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Media guru Phil Cooke urges Christians to focus amid growing distractions

Members of the audience stand and sing along with the College of Charleston Gospel Choir during the 12th annual Charleston Leadership Prayer Breakfast Wednesday at the Charleston Area Convention Center. Buy this photo

Increasing distractions from things like email, texts, Twitter and Facebook have made it tougher than ever for people to focus well enough to discern God’s purpose for their lives. And getting Christianity’s message out into that same communications deluge has become equally challenging, an international media consultant told a group of about 1,000 Christians gathered Wednesday at the Charleston Area Convention Center.

Phil Cooke added that the faith requires focus so that individuals can fulfill their life’s missions and spread the gospel worldwide.

“Most people fail today because they simply get distracted,” Cooke said. “God wired us to have that focus, but we give it away little by little every day.”

Cooke spoke at the 12th annual Charleston Leadership Prayer Breakfast, an ecumenical event organized by the nonprofit Charleston Leadership Foundation. The prayer breakfast, its premier event, aims to bring together Lowcountry Christians of all stripes despite theological and political differences that can divide the faithful at other times.

“The adversary divides this community. It divides people, and it divides organizations,” said the Rev. James Gallant III of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Mission Church. “We live in a tremendous community, and if I pray something today, I pray that our community becomes one.”

Community leaders echoed the sentiment, urging the diverse group gathered for one morning of prayer to work as a united group even afterward.

“The community that prays together not only is more likely to stay together but is a community that is more determined to work together to make the world we live in more just and successful for all,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said.

The prayer breakfast included performances by Christal Brown-Gibson and the College of Charleston Gospel Choir, which brought the mostly business-suit crowd to their feet and their hands up into the air in worship.

The crowd also gave a standing ovation to Cooke, a California-based media consultant and writer who produces a range of media programming. He and his wife, Kathleen, founded Cooke Pictures to help nonprofit and religious groups tell their stories through media, including television, short films, online platforms and social media.

“We help Christians not stink at the media,” joked Cooke, who traveled from California with his wife to speak free of charge at the breakfast and several other events.

He encouraged Christians not to see media as an enemy to criticize and boycott. Instead, he sees the Hollywood world he works in as a mission field, one to pray for and work within to change.

“What kind of renaissance could occur in that community?” he said. “If Christians could embrace media, we could have huge influence around the world.”

He noted that much of what America exports to other nations is contained in movies and television. Changing Hollywood’s values — and therefore its products — could have a global impact, he said.

Cooke, who has a doctorate in theology, is the author of several books, including “Jolt!: Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing.”

The Cookes’ clients have included Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and The Salvation Army.

Cooke will speak at a pastors’ breakfast at 8 a.m. Thursday at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston.

Kathleen Cooke, a media professional and former actress, will address a women’s luncheon at noon Thursday at Seacoast Church’s Mount Pleasant campus.

For tickets to either, go to clf1670.org or call 471-0101.

Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.

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