Monday, June 30, 2008

Tuning Out Christian Radio

The most recent post at Out of Ur, the blog for Leadership Journal, is entitled, "Tuning Out Christian Radio."

"It’s official: I’m tuning out of Christian radio.

When some of the Christian radio stations in my area shifted their play lists from Southern gospel, country Christian and syndicated preaching, I took notice. I was thrilled to have airwave access to what I considered great Christian music. And I found myself tuning in more often.

But even my favorite stations have started losing me in recent months. What led me to reprogram my car radio and cancel my monthly $10 pledges? Three things.

First, I’ve noticed a growing level of—how shall I say this?—sappiness...What’s more, I’ve noticed Christian radio becoming, for me, a sort of faith vending machine. Need some encouragement? Just push a button!...Most importantly, I detect Christian radio has succumbed to consumerism.

To many his comments might sound judgmental or even blasphemous, but the writer has arrived at the place where I've been for decades. Christian radio has evolved from being a 'ministry' to being a Christian alternative for secular radio complete with all its gimmicks (albeit sanitized) to gain and keep listeners.

Once upon a time I was involved with a para-church ministry who was trying to bring a nationally known speaker to Christian radio. An industry marketing report was obtained and its conclusions were shocking -- the overwhelming demographic group who listened to Christian radio was women ages 32-39. Moreover, they weren't necessarily looking for what our speaker was offering so our efforts to get this person on the radio fizzled. He was (and is) a dynamic speaker but Christian radio wasn't the forum for him. I suspect that listener demographics have not changed much since that report was issued though the age range might be a broader so as to include aging baby-boomers.

Last year it was reported that Chuck Colson and other teachers were being dropped by radio stations in favor of more music. Listener surveys indicated that they wanted less teaching and preaching and more music. So in an environment where the consumer is king Christian radio must follow the trends or lose market share. Maybe that's why podcasts and MP3 downloads are becoming so popular -- you can listen to the preacher/teacher you want and not be limited by the two or three regular preachers on Christian radio.

I hesitate to say that Christian radio has out-lived its usefulness but I, for one, grew tired of the hand-holding and spoon-feeding long ago. You can read the entire article


Jeannette said...

One thing that troubles me about Christian radio is that the radio hosts typically show absolutely no biblical discernment. Their comments reveal their theological inclusivism, and a clear presentation of the gospel is lacking (if an attempt is actually made). And if John and Sherry Rivers call each other "my lovely bride Sherry" and "dumplin'" one more time, I'm gonna puke! ;)

Dave Sarafolean said...


The issue of biblical discernment is a symptom of the broader problem of evangelicalism. The entire movement got started by folks who wanted to work together but who also decided not to talk about their theological differences. Those people knew their Bibles very well.

Now, three or four generations have passed since those 'glory days' and today's evangelicals are the heirs of a movement that down-played serious doctrinal discussions. Worse, today's evangelicals are biblically illiterate. These thoughts are not original with me: Nathan Hatch, George Marsden, Ken Myers, Michael Scott Horton, David Wells, etc. have chronicled this problem.

The silliness and sappiness of most Christian radio shows is a real turn-off. I'm much more comfortable dealing with the rough and tumble world of non-Christians.