Introducing Jean Christen, The New COO for Influence Lab Women

Introducing Jean Christen, The New COO for Influence Lab Women

It’s our privilege to introduce the new Influence Lab Chief Operating Officer Jean Christen! Read below as Jean shares the life journey God has helped her walk, what compelled her to dive head-first into volunteering with The Influence Lab, and what’s next on the docket for mentorship programs, events and building the IN Lab community.

 

Kathleen Cooke: As the new COO of Influence Lab Women, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Jean Christen: I come from a long line of determined (stubborn) but forward-thinking women. My grandmother, a Buddhist, gave my mother the freedom to choose her faith. My mother chose Catholicism, and while she took my sister and me to mass every Sunday, she refrained from baptizing us as babies and passed on the gift of religious freedom.

Through my upbringing, I knew of a distant God, a “force” that was good. I felt He cared about me, but I never wanted to bother Him when there were more important people and more significant problems that needed His attention. With my background in Eastern religion, I was more open than most to the philosophies and practices of the New Age Movement. As a result, I not only adapted various beliefs and thoughts but propagated them. My father passed away while I was in college and the depression that visited me drove me deeper into an awareness of my spiritual emptiness. Having explored every major world religion, I finally decided to give Christianity a try. With no expectations or trust in its belief system, I said the Sinner’s Prayer with abandon because I didn’t think it would affect me. I was wrong. Not long after saying that prayer, I experienced physical manifestations and a spiritual attack, but along with this attack, I also had an insatiable hunger that only the Biblical Word could satisfy. I had been ‘born again.’

I was later ‘baptized in the Spirit’ at a Catholic retreat during my first experience with Taizé prayer. As we chanted, I began to recognize the depths of my unworthiness as the recipient of His love and grace, and I wept like I’ve never wept before in my life.

I met and married my college sweetheart, who was a believer at the time when I was not. He evidently was not blessed with the gift of evangelism but had an abundance of unconditional love for me (that’s a story for another time). God blessed us with six daughters and a home in Palos Verdes (CA).

Professionally, God led me into the business world. I was head of product development and global sourcing for Thomas Kinkade, “the famous Painter of Light” and a brother in Christ. I then went into the publishing world as the managing director of gifts and children’s books for Harvest House Publishers. I needed a break from the corporate world to take care of my family and unexpectedly found myself leading several community nonprofit boards. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt called to enter the media/entertainment business. I initially ran away from God’s leading and calling, like Jonah. But God kept bringing me back. Within a year, I found myself working with companies like Mandeville and the Gotham Group, producing projects with Emmy-winning producers, Oscar-nominated crews, and celebrated directors. I’ve since formed my own company, 8C Entertainment, to acquire and produce content that I would want to watch with Jesus.

Kathleen: Why have you gotten involved with The Influence Lab and Influence Lab Women?

Jean: As a new implant in entertainment, I actively sought spiritual encouragement, inspiration, and fellowship with other believers in the industry. After vetting several “Christian” organizations, I settled on following the Hollywood Prayer Network, where I learned about The Influence Lab. I attended a couple of webinars and wrote in after the one with producer Cindy Bond. She was so encouraging and inspiring, and I got so much out of that webinar that I decided I would give more than a donation. I wrote in and offered my time and talents, too. Two months later, I got a reply from you, Kathleen Cooke, the founder herself!

You graciously offered to meet for coffee, and our delightful meeting (God’s ordained meeting) lasted well past three hours and would have gone on for hours more had I not needed to pick up my kids from school. You asked me to be the COO (Chief Operating Officer) for Influence Lab Women on the spot. I think you saw that I was a little taken aback because you said, “Jean, there have been a few times in my life where I feel God tap me on the shoulder, and this is one of them.” You didn’t know this then, but one of my life Scriptures is “judge the tree by the fruit that it bears.” As I considered that scripture in my head, your request, and the decades of good fruit you and Phil have produced in ministry, I felt a peace that was not humanly possible given my daily “to-do” list. I knew I had to come alongside you like Aaron did for Moses and hold up your arms as you lead. So, I immediately said yes. That was the Monday before my first in-person Influence Lab Women event on Friday, April 29, 2022. It’s only been a couple of months, but we have already put together exciting new programs and initiatives that I cannot wait to roll out to our Influence Lab family!

 Kathleen: I am over the moon blessed with you saying yes, too! You have been such a gift and an answer to my prayer that God would bring me my “Aaron and Hur” to hold up my arms and enable me to fight the cultural battles “for such a time as this.” Moses needed a priestly hand – that was Aaron (who is also represented by Jesus in our lives), and He needed an administrative/business hand that was Hur.

I find it so beautiful and encouraging that God somehow always inserts women into the stories in the Bible. Hur is said to have been the son of Miriam, the sister to Moses and Aaron. Women wouldn’t have been allowed on the battlefields then, so I believe God sent a woman representative – her son.

So, what’s happening and coming up that you have been working on for The Influence Lab and Influence Lab Women?

Jean: Oh, my goodness, so many good things! I want first to thank everyone who took the time out of their day to complete and turn in the Member Survey. It’s because of their input that we’re finalizing our mentorship/ life coaching program; setting up personal prayer partners with our ministry partner, the Hollywood Prayer Network; selecting teachers for a 6-week Bible study program; and changing up our Friday night in-person events to Saturday brunches to give ourselves more time for fellowship and networking. The master calendar with webinars and in-person events for our Hollywood and Atlanta (soon Nashville) Chapter groups will be posted shortly.
Attention Readers: be sure to save the dates and check in regularly for updates and exciting new events! By the way, we are extending the survey collection window for those who want to share their thoughts and ideas and haven’t yet.

 

If you haven’t filled out our survey yet, click here to answer a few quick questions!

Have a heart for arts and entertainment, media and leadership? Let us know if you would like to get involved with The Influence Lab! We are expanding our reach and we have new roles and leadership opportunities waiting for your unique talents. The best part of volunteering is getting to serve with other like-minded women. We need to hold up each other’s arms in the challenging careers and culture we’re engaged in. I am beyond excited to uplift and build up our Influence Lab community TOGETHER!

 

 

Netflix “Sweet Magnolias” Showrunner Helps Kick Off New Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s Chapter

Netflix “Sweet Magnolias” Showrunner Helps Kick Off New Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s Chapter

Based in Los Angeles, The Influence Lab kicked off its new Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s chapter with a meeting featuring Netflix showrunner Sheryl J. Anderson of the hit series “Sweet Magnolias.” 

Los Angeles, CA (June 16, 2022) – Cofounded by media executives Phil and Kathleen Cooke with a vision to transform culture through media, the Los Angeles-based The Influence Lab extended its impact this past week with the inaugural meeting of the Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s chapter. The in-person June event featured Sheryl J. Anderson, creator and showrunner of the Netflix hit series, “Sweet Magnolias.”

Called the “Hollywood of the South,” Atlanta is a growing hub of film and television production with tax incentives drawing in major Hollywood productions and new studios. With the growing film crew base comes a need for community, which was one of the compelling reasons to launch the new Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s chapter. Anderson’s Netflix show is filming in Atlanta and presented an opportunity to have the seasoned showrunner speak at the event.

“Remember we are living on God’s schedule,” Sheryl encouraged the attending female actors, producers, directors and crew members based in Atlanta. “Figure out your path in this industry and it will come to pass in God’s time.” In an industry that can be prone to “people-pleasing” to advance your career, she admonished the women, “You can never please others at the expense of yourself or your work.”

Flying in from Los Angeles for the event, Kathleen Cooke was accompanied by Influence Lab Women Events director Ayanna Anene. Anna Oakley, the Influence Lab Atlanta Women coordinator and representatives of the Hollywood Prayer Network in Atlanta opened the evening in prayer.

“We heard thank you’s over and over again,” shared Kathleen Cooke after the gathering. “There’s a growing community of women who want to align their faith as they work in the new Atlanta ‘Hollywood South’ industry.”

Watch for the replay of the Atlanta meeting at https://influencelab.com  For more information about the Atlanta Influence Lab Women’s chapter or the Hollywood Influence Lab Women’s base, contact info@influencelab.com.

It’s Time to Dramatically Change the Way We Think About Missions

It’s Time to Dramatically Change the Way We Think About Missions

The digital revolution has changed everything we know about mission strategy. If you’re not familiar with missions movements, we’ve arrived at an interesting place that calls for strategic efforts. Here’s a quick overview…

Since the Victorian age, missionaries from Western countries (particularly the United Kingdom and the United States) have shouldered the largest burden when it comes to missions. Men and woman like Hudson TaylorWilliam Carey, and Lottie Moon not only pioneered the work of the gospel, but actually impacted the greater culture in the countries they served.

The idea of sending missionaries from the West to reach those in other countries made a powerful impact, but at a great cost. The sheer expense of training a Western missionary, teaching them the language, funding the trip, paying their living expenses, and more can be great.

That and other challenges eventually led to what I consider “Phase II” of missions, which was raising up local Christians to work in their own countries. After all these indigenous missionaries were already in-country, and they knew the community, the language, and the customs.

And now, an even greater revolution is taking place in missions.

It’s no surprise that the digital revolution, accelerated by the challenges presented by COVID-19, has created immense opportunities on the global mission field. In 2021, the number of smartphone users in the world reached 6.378 billion, which translates to 80.63% of the world’s population. The opportunity to share the gospel via live-streaming, online video, social media, web content and more is absolutely enormous.

But with that increased opportunity comes the necessity to train a new generation to reach the world through ever evolving and ever-increasing digital platforms. I’ve often said that seminaries and Bible schools generally do a great job of teaching pastors and church leaders about preaching, teaching the Bible, and how to lead a church, but they fall woefully short when it comes to sharing the gospel via media and digital communication.

We launched The Influence Lab for that purpose. Through partnerships with Christian media organizations around the world, as well as international broadcast media platforms, we are attempting to create a global network for training the next generation of Christian media professionals – pastors, ministry leaders and their media and communications teams – to share the most important story of all, the good news of Jesus Christ.

The need is greater than you might imagine. At any moment, I have multiple requests on my desk from churches and ministry organizations around the world asking us to come teach on media and communication. Our recent trip to Italy was a prime example.

Sabaoth Church in Milan leads a network of 75 churches across Italy and Eastern Europe. Kathleen and I spoke at their annual conference which included a special media and communication session. We also conducted training for their School of Missions called “Hanger 28” (like a plane hangar, it builds leaders who can fly). I was particularly impressed with this vibrant church that is focused on reaching the media-driven generation.

Certainly many churches, ministries, and their leaders have a social media presence, but are we really thinking deeply about how we can engage this new “digital mission field” with our message? Other than trying to amp up our “likes,” how many organizations have a strategic plan for global evangelism through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or through emerging digital tools?

While we should continue to mobilize and equip traditional and indigenous missionaries, I also believe it’s time to shift from primarily thinking about missions in terms of geographical boundaries and start thinking in terms of digital boundaries. From my perspective, that’s a massive audience just waiting to hear our message.

-Phil Cooke

P.S. I invite you to partner with the work of The Influence Lab and consider a special year-end gift. Your support helps us train churches in countries like Italy and Russia and South Africa with pastors who yearn for the “know-how” to navigate the digital age and to do it effectively.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The need to share our message never changes, but how we share it does. This is the moment to embrace the digital world. Give now.

Want to know more? Read also: The Influence Lab Earns Guidestar’s 2021 Silver Seal of Transparency

Italy and Turkey – A Long Awaited Trip During the Pandemic

Italy and Turkey – A Long Awaited Trip During the Pandemic

When the pandemic began in March 2020, one of the nations it struck hardest was Italy. Phil and I were booked to speak in Milan that year, but with the country on lockdown, our trip was cancelled. We were pleased to finally reschedule for late October this year and experience first-hand that God is alive and well in His Church in Italy.

Under the leadership of Pastor Roselem Boerner Faccio, Sabaoth Church is thriving in Milan. The city is known as one of the top global fashion and design cities in the world and Sabaoth’s congregation is infused with an abundance of creativity. They have tapped into the Source of all creativity, our Creator God, and the church has been blessed to an overflowing community of talented artists.

Phil and I were honored to speak to these artists, designers and leaders (mostly 20-40 year-olds) who are passionate to personally know God more fully and tell others of His love and redemptive life. This thriving young church understands that to reach this next generation it must include the use of effective media.

Phil spoke to their Bible training school, Hanger28, and then both he and I spoke at multiple sessions of Sabaoth’s annual gathering called Conference One. While the 1000 seat auditorium was still under governmental restrictive use, 300 people were able to attend in person with over 1500 viewing online.

Phil spoke on leadership and the practical use of media, messaging and branding, as well as on how to effectively connect with people in the digital age. I brought insights on understanding and communicating to multi-generations: the boomers, millennials and iGens who now use media 24/7. If we want to reach the culture with the love and gospel of Jesus we must understand what they see and hear and have a firm grasp on what will resonate with their thinking.

It was then off to Istanbul, Turkey for five days as we toured the city’s rich historical and religious sites. While there, we connected with a group working with business leaders and students and shared at their gathering. We gave them tips on the best use of digital media while letting the light and love of God shine forth when asked questions. It was an interesting social climate as those working in this underground grass roots ministry constantly reminded us that the group was being watched and listened to and that their class could be shut down at any moment.

For Phil and I, it was a good reminder of how blessed we are to live in a country that still allows for freedom of faith and thought, while people in other nations live in fear. One of the only ways to reach out to those seeking the truth of God in these religiously restrained countries is through media. It’s why training and encouraging those working in these restricted countries is so vital.

Traveling globally with the ongoing pandemic was a challenge. Yet, the joy of sharing and teaching on the frontlines in other countries was joyous and rewarding. The need to teach and train leaders with the effective use of media continues to be great and never ending as we are constantly asked, “When can you come?”

Phil and I and the entire Influence Lab team are always blessed when we hear from you and are encouraged by your prayers and support for us. We are so very grateful. Our pray for you this New Year, 2022, is that God will bring you joy and continue to bless your coming and going as we all seek to see Jesus lifted high and His Kingdom flourish. -Kathleen Cooke

Your partnership makes a difference! Consider a year-end gift to The Influence Lab and help us continue to meet the need for training leaders to use digital media effectively to share the gospel. The gospel message never changes, but in this digital age, how we share it does. Give here.

Special offer! As a thank you for your generous partnership of $25.00 or more to The Influence Lab, you’ll have your choice of these books by Phil and Kathleen Cooke:
Maximize Your Influence: How to Make Digital Media Work for Your Church, Your Ministry, and You
Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture (New paperback edition!)
Unique: The Ultimate Planner for Creative Professionals
Give your gift today!

An INNER VIEW with Suzanne Niles

An INNER VIEW with Suzanne Niles

Ever wonder what the secret to joy is? In this month’s INNER VIEW, I talk with Suzanne Niles, Director of Relationship Development at Broadstreet Publishing and a faithful woman with years of experience in the entertainment industry as an executive producer, actress and publicist. Find out how her relationship with the Lord has impacted her life and career.

Kathleen Cooke: This month’s Influence Lab Journal focuses on JOY. Joy comes when we are confident and contented in our relationships, and specifically, our most important relationship, the one we have with God. What have you learned about the importance of a personal in-depth relationship with God? 

Suzanne Niles: An intimate relationship with Christ takes personal deliberate action and faith.  Action like that which moved the woman with the issue of blood to discreetly approach Jesus believing, “If only I can touch the hem of His robe, I will be healed.” She didn’t feel she needed to present her case; she didn’t have to say a word, but she determined to have confidence in His miraculous power. She had faith, a faith certain in who He was and what He could accomplish. A faith that persevered without doubt. Make your move towards the savior… He’s more than able and He’s waiting. 

Kathleen: You talked about the bleeding woman’s “confidence” in the miraculous power of God. It’s confidence that we often fail at that cripples us from being obedient and acting on God’s direction. What has God taught you about stepping out of fear, embracing His plans and moving forward in His confident arms? 

Suzanne: I wished I had understood earlier in my life how to judge the inner motive of my heart and to consider my underlying reasons for my actions. So many times, we do things because we want to please others and the only one we really need to please is God. We should love, not only to have that love returned but because we are loving others for Him. We shouldn’t act to have our good deeds noticed but because we want to be His hands and feet. We should sacrifice for Him because of His great sacrifice on the cross for us. I wish I could say every moment of my life was lived solely to honor Him, but it wasn’t. Yet it has now grown to be my heart’s greatest desire. 

Kathleen: Your work keeps you surrounded around influencers, accomplished artists, leaders and authors. How has that impacted your life and the choices you’ve made for your lifestyle? 

Suzanne: I learned during a time of financial lack to find encouragement by focusing on my future heavenly dwelling. While others around me were building their dream homes and traveling to exotic locales, I set my eyes on the hope of the eternal dwelling Jesus has prepared for me. Now that the finances have resolved my perspective has remained with the realization that time is short and earthly possessions will not last. All that is eternal are people and what matters is where they will spend eternity. It is not about what I can gain on earth but how I boldly share the gospel with all I encounter so that they may gain heaven.  Fulfilling the great commission must be our focus. 

Kathleen: I love that. It’s about others, God’s eternal Kingdom and the contentment of God’s eternal love we find in Jesus. What would you tell someone about how they can begin to take on that “sweet aroma” of Jesus’ contentment in their life?

Suzanne: We carry the life of Christ in us… let that sink in… let it amaze you and convict you. We are responsible for how we represent Christ. For a while, after I had given my heart to Jesus I backslid. I don’t ever want to walk a single step outside of God’s will again. My gracious God was waiting with open arms of forgiveness and acceptance when I was done chasing the empty wind. But what if I hadn’t repented or lived to regret my rebellion? I shudder to think where I might be now. Hold Him close and serve Him well. He is the only way, truth, and life and without Him people will perish. Let the legacy you leave be a life lived for the salvation of others to the glory of God.

Suzanne Niles has worked in different facets of the entertainment business for several decades as executive producer, actress and publicist. Director of Relationship Development at Broadstreet Publishing, she is the co-author of “Fast Friends, the Amazing Power of Friendship, Fasting and Prayer,” contributing writer on six published devotionals and enjoys pursuing new authors.  Suzanne is also part of Beautifully Flawed Productions founded by Shari Rigby with Claire Yorita Lee.

Follow Suzanne Niles on Twitter,  Instagram and LinkedIn.