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Changes at the Voice of Prophecy: Where in the World is Fred Kinsey?
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Submitted: Apr 14, 2012
By Andrew Hanson


Where in the world is Fred Kinsey? On the official web site of the Voice of Prophecy (VOP) media ministry he is still the fourth generation director/speaker in the heritage of the legendary H. M. S. Richards. Four sources that do not want to be identified have told Adventist Today that he is leaving or may have already packed his office and moved out. His speaking appointments have been canceled. Sources say there was a lack of confidence in his leadership expressed by the VOP executive committee.
 
Since he took over from Lonnie Melashenko in the fall of 2008, Kinsey has initiated a number of changes in a ministry launched in 1929. He involved a team of four primary presenters and two of these are women: Connie Vandeman Jeffery, youngest daughter of George Vandeman who founded the It Is Written television ministry, and Elizabeth Viera Talbot, a pastor and Bible scholar with a Ph.D. from the University of Gloucestershire (U.K.).
 
Talbot “was not fired by the VOP executive committee,” Eldyn Karr, communication director for the ministry, told Adventist Today. “She and her ministry, Jesus 101, will be transitioning out of Voice of Prophecy. Jesus 101 wasn’t being underwritten by VOP funding, but by donations earmarked for that ministry. She … is not on broadcasts being produced this year.”
 
She will still be heard on the VOP for some time because much of the programming is reused several times. And there continues to be a page for the Jesus 101 Biblical Institute on the VOP web site.
 
“Her appointments at camp meetings, including this weekend in Florida, were not set up by VOP,” Karr said. “Host locations contacted her directly, as do churches and others who want a Jesus 101 Biblical Institute weekend. So far as we know, all her appointments are continuing as scheduled.” She also hosts a regular television program on the Loma Linda Broadcasting Network.
 
The Jesus 101 Biblical Institute ministry uses a style that is closer to a college classroom than public evangelism. Digital videos of Talbot’s teaching presentations can be seen in the Jesus 101 section of the VOP web site. She also takes a more evangelical approach.
 
There is an unconfirmed rumor that some members of the VOP executive committee would like Lonnie Melashenko to return to his old job in the wake of his recent retirement at Kettering Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, where he was vice president for mission. If this is true, is it a signal that they are unhappy with the new approach under Kinsey’s leadership? Or, is it simply an interim measure?
 
Last year at the denomination’s “media summit” in Ontario, California, North American Division President Dan Jackson cited “sobering facts of how unknown the church is” despite significant amounts of money spent on media ministries. Last week the Adventist Media Center board voted to ask each of the ministries to write a new business plan by June 3 and gave each the freedom to move out of the center.
 
The decline in both listening audiences and donors for all the ministries has been a concern for some time. Kinsey was seeking to deal with concerns that have been on the table as far back as 1987 when the media center had a major outside media consulting firm do an assessment of the VOP and the other media ministries. Frank N. Magid Associates conducted research among Seventh-day Adventist Church members and the general public. Its report pointed out that it was very unlikely that the media ministries could survive the passing of their founding figures unless they were prepared to completely re-invent themselves.
 
As is the case with any developing story, readers are cautioned to watch for further developments. The Adventist Today news team will continue to follow this story and would appreciate any leads that readers become aware of.
 

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Share your thoughts about this article:

Edwin A. Schwisow
2012-04-15 12:55 PM

A major difficulty we face with our broadcasting ministries, including independent Adventist-connected ventures, is that to raise money we have allowed fund-raising narratives to oversell the effectiveness of these ministries in actually recruiting new members. Yes, billions MAY tune in, but ordinarily the primary audience for these outreaches are those already oriented toward Adventism, already members or fellow-travelers.

On a realistic side, we must recognize that while our media ventures are indeed a veritable "Air Force" for Adventism, ground forces do most of the actual "converting." Yes, the "Air Force" can and does "soften up" the terrain for the seed of the gospel and may even do a bit of Shock and Awe. But it takes virtual rocket science to make it work well, and we have not always been served by rocket scientists in the strategic planning of our media. We have done some good things, certainly, but we have by no means maximized our potential-on-dollar.

I'm old enough to remember attending promotional events more than 40 years ago (Fred Kinsey and I were then students at Glendale Adventist Academy) in which past generations of VOP leadership virtually guaranteed that media broadcasting was the God-given key to reaching the world with the gospel, and that we could rest assured that this was a far more efficient approach than actually going out and befriending and discipling the people. I'm hoping that whatever emerges from the new freedoms granted the old-time Adventist ministries, that somehow we can let the rocket scientists loose in reconfiguring things, without the stringent political and fund-raising constraints that in the past have often stopped bright initiatives flat in their tracks. Let's not ask too much from our Air Force, but let's make sure it's guided by the best GPS. Unfortunately too often the target ends up being the already affirmed Adventist-committed donor base, and while this approach does wonders to soften up the Adventist pocketbook, it does comparatively less to break up resistance where our ground forces need it most.

William Noel
2012-04-16 9:35 AM

Edwin,

You are correct that raising money is the greatest challenge facing any media ministry.  It is their lifeblood.  However, about "billions" potentially tuning-in, that's the illusion of media ministry where reality is far different.  For example, in 1983 many denominations were complaining that media ministries took donor money that otherwise would be going to them.  So the National Religious Broadcasters commissioned the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania to do a study.  The results were landmark because they were the first real description of the viewing/listening audience.  I studied that report in-depth while I was at Faith For Today.  No, they were not taking money that would otherwise be given to churches.  But what else they detailed was shocking.  First and foremost, the viewing audiences were a tiny fraction of claims and "millions" turned out to be a few thousand, or even a few hundred.  The "typical" viewer of a religious telecast was a woman in her latter 50s or older living in the South or Southwest on a limited income, had only a high school education, watched to confirm what they already believed and were most likely to pick the preachers who confirmed their beliefs. 

In all Gospel outreach we must at some point examine whether or not they are delivering results at an affordable cost.  I grew up wanting to work in TV evangelism.  Bill Fagal was my role model and I had the privilege of working for a period with the ministry he started.  But the biggest lesson I learned in that experience was that the multiplication of communication channels has diluted our potential for any program to be effective to such a point that we must consider letting them expire while we learn other, more effective methods for using the media. 

Edwin A. Schwisow
2012-04-16 12:36 PM

Ordinarily a corporation of the size and complexity of Seventh-day Adventism in North America will have an advertising/media budget that will be meticulously allocated by media gurus to bring carefully defined results. When this is done well, the results more than amply justify the expense.

By contrast, a lot of our media expense is currently concerned with "getting the message out there for the people in the traditional way." Aside from this being a particularly expensive and low-return approach to marketing, it can be used to manipulate donors, and by donors to manipulate programming. How many times have we seen a program "paid for" by a sacrificial donor—a program that simply does not fit the mix where it appears, or address the intended audience in a manner and with a message that will move it to action?

There are some ministries that thrive on pay-as-you-go donative support. But in the complex world of media, we would do well to back away from the methods of the past and build our strategy directly into our corporate goals and budgets. Goals should be set, expectations articulated, and "postmortems" intentionally conducted. This by no means means we cannot involve the current Adventist media groups, which represent a great deal of talent and know-how. Now may be an opportune time for the church to reassess its traditions and move toward a future where we use our media dollars more analytically.

michael tucker
2012-04-16 8:54 PM

Thanks for the story on the changes at VOP. Since I am with Faith For Today I will not comment on the changes at our sister ministry but will limit my comments to the work of our media ministries in general.

After Elder Jackson made his statement regarding the money spent in media ministry and the small name recognition that Adventists have in North America, the media ministry leaders reminded Jackson that name recognition has never been our mandate. If that were our mandate we would have taken an entirely different strategy.  In fact, not much along the lines of a mandate has ever been issued from the Division for it's media ministries.  This is, I believe, what Elder Jackson intends to change - a change, I hasten to ad, that I welcome.  

When I came to Faith For Today in 2004, I asked for a mandate. How were we expected to help fulfill the vision of the North American Division? I was told that no such mandate existed. We were expected to set our own course. Elder Jackson appears to be eager to change this by giving the media ministries a part to play in the overall strategic plan of the Division.  

As to the effectiveness of the ministries in reaching the public, allow me to share this information from Fatih For Today.  First, our flagship program, Lifestyle Magazine, is a talk/interview show that is now aired on over 250 stations/networks across the golbe. The amazing thing is that we don't pay for airtime! Religious and secular networks and stations have chosen to air our broadcast for free! This is also true of the largest Christian television network, Trinity Broadcasting. The cost of airing Lifestyle Magazine on that one network would be $14,000.00 per week, but Trinity values the program so highly that they air it for free. Their daytime numbers rival those of Fox, ABC, CBS, and NBC, and our program pulls some of their best daytime numbers. (12:30 pm CST, 10:30 am PST on Thursdays).  

Currently, another secular network is in discussion with Faith For Today about possibly paying for us to produce a number of episodes of our new show, Mad About Marriage, for exclusive airing on their network. This is a new day for Adventist Media and speaks of the quality of programs we produce.  

Speaking of quality, recently Lifestyle Magazine won the top award in our category at the WorldFest Houston Film Festival, one of the oldest and largest secular film festivals in the world. We went up against over 230 other programs with larger production budgets. Awards like this and the fact that so many stations and networks carry our programming without charge tells us that more than a few hundred are watching our shows.

In addition, Lifestyle Magazine has it's own channel on Roku and is carried on Direct TV's Video On Demand. Our content is also viewed on YouTube, our websites, and on Mobile Apps. The Odyssey Network (formerly owners of the Hallmark Channel), created an app called "Call on Faith," a daily devotional app that is owned by 40 or 50 thousand smart phone users. They gave Faith For Today a channel on their app which we entitled Mad About Marriage. Ours is the most watched channel on the entire app. Our programming is being viewd and is well received.

Television alone will rarely be directly responsible for baptisms. The local church is still the primary source of baptisms. Television and radio can generate interests, change attitudes, and engender new thinking. We can help bring people to public meetings and to our churches. However, baptisms are still the result of personal, one-on-one relationships that are best formed on the local level.

I hope this at least adds a bit to the discussions.  

Mike Tucker
Speaker/Director
Faith For Today


William Noel
2012-04-17 11:25 AM

Mike,

As a member of the creative team at FFT when the original "Christian Lifestyle Magazine" was started, I appreciate such updates and am happy to hear that various outlets are being used.  When I was there our mandate, if you could call it such, was a continuation of Bill Fagal's original objective of conveying spiritual values to people not normally attracted to overtly religious programming.  Our greatest challenge was not fund raising, but getting church leadership to understand that methods other than preaching could teach those values and concepts. 

Edwin A. Schwisow
2012-04-16 11:02 PM

I have never served directly on any of the media ministry boards or on the Media Center staff (I like the Northwest, thanks very much), but I certainly had many meetings with media staff and leadership during my years in union conference communication work. One of the sadder impressions from the era of 1976-2003 was what I saw as frustrated sadness on the part of media staff, who felt that they somehow didn't seem to have a "home" in the strategic plan of either the General Conference or the North American Division, and could not understand why it had to be so.

Perhaps we now have a dangerous opportunity to gather up lessons from the past and fasion a new and better day for Adventist media and those talented individuals who have hooked their wagon to its star....

William Noel
2012-04-17 11:31 AM

Edwin,
There was a specific reason for your observation.  General Conference leaders felt that everything had to be part of the corporate structure and fit their model for how things should be done.  Instead of each ministry having an offering date through the year they were consolidated into a single offering date in February with the result being a dramatic reduction in giving.  The people they put on the Media Center Board to "direct the ministries" had little or no understanding of how a media ministry actually work.  Imagine how you would feel if you were being told to do things you knew from hard experience would not be effective and then being chastized for the failure to deliver the imagined results.  This is why I believe our media ministries should be independent.

Edwin A. Schwisow
2012-04-17 11:59 AM

It's a really tragic story, if only we can learn from our shortcomings during the past 40 years, the millions invested in hyper-expensive tuition may still be redeemed, in part.

David IJB
2012-04-17 8:20 AM

Why is it that VOP, AF, 3ABN or Faith for Today are not found, along with their counterparts such as TBN and Billy Graham Evangelic Ass., on sits such as “Charity Navigator” that rate the effectiveness of charitable programs?  Financial transparency I believe would increase donations and fund raising. Several SDA organizations are listed such as ADRA, Frontier Missions, LLU, Adventist Southeast Asia, and Maranatha Volunteers. If fundraiser’s could show responsible accounting for charity dollars, I believe this would open up new channels among the younger generation that does not always trust what the church says.  

David IJB
2012-04-20 9:09 PM

MinistryWatch.com gives a “D” to VOP for Transparency and “F” for Amazing Facts along with Benny Hinn Ministries. Catholic Charities of USA and In Touch Ministries of Charles Stanley gets and “A”

Ervin Taylor
2012-04-22 1:31 AM

I wish that David IJB or anyone else interested in the topic of financial transparency of Adventist media and religious programming organizations would consider writing an objective article that reviews the MinistryWatch grading system and give readers a list of the "grades" given.  The D grade for VOP in terms of transparency is interesting.  I guess I am not surprised about the F given Amazing Facts.

Jim Walters
2012-04-23 5:55 PM

This thread of comments is excellent.  Too often religion and ethics are two separate entities, but in the best of the Adventist tradition this has not been the case as Adventism is holistic--a lifestyle that includes integrity as intrinsic to truth.
 
Just today a Harvard professor of business commented on the Mexican Wal-Mart bribery scandal: today's international corporations must have moral standards of conduct that are upheld, regardless of local, regional practices.  
 
The moral for Adventism: the media ministries are seen by the public as an integral part of Seventh-day Adventism--as I think they in fact are. 
 
The corporate church, and each of us members individually, have a moral stake in seeing that our media ministries are totally transparent.

J David Newman
2012-04-23 8:30 PM

David LJB, I would like to second Erv Taylor's suggestion.  Would you write an article or at least supply us with enough information that we could publish on the issue of transparency with our organizations that solicit funds?  Send it to me, J. David Newman, at adventisttoday1966@gmail.com

Seminary student
2013-01-09 4:28 AM

Fred , wasn't the best choice as the speaker of VOP . He doesn't have any emotions , no passion to preach . They need to get a young pastor who knows how to preach . All these old people need to retire and give opportunity to young pastor . A good choice would be pastor Kevin Paulson  , this man understands the gospel and as speaker of the voice of prophecy people would hear about LGT . Yes , folks this is not a game , the gospel is something serious . 

Anonymous



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