for the South Pacific. “This is the start of a conversation with millions of New Zealanders. And you can expect similar announcements across the region as HopeChannel expands from a little internal service to a major media force for Christ.”
Both NZ conference presidents share the HopeChannel vision. “It was a privilege to kneel in prayer with Andrew Ross at the HopeChannel New Zealand Technical Operations Centre in Napier on a recent Sabbath afternoon,” says Pastor Edward Tupa’i, president of the North New Zealand Conference.
“Andrew is one of the most passionate evangelists you will ever meet. For many years, through his technical expertise and immense heart for mission, he has been bringing Adventist television to New Zealanders. However, HopeChannel, with its plans to reach a large percentage of Kiwis, is his most exciting project yet. With the HopeChannel New Zealand team, he is working to present the Adventist hope in Jesus with quality productions and in a way that will reach as many Kiwis as possible. I do not understand all the equipment that he works with; it truly is amazing. But I definitely know that he is a man on a mission for God.”
Pastor Damien Rice, president of the South New Zealand Conference, is equally enthusiastic: “HopeChannel New Zealand is an important tool for our personal and public outreach efforts. I believe it will raise the profile of the Adventist Church, creating many positive associations for people and opportunities to connect. This is not TV for our members. Our ambition is for a new direction in religious broadcasting that is driven by a need to make the Church and the gospel more relevant to secular New Zealand.”
I get off the phone. The office is still buzzing. And so is my head. Imagine just flicking on your TV and seeing the Adventist message. Not the usual imported stuff. But something authentic, engaging and connected with a church in my town. This could be a game changer. Maybe New Zealand is really onto something big . . .
*Just in case you were wondering, this is a fictionalised summary of a series of conversations.
James Standish is communication director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific.