What Walter Cronkite could teach preachers
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A recent news article described the events of Friday, November 22, 1963.  Walter Cronkite was sitting at his desk, eating cottage cheese and pineapple.  (His wife Betsy had packed him a “diet” lunch that day.)  As he ate, the five-alarm bell sounded on the Teletype machine.  The United Press International was announcing: “Three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade today in downtown Dallas.”  Understandably, the newsroom became a frenzy of activity.   Many credit that Friday as the day Walter Cronkite became a “national icon, the person Americans would come to rely on in moments of crisis.”   How did Cronkite earn that reputation and why should those who share the gospel pay attention?

Walter Cronkite’s credo was, “Get it fast but get it right; ask tough questions; take nothing for granted; stay ahead of the competition.”  The article went on to compare the journalism of Cronkite’s day to recent news broadcasts.  The Friday of JFK’s assassination Cronkite told the newsroom that he would not broadcast rumor or conjecture.  When recent events were unfolding about the shooting in the Washington Navy Yard, two networks named the wrong man as the shooter.  That innocent man coined the phrase, “Verify before you vilify.”  In the Boston marathon bombing, many organizations reported an unrelated fire as a third bomb.  The news media wanted to be first more than they wanted to be accurate.

<iframe style=”float: right; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #C0C0C0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”300″ height=”225″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/2K8Q3cqGs7I?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}We live in a new day.  The person who gets the “scoop” is often someone with a cell phone video and a twitter account.  If the media is concerned with being first instead of being correct we all should be very careful about trusting what we hear reported.  If the measure for quality has changed from intelligent accuracy to what people are quick to want to hear, the media has lost its purpose.  

Why should preachers, teachers and those who want to witness for the gospel of Jesus pay attention?  2 Timothy 4:3 provides this answer: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

I read an interesting article titled, “What’s Wrong With Modern Preaching?”  The author wrote: “Sermons are thin, often timely but rarely timeless, usually providing opinions about life but seldom presenting the way of life. Aware of this weakness, authoritative voices rightly call not for Biblicism but for more Biblical preaching.”  

Walter Cronkite said, “Get it fast, but get it right.”  Preachers need a new sermon each Sunday – but the most important part of their sermon is the need to get it right.  It is easy to “google” a sermon idea these days.  It takes a great deal more discipline to pray and then preach the message God leads you to.

Cronkite also said, “ask tough questions; take nothing for granted.”  The tough question a preacher should ask and honestly answer is this:  Is my message biblical truth or have I softened it to be more acceptable or entertaining for the people in the pews?  Paul taught Timothy to make sure he preached sound doctrine, even when it was not what the people wanted their “itching ears” to hear.

Finally Cronkite encouraged the newsroom to stay ahead of the competition.  I wish preachers and congregations understood that the competition was not the church down the street.  The “competition” is Satan himself.  Satan and his disciples are enjoying a much stronger influence in our world these days.  If trendy, light-weight sermons were our best weapon, the pews would be fuller now than they were 50 years ago.

Walter Cronkite became the person people relied on for news in times of crisis.  Who do you rely on to preach biblical truth – when our culture is in a time of moral and ethical crisis?  

The quote above from the “Modern Preaching” article was written in 1951.  I wonder what the author of the article would say today?    What could preachers learn from Walter Cronkite?  I think they could learn how to be the person people would trust to lead them in a time of crisis.  A pastor earns that right and that reputation by presenting biblical truth from the pulpit every Sunday.

Walter Cronkite is famous for the moment he removed his glasses, wiped a tear from his eye, and then announced the death of President John F. Kennedy.  He delivered the truth, even though it was hard for people to hear.  That is every preacher’s job for this coming Sunday.  Take time to pray for those who need to preach and teach God’s biblical truth in the days ahead.

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