Theology, Theory & Practice: Evangelism in Broadcasting:

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© Phill Butler

Editor’s Note:

1) This longer, detailed case history is included as it contains issues communications leadership frequently face.  All of the classic issues related to change:  risk, having a theological framework for the vision, financial realities, addressing opposition, and having to deal with administrative and policy-making bodies.

2) This case history is set in an environment in which there are multiple radio outlets competing for the audience.  In social/political contexts where there is no “competition,” such as government-controlled media the, circumstances would be quite different.  However, the principles involved in engaging an audience and having a Biblical basis for strategy present the same challenge no matter the context.

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Part One

It was 1965.  I had been in local, Christian broadcast management for several years.  But, for months I had been trying to decide what to do with my life.  I was increasingly disillusioned with domestic Christian broadcasting in the U.S. – what I felt was, essentially, playing the same music and programs to the already-convinced.  I considered going back to news as a correspondent, working as a consultant, or possibly in some “missionary broadcasting” role.

I could no longer justify the hundreds of hours in managing, selling and programming, not to mention the large capital investments required.   I kept thinking “What was I going to say someday when I stood before Christ the righteous judge? How could I call this optimum stewardship in the light of the great commission?”

Living in San Diego, California in the U.S., I had been invited to Seattle to talk with the management of a diversified Christian ministry.  The organization, among other things, had two radio stations: a medium-wave AM station and FM station – separately programmed.  The AM was what I would have called very traditional U.S. “Christian” radio; Bible studies, Christian music, etc.  The FM Operation was basically Christian ‘background music’ – fully automated and generating no revenue.

Only a few weeks before that, I was ready to leave local Christian broadcast management because of my disillusionment.  But now here I was in the office of the Seattle ministry’s President. He said they were looking for a manager for their Broadcast Division and that I had been recommended. Was I interested? In our first phone call, I said an emphatic “No.”  But, following further conversation came the decision to fly to Seattle for further conversations

In the conversations that afternoon it became clear that at least the administration genuinely wanted to prioritize evangelism in their broadcast operations – reaching those on the “outside.” We talked about the changes likely necessary: the funding required and the kind of programming (in general terms) that was needed d to reach outside the typical church-related audience.  We also discussed the likely negative implications of such a change within the  organization’s conservative, donor-supported orientation.

I spent the night and part of another day talking not only to the administration but to the existing broadcast station’ staff.  Then, it was on the plane and back to California.

Lengthy conversations and prayer with my remarkably flexible and supportive wife sealed the decision.  She said, “How can you turn down an opportunity to really experiment – trying to implement the ideas and convictions you’ve had?”  She was right.  So, two and a half months later, along with my wife and two young daughters, we were in Seattle to stay.

Making the move had been a difficult decision. Many things were against it.  But as I thought and prayed, two things kept coming back; first, here was a group of people that really seemed serious about evangelism via broadcasting and understood, at least in broad terms, what it would take to get on with it. And they were willing to put the assets of the organization to work to make it happen.  Second, the stations themselves.  Already they were considered exceptional in terms of the traditional Christian broadcasting in the U.S.  The AM station was one of the top three or four stations in the United States in terms of response for established religious programs.  It had a very strong dial position at 630, and an accompanying major ‘footprint’ of coverage.  Then, its sister FM station’s license made it the most powerful FM operation north of San Francisco.  The ingredients for a full, valid experiment were there.  If you could go through with it, there just wouldn’t be a much better place to give an experiment of the role of broadcasting in evangelism.  Then, there was my own conscience.   It was time to put my convictions on the line.

The agreement with the organization’s management was that the operations had to pay their own wav. While the larger corporate structure was willing to help on interim steps, the long-range objective was definitely self-support; pay as you go. Based on the owner’s financial and budgetary guidelines, strict financial guidelines were established for the stations to provide the reference points for performance.

A few months into my new role, it became clear that the best option was to maintain the 630 AM/Medium Wave operation since it produced the revenue.   Hopefully developing the programming for even greater response and relevance while simultaneously building the station’s income. Then, since the FM side was producing no income at the time, use that facility for the experimentation.

When I arrived, the staff of the two stations was seven full-time and about three part-time.   The AM programming was fairly typical U.S. domestic Christian radio with several hours a day of what, at that time, “devotional/Bible study” programs, two or three hours of sacred music, and news.  The FM side was fully automated.  Programming was a hodge-podge of sacred music (about eight hours), inoffensive secular “easy listening” music (eight hours of bland string orchestra fare that was neither commercial ‘ ‘good music” or classical), and a few Bible study/devotional religious program re-runs from the AM side.  In short, for the evangelical community, it was nicely balanced, and for the management, reasonable income that was stable.

I spent early eighteen months in research and planning.  I traveled to meet with broadcast management in other cities; talked with financially successful FM operators in the ten most important cities around the country.  Then I carefully studied the existing Seattle/Tacoma market and the local competition.  At the time, there were 34 commercial and “educational” broadcasting stations available to listeners in the area.  Formidable competition!

Using commercially-available audience research, we looked at the audiences of the existing stations our area in detail – looking at both our own two stations and the competition.  The research provided not only the size of audiences, hour by hour throughout the day but also the demographics of that audience; age, sex, etc.  Based on that assessment, I was seeking to identify what audience we might realistically try to reach that wasn’t already being served?  Were there any obvious programming formats that were successful in other cities but absent in our own?

Consider the challenge.  How to develop the largest possible audience within the confines of your Christian standards and then give them the gospel. Essentially, I didn’t see any difference between our goals and those of the regular commercial radio stations.  Broadcasting is a business.  The larger the audience, at least potentially, the larger the income.  Along with my commercial competition, I and my team wanted to speak to the largest audiences possible. For them it was ratings and profits, for us, ratings and increased audience and potential for evangelism (and hopefully enough income to pay the way).

I had long felt that almost any well-done radio format could be a valid vehicle for the gospel. A frequency address on the dial is simply a place where people congregate; publicans and sinners  “gluttons and winebibbers.” Whether it was principally news and information, classical or pop music, people were listening. Real, live human beings for whom Christ died.  People who under normal circumstances would never darken the door of a church and who were certainly not going to listen to the typical Christian radio programming.

Taking the existing audience research seriously was rare among Christian broadcasters.(2)  There always seemed to be the sense that “our message is so unique of course we will not appear favorably in the research.”  And, in looking at the research, we found out what we feared.  Our AM/medium wave station, KGDN, was one of the most successful and respected Christian radio stations in North America, but in the research, but our numbers were woeful! The top pop music station in town had a weekly cumulative audience(3) over 450,000.  Our influential Christian radio station, KGDN, had a little over 50,000 weekly cumulative audience!   At least we showed in the research and had a reference point from which to work as we moved ahead.

One night I got to thinking while lying in bed; the top five stations in the city had over one million in weekly cumulative audience. We had 50,000! How could I ever face God and justify my use of those facilities  r in this way one day longer? Did rreally believe that those people were Lost? I mean, really lost? The tears came to my eyes and I wept for a long time. ‘ ‘God help us,” was my prayer as I dropped off to a fitful and uneasy sleep.

In Part Two, the specifics in our goals, what we believed was the “theological” framework for our strategy, details of our format plans, personnel recruitment and equipment changes. The difficult but exciting “experiment” was just getting underway!

 

Part Two

After understanding what was most successful with FM stations in other cities and in review of our local competition, we believed the format we would have adopt was what, at that time was called; commercial “good music.”   Essentially it was well known, pop music standards done orchestrally.  We couldn’t go with a number of pop music formats as so much of the music had questionable lyrics and reflected anything but a Christian worldview. Then there was our ownership organization’s reputation.

Other high-potential music formats were already being done by our competition.  And, in the 1960s, successful FM broadcasting was in its infancy.  Almost no car radios received FM.  And, in homes, only about 56% had an FM radio to which they listened with any regularity.  So, it was evident that we faced a real, God-sized challenge!

Even if you start with a great idea, it takes talented, committed people to turn dreams into reality.  I had always believed that an interesting, challenging opportunity attracted gifted people.  They want to be part of innovation.  And that was certainly our experience at KBIQ.  There was no question: at one time at our operation we had the most outstanding team of professionals ever assembled at a local Christian radio station in North America.

They came from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  Obviously only the Lord could assemble such a roster. These men took massive pa cuts, moved families, etc., to join in this experiment. I clearly remember my personal joy when each of them said, “Yes, they would come.”

People make things happen (as given God’s blessing and direction of course) and that is what happened in Seattle.   As stated in part one, we had chosen commercial “good music” as the format for the experiment. While we worked hard to upgrade our medium wave, KGDN, we were working on the coming big change in FM programming.

The existing FM operation was automated and it was felt that with the kind of music we were going to play, with modifications needed for the new format we could continue with automation in contrast to “live” announcers.  So, equipment was completely reviewed and changes were made that would give us the flexibility needed.

The plan called for all music to be automated providing for quality control and minimum attention on a moment by moment basis. As we could, we wanted to have the quarter hour breaks ‘ ‘live”. Initially, the format was midnight to 5:00 p.m. fully automated with news and features pre-recorded and placed in the system at the alloted times. Then, at 5:00 p.m. a live announcer came on duty for the evening shift to midnight (which at that time was the absolute number one FM listening period). Later, we were to add live announcers in morning “drive” time, etc.

The format was to be very tightly controlled (as it is to this day). the stations held rigid control on content, length of conversation segments, etc. In short, ours evolved as a quarter-hour format of uninterrupted, unannounced music. Quarter hour breaks allowed for a maximum of two minutes of conversation (including on-the-hour when the news was scheduled for one minute). Commercials, news features, spiritual content everything had to go in that two-minute segment. That was our decision; we promoted it, stuck to it relentlessly and became number one in the market within two years (out of 17 independent FM properties).

Meanwhile, the Ki ng’s Garden ma engagement team was being kept informed of the plans for the change and the strong resistance that it probably would induce from the constituency. Members of the team (managers of other major ministries under the same corporate  umbrella) were given local stations to listen to as examples of the sort of thing we were going to do.

Plans were carefully laid to insure that the ownership’s constituency with a special letter went to 20,000 individuals in the area got the story.  Then we felt it important that that pastors would know about the planned change and, know the reason why. Personal letters were typed to over 900 ministers in the Northwest telling of the coming change — asking them and their congregations to pray for and to use the new format as a major evangelistic tool in reaching their non-Christian friends. If memory serves me correctly we got a total of three responses — one regretting our decision another expressing a “prove it to me” attitude and one thinking the idea long overdue.

A very limited budget existed for promotion. (Typical of the local Christian station which always seems to understand that transmitters have to be purchased but think that audiences automatically happen!) We had allocated money out of the AM budget.  Then by trading for various services, selling hard and working from dawn to dusk, we had a pretty good package put together once we were on the air:  A large billboard campaign, transit bus cards (exterior side panels), 10-sec. TV spots on the local CBS station, etc. In addition, there was special printed material prepared for advertising agencies, local clients, etc., all with carefully coordinated with visuals.

From the outset, for the listeners, our plan was to come on the air as a totally new station – a new sound and a new name!. So, it was off to the Federal Communications Commission and several tries later we got the call letters of KBIQ.  We invested nearly $60,000 in equipment including a new transmitter and state of the art transmitting antenna – critical for FM broadcasting.

But, of course, the real question was, how to share Christ in the middle of this beautiful format? How would Jesus come through with clarity and meaning for the listener?

Evangelism was the goal — right? To speak to unreached you have to have them listening right? We wanted to start the religious content slowly; build a reputation for a quality, adult entertainment medium so that the listener would return again and again to get our fare.  Credibility and loyalty was vital.  We wanted spiritual content on the air right away but didn’t want to come on too “heavy” at the outset. (A point on which readers may disagree).

If we could survive, taking this approach we were having an opportunity to experiment with my concept of how to use this powerful medium with a minimum of compromises. In spite of all our efforts at advance communication, we knew many church related people used to the old station would wake up, find “their” FM station gone and KBIQ  in its place. As I have now reflected, we predicted the quantity of negative response rather accurately but the quality of it?   The truth?  We never dreamed how terribly difficult it would be to stand in the face of the opposition which was to come from within the “Christian” ranks — in the community, within the management of ownership organization itself and soon, the ire of people from within my own church.

But all of this is another chapter. Next time we will cover the actual on the air story; the programming, the promotion, the terrible criticism within and without, the first person to find Christ and the great rejoicing as God slowly vindicated Himself in spite of the awesome opposition of man.

On a day of staff retreat, I had said to that the primary goal was just to say on the air in light of the opposition i knew was coming — that we had to allow the Holy Spirit time to demonstrate Himself. How little I knew then of what that “staying on the air” really meant!

 

What was the theological framework?

I realized that for our planning, communications with management and corporate donor  constituencies, we had to have a thave a theological reason for what we were doing in broadcasting.  I found that most of my fellow Christian station managers had never faced the question!

First was the very nature of evangelism. Basically, this view holds that the Scripture makes clear a three-part process; sowing, watering and reaping.  Conversion never takes place without these steps no matter how it may look on the surface. No man comes to Christ as the result of a singEe 29’30” program!

There is sowing, watering, and reaping then, ultimately, discipling.  (Matthew 13, John 4:4:28-38, and I Corinthians 3:1-160).  Sixty second spots every hour dealing with strong clear Christian content; Christ and His reality, the validity of the Scripture, the importance of the God-man question, etc.  Many, many different approaches to the same basic issues with material coming from everywhere we could get our hands on; the Lutherans, the Mennonites, the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, and our own, carefully edited (much more thrown out than used) for professionalism, clarity, relevance and genuine spiritual content.

Once on the air, the plan was to experiment with other ideas we had, but first, we had to have an audience. So, we were concerned with getting the format on the air as smoothly and professionally as possible.

On the air date was to be December 7, 1967. On the Saturday prior to going on the air the entire staff spent the day in retreat. We prayed together, talked about the details of our plans and how we were going to relate to the response which we knew was coming. We knew there would be a handful that would laud this change. However, realistically, we expected the vast .

There are times when you just know instinctively that you are in trouble. I had only slept four hours and was now shaving, ready for the first full day on the air with our infant, K BIO. I reached over and flicked on the radio to 105.3. From the speaker screamed an up-tempo, rather wailing version of ‘Thunderball” from the James Bond movie of the same name. That was my station and it was from a music library that I had selected. I knew there was trouble ahead.

A little over five hours earlier, a small group of people had gathered around the main control room at KGDN/KGFM and waited as the hands of the clock ticked toward midnight. In a few minutes a new voice in the Northwest was to be born ‘the giant reach of KBIQ” was about to be heard. At midnight, the last station break for KGFM was history and at 12 01 the thundering sound of a jet in stereo introduced the logo of K BIO: new programming, new cali letters and, ‘vve all prayed, a new day of spiritual ministry in the Puget Sound country.

The theme from “Thunderball” and its lack of precise fit into the format in those early hours of that Monday morning characterized our problems as we fought to produce programming that was on target; with our audience and with our commitment to the corporate ownership.  We knew that our music for the new KBIQ had 10 be rigidly controlled if it was going to be successful. We needed categories that could be carefully planned and aired with an automation system allowing for subtle changes in tempo and mood as we moved through the 24-hour schedule. We had settled on a simple, practical approach based on many considerations including limitations of the automation and our view of how the ‘good music” format should go together. The concept was to group the music into three classifications; up, medium end down tempo. The ‘ ‘mix” of these tempos varied according to the time of day to give the variety and pacing needed.

The problem, of course, was to get enough music in these categories that fit the format in style of performance. Several months before the station went on the air we had begun taping our own music in stereo since we had not found precisely what we wanted in any outside music library services then offered. However, to augment our own music we did buy music from an outside service for nearly a year. We found ‘ ‘up” tempo music the hardest to come by music that moved but didn’t blow the format. So, we supplemented our own music (which we continued to add at the rate of about three hours a week) with outside “up” and “medium” music. It was the outside service that had provided my ‘ ‘Thunderball.”

 

Music is probably the cause of more conflicts in Christian radio than any other ingredient in the format. I feel vstrongly that one person must make the day-to-day decisions as to whether a given track from a record will go into the format or not. Once a general policy has been outlined and agreed on by the management and the programming people, there must be one person who makes the decisions. There has never been a really successful music format in the history of U.S. radio that was put together by a committee. Never!

Music is probably the cause of more conflicts in Christian Radio than any other ingredient in the format.

And, that is the way we started at KBIQ — with Program Director, George Totes making the decisions based on a well -defi ned plan and model. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.  Shortly the pressure within the corporate structure became so great that we agreed to form a “music committee” to review the music. I would agree to this compromise only if I picked the committee from within the broadcast division’s own staff. I didn’t want a non-professional trying to tell us which music would fit the format and which would n e t. The music committee did meet regularly to review albums and we did have some real arguments but actually the music on the air changed little. The reason was that it had been basically right all along and the music committee knew it. But at least the committee approach took the heat off for a while. The committee lasted about six months.

A radio station’s overall personality is terribly important. And, since K BIO’s must c was unannounced and uninterrupted 13-14 minutes at a time,

we had to produce that personality in other ways. To begin with we wanted an aural logo that would relate to the geographical area and that would be instantly recognizable. Seattle being the home for Boeing jet aircraft, it is known by many as the “jet city.” We took that jet sound (taking off, landing, taxiing, etc.), put it in stereo and added music and voice. George Toles blended 707s with the haunting piano of Lalo Schifrin and the voice of John Pricer in some station breaks that today, years later, are still masterpieces of creative production.

In addition to the aural logo and the personality of the music itself, we added a warmth and believability through a very “low key” announcer style and conversational humor that made listening a genuine fun experience. News on the hour (and half-hour during drive time), stock market reports (live from the local brokerage office), sports news, dining and entertainment features and station promotional announcements all added to the shadings needed for the format’s constantly changing picture. (FM has the unique problem/asset of long listenership spans — quite typically 4-5 hours per day). Above all else, we wanted a format which was believable. An adult entertainment medium to which the listener would return again and again. Only in that way would we ever have a climate in which the gospel could be presented to large numbers with real effective

It was nearly three months after going on the air that one morning, we got our first spiritual “payoff.” A staff member had been at a friend’s home the previous evening. The friend related how her father, hardened to the gospel for many years, had begun listening to the station several weeks before. One evening during the previous week he had heard one of our “fishhooks” — religious messages — and the Holy Spirit had begun to work in his heart. He spent a troubled night. Early the next morning he called his daughter asking if he might come over to talk after breakfast. A little while later, over a second cup of coffee the man had bowed his head and accepted Jesus Christ . . led to the Lord by his son-in-law, a dedicated Christian layman.

What rejoicing there was that morning! People in the staff went from one end of the station to the other asking, “Have you heard the good news… It was a glorious shaft of light in a real sea of blackness because by this time the opposition to the station and its format was rapidly building steam.

The spiritual emphasis of the station had been carefully planned with a three-step introduction of the gospel in mind. For the first few months we aired one Christian message every hour at varying times with the hour. Ten to sixty seconds in length, these spots hammered away at various themes the God/man relationship, Christ’s reality, the problem of sin, the functional nature of a Christian fife and validity of God’s word in the 20th century. This was the “drop of water on the forehead” — the sowing and watering. After a few months on the air we began phase two of the plan which was to give the listener who had a genuine interest a chance to investigate Christianity further in the privacy of his own home. We offered carefully selected paper-back books, free, for this purpose. For every book we gave away our staff read ten or more. The books had to pass rigid standards- They had to be genuinely appealing with title and chapter heading that were promotable through spots on the air; the layout and format had to be professional; the book had to be written in a style and in a vocabulary the non-Christian understood; it had to be readable and a genuinely good book; but above all, it had to present Christ in some clear and reasonable way. Each quarter books were offered for a month to six weeks with a schedule of 4-6 spots a 24-hour day. Typically, we gave away 400-700 books each time, each of which went with a personal letter asking for the reader’s comments. This was another part of the “watering” process.

Approximately a year after the station went on the air, we were able to initiate phase three of the spiritual emphasis; People Who Care — a counseling service for our listeners. Again, the station was seen as simply a link between people; the staff with their Christian view and the listener with his non-Christian view,

NOVEMBER

Purpose of the format was to engage the non-Christian and expose him to certain Christian truth over a considerable period of time allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work. We knew that certain members of the audience are aware of need and willing to consider Christ while others are not. The problem is, to allow those willing to talk to do so and still keep the listenership of the majority of the audience that is not yet ready to consider Christ. This, we felt, could best be done by limiting the on-air emphasis to sowing and watering and leaving the reaping to techniques inked to the station but not on the air.

One thing is clear. In such efforts you can count on an aggressive adversary’!  People Who Care, our off-air counseling service, operated on a very simple basis. Spots on the air indicate a problem area of life to which Christ can relate. The listener is invited to respond to a special phone number. A group of laymen were trained to handle the calls and, in a way that was relevant to their concern,  share Christ with the respondents.  Initial contact was made by telephone and later discussions, if at all possible, take place in person. Response to the service was almost immediate. And, from the outset, we began to see lives changed as people came to Christ; families were revolutionized; individuals experienced the power of God’s grace; and listeners moved from darkness into the glowing light and warmth of God’s love.

Knowing that there would be strong negative reaction to the station’s new format from certain segments of the Christian community, I had written a standard explanation of what we were trying to accomplish which staffers could use as a guide when they talked with people. As the telephone calls came in, we kept a daily score sheet on the pluses and minuses. We soon confirmed that those who are negative always are more vocal than those who are positive. While it’s hard to imagine, e even had “Christian” listeners calling, using profanity in telling us why we were unscriptural in our approach. It was not unusual to see secretaries and the receptionist in tears those days answering the calls.

The constituent’s response was not long in coming either. Soon the administration of the ownership organization was getting threats people saying they would drop their financial support, rewrite their bequests and wills or just generally berating our “departure from the faith.” Getting that kind of negative feedback on a daily basis takes its toll. And, while great credit must go to the corporate administration for the fact that they generally stood with us in our goals and in the plans we were executing, there were times of wavering.

During the first year of operation, the station and its policies went all the way to the Corporate Board of Trustees three times for a “vote of confidence.” At least two of the three times I was personally on hand and the station’s life escaped by a mere vote or two. In short, the early days were terribly difficult — the blackness only shot through occasionally by the encouraging light of the Spirit’s work in someone’s heart – or by the rare Christians who would telephone or write saying that they were praying  for us – that God would give us the ability to “hang on.”  Honestly I wonder how my wife and family survived.  Night after night I would come home after ten or twelve hours at the station totally wiped out physically, spiritually and emotionally. I was constantly discouraged by the awful days we were going through and inside my heart of hearts wondered so often if the vision was really worth it.

Time after time we would meet as a staff and read the Word and pray asking God to give us wisdom and love in dealing with both sides — those who responded to the gospel on the air and those who wanted to crucify us for our “heresy.” In the midst of all this, we had to try to make the station pay its way. This was part of the ground rules. We were aggressive in our promotion through television, billboards, transit advertising and newspaper (all obtained through trade arrangements since we had practically no cash for promotional purposes.) We held promotional lunches in advertising agencies to introduce the station and its format. We wrote and produced a special eleven-minute presentation in which several agencies said was the finest they had ever heard. And. as a result of all this were attracting both advertising and listeners. The advertisers came slower than the listeners as is often the case. But by the time the second audience rating period came around, KBIQ already showed and was almost tied with its sister AM station, KGDN which continued to air the more typical religious fare of programs, sacred music, etc.

During one of the famous Trustees meetings a Board member mentioned that he had overheard a conversation the previous day in the local Washington Athletic Club, a men’s club in downtown Seattle. Three executives were discussing their marketing plans. One man brought up radio and suggested that the new FM station on the air, KBIQ, was a real value and ought to be considered. At mention of the station, another of the three spoke up and said, “You know, that station has really made me think about myself.  I’ve been a real •good boy’ recently. They talk about God all the time.’   That Trustee became a positive advocate.

A letter came to the station one day after a few months on the air saying, “I’ve worked at this company for several years now. Every day I work with the same man. He is really profane and has always refused to talk about Christ. Yesterday he asked me if I ever listened to “the station with the jet.” ‘ I asked him if he meant K BIQ and he responded, ‘yes.’ He said, ‘The God spots on that station are really getting to me.’ For the first time in al! these years I was able to talk to him about Christ. Thank you at KBIQ for making it possible.”

There were many lessons learned in the process of this agonizing birth; first, the burden of proof always lies with the innovator. Second, you must do an intensive job of pre-education.  But no matter how much you do it will never be enough since there will always be intensive resistance to change. Three, it takes time for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts and vindicate Himself and new methodology — we were just glad we survived long enough to see Him prove His point.  Fourth, a thing of lasting value always comes at a high price.

Today, the Board of Trustees has had numerous offers for KBIQ, even in times of real financial stress and they have refused to sel,t the evidence of God’s blessing is now unmistakable in the hundreds of lives touched and changed by the Gospel.   REGAL BOOKS, released a book detailing the story of the lives of some of the respondents to the counseling service, People Who Care. The book, God Where Are You?, is the first one ever written exclusively about people changed through a radio ministry a radically different kind of radio evangelism at that. Many thousands of outstanding paper-back books have gone into the hands of Northwestern listeners and, in turn, have been passed on to hundreds more.

As the apostle said, “the half has not been told.” These three episodes in the planning, embryo stage and birth of KBIQ are only a glimpse into what is a long and complex story the intertwining of human lives and God’s Holy Spirit.  One thing is clear’ on such efforts, you can count on an aggressive adversary. Satan will attack with incredible vengeance from without and from within. There is only one hope for survival; total honesty, i n-depth professional preparation, a genuine Biblical basis for what you are doing and spending time on your knees. No strategy is a panacea. Evangelism is not the only worthy goal in the use of broadcast media. I only plead that we know clearly where we are going, why we are going there and that we have a willingness to stick to the path we chart once we are underway. God help us to do it!

______________

Notes:

  1. This article first appeared as a serialized, three-part story in The International Christian Broadcasting Bulletin in 1968-69
  2. Since 1992 there has been a productive coop research arrangement between many of the international Christian broadcasting organizations and the BBC’s research department. The initiative is currently known as Intersearch.
  3. The cumulative total of all people who reported listening at least one time for 30 minutes or more during the previous 7 days.

Theology, Theory & Practice: Evangelism in Broadcasting:

________________

 

© Phill Butler

 

Editor’s Note:

1) This longer, detailed case history is included as it contains issues communications leadership frequently face.  All of the classic issues related to change:  risk, having a theological framework for the vision, financial realities, addressing opposition, and having to deal with administrative and policy-making bodies.

2) This case history is set in an environment in which there are multiple radio outlets competing for the audience.  In social/political contexts where there is no “competition,” such as government-controlled media the, circumstances would be quite different.  However, the principles involved in engaging an audience and having a Biblical basis for strategy present the same challenge no matter the context.

____________

 

Part One

It was 1965.  I had been in local, Christian broadcast management for several years.  But, for months I had been trying to decide what to do with my life.  I was increasingly disillusioned with domestic Christian broadcasting in the U.S. – what I felt was, essentially, playing the same music and programs to the already-convinced.  I considered going back to news as a correspondent, working as a consultant, or possibly in some “missionary broadcasting” role.

I could no longer justify the hundreds of hours in managing, selling and programming, not to mention the large capital investments required.   I kept thinking “What was I going to say someday when I stood before Christ the righteous judge? How could I call this optimum stewardship in the light of the great commission?”

Living in San Diego, California in the U.S., I had been invited to Seattle to talk with the management of a diversified Christian ministry.  The organization, among other things, had two radio stations: a medium-wave AM station and FM station – separately programmed.  The AM was what I would have called very traditional U.S. “Christian” radio; Bible studies, Christian music, etc.  The FM Operation was basically Christian ‘background music’ – fully automated and generating no revenue.

Only a few weeks before that, I was ready to leave local Christian broadcast management because of my disillusionment.  But now here I was in the office of the Seattle ministry’s President. He said they were looking for a manager for their Broadcast Division and that I had been recommended. Was I interested? In our first phone call, I said an emphatic “No.”  But, following further conversation came the decision to fly to Seattle for further conversations

In the conversations that afternoon it became clear that at least the administration genuinely wanted to prioritize evangelism in their broadcast operations – reaching those on the “outside.” We talked about the changes likely necessary: the funding required and the kind of programming (in general terms) that was needed d to reach outside the typical church-related audience.  We also discussed the likely negative implications of such a change within the  organization’s conservative, donor-supported orientation.

I spent the night and part of another day talking not only to the administration but to the existing broadcast station’ staff.  Then, it was on the plane and back to California.

Lengthy conversations and prayer with my remarkably flexible and supportive wife sealed the decision.  She said, “How can you turn down an opportunity to really experiment – trying to implement the ideas and convictions you’ve had?”  She was right.  So, two and a half months later, along with my wife and two young daughters, we were in Seattle to stay.

Making the move had been a difficult decision. Many things were against it.  But as I thought and prayed, two things kept coming back; first, here was a group of people that really seemed serious about evangelism via broadcasting and understood, at least in broad terms, what it would take to get on with it. And they were willing to put the assets of the organization to work to make it happen.  Second, the stations themselves.  Already they were considered exceptional in terms of the traditional Christian broadcasting in the U.S.  The AM station was one of the top three or four stations in the United States in terms of response for established religious programs.  It had a very strong dial position at 630, and an accompanying major ‘footprint’ of coverage.  Then, its sister FM station’s license made it the most powerful FM operation north of San Francisco.  The ingredients for a full, valid experiment were there.  If you could go through with it, there just wouldn’t be a much better place to give an experiment of the role of broadcasting in evangelism.  Then, there was my own conscience.   It was time to put my convictions on the line.

The agreement with the organization’s management was that the operations had to pay their own wav. While the larger corporate structure was willing to help on interim steps, the long-range objective was definitely self-support; pay as you go. Based on the owner’s financial and budgetary guidelines, strict financial guidelines were established for the stations to provide the reference points for performance.

A few months into my new role, it became clear that the best option was to maintain the 630 AM/Medium Wave operation since it produced the revenue.   Hopefully developing the programming for even greater response and relevance while simultaneously building the station’s income. Then, since the FM side was producing no income at the time, use that facility for the experimentation.

When I arrived, the staff of the two stations was seven full-time and about three part-time.   The AM programming was fairly typical U.S. domestic Christian radio with several hours a day of what, at that time, “devotional/Bible study” programs, two or three hours of sacred music, and news.  The FM side was fully automated.  Programming was a hodge-podge of sacred music (about eight hours), inoffensive secular “easy listening” music (eight hours of bland string orchestra fare that was neither commercial ‘ ‘good music” or classical), and a few Bible study/devotional religious program re-runs from the AM side.  In short, for the evangelical community, it was nicely balanced, and for the management, reasonable income that was stable.

I spent early eighteen months in research and planning.  I traveled to meet with broadcast management in other cities; talked with financially successful FM operators in the ten most important cities around the country.  Then I carefully studied the existing Seattle/Tacoma market and the local competition.  At the time, there were 34 commercial and “educational” broadcasting stations available to listeners in the area.  Formidable competition!

Using commercially-available audience research, we looked at the audiences of the existing stations our area in detail – looking at both our own two stations and the competition.  The research provided not only the size of audiences, hour by hour throughout the day but also the demographics of that audience; age, sex, etc.  Based on that assessment, I was seeking to identify what audience we might realistically try to reach that wasn’t already being served?  Were there any obvious programming formats that were successful in other cities but absent in our own?

Consider the challenge.  How to develop the largest possible audience within the confines of your Christian standards and then give them the gospel. Essentially, I didn’t see any difference between our goals and those of the regular commercial radio stations.  Broadcasting is a business.  The larger the audience, at least potentially, the larger the income.  Along with my commercial competition, I and my team wanted to speak to the largest audiences possible. For them it was ratings and profits, for us, ratings and increased audience and potential for evangelism (and hopefully enough income to pay the way).

I had long felt that almost any well-done radio format could be a valid vehicle for the gospel. A frequency address on the dial is simply a place where people congregate; publicans and sinners  “gluttons and winebibbers.” Whether it was principally news and information, classical or pop music, people were listening. Real, live human beings for whom Christ died.  People who under normal circumstances would never darken the door of a church and who were certainly not going to listen to the typical Christian radio programming.

Taking the existing audience research seriously was rare among Christian broadcasters.(2)  There always seemed to be the sense that “our message is so unique of course we will not appear favorably in the research.”  And, in looking at the research, we found out what we feared.  Our AM/medium wave station, KGDN, was one of the most successful and respected Christian radio stations in North America, but in the research, but our numbers were woeful! The top pop music station in town had a weekly cumulative audience(3) over 450,000.  Our influential Christian radio station, KGDN, had a little over 50,000 weekly cumulative audience!   At least we showed in the research and had a reference point from which to work as we moved ahead.

One night I got to thinking while lying in bed; the top five stations in the city had over one million in weekly cumulative audience. We had 50,000! How could I ever face God and justify my use of those facilities  r in this way one day longer? Did rreally believe that those people were Lost? I mean, really lost? The tears came to my eyes and I wept for a long time. ‘ ‘God help us,” was my prayer as I dropped off to a fitful and uneasy sleep.

In Part Two, the specifics in our goals, what we believed was the “theological” framework for our strategy, details of our format plans, personnel recruitment and equipment changes. The difficult but exciting “experiment” was just getting underway!

 

Part Two

After understanding what was most successful with FM stations in other cities and in review of our local competition, we believed the format we would have adopt was what, at that time was called; commercial “good music.”   Essentially it was well known, pop music standards done orchestrally.  We couldn’t go with a number of pop music formats as so much of the music had questionable lyrics and reflected anything but a Christian worldview. Then there was our ownership organization’s reputation.

Other high-potential music formats were already being done by our competition.  And, in the 1960s, successful FM broadcasting was in its infancy.  Almost no car radios received FM.  And, in homes, only about 56% had an FM radio to which they listened with any regularity.  So, it was evident that we faced a real, God-sized challenge!

Even if you start with a great idea, it takes talented, committed people to turn dreams into reality.  I had always believed that an interesting, challenging opportunity attracted gifted people.  They want to be part of innovation.  And that was certainly our experience at KBIQ.  There was no question: at one time at our operation we had the most outstanding team of professionals ever assembled at a local Christian radio station in North America.

They came from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  Obviously only the Lord could assemble such a roster. These men took massive pa cuts, moved families, etc., to join in this experiment. I clearly remember my personal joy when each of them said, “Yes, they would come.”

People make things happen (as given God’s blessing and direction of course) and that is what happened in Seattle.   As stated in part one, we had chosen commercial “good music” as the format for the experiment. While we worked hard to upgrade our medium wave, KGDN, we were working on the coming big change in FM programming.

The existing FM operation was automated and it was felt that with the kind of music we were going to play, with modifications needed for the new format we could continue with automation in contrast to “live” announcers.  So, equipment was completely reviewed and changes were made that would give us the flexibility needed.

The plan called for all music to be automated providing for quality control and minimum attention on a moment by moment basis. As we could, we wanted to have the quarter hour breaks ‘ ‘live”. Initially, the format was midnight to 5:00 p.m. fully automated with news and features pre-recorded and placed in the system at the alloted times. Then, at 5:00 p.m. a live announcer came on duty for the evening shift to midnight (which at that time was the absolute number one FM listening period). Later, we were to add live announcers in morning “drive” time, etc.

The format was to be very tightly controlled (as it is to this day). the stations held rigid control on content, length of conversation segments, etc. In short, ours evolved as a quarter-hour format of uninterrupted, unannounced music. Quarter hour breaks allowed for a maximum of two minutes of conversation (including on-the-hour when the news was scheduled for one minute). Commercials, news features, spiritual content everything had to go in that two-minute segment. That was our decision; we promoted it, stuck to it relentlessly and became number one in the market within two years (out of 17 independent FM properties).

Meanwhile, the Ki ng’s Garden ma engagement team was being kept informed of the plans for the change and the strong resistance that it probably would induce from the constituency. Members of the team (managers of other major ministries under the same corporate  umbrella) were given local stations to listen to as examples of the sort of thing we were going to do.

Plans were carefully laid to insure that the ownership’s constituency with a special letter went to 20,000 individuals in the area got the story.  Then we felt it important that that pastors would know about the planned change and, know the reason why. Personal letters were typed to over 900 ministers in the Northwest telling of the coming change — asking them and their congregations to pray for and to use the new format as a major evangelistic tool in reaching their non-Christian friends. If memory serves me correctly we got a total of three responses — one regretting our decision another expressing a “prove it to me” attitude and one thinking the idea long overdue.

A very limited budget existed for promotion. (Typical of the local Christian station which always seems to understand that transmitters have to be purchased but think that audiences automatically happen!) We had allocated money out of the AM budget.  Then by trading for various services, selling hard and working from dawn to dusk, we had a pretty good package put together once we were on the air:  A large billboard campaign, transit bus cards (exterior side panels), 10-sec. TV spots on the local CBS station, etc. In addition, there was special printed material prepared for advertising agencies, local clients, etc., all with carefully coordinated with visuals.

From the outset, for the listeners, our plan was to come on the air as a totally new station – a new sound and a new name!. So, it was off to the Federal Communications Commission and several tries later we got the call letters of KBIQ.  We invested nearly $60,000 in equipment including a new transmitter and state of the art transmitting antenna – critical for FM broadcasting.

But, of course, the real question was, how to share Christ in the middle of this beautiful format? How would Jesus come through with clarity and meaning for the listener?

Evangelism was the goal — right? To speak to unreached you have to have them listening right? We wanted to start the religious content slowly; build a reputation for a quality, adult entertainment medium so that the listener would return again and again to get our fare.  Credibility and loyalty was vital.  We wanted spiritual content on the air right away but didn’t want to come on too “heavy” at the outset. (A point on which readers may disagree).

If we could survive, taking this approach we were having an opportunity to experiment with my concept of how to use this powerful medium with a minimum of compromises. In spite of all our efforts at advance communication, we knew many church related people used to the old station would wake up, find “their” FM station gone and KBIQ  in its place. As I have now reflected, we predicted the quantity of negative response rather accurately but the quality of it?   The truth?  We never dreamed how terribly difficult it would be to stand in the face of the opposition which was to come from within the “Christian” ranks — in the community, within the management of ownership organization itself and soon, the ire of people from within my own church.

But all of this is another chapter. Next time we will cover the actual on the air story; the programming, the promotion, the terrible criticism within and without, the first person to find Christ and the great rejoicing as God slowly vindicated Himself in spite of the awesome opposition of man.

On a day of staff retreat, I had said to that the primary goal was just to say on the air in light of the opposition i knew was coming — that we had to allow the Holy Spirit time to demonstrate Himself. How little I knew then of what that “staying on the air” really meant!

 

What was the theological framework?

I realized that for our planning, communications with management and corporate donor  constituencies, we had to have a thave a theological reason for what we were doing in broadcasting.  I found that most of my fellow Christian station managers had never faced the question!

First was the very nature of evangelism. Basically, this view holds that the Scripture makes clear a three-part process; sowing, watering and reaping.  Conversion never takes place without these steps no matter how it may look on the surface. No man comes to Christ as the result of a singEe 29’30” program!

There is sowing, watering, and reaping then, ultimately, discipling.  (Matthew 13, John 4:4:28-38, and I Corinthians 3:1-160).  Sixty second spots every hour dealing with strong clear Christian content; Christ and His reality, the validity of the Scripture, the importance of the God-man question, etc.  Many, many different approaches to the same basic issues with material coming from everywhere we could get our hands on; the Lutherans, the Mennonites, the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, and our own, carefully edited (much more thrown out than used) for professionalism, clarity, relevance and genuine spiritual content.

Once on the air, the plan was to experiment with other ideas we had, but first, we had to have an audience. So, we were concerned with getting the format on the air as smoothly and professionally as possible.

On the air date was to be December 7, 1967. On the Saturday prior to going on the air the entire staff spent the day in retreat. We prayed together, talked about the details of our plans and how we were going to relate to the response which we knew was coming. We knew there would be a handful that would laud this change. However, realistically, we expected the vast .

There are times when you just know instinctively that you are in trouble. I had only slept four hours and was now shaving, ready for the first full day on the air with our infant, K BIO. I reached over and flicked on the radio to 105.3. From the speaker screamed an up-tempo, rather wailing version of ‘Thunderball” from the James Bond movie of the same name. That was my station and it was from a music library that I had selected. I knew there was trouble ahead.

A little over five hours earlier, a small group of people had gathered around the main control room at KGDN/KGFM and waited as the hands of the clock ticked toward midnight. In a few minutes a new voice in the Northwest was to be born ‘the giant reach of KBIQ” was about to be heard. At midnight, the last station break for KGFM was history and at 12 01 the thundering sound of a jet in stereo introduced the logo of K BIO: new programming, new cali letters and, ‘vve all prayed, a new day of spiritual ministry in the Puget Sound country.

The theme from “Thunderball” and its lack of precise fit into the format in those early hours of that Monday morning characterized our problems as we fought to produce programming that was on target; with our audience and with our commitment to the corporate ownership.  We knew that our music for the new KBIQ had 10 be rigidly controlled if it was going to be successful. We needed categories that could be carefully planned and aired with an automation system allowing for subtle changes in tempo and mood as we moved through the 24-hour schedule. We had settled on a simple, practical approach based on many considerations including limitations of the automation and our view of how the ‘good music” format should go together. The concept was to group the music into three classifications; up, medium end down tempo. The ‘ ‘mix” of these tempos varied according to the time of day to give the variety and pacing needed.

The problem, of course, was to get enough music in these categories that fit the format in style of performance. Several months before the station went on the air we had begun taping our own music in stereo since we had not found precisely what we wanted in any outside music library services then offered. However, to augment our own music we did buy music from an outside service for nearly a year. We found ‘ ‘up” tempo music the hardest to come by music that moved but didn’t blow the format. So, we supplemented our own music (which we continued to add at the rate of about three hours a week) with outside “up” and “medium” music. It was the outside service that had provided my ‘ ‘Thunderball.”

 

Music is probably the cause of more conflicts in Christian radio than any other ingredient in the format. I feel vstrongly that one person must make the day-to-day decisions as to whether a given track from a record will go into the format or not. Once a general policy has been outlined and agreed on by the management and the programming people, there must be one person who makes the decisions. There has never been a really successful music format in the history of U.S. radio that was put together by a committee. Never!

Music is probably the cause of more conflicts in Christian Radio than any other ingredient in the format.

And, that is the way we started at KBIQ — with Program Director, George Totes making the decisions based on a well -defi ned plan and model. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.  Shortly the pressure within the corporate structure became so great that we agreed to form a “music committee” to review the music. I would agree to this compromise only if I picked the committee from within the broadcast division’s own staff. I didn’t want a non-professional trying to tell us which music would fit the format and which would n e t. The music committee did meet regularly to review albums and we did have some real arguments but actually the music on the air changed little. The reason was that it had been basically right all along and the music committee knew it. But at least the committee approach took the heat off for a while. The committee lasted about six months.

A radio station’s overall personality is terribly important. And, since K BIO’s must c was unannounced and uninterrupted 13-14 minutes at a time,

we had to produce that personality in other ways. To begin with we wanted an aural logo that would relate to the geographical area and that would be instantly recognizable. Seattle being the home for Boeing jet aircraft, it is known by many as the “jet city.” We took that jet sound (taking off, landing, taxiing, etc.), put it in stereo and added music and voice. George Toles blended 707s with the haunting piano of Lalo Schifrin and the voice of John Pricer in some station breaks that today, years later, are still masterpieces of creative production.

In addition to the aural logo and the personality of the music itself, we added a warmth and believability through a very “low key” announcer style and conversational humor that made listening a genuine fun experience. News on the hour (and half-hour during drive time), stock market reports (live from the local brokerage office), sports news, dining and entertainment features and station promotional announcements all added to the shadings needed for the format’s constantly changing picture. (FM has the unique problem/asset of long listenership spans — quite typically 4-5 hours per day). Above all else, we wanted a format which was believable. An adult entertainment medium to which the listener would return again and again. Only in that way would we ever have a climate in which the gospel could be presented to large numbers with real effective

It was nearly three months after going on the air that one morning, we got our first spiritual “payoff.” A staff member had been at a friend’s home the previous evening. The friend related how her father, hardened to the gospel for many years, had begun listening to the station several weeks before. One evening during the previous week he had heard one of our “fishhooks” — religious messages — and the Holy Spirit had begun to work in his heart. He spent a troubled night. Early the next morning he called his daughter asking if he might come over to talk after breakfast. A little while later, over a second cup of coffee the man had bowed his head and accepted Jesus Christ . . led to the Lord by his son-in-law, a dedicated Christian layman.

What rejoicing there was that morning! People in the staff went from one end of the station to the other asking, “Have you heard the good news… It was a glorious shaft of light in a real sea of blackness because by this time the opposition to the station and its format was rapidly building steam.

The spiritual emphasis of the station had been carefully planned with a three-step introduction of the gospel in mind. For the first few months we aired one Christian message every hour at varying times with the hour. Ten to sixty seconds in length, these spots hammered away at various themes the God/man relationship, Christ’s reality, the problem of sin, the functional nature of a Christian fife and validity of God’s word in the 20th century. This was the “drop of water on the forehead” — the sowing and watering. After a few months on the air we began phase two of the plan which was to give the listener who had a genuine interest a chance to investigate Christianity further in the privacy of his own home. We offered carefully selected paper-back books, free, for this purpose. For every book we gave away our staff read ten or more. The books had to pass rigid standards- They had to be genuinely appealing with title and chapter heading that were promotable through spots on the air; the layout and format had to be professional; the book had to be written in a style and in a vocabulary the non-Christian understood; it had to be readable and a genuinely good book; but above all, it had to present Christ in some clear and reasonable way. Each quarter books were offered for a month to six weeks with a schedule of 4-6 spots a 24-hour day. Typically, we gave away 400-700 books each time, each of which went with a personal letter asking for the reader’s comments. This was another part of the “watering” process.

Approximately a year after the station went on the air, we were able to initiate phase three of the spiritual emphasis; People Who Care — a counseling service for our listeners. Again, the station was seen as simply a link between people; the staff with their Christian view and the listener with his non-Christian view,

NOVEMBER

Purpose of the format was to engage the non-Christian and expose him to certain Christian truth over a considerable period of time allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work. We knew that certain members of the audience are aware of need and willing to consider Christ while others are not. The problem is, to allow those willing to talk to do so and still keep the listenership of the majority of the audience that is not yet ready to consider Christ. This, we felt, could best be done by limiting the on-air emphasis to sowing and watering and leaving the reaping to techniques inked to the station but not on the air.

One thing is clear. In such efforts you can count on an aggressive adversary’!  People Who Care, our off-air counseling service, operated on a very simple basis. Spots on the air indicate a problem area of life to which Christ can relate. The listener is invited to respond to a special phone number. A group of laymen were trained to handle the calls and, in a way that was relevant to their concern,  share Christ with the respondents.  Initial contact was made by telephone and later discussions, if at all possible, take place in person. Response to the service was almost immediate. And, from the outset, we began to see lives changed as people came to Christ; families were revolutionized; individuals experienced the power of God’s grace; and listeners moved from darkness into the glowing light and warmth of God’s love.

Knowing that there would be strong negative reaction to the station’s new format from certain segments of the Christian community, I had written a standard explanation of what we were trying to accomplish which staffers could use as a guide when they talked with people. As the telephone calls came in, we kept a daily score sheet on the pluses and minuses. We soon confirmed that those who are negative always are more vocal than those who are positive. While it’s hard to imagine, e even had “Christian” listeners calling, using profanity in telling us why we were unscriptural in our approach. It was not unusual to see secretaries and the receptionist in tears those days answering the calls.

The constituent’s response was not long in coming either. Soon the administration of the ownership organization was getting threats people saying they would drop their financial support, rewrite their bequests and wills or just generally berating our “departure from the faith.” Getting that kind of negative feedback on a daily basis takes its toll. And, while great credit must go to the corporate administration for the fact that they generally stood with us in our goals and in the plans we were executing, there were times of wavering.

During the first year of operation, the station and its policies went all the way to the Corporate Board of Trustees three times for a “vote of confidence.” At least two of the three times I was personally on hand and the station’s life escaped by a mere vote or two. In short, the early days were terribly difficult — the blackness only shot through occasionally by the encouraging light of the Spirit’s work in someone’s heart – or by the rare Christians who would telephone or write saying that they were praying  for us – that God would give us the ability to “hang on.”  Honestly I wonder how my wife and family survived.  Night after night I would come home after ten or twelve hours at the station totally wiped out physically, spiritually and emotionally. I was constantly discouraged by the awful days we were going through and inside my heart of hearts wondered so often if the vision was really worth it.

Time after time we would meet as a staff and read the Word and pray asking God to give us wisdom and love in dealing with both sides — those who responded to the gospel on the air and those who wanted to crucify us for our “heresy.” In the midst of all this, we had to try to make the station pay its way. This was part of the ground rules. We were aggressive in our promotion through television, billboards, transit advertising and newspaper (all obtained through trade arrangements since we had practically no cash for promotional purposes.) We held promotional lunches in advertising agencies to introduce the station and its format. We wrote and produced a special eleven-minute presentation in which several agencies said was the finest they had ever heard. And. as a result of all this were attracting both advertising and listeners. The advertisers came slower than the listeners as is often the case. But by the time the second audience rating period came around, KBIQ already showed and was almost tied with its sister AM station, KGDN which continued to air the more typical religious fare of programs, sacred music, etc.

During one of the famous Trustees meetings a Board member mentioned that he had overheard a conversation the previous day in the local Washington Athletic Club, a men’s club in downtown Seattle. Three executives were discussing their marketing plans. One man brought up radio and suggested that the new FM station on the air, KBIQ, was a real value and ought to be considered. At mention of the station, another of the three spoke up and said, “You know, that station has really made me think about myself.  I’ve been a real •good boy’ recently. They talk about God all the time.’   That Trustee became a positive advocate.

A letter came to the station one day after a few months on the air saying, “I’ve worked at this company for several years now. Every day I work with the same man. He is really profane and has always refused to talk about Christ. Yesterday he asked me if I ever listened to “the station with the jet.” ‘ I asked him if he meant K BIQ and he responded, ‘yes.’ He said, ‘The God spots on that station are really getting to me.’ For the first time in al! these years I was able to talk to him about Christ. Thank you at KBIQ for making it possible.”

There were many lessons learned in the process of this agonizing birth; first, the burden of proof always lies with the innovator. Second, you must do an intensive job of pre-education.  But no matter how much you do it will never be enough since there will always be intensive resistance to change. Three, it takes time for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts and vindicate Himself and new methodology — we were just glad we survived long enough to see Him prove His point.  Fourth, a thing of lasting value always comes at a high price.

Today, the Board of Trustees has had numerous offers for KBIQ, even in times of real financial stress and they have refused to sel,t the evidence of God’s blessing is now unmistakable in the hundreds of lives touched and changed by the Gospel.   REGAL BOOKS, released a book detailing the story of the lives of some of the respondents to the counseling service, People Who Care. The book, God Where Are You?, is the first one ever written exclusively about people changed through a radio ministry a radically different kind of radio evangelism at that. Many thousands of outstanding paper-back books have gone into the hands of Northwestern listeners and, in turn, have been passed on to hundreds more.

As the apostle said, “the half has not been told.” These three episodes in the planning, embryo stage and birth of KBIQ are only a glimpse into what is a long and complex story the intertwining of human lives and God’s Holy Spirit.  One thing is clear’ on such efforts, you can count on an aggressive adversary. Satan will attack with incredible vengeance from without and from within. There is only one hope for survival; total honesty, i n-depth professional preparation, a genuine Biblical basis for what you are doing and spending time on your knees. No strategy is a panacea. Evangelism is not the only worthy goal in the use of broadcast media. I only plead that we know clearly where we are going, why we are going there and that we have a willingness to stick to the path we chart once we are underway. God help us to do it!

______________

Notes:

  1. This article first appeared as a serialized, three-part story in The International Christian Broadcasting Bulletin in 1968-69
  2. Since 1992 there has been a productive coop research arrangement between many of the international Christian broadcasting organizations and the BBC’s research department. The initiative is currently known as Intersearch.
  3. The cumulative total of all people who reported listening at least one time for 30 minutes or more during the previous 7 days.