by Jeff Finley
A 1999 New York Times obituary ran under the headline “Bob Briner, 63, Innovator in Tennis and Television.”
The Times noted that Briner, co-founder of ProServ Television, and tennis legend Arthur Ashe won Emmys for their documentary “A Hard Road to Glory.” The newspaper reported that Briner, as executive director of the Association of Tennis Professionals in the 1970s, “helped bring together the warring governing bodies of men’s tennis.” Briner, “the first Western sports executive to enter China after the Cultural Revolution,” also received credit for his NFL and NBA work.
While detailing success in the sports arena, the eight-paragraph obituary waited until its final sentence to report that Briner “spoke in churches and on college campuses and wrote seven books, focusing on Christianity.”
Briner’s books took him into new spheres of influence during the last several years of his life. Briner’s “The Management Methods of Jesus” and “Business Basics from the Bible” helped readers apply biblical principles to their everyday tasks. His 1993 book debut, “Roaring Lambs,” included his “contention that the church is almost a nonentity when it comes to shaping culture,” and he urged Christians to “penetrate key areas of culture to have a preserving effect.”
The Free Methodist author frequently questioned the tactics of fellow evangelical Christians, describing the American Family Association’s media boycotts as a “significant disservice to the cause of Christ.” In the posthumously published “Final Roar,” Briner wrote, “Neither the abandonment nor ghettoizing of the arts serve America — or the church.”
Briner, a former high school coach, became a favorite philosopher of Christian musicians such as Michael W. Smith, who co-hosted a radio show with Briner. Top performers released a “Roaring Lambs” tribute CD that included a song by Jars of Clay, which formed at Greenville (Ill.) College. The band’s success pleased Briner, an alumnus of both Greenville and Central Christian College of Kansas.
Abdominal cancer ended Briner’s earthly life 13 years ago, but his example and words continue to inspire Christians to be culture shapers.