The primary responsibility of every newspaper is to cover its community. The Atlanta Journal Constitution covers Atlanta. The Macon Telegraph covers Macon. The Augusta Chronicle covers Augusta. And The Christian Index, of course, covers the Georgia Baptist community, which is arguably the largest community in the state with some 1.4 million people.
Unlike the communities covered by the 200 or so secular newspapers across Georgia, our community isn’t a geographical one. It’s a faith community. We’re bound together not by topography but by theology.
That’s why we place such a premium on our coverage of Georgia Baptists. It’s what we do.
But we also understand that every good newspaper must also inform its community about what’s going on in the rest of the world.
Why should Georgia Baptists have to rely on secular newspapers with their secular worldviews to receive crucial information?
Why shouldn’t Georgia Baptists get their state, national and world news from a newspaper with a decidedly Christian worldview?
The fact is someone is going to inform Georgia Baptists about what’s going on in the world. I think that should be the Index. That’s why we have been taking steps over the past year to position the Index to provide Georgia Baptists with up-to-the-minute news from around the world, all day, every day.
But please allow me to repeat this: First and foremost, the Index will always major on telling the stories of our Georgia Baptist family. That is our primary charge. That will not change. And it’s so rewarding to tell those stories.
Not long ago, we shared the story of the group of Baptist men, mostly retirees, who walk the trails of the Georgia backwoods to tell other hikers about Jesus. We shared the story of the football coach who gave a kidney to a brother in Christ just because he needed one and because he just happened to have one to spare. And we shared the story of the Bethlehem church that baptized 114 new believers on a single Sunday. And there have been so many more. An October to October comparison showed a 283 percent increase in the number of Index articles about Georgia Baptists.
We also believe we owe it to our Georgia Baptist community to provide the information they need to make sense of the world around them.
How can we as Georgia Baptists be expected to engage the world if we don’t have accurate, trustworthy information about what’s happening in the world?
You may have noticed more stories from The Associated Press, the world’s largest and most trusted newsgathering operation. We’ve formed a partnership with the AP that allows us to provide you with the latest news from all corners of the globe, as it happens.
You may remember an email written by retired Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis a few years ago that received lots of attention. It addressed the importance of reading on the part of military leaders who consider themselves too busy to read.
The problem with being too busy to read, Mattis said, is that military officers have to learn the hard way, which, too often, translates into body bags.
“By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men," he said.
Mattis went on to say that, thanks to his reading, he has never been caught flat-footed or at a loss for how to address a problem.
“It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights up what is often a dark path ahead,” he said.
Truthfully, we’d like for you to consider every article we share from around the world as a call to prayer, knowing that when a natural disaster hits in some faraway place, Southern Baptist missionaries are right in the thick of it, ministering to the hurting, or that when a famine takes hold in an African country, Southern Baptist missionaries on the ground are also having to do without, or that when a civil war breaks out a world away, Southern Baptist missionaries serving there are in harm’s way.
When we report to you a tragedy within our own borders, we’d like you to consider that a call to prayer, as well. Pray for victims. Pray for our pastors and congregations on the scene.
Through most of the life of The Christian Index we have been limited in how many articles we could share by the amount of space on a printed page. But since the newspaper moved online several years ago, we have no such space limitations. We can provide you with all the state news, all the national news, all the world news, all the business news, all the sports news, everything, without ever having to worry about running out of space.
You also know Georgia Baptists are a people of varied interests. We work on farms and in financial institutions. We’re manufacturers and mailmen. We’re inventors and investors. We’re preachers and paralegals.
We love to hike, hunt and horseback ride.
We love the Braves and the Bulldogs, the Falcons and the Hawks, and the Eagles and the Owls. We love the Panthers and the Bears. We love the Yellowjackets. And we love to read stories about our teams.
Since space isn’t a hinderance, we’re able to share those kinds of stories with you. Someone asked the other day on Facebook why The Christian Index runs sports articles. We consider sports articles a call to prayer as well. Picture if you will that person who has been in the hospital, perhaps for weeks, sick and in pain, bored out of his or her wits from lying in bed in a tiny room. They’re living lives of bed pans and catheters and needles and wires and tubes. Perhaps that person happens to love the Georgia Bulldogs. Can you imagine the wonderful distraction a good football game might be for a person in that circumstance? You could pray for that reader and others in desperate straits, asking the Lord to use the sports article to provide a dose of encouragement, perhaps even joy.
Why not pray for every athlete and coach mentioned by name in those articles?
For that matter, why not pray for every world leader, for every grieving parent, for every teacher, police officer, or nurse mentioned in those articles. You would never run out of people to pray for. You could pray for spiritual awakenings. You could pray for comfort for the hurting. That’s what our brand of journalism is all about.
The world of journalism has changed dramatically over my nearly 40 years in the business. We’re able to accomplish far more today thanks to advances in technology.
For me, it’s really exciting to apply some of those advances at The Christian Index.
Our overarching goal is to provide you even more stories from our Georgia Baptist community while also providing you comprehensive, unbiased coverage of the world around us.
Why? Because, as I said, if we are to engage the world, we have to know what’s happening in the world.
Roger Alford is editor of The Christian Index. This column was adapted from remarks he made to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Executive Committee last month.
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