Transistors and Transitions

18 05 2008

Listening to the Radio
Listening to the Radio, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Saturday was graduation–my last graduation as a full-time faculty member of the Moody Bible Institute.  Earlier this month I handed in my resignation to the Dean of the Faculty in order to return to Moody Radio.  Beginning July 1st, I will be a full-time piece producer for Prime Time America. 

Over the last 18 months I have produced 1 or 2 pieces a month (many of these pieces have been featured here) and have come to realize how much I enjoy this type of work.  However, the main difference between what I have been doing and this new position is that I am supposed to be doing a piece everyday instead of a few “when I have time.”  That is a tall order.  However, I am looking forward to the challenge.

One of the frustrations for me as a professor of radio studies has been that many of the things that God has been doing in our life as a family were not easily brought into the classroom–importance of family worship, the benefits of following God’s plan for the family, etc.  One of the benefits of this new position is the opportunity to bring these ideas to my work–I’m going to be paid to tell others about these issues (and a whole lot more). 

While we are nervous about some of the realities of making this transition (no more “summer vacation”), we are also very excited about the possibilities that it will afford in reaching a broader audience with topics that are significant for families in the Moody Radio audience.

Please pray with us as we begin this new adventure as a family.

From Psalm 78

 1 Give ear, O my people, to my law;
         Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
 2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
         I will utter dark sayings of old,
 3 Which we have heard and known,
         And our fathers have told us.
 4 We will not hide them from their children,
         Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
         And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
 5 For He established a testimony in Jacob,
         And appointed a law in Israel,
         Which He commanded our fathers,
         That they should make them known to their children;
 6 That the generation to come might know them,
         The children who would be born,
         That they may arise and declare them to their children,
 7 That they may set their hope in God,
         And not forget the works of God,
         But keep His commandments;
 8 And may not be like their fathers,
         A stubborn and rebellious generation,
         A generation that did not set its heart aright,
         And whose spirit was not faithful to God.  


The Role of Christian Radio in the Christian Family

9 02 2008

Last October, I wrote this entry on the role of Christian Radio in the home. It has been my hope since then to write 3 or 4 other entries on related themes…while I have not done so yet, I hope to over the coming months.

Girl at Radio
Girl at Radio, Library of Congress

A number of years ago, Pamela and I were returning home from a homeschool conference and as we reviewed the weekend’s challenge of turning our hearts to our home/kids/family, we both were struck with the same seemingly unrelated question: “What would a homeschool radio station look like?” Not a station run by a homeschool family [though that may happen someday] but rather, what would a Christian Radio station look like that affirmed the Christian Family?

Many broadcasters that I know would argue that they are already “affirming the Christian Family” by providing children’s programs, youth programs, programs for men, programs for young singles, programs for mothers, programs for wives…or as one radio station here in Chicago claims: “Radio that is safe for the whole family.”

In my view, the problem with much of today’s “family radio” is that it puts all its energy into reaching the parts of the family without a proper focus on the whole. Too often, each of these programs see reaching their segment of the audience as the end. There is not enough attention given to the larger community that segment is a part of.

What this blog entry aims to articulate is a different philosophy that I hope argues for a better way for Christian Radio; one that affirms the Christian Family as the foundational institution that faith informs, that will then build up the local church and even the magisterial or civil sphere. If I were to summarize this approach as a slogan, it might be something like: “Radio that unifies and makes the family whole.”

For the sake of time (and space) let me make five belief statements without a whole lot of explanation that I think capture the essence of my position:

(In the points that follow, “Christian Radio” encompasses its programs, messages and producers)

1. Christian Radio ought to position itself under the authority of local church. Too many producers that I know view themselves as the ones who need to give the “audience what they need, not what they want.” In fact, I would argue that too many producers have taken on the role of elders in the lives of the audience without meeting the qualifications for Spiritual oversight as identified in 1 Timothy 3.

2. Christian Radio needs to be under the authority of the home. Programs that attempt to bypass the role of the father/parent and don’t encourage the children to ask questions about or discuss with their parents those topics that they have heard, encourages a low view of spiritual authority in the home and can lead to turning the hearts of children away from their parents. Also, programs that don’t model what the home should be and merely reflect what “homes are like these days” risk reproducing weak homes and improper attitudes instead of building up “Christ-honoring homes.”

3. Christian programming that lets fathers and husbands “off the hook” for the spiritual development and discipleship of the family is hurting, not helping the family. Or to put it another way, when Christian Radio allows men to sit back and let “an expert” do his God ordained responsibility in the family, it will consistently reproduce spiritual weakness and passivity.

4a. Christian programming ought to build up and train men to be strong leaders in the family, which will lead to strong church leadership and eventually, strong civil leadership (how can a man be an elder or governor when he can’t train his own children?).

4b. Christian Radio must do more to reach out to men and not be satisfied with the predominately female audience demographics; however, this should not be accomplished through increased sports coverage/discussion, recreational programming or other frivolous topics. Rather, as Scott Brown, Norm Wakefield and Kevin Swanson all said to me, “men need to be challenged with a big vision” and given programming that will deepen their knowledge and spiritual discernment so that they can bring the “meat of the faith” into their homes and “wash their wives” and children with Biblical and Theological truth.

5. Christian Radio needs to leave behind its infatuation with youth culture, fads, and fickleness. Programming that allows youth to remain immature and self-focused does not build up the body. This is a huge problem for most stations who chase after younger and younger audiences instead of honoring the “older saints in our midst.” Our culture has marginalized “old people” and the church has done the same. WE NEED MORE WISDOM ON THE RADIO that can best come through older men and women who God has ordained to train the younger men and women (Titus 2).

As I read over my own list I am struck with the lack of specificity in the mechanics, but I hope that those things will come as I continue to struggle with this question of Christian Radio and the Christian Family.

One tangible concept that I do have comes from an email that Fletch sent me from Steve Walker, an elder at Central Valley Presbyterian Church. He referenced 2 Timothy 4 and I think it provides an important Biblical foundation to this question…

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

These verses speak to me as a broadcaster (and to us as fathers, elders, pastors, etc.) and provides three main approaches as I teach:

1. Persuasion (convince or change someones mind)
2. Rebuking (a prophetic message against wickedness or unrighteousness)
3. Exhorting (encouraging righteousness, holiness, godliness, etc.)

Three tested tools as I begin to wrestle with applying these principles in my own sphere of influence as a teacher and broadcaster. I hope that they are just the first of many.


After my recent post on Christian Radio and the Christian Family, I had a Doc Burkhart , a Christian broadcaster leave a comment and instead of responding via the comment function on that post, I thought I would write a follow-up post, attempting to clarify my position in light of this broadcaster’s observations.

He wrote…

I think that you bring up some valid points. However, speaking as a broadcaster myself, there is a bit of reality that I would like to interject…

Not to seem defensive, but I too am speaking as a broadcaster (Moody Broadcasting Network); as well as a professor of radio studies at the Moody Bible Institute. These blog entries are an attempt to discuss these topics as I continue to grow as a broadcaster and as I teach the next generation of broadcasters.

The fact is, Christian radio has an obligation to serve the WHOLE Christian community (and reach out to non-Christians as well).

You are right that Christian Radio needs to reach out to the whole community of believers (we can discuss the role to non-believers in a later discussion). That really is my point.

First, a significant part of my critique comes from anecdotal evidence and industry reported data that indicates that Christian radio is focusing predominately on women and seem satisfied with missing a significant part of the Christian community…men (depending on the format, women seem to out-number men in the audience by as much as 2 – 1).

Second, when I listen, Christian radio’s culture tends to assume that everyone in the audience looks to youth programs, youth pastors and youth groups for the spiritual development of their kids (not to mention institutional education). I’m not saying that everything on a Christian Radio station has to come from a “homeschool perspective” but I do think that Christian Radio–in seeking to reach out to the WHOLE community–should actively seek for ways to equip its “family-centered/homeschool constituents” to be successful as educators/disciplers at home in the midst of all the other youth-focused, “family-friendly programming.”

I think that Christian radio does a GREAT job of unifying the Christian community in a given area, even more so than Christian TV. It creates opportunities for partnerships across denominational lines, allows ministries to share with other ministries, and to provide a platform for diverse voices of faith to be heard. In your points, you seem to imply that Christian radio has failed in these areas.

I would agree that there are many things Christian Radio is doing well. I did not mean to imply that Christian Radio has failed, rather, as we look to the future we need to challenge ourselves to do more and/or do better.

In 1997, Frank Gray, formerly of FEBC, published a little booklet about the 14 Roles of Radio. These include: Information, Entertainment, Instruction, Advocating Change, Inspiration, Positioning, Witness, Apologetics, Proclamation, Counseling, Supplementary, Celebration, Modeling, Participatory. Without a doubt, many of these things we are doing well, however, I would venture to guess that most of us can identify areas from this list that we have never considered before. Dr. Gray is encouraging us to look for ways to reach beyond the “religious broadcasting conventions” and seek for ways to reach out more fully to the community around us. That is what I am also trying to do.

As I reread them, I would have to think how anemic our churches and ministries would be today WITHOUT Christian radio. In fact, if there were NO Christian radio, every one of your points would not only be valid, but true.

I agree in principle (or why would I want to improve it?), though there are plenty of areas that clearly demonstrate that the Church is struggling with anemia–even with Christian Radio’s influence. One example is the troubling trend reported by the Southern Baptist Denomination of the high percentage of teens that leave the church and never return (as high as 80 to 90%). This is despite the billions of dollars spent on youth programs, youth curriculum, concerts, books and entire Christian Stations with youth formats. Something isn’t working, and this is what leads me to consider a different approach to strengthening the family through radio.

This is not meant to be a critical response. I love Christian radio, and I know its power. I have seen it transform cities here in the US, and nations on the mission field.

I too have seen the transformational power of Christian Broadcasting, and this is one of the motivations for looking at it critically; so that we can, as broadcasters, not only sell CDs, books, and conferences, but as the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

If we, as broadcasters do our job for His glory, and in His way, we can play a part in presenting the Church [the Bride] to Christ, without blemish.