LOP 26 – Radio in Mission

Radio in Mission
Lausanne Occasional Paper 26
© Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization 1989

Contents

I. Introduction
II. Historical Perspective
III. Using Radio in World Mission

A. The Role of Radio in the Mission of the Church
B. The Strengths of Radio in Reaching the Unreachable
C. Our Ultimate Goal – the Planting of Churches
D. Integration of Effort
E. A People Group Approach
F. Holistic Gospel – the Framework for our Message
G. A Passing Opportunity
H. Current Status of Radio in Missions
I. The Need for Good Programming
J. The Work of the Holy Spirit in Effecting Change
K. Theological Aspects
L. Radio and Christian Community

IV. Major Challenges and Opportunities Facing Us

A. Unreached Peoples: – Muslims and Hindus;- “Minority” Peoples
B. Planning and Working Together
C. Finding the Right People

V. Areas of Misunderstanding or Problems

A. “Radio is Impersonal”
B. “Easy Evangelism”
C. “Establishing a Rival Church or Denomination”
D. Instant Results
E. Western Misconceptions based upon Experience
F. Unproven Secular Hypotheses
G. Overlooking the Multi-step Factor

VI. CONCLUSIONS

Footnotes


I. INTRODUCTION

Since the beginnings of the Church the great Commission has remained unchanged. Yet the environment in which the Church functions today is considerably more complex than in the days of the apostles. Not least is the enormous challenge we face of a burgeoning world population.

Happily God has provided His Church today with tools unknown to the early churches, tools which, if used properly, bring the task of world evangelization within the realm of possibility. If the printing press provided the first major breakthrough in history then the electronic media, with the advent of radio, provided the second. These are two of the tools of which we are talking and it is hard to conceive of missions today without either of these.

But how well does the Church understand their use? The purpose of this booklet is to look more closely at the second of these powerful media – radio – in order to build bridges for understanding. This will in turn pave the way for more effective use of radio as we contemplate world mission through the end of this 20th century. Christian radio today reaches more people in their own language with the Gospel than ever before in history although we shall never know the full impact that it has made upon the growth of the Church worldwide. The nature of the medium precludes head counts of converts and tabulations of baptisms.

Indeed, for many of us who work in radio we prefer it that way, not because we wish to duck away from accountability (though some do) but because we tend to see ourselves as more of an influence for the Kingdom of God, moving people towards and into a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This booklet is written out of the conviction that radio yet has a major contribution to make in the context of modern missions. Although Christian broadcasters are on the air by radio in 200 different languages they are coming to grips with the countless opportunities which yet remain especially as they relate to the large numbers of unreached people groups.

The World By 2000 initiative sponsored directly by the four major international broadcasters has attracted much attention and works hand-in-hand with RICE. ‘Completing the task’ and ‘filling in the gaps’ are phrases often heard. In radio we still see a great need for this emphasis. A fifth of the world’s people still do not have Christian radio programs on the air in a language in which they can reasonably understand the Gospel. Most of these are living in restricted surroundings where a Gospel witness by other conventional means is virtually unknown. But perhaps of greater consequence is the attention being paid to both the content of the broadcasts and the attempt to develop strategies incorporated into other evangelism initiatives as part of an integrated whole. Cooperation in mission, as many are discovering, is the only way to move ahead.

II. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Before proceeding any further we should place our own discussion on the viability of radio as a tool for mission in the wider context of the development of radio during this century.

Few people are aware that the very first radio broadcast was in fact religious – and Christian – in nature. Although morse code had been in use for a short time already it was not until 1906 that the first voice transmission was made. The occasion was Christmas Eve. A Canadian experimenter by the name of Reginald Aubrey Fessenden broadcast a special message to ships off the east coast of the United States. It consisted of the playing of a violin solo of Gounod’s “O Holy Night” followed by a reading from St.Luke’s Gospel and more music.

The first regular Christian broadcasts were church services in the US from Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh in 1920 while in the United Kingdom the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has broadcast Christian programs ever since the day they first went on the air in 1923. The first international Christian radio station (NCRV) was set up the following year in the Netherlands by the Dutch Protestants.

In time the networks and denominational radio began to develop in the US – Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, United Church of Christ all started their own programs. Personalities such as Aimee Semple McPherson, Bob Schuler, Fulton Sheen, Charles E. Fuller, Rex Humbard and Oral Roberts became household names. But programming, for the most part was uncreative and very much followed the pulpit or prophetic model. More innovative programs were introduced by groups such as the Southern Baptist Radio & TV Commission.

On the missionary scene radio took to the airwaves long before many governments saw the potential of radio and even before its use was widespread in the developing world. Clarence Jones and Reuben Larsen were visionaries who saw the potential of radio in missions and pioneered the development of missionary radio in Ecuador. This resulted in station HCJB “The Voice of the Andes” making its first transmission on Christmas Day 1931. Since then the worldwide coverage has been expanded through the services of the Far East Broadcasting Company (on air 1948), Trans World Radio (1954), Radio ELWA (1954) and others. By 1958 there were already twenty international Christian radio stations in operation and this had doubled by 1964. Today they span the globe.

Summarizing the development of Christian resources and activities in World Christian Encyclopedia David B. Barrett describes Christian broadcasting as probably “the single most massive development” with Christian radio and TV combined reaching in 1980 an estimated 990 million people, or 22.6% of the world’s population.

Today radio still holds first place as the most pervasive mass medium in the world, despite the influence of television.

But what, realistically, can it offer missions?


III. USING RADIO IN WORLD MISSION

The role and function of Christian radio when used to its fullest potential may be seen from a variety of aspects.

A. The Role of Radio in the Mission of the Church

We need to first remind ourselves that the rationale for any ministry by radio begins not with the recording of the radio programme itself or with the knowledge that radio time is available for the taking. It must of necessity begin with a clear understanding of the role that radio can play in the building of the Church among a given people group. It is a missions approach.

On a worldwide basis the same principles apply. As we examine the current status of Christianity we do not need to look far before we discover situations where radio could potentially make a significant contribution toward the establishment of God’s Kingdom among select people groups or in whole nations. Unfortunately, many church and mission leaders are only now coming to recognize this fact. Till now their confidence in radio as a medium has not been sufficiently high to consider the effort and expense justifiable.

Understanding the role of radio derives from the nature and strengths of the tool and how it is best used. This tool of radio is best understood if we use the analogy of a toolbox. A wide variety of different tools are at the disposal of the church today – literature, television, film, etc., to name a few – and each is designed for a different task, though there may be some overlap. Matching the tool to the job to be done is what we are concerned about. Unfortunately for a large number of challenging opportunities many of the tools we would like to use are missi ng. In some instances radio may be the only tool at our disposal whereas in others radio may not even be an option.

This is why we need to do our homework to find out what tools God has made available to us to do the job. Happily, vast amounts of useful information are available to us today, and computers are making the accessing and processing of data almost a matter of routine. Thus we have no excuse for not viewing the world – or “our world” – with greater objectivity and seek opportunities for developing radio strategies as an integral part of evangelism and church-planting.

B. The Strengths of Radio in Reaching the Unreachable

Viewed against the backdrop of other church-related ministries, the particular strength of radio which stands above all others is its ability to transcend barriers.

In our world today we find barriers to the Gospel of various kinds. The ideological barrier, as characterized by Iron and Bamboo Curtains, has perhaps attracted the most attention and evoked the greatest sympathy for those thus separated from us. Less obvious have been the more subtle barriers erected by religion and culture, in many ways more formidable than the ideological. How can those bound by the caste system of India, for example, be given a reasonable opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel? Or the strictly Muslim Aceh of North Sumatra in Indonesia? How likely is it for the Japanese teenager to defy family pressures in order to go to church?

Even in western cultures, overtaken by materialism and vulnerable to movements such as New Age, radio may effectively be used to spread a Christian world view and uphold Christian values.

For each of these the Gospel can be put in the marketplace of ideas by radio. As radio stations today are continually spewing out entertainment, propaganda and a variety of viewpoints we too as Christians can float our beliefs, outlook and opinions to put alongside philosophies alien to the Gospel. Thus seeker and non-seeker alike can ‘shop’ in that marketplace without even leaving the seclusion and safety of his own room.

As a listener’s interest is built up he becomes a regular listener. If he writes in response to the program the contact may be further strengthened through personal correspondence; literature can be used to put the Word of God into his hands and furnish further study materials such as Bible correspondence courses.

Such contact may go largely unnoticed even in hostile surroundings. In India, where churches have been successfully planted among caste Hindus through radio, the resulting Christian groups have been spared ostracism because their origins appeared to have sprung from within rather than being brought in by an alien group.

Opposition to the Gospel may be stronger in certain Muslim contexts than in communist countries, but pressures are more likely to come from the immediate family and neighborhood rather than the government. For this reason it is unlikely that even jamming would be effective in deterring people from listening. Even in communist countries today the jamming of religious broadcasts is largely unknown. A constraint common to both Muslim and communist situations, however, is the strong opposition mounted by the authorities to prevent listeners making contact with the broadcasting station. In some instances reprisals are extremely heavy, a fact which calls for extreme caution on the part of Christian broadcasters in following up on a listener’s enquiry.

Some language groups – mostly minority peoples – may be inaccessible due to geographical or other local factors. A number of the minority peoples of Myanmar(Burma) and Vietnam are being accessed daily by radio broadcasts in their own tongue.

What other strengths of radio also apply? Here are some of the more obvious ones:-

  • – Its personal nature as a medium. A listener comes to feel he knows the radio announcer as he listens to him regularly. Although he has never met him face-to-face a relationship develops. The speaker becomes more than a voice, but a personality, a friend, such that the listener even develops an image in his mind of what the announcer looks like (often inaccurate!). When the announcer is not on the air any more there is a deep sense of loss. The listener also develops a keen sense for the sincerity of the announcer when speaking about deeper things. He knows whether he can be trusted and if his opinions count.
  • – The enormous multiplication of effort it represents. If we broadcast over a local station one broadcaster can potentially speak to the population of a whole city and beyond. On the international scale one broadcaster can potentially speak to all who speak his language within his country at the same time. Even if we take a handful of people who can work as a team to produce a variety of programmes, the economy of people is remarkable. This multiplying effect holds great potential when it comes to unreached people groups such as found in India or Mongolia, for example, among which enough believers can scarcely be found to count on one’s hands.
  • – Its cost effectiveness. Although the capital outlay of radio facilities may be high the ultimate cost of speaking to each listener every day is minimal.
  • – Its timeliness. Radio is a living medium with live sounds and voices speaking. It also has the edge in being current with news and current affairs. In times of crisis people tune in their radios for the latest updates. It also means that our message content can relate to the issues of the day and not be divorced from day-to-day realities. Phone-in programmes introduce a new dynamic to broadcasting and serve to make the station a real part of the community while providing practical dimensions to the Gospel.
  • – Its potential among illiterates. It may be argued that the poverty of illiterates may preclude them from having radios. But this is not necessarily the case. Happily the solid-state revolution in electronics has brought the cost of transistor radios down to very affordable levels and today a radio is one of the first luxuries that most people will buy for themselves. To these illiterates radio may become their primary source of information and education. They can listen just the same as anyone else – in fact they become more dependent on this source of information than literates.

C. Our Ultimate Goal – the Planting of Churches

It seems that this particular dimension of radio has been overlooked and some even question whether it is possible. But like the blind man (John 9) who testified to his critics and sceptics, we too can point to the indications of where church-planting associated with radio has already taken place. China possibly affords our best examples.

Historically, radio broadcasters have not seen the possibilities of encouraging the planting and nurturing of fellowship groups, or ‘worshipping Christ groups’, among their listeners. If they have seen the potential their attempts have not been explicit. No end of programs have sought to prepare the ground for evangelism, have taught basic Gospel and called for decisions. Believers have been nurtured, instructed and discipled. But little, if any, attempt has been made to tell new believers how they might practically spawn a worshipping Christ group among relatives and friends. Encouragement has been given for the listener to attend local churches, but little more. This is all well and good if there is a local church – but what if there is not? Even in highly developed Japan this is often the case.

But in spite of this apparent omission it appears that churches of various kinds have been brought into existence under certain circumstances through listening to the radio. Barrett draws our attention to the large numbers of isolated radio churches which exist in the Soviet Union . These are defined as ‘new, indigenous house churches, cells or nuclei composed of isolated radio believers brought into being solely through Christian broadcasting and/or Bible correspondence courses by mail, etc.’

From China many letters are received which make reference to the fact that groups of listeners meet for fellowship and teaching around their radios. There would appear to be a gold mine of information yet to be unearthed here if only we could research the growth of the Chinese church during the last 40 years and the role that radio has played in it. A knowledgeable spokesman for the Chinese church has estimated that one half of China’s recent believers have had their first introduction to the Gospel through radio broadcasts. Today blocks of airtime on various stations are set aside for meeting the needs of the radio churches in the Soviet Union and China.

In Gujarat state of W. India, some very interesting things have been taking place among caste Hindus as a result of targetted radio programming coupled with sensitive and personal follow-up methods. Case studies are already available which document the process that has taken place which is resulting in churches being planted within the fabric of respectable caste Hindu society and encouraged by daily broadcasts.

It would seem as though our failure to explicitly explain how to start churches has largely sprung from our own inability to put ourselves in the place of our listener who has recently become a believer, possibly out of the background of another religion. What questions are in his mind?

  • How can he attend a local church given the hostility from within his own family?
  • What if his parents discovered he were a believer?
  • How can one worship God unless there is qualified leadership and a proper place to worship?
  • What do you do if you don’t know any Christian hymns and don’t know how to pray?
  • Why should believers need to come together anyhow?

Are we telling him how?

But we should first define our terms. What do we mean by church in this context?

In the strictly biblical sense we mean a group of individuals who meet together regularly in the Name of Jesus, for the express purpose of worshipping Jehovah God and Him alone. Such meetings are characterized by the practice of Bible study and prayer. By so doing a real sense of Christian fellowship is experienced and a desire kindled to witness to the reality of the living Lord Jesus Christ in their midst.

The size of the group is immaterial, for wherever two or three are gathered in my Name there am I. . . Neither is the composition of the group of any consequence. It may be just a family group, or an association of friends or work mates. If the group is spiritually strong it will most probably be characterized by growth or be responsible for the establishment of other similar groups, at least, in the immediate area.

D. Integration of Effort

The ministries of the Church are many and varied, inter-relating as the segments of an orange. To use the familiar biblical analogy we might consider the varied ministries of the Church as extensions of the spiritual gifts that are represented within the Body of Christ. Each part of the Body needs the others, each has distinct functions, and each is called upon to exercise its own function to the fullest. Moreover, each is also called upon to respect and support the others while recognizing both it s own strengths and limitations.

We are also encouraged to be ‘co-workers’ together with Christ in cooperation with one another and under the direction of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3) in the great and joyful task of evangelism.

For this reason we must emulate the same model in world mission. We must identify not only our own strengths (and weaknesses) but also the strengths of others. In this way we can blend our respective strengths in a unified approach, each doing what we can do best.

Relief and development may provide the practical helps, the tangible expressions of loving concern. Literature and print will not only leave something in peoples’ hands for them to take home and read but could also provide advertising for the radio broadcasts. Radio in turn provides teaching that explains the literature distributed, sending out or promoting Bible Correspondence courses for those who wish to know more, etc. It all fits so wonderfully together once we develop this perspective.

The results of the overall effort are ploughed into the local church, if there is one. When the local church sees the results of combined ministry its members get enthusiastic about supporting it in terms of funds, prayer support and personnel. In this way the so-called parachurch organizations are not perceived as a threat to the life of the church but rather as working alongside it with the same goals and objectives.

In the context of unreached peoples, radio organizations will be found playing prominent roles in many instances. But for all their potential they will be helpless in formulating strategies unless they obtain the support and help they need from others, particularly those familiar with the local situation and the people group in question. Not least is the need for locating individual believers who are willing to be trained for radio outreach. This may require a global search with much prayer for certain ‘rare’ language speakers.

Cooperation and better communication will also need to be seen among the broadcasting organizations themselves. One tangible expression of this cooperation is a research office for the the World By 2000 project which has been set up at U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena and operated jointly by FEBC, HCJB and TWR. Through this project these broadcasters are identifying major world languages still without Christian radio broadcasts and explore ways of putting new languages on the air. At the same time the responsibility for new languages is decided with a view to avoiding much duplication of effort.

E. A People Group Approach

We need to aggressively counter the popular view that radio is for the ‘masses out there’ and that the purest of Gospel content will suffice for all peoples equally.

It is our view that every integrated radio strategy will need to be worked out in the context of the people group targetted. Programming needs be conceived such that the Christ of the Gospel finds and meets listeners in that group right where they are in their very real world of ‘today’ with all its anxieties, frustrations, doubts and fears. How could we, then, justify a generalized approach? Far better to come to an understanding of the principles of good radio and apply them to each situation.

The opportunities presented by different people groups will be varied and strategies will need to be prepared accordingly, each planned over the long term, say three years minimum. Those most familiar with the group in question will be most knowledgeable in terms of where openings for the Gospel are the greatest. Which segments of society are the most responsive? To what extent are they aware of the Gospel? What elements of the Gospel would most appeal to their culture and world view? What is their present perception of the Gospel, of Jesus, or of Christians?

What needs do they have at the present time and how can we relate the Gospel to those needs? How can we as Christians help them in their need?

What cultural forms would best lend themselves to the presentation of the Gospel by radio? How can the Gospel be contextualised so as to convey the greatest meaning?

Practically we also need to know more of their daily listening habits. Do they have radios? What times do they listen to radio? When is prime-time television (so that we can avoid it)? What kinds of programs do they enjoy listening to the most? What role does radio play in their lives?

The questions are numerous but answers to these and many others will begin to provide indications of the viability of a radio outreach. Research – of some form or other – must be undertaken before projects can be launched into in order that the most suitable approach can be found.

Viewed in this manner it is evident that program will need to be made specially for a given people group. There will be no room for translated materials or “borrowed” strategies however effective they may have been elsewhere. There would, of course, be room for learning from the experiences or successes of similar forms of outreach, so that similar principles might be applied or programming concepts transferred.

F. Holistic Gospel – the Framework for our Message

Evangelicals have typically seen their message as consisting chiefly of matters of faith and belief in Christ alone as the basis of a life-changing experience – and rightly so. Unfortunately, by so doing, we have tended to stay away from issues relating to the practical outworking of that faith in daily living and in society. It often takes less effort to handle matters purely at the spiritual level.

Over the last twenty years or so there has been seen an increasing awareness of the believer’s responsibilities in the other areas of life. Progress has been made in putting together the various aspects of Christian belief and practice as part of the total Gospel “package” modelled upon the life, teaching, practice and example of Jesus Himself.

In Christian radio, though basically confined to a message conveyed through word and sound we, too, need to be found incorporating a holistic approach. By this we mean the relevance of the Gospel to every area of life. As Robert McLeish has said there is no subject which cannot be dealt with Christian-ly. A world view of Christianity excludes nothing.

Communication of a Gospel of faith without reference to its life-changing effects upon the individual, his family, and his society would not only be partial Gospel, but would also find only partial success in meeting people at their point of need. As the late R.T. Brooks has so eloquently expressed: –

If (the content of our message) begins outside of the living, breathing world of love and suffering, or if at any time it passes out of that element, it can never reach its destination. Our primary need is for a theological message won by a real encounter between revelation and life.”

We are talking here of a message that is deeply grounded in real life, while focused on the Cross of Christ and God’s redeeming work of grace through the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are talking of the King, who has come to restore “shalom” to a shattered and distorted world. We are talking of Kingdom-living and all that it offers those who are willing to humble themselves, and enter – by way of the Cross – into that Kingdom. We are talking of the healing of relationships that takes place when the King is put at the centre of one’s life and outlook.

This is the pattern of life we want to offer through faith in Christ – God’s authentic blueprint for mankind, not the man-made imitations of Marxism or thinly disguised Hinduism which are paraded before us as providing the answers to modern man’s dilemma.

We believe God’s remedy for man is total and the only effective one. We believe it is attractive, but also costly in terms of repentance and denial of one’s will. We believe that Kingdom concepts can be translated into any culture, as the message is incarnationalised and is perceived as relevant to the dilemmas of today’s man.

But we also need to demonstrate it….

The challenge to broadcasters lies in finding ways of doing this through radio. In a very real sense it can be done.

But how?

It will mean taking our programming out of the studio and into the real suffering, hurting world. The broadcaster will need to find ways of presenting the real issues faced by society and then creatively relating the Gospel to those issues – with sensitivity and without being simplistic. In practical terms this may call for many interviews with those affected by the issue in question.

It may also call for a wider use of drama since much truth is better conveyed through real life situations than by merely being talked about. Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness is a case in point especially in many cultures where it is basically unknown.

The point is that the Christian broadcaster does not necessarily have to be an authority on many of these topics or have grappled personally with the issues (such as the loss of a child). But he can provide a platform for those who have and by the selection of his subjects can get them to speak for themselves and demonstrate the faith which shines through the suffering.

If direct monological Bible teaching seemingly provides a short-cut to evangelism (with few listeners) taking the longer way around by the use of drama and other creative forms may, in the long run, be more effective and impact many more lives.

G. A Passing Opportunity

It would seem that our time is limited. As far as the present is concerned things have never looked better for Christian radio in terms of opportunity, equipment resources, and freedom to broadcast internationally. But by the end of this century we could face a very different world with secular humanism on the increase in the west, the movement toward the setting up of a world government, and the growing persecution of Christians and curtailment of Christian activity. It is extremely likely that a few years from now we could find ourselves looking back nostalgically on this period of history, as “the golden years” of opportunity for international Christian broadcasting.

Without being prophets of doom we nevertheless have to be realists, especially as large sums of money are invested in radio installations.

On the other hand we should not be discouraged to the point of overlooking opportunities in local radio that are presenting themselves in a number of countries. There are probably more opportunities for private ownership of local stations, or for the purchase of airtime on secular stations, than we are aware of. Compared with shortwave broadcasts, such local broadcasts are surely the best, and every effort should be made to explore where these openings exist.

Those with clear vision can read the writing on the wall, but they can also perceive the opportunities. We need to take heed, and apply ourselves wholeheartedly to the best use of our tools while we still have them to use. God holds us accountable for powerful tools such as radio with which He has entrusted His Church.

H. Current Status of Radio in Missions

In the more than fifty years since Jones and Larsen put the first missionary radio station on the air in Quito, Ecuador, the impact of radio for missions has been substantial. Though it may be impossible to quantify the long-term effects statistically in terms of conversions and baptisms that have resulted, it has become apparent to missions researchers that Christian radio and TV have been a major force in evangelism.

Barrett has gone on record with some bold statements describing global Christian broadcasting as the major single innovation of this present era of missions.

Secular researchers are cognizant too of the size and impact of missionary radio, placing the evangelical radio movement alongside the superpowers of the radio world. As Richard E. Wood has commented:-

It is clear that the airwaves are dominated by two major concerns, politics and Christian evangelism, and the evangelical missionaries . . . . can compete on equal terms with the world’s major political voices.

Looking at the statistics we have to admit that they are impressive. If we exclude Christian broadcasting in N. America we find that more than 1000 hours of transmitter time are on the air daily from the major international broadcasters alone. These broadcasts are carried in 200 languages and dialects each week and are capable of covering all parts of the inhabited world. Shortwave and powerful international medium- wave stations are located in a dozen different countries that circle the globe. Th is is in addition to the opportunities that exist for broadcasting over local stations in a number of countries, either through privately owned Christian stations or through the purchase of airtime.

However, lest we think that the job is already being done to our satisfaction, we need to take a closer look at the data.

One of the first things we discover is that more than half (56%) of the total output is taken up by two languages only – English (34%) and Spanish (22%). Then follows Mandarin (8.6%) and Russian (6.4%). The remaining 190 or so languages only account for 29% of the total broadcasting output between them. Of course there may be many good reasons for this imbalance (such as shortage of personnel/program supply). There may also be some good justification for broadcasting in such common trade languages as English but there has to be a better explanation for this disproportionate amount of attention given to languages we speak!

The second sobering discovery is that the most deserving and challenging languages and peoples, in terms of evangelism, are being overlooked.

In other words, where radio can potentially make the greatest contribution for missions, the efforts expended in Christian radio broadcasting are, generally speaking, the least.

This is most apparent among Muslim and Hindu peoples. Although communist countries attract much effort, little extra effort is being made to access by radio those people who are among the least Christianized on earth. Large population groups, such as the Turkish-speaking people (43 millions), are getting little more than a half-hour a day of Christian radio. Other large language groups such as the Maithili of India (25 millions) were getting nothing in their mother tongue but have to listen in Hindi, a second language. Happily this has now been rectified with broadcasts in Maithili beginning in 1995.

This very cursory analysis takes no account of the content or form of the programs. Much of what goes out on the air is the “standard fare” for Christian radio stations – heavy content with little attention paid to either contextualisation or the need to provide good listening. This does not mean to say that nothing is being done right. On the contrary. Some very innovative things are being done and with tremendous effect in instances where objectivity is already being applied. This provides encouragement for us, especially when we find that there are other ways of doing things. But it also reminds us that if the use of radio is to be optimised in the worldwide mission of the church then much more attention needs to be paid to creativity and contextualisation.

I. The Need for Good Programming

Although we may have different ideas on what constitutes “good programming” we could possibly agree that it means, in general terms, programming which the listener enjoys spending time listening to.

If we understand our listener at all, it surely assumes that we understand his main motivation in listening to the radio. Good programming means that we will attract an audience – it always does, so long as people have radios capable of receiving our signals and programs are in their own mother tongue. Bad programming, however, does not mean anything other than that we are placing an unwarranted strain upon the sovereignty of God, as Phil Booth has put it, while filling valuable frequency allocation with ineffective communication.

The sobering fact is – bottom line – that without listeners we cannot expect to accomplish anything. We are wasting our time.

The best message demands the best programs, if we value it at all and want to ensure that it is delivered. Yet, curiously enough, we are often very careless in this regard, clinging for assurances to verses such as Isaiah 55:11 in the face of no apparent results. As evangelicals we are notoriously weak in this area, having little understanding of the social aspects of the media and how radio “works” in society to influence thinking and bring about change. The message (and a partial understanding of it, at that) has become everything. We have specialized in clout rather than finesse.

Too easily we have forgotten that our role is most frequently that of persuader and the vast majority of listeners are not listening, waiting to be evangelized. Our listener is sovereign by virtue of the fact that he can tune us out or turn us off. Everything is going for him! But if we do our homework by trying to understand him, and make our programs appealing to him in his situation, whetting his appetite to tune in for more of what we are offering, then we win his friendship and respect.

The Gospel is the offer of life in all its fullness; it is joy, it is celebration, it inter- prets to us a world of confusing and conflicting ideas. It is not a bitter pill to be swallowed and taken with sugar-coating if all else fails. True, there is the element of costly repentance which should not be minimized. It brings peace to the troubled heart and rekindles a sense of wonder as it puts man in touch with his Creator. Yet, how often we are so sober, so serious, so uncreative that it appears as though we major in boredom and only the disciplines of our existence.

Good programming, therefore, is more than pure content. It is a reflection of the countless facets of the Gospel and the “Gospelized” who reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in their outlook, testimony and creativity.

J. The Work of the Holy Spirit in Effecting Change

Our efforts should never become mere products of human wisdom and strategy. Yet we are in danger of being misunderstood by our use of strategic terminology if we fail to emphasize and keep before us at all times our need for total dependence upon the Holy Spirit. He is the One who superintends our efforts, who brings together “the team”, who prepares hearts and matches the message to needs and opportunities in ways beyond our comprehension. He is the One who is the ultimate Agent of Change. We submit to His direction and leading.

Once we truly grasp this fact we realize that the product we “market” defies equation with secular commodities. We have an Agent already working on our behalf in the lives of our listeners – or potential listeners. By contrast a secular marketing company does not enjoy such benefits but has to depend solely on sheer persuasion and advertising power to sell its product.

But this does not mean we can sit back and take our job lightly. God calls for a curious intermix of our efforts and His and appears to work more freely when we – as His co-workers – do our work well. We cannot deny that the Kingdom suffers where God’s work is done in a slipshod or careless manner.

We need to pay heed to secular communication theory and studies since, for the most part, they provide the best guidelines for much of our methodology. However, as already pointed out, because of the integral part played by the Holy Spirit in the convincing of spiritual realities, we shall need to exercise sensitivity in knowing when to relegate secular theories to second place and not be bound by them. The act of engaging in spiritual warfare automatically brings into play elements to which secular marketing and communication are immune. In Christian ministry we need to remind ourselves that these spiritual forces can be working either for or against us but are rarely, if ever, neutral.

K. Theological Aspects

How do we go about defending RICE theologically? Can radio rightly be accused of being ‘missionary work made easy’, without personal interaction or sense of community, without personal cost or involvement?

Our greatest defence surely lies in the Great Commission which compels us to take the Gospel to all the world. Without the mass media, and radio in particular, this would be extremely difficult in today’s world. It compels us to go panta ta ethne – to every ethnic group – with the Good News, and to make disciples. Radio provides that extension of ourselves, bringing the opportunity for listening, hearing, understanding – and believing, within the reach of many who would not otherwise hear.

Jesus’ style of communication was largely through the use of parables – an oral approach. Parables convey ideas, concepts and attitudes, an approach which is very Asian, unlike the sequential theological ideas with which westerners feel more familiar. Radio lends itself to the non-confrontational presentation of ideas in this way.

Radio is also good at repeating ideas and works well with people with whom gradual change – toward Christ – is taking place. More often than giving the listener an “only chance” we find ourselves unfolding day-by-day God’s plan of salvation and the ramifications for everyday living. Our ultimate aim is conversion to the Lordship of Christ but for most people that can often take time.

We see radio as playing a significant role in the sowing, watering and reaping process described in scripture. We are intent upon planting churches as a visible expression of God’s Kingdom.

God equips us as His servants to do His work. He thus provides the Church with a variety of tools, radio included. He is also the great Creator who masterminded the total spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, desiring that it too be used to redound with His glory and praise. The psalmist pointed to this when he said “All Thy works shall praise Thee O God!” We would be foolish if we defaulted in this area and allowed alien philosophies alone free use of these natural resources which can be used to great effect for the Gospel.

This reminds us, too, of our accountability before God. Much effort and expense has gone into providing elaborate broadcast facilities. Stories abound of how God has opened up the opportunity in unusual ways for these facilities to exist. As good stewards, therefore, we need to “occupy well” until the Lord comes again, making the best possible use of these tools in the most conscientious manner, especially since radio appears to be uniquely equipped to reach millions. Their salvation may depend upon our willingness to be obedient in this area. Our ultimate effectiveness may be found to vary according to the extent to which we can work cooperatively as interdependent members of the Body.

L. Radio and Christian Community

The relationship between specialized ministries such as radio and the Church is of widespread concern. It has also been the cause of considerable friction over the years.

But for international broadcasters the matter has special significance. The vast reach of the radio signals and the potential size of the audiences raises the level of responsibility which they carry.

Our radio programs will inevitably provide models around which listeners – individuals, families, and communities pattern their lives. The problem arises when we realise that the Gospel we traditionally proclaim reflects an individualistic orientation in which personal responsibility and change is emphasized.

Why should this pose a problem? Chiefly because the orientation of our Hindu, Islamic, and Buddhist listeners, and many others, is heavily centred on the community. Whether it is family, caste or tribe these cultures prize an individual’s ability to establish and maintain strong relationships in the “community” established by the culture. One’s personal identity is usually bound up with being a member of, or belonging to, that community.

How can Christian radio address this potential problem given the personalized nature of the medium? There are a number of ways:

  • We need to model Christian community in our radio programs.
  • We need to provide teaching on the importance of community as a visible expression of the Kingdom among believers.
  • We need to develop programming which recognizes that our listeners are often listening in groups – with family, in listeners’ clubs, etc. How can we pander to the group dynamic by getting them to discuss the content of our broadcasts?
  • Ensure that the staff of radio communities (i.e. programming and transmitting stations) actually experience Christian community among themselves. Programs which reflect this would thereby come more easily.

The local church is, in a very real sense, the Christian community in the eyes of the world. The real test of our claiming to be Kingdom people is borne out by our ability to function effectively in community as God’s people.

Christian radio too easily can become detached from the local church and thoughts of Christian community. It can, without difficulty, do ‘its own thing.’ The result is alienation from the main body of believers either in the ‘sending’ countries or among overseas listeners themselves who are entertained, evangelized, informed or sustained by voices from across the water.

By being aware of these dangers we will be careful to avoid many of the potential pitfalls of the ‘electronic church’ syndrome. We resist tendencies toward isolationism but rather encourage the meeting of believers together in fellowship, worship and teaching.


IV. MAJOR CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FACING US

There appear to be four major areas of challenge facing the Christian radio broadcasters today: –

  • The challenge of unreached peoples, many of whom have little or no Christian broadcasting in their own language.
  • The challenge of planning and working together cooperatively.
  • The challenge of finding and training suitable people to produce programmes.
  • The challenge to provide wholesome programming which appeals to listeners while presenting a balanced Gospel (it is we who have provided the imbalance!)

Let’s look at these more closely. . . . . . . .

A. Unreached Peoples

One of the greatest strengths of radio is that it can go to people who are otherwise inaccessible or out of reach. We don’t have to look far to discover that many in today’s world qualify for this category.

Among the most obvious are those separated from us by ideological barriers. For the most part we find that they are quite well catered for in terms of radio broadcasts although the emphasis is largely upon major language groups such as Mandarin for China and Russian for the Soviet Union.

But we need to be aware of the other challenges, which are, perhaps, not so appealing, or have been overlooked . . . .

1. Muslims and Hindus

The religious and cultural barriers posed by Islam and Hinduism are surely among the most formidable. Christian activity in both sectors is severely hampered. The numbers of believers are often minimal and they are often fearful. Attempts at evangelism by local Christians are often discouraging. In some contexts the churches are more concerned with survival rather than outreach and Islamic neighbours and authorities are perceived as enemies rather than the objects of Christian love and compassion.

Moreover, an analysis of current Christian radio broadcasts reveals that the amount of Christian broadcasting going into the Muslim world spanning from Africa in the west to India and Bangladesh in the east is minimal. We also discover that these peoples are among the least impacted by the message of the Gospel. Muslim groups inside communist countries also tend to be overlooked. This explains why Soviet Central Asia reflects minimal mail response compared with the USSR as a whole.

It would seem as though radio has, in many respects, much to contribute in the task of Muslim evangelism. It may not be able to demonstrate Christian love in action in a practical terms but genuine Christian love and compassion as expressed in the right kind of programming can go a long way to break down the walls of hostility and misunderstanding which characterize Muslim/Christian relations.

Radio becomes even more powerful in its effect when its use is carefully integrated with Bible Correspondence Courses and other literature materials. Such efforts will also provide invaluable support to the meagre numbers of faithful Christians sparsely distributed among these Muslim people groups.

The respectable Hindu castes are an equally formidable challenge. Today some 600 million caste Hindus in India are reflecting an openness to change as never before in history, but the closedness of the system precludes overt evangelism and much success for traditional forms of outreach by the established churches. Innovative approaches, largely by indigenous parachurch groups, are meeting with considerable success in many areas. Among these are radio programmes coupled with sensitive and interactive personal correspondence.

But in terms of the potential for India the surface is barely being scratched. Broadcast hours are relatively small compared with the attention given to other world languages, and programming for the most part reflects only limited attempts to relate biblical truth within the context of the Hindu world view.

Why do these groups appear to have been overlooked? The simple answer is that they are, for the most part, hard to work among and people resources are few.

2.”Minority” Peoples

As the present complement of broadcast ministries has evolved it would appear that, understandably, each broadcast organization has added languages to its overall outreach based upon one or more of the following: –

  • i. What was obvious
  • ii. What was requested by a church or organization, possibly within target area
  • iii. What programming was readily available and/or paid for
  • iv. What was expedient

It would appear that little attention was paid to objectively assessing the needs and opportunities. This has resulted in many language groups being totally overlooked. They are neither obvious nor spoken for, nor are any programs already available.

We are talking here of many of the minor language groupings within larger countries, for the most part. Yet the term “minor” is relative. Many of such people groups may run into several millions strong in number. Indonesia is one such country which harbours within its population fifteen distinct languages each spoken by more than one million people.

But why care about minor language groups when everyone learns the national, or trade, language? The question is often asked. Another objection focuses on the economics of minor language broadcasting. Isn’t radio for the masses and therefore inefficient for reaching smaller groups?

A more practical doubt expressed poses the real concern that minor language groups, who also tend to be rural and perhaps more primitive, may not have radios.

While these may each express legitimate concerns and deserve to be asked, there are also legitimate responses which clearly endorse the need to be sensitive and open to the opportunities among minority peoples. More than these, it would seem that there are some decidedly positive advantages to be found in broadcasting in minor languages. Not all of these will apply in every case, many of them will:-

  • a. There may be few, if any, broadcasts already existing in their own mother tongue. The implications of this are significant: (1) Our broadcasts, even if promoting an “alien” philosophy, will be highly appealing. (2) It will also speak well for the Gospel if the first broadcasts to reach them in their own language are Christian (It is hard for native English speakers to identify with this!)
  • b. Radio often enjoys high credibility among rural peoples. Among the Hmong people of Laos and N. Thailand what is heard over the radio has the stamp of authority and cannot be argued with. Hence what “Manila” said was considered as Truth!
  • c. Broadcasting to minority peoples may prove to be highly efficient in terms of the percentage of the total people group who are listening, because there may be little or no competition.

There are, however, two additional factors which need to be taken into consideration in this regard: –

  • e. Governments tend to downplay the use of minority languages but rather accentuate education in the national language.

We need to remind ourselves, however, that the Gospel is for all peoples, irrespective of class or education, wealth or language. While the major secular international broadcasters may have political or economic motivation in appealing to opinion-leaders, we should be careful, as Christians, that we do not overlook minorities.

We should be challenged by the fact that communist propaganda is being broadcast in some languages for which there are no corresponding Christian broadcasts.

B. Planning and Working Together

An unfortunate bi-product of western influence in mission has been the tendency to encourage individualism rather than teamwork. Missionaries themselves tend to be independent, strong-minded, and highly motivated, and while on the positive side this has served the cause of the Gospel well, it has on the negative side served to work against sound principles of teamwork and cooperation in ministry.

The long-term effects of this have been that each organization tends to do “its own thing” and pays little attention to the ministries of others within the Body of Christ. The manner in which international radio organizations have expanded their ministries in terms of new stations and new language services has been largely on this basis. In other contexts bad feelings have developed between denominations, between church and parachurch, and between national and transnational groups.

Today, however, it seems as though we are coming to our senses. Perhaps the greatest incentive has been the realization that the end of this century is fast approaching and many AD2000 projects have been adopted as a result. Other factors include financial constraints and a genuine desire for better stewardship of resources.

The mood is healthier as we come to the sober realization that we need each other. The independent spirit must die as we together face the daunting challenge before us in world mission. None of us can do it alone, but we each need the specialties and distinctives of the others. Radio organizations too are seriously curtailed in their operations if they do not secure the services of cooperating groups.

But we need to go further than working together. We must also plan together and determine among ourselves how we are best going to get the job done. The challenge is for true co-operation in the best sense of the word, recognizing our own strengths and corresponding weaknesses as well as the strengths of others. Emerging from this kind of relationship will come integrated strategies, powerful in their combined effect, producing great benefits for the Kingdom of God. Where this is happening already the world takes notice and our combined testimony is great.

RICE provides the initiative for this kind of corporate planning to take place on a worldwide scale, but this has first to be preceded by an increased awareness of the specific role that radio can play in the total context.

C. Finding the Right People

How often the execution of a project falters over our inability to find the right people! With radio outreach we need only a handful of dedicated and capable individuals who have a vision for the medium, because of the enormous multiplication of effort that can be achieved. Yet even then, it is often hard to find the few.

There are language groups not being served by Christian radio today because of our inability to locate people. Others have only a minimum of programming because of inadequate program supply.

In many instances, there would appear to be a justifiable reason for not doing more. Our efforts are half-hearted, church and mission agencies are not working together as a team, and there is not a true Kingdom perspective to ministry. What should we do?

Who are the right people for Christian radio?

Ideally the right person should be a good communicator, creative, with a good feel for radio, and who, as a Christian, can comfortably relate his Christian world view to any topic. He needs to be Kingdom-oriented, not striving to make a name for himself or his organization, sensitive to the needs of his listener.

Such persons are not easily found. Some may have the professionalism but lack the sensitivity. Others may have the theology but not the feel for the medium. Others have such little experience of life that they have no spiritual depth or lack the ability to interact on everyday issues.

Frequently these right people will need to be trained, a fact which is too easily overlooked. Few Christians have an understanding of how the mass media, radio included, can best be used. A sermon has become the standard model of oral communication within the church, and evangelistic soft-sell, as called for by radio, is virtually unknown. Training in the effective use of the medium is imperative, so that the Christian broadcasts that result are among the best to be found in any given language. Should we settle for less?

Sadly, as we recruit broadcasters for some of the rare languages we have very little choice. Among some such language groups only a handful of believers are known. In such cases a willingness and a commitment to work in radio coupled with enthusiasm for its potential use, may be the most we can hope for. Hopefully, with experience and careful coaching, a broadcaster will emerge from even the most inexperienced and unqualified.


V. AREAS OF MISUNDERSTANDING OR PROBLEMS

We would be wise to identify some of the problems we are likely to encounter as we seek to convince others of the potential of radio. Here are some of the main objections: –

A. “Radio is Impersonal”

What is called for today, the argument goes, is a tangible demonstration of Christian love and compassion. Christian belief and evangelism need to be fleshed out in practice if they are to be credible and convincing. Words are cheap, and all radio can offer is words.

Criticisms like this hit hard because they can be so close to the truth. Radio, in the strictest sense, is confined to words and sounds only. If all we did were to preach – without regard to the medium or the listener – the criticism might be valid. But generally this argument comes from those who do not understand the nature of the medium. They have failed to realize that radio is an intensely personal medium – as media go. They have overlooked the relationship which builds up between announcer a nd listener as he listens from week to week.

Warmth and friendship are conveyed through subtle nuances in the voice. The selection of subject matter, identification with the listener and the problems faced in his country, vicariously serve to provide practical, tangible comfort, and support. Interaction with the listening audience should be optimised in an effort to develop the relationship. When Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated it was good to be able to tell our Indian audience that we felt for them and their nation at this time of tragedy. That was Christian compassion being expressed, probably communicating a lot more content than a Bible study on the subject.

As an auxiliary to the radio there is the added and vital dimension of audience relations, or follow-up. A handwritten, personal letter, says a lot. It says to the listener words to the effect that ‘someone in that great big radio station (they always sound big, internationally) cares about me enough to respond to me personally and answer my questions.’

Radio can become so personal that a listener will choose to write to a radio personality in confidence over a personal problem, rather than confide in someone in his own community. This is an instance where confidence cannot be betrayed. Much meaningful correspondence can take place when such a relationship develops. While in general terms we would be safe to assume that radio is only a poor second best to the interpersonal one-on-one contact, it would also be correct to point out that in a variety of circumstances radio can be more effective in evangelism since it is not so potentially threatening as face-to-face interaction.

B. “Easy Evangelism”

To the serious-minded believer there is natural repugnance toward any attempt that would appear to make evangelism easy and mechanical. Deep down we know that there are no easy ways of bringing people into God’s Kingdom. There are no easy ways of reaching unreached peoples or planting churches among them. Visions of broadcasters sitting ensconced in air-conditioned seclusion, miles from the real world of broken relationships, suffering and hardship, will therefore serve as barriers to any thought of supporting radio initiatives.

It is clear, then, that many who are uninitiated in the use of radio in missions, will need to be convinced of the vital role it can play. For those of us already involved the suggestion that it might be an easy task is almost an insult, in view of the vast amounts of research and preparation that are necessary. On the contrary, it is extremely hard to maintain a “cutting edge” ministry to those one never sees and rarely hears from. It is hard to say something refreshingly different every day. It is hard work to find creative expressions for our faith that will produce results in the lives and experiences of others.

But we do not want to labour the hard work aspects. Better to point to the effectiveness of what is already being accomplished. And perhaps here we are coming to the heart of the problem……

What radio accomplishes is rarely seen on the surface. It “works” behind the scenes, acting more as an influence than as a direct agent for change. It may take a long time before visible results are seen. Our best defence will be letters from listeners which demonstrate change taking place in their lives, a turning towards God and His way of thinking, a re-evaluation of existing values, a request for help in difficult circumstances.

As listeners are put in touch with local Christians who can provide the direct personal contact, the churches too will become convinced of the role that radio can play.

Radio evangelism, if effective, is never easy.

C. “Establishing a Rival Church or Denomination”

This is another sensitive issue, no doubt in the wake of some of the tensions created in N. America by the so-called “electronic church” syndrome. It is necessary, therefore, that our intentions are clearly understood.

It might be wise, at this juncture, to reaffirm our high view of the Church as the visible expression of God’s Kingdom here on earth and the local church as the fellowship of believers in a given community. In no way would we want to undermine the local church or be seen as attempting to establish a rival body of believers.

On the contrary, we want to be found supporting wholeheartedly the local church and channelling inquirers and new believers into its fellowship. We also want to be found serving the local church in providing teaching beneficial to the spiritual growth of the believer.

We, however, seek to foment the establishing of Christ groups, or primitive churches, where no churches already exist, or where local conditions are antagonistic toward believers. Under such circumstances we recognize that the local church, if any, is impotent in regard to overt evangelism or church-planting initiatives, because of the restraints.

The most difficult question, though, revolves around the delicate situation that exists when the local church  ppears to have lost its vision for evangelism, because of self-interests or politics. Alternatively, the local church may be bound by tradition or misunderstandings regarding evangelism, and as a result opportunities are being missed. What then is the role of international radio which can exert a positive force for evangelism from outside? Is the national or local church the only one solel y charged with the responsibility for evangelism, or is it a mandate given to the Church at large? What is the church? Here we find ourselves getting into the great church/parachurch debate which is not for us to discuss in these pages.

In this context the long-term effects need to be taken into consideration. We are, after all, trying to build God’s Kingdom among each people group, in a manner that will bring glory to God.

D. Instant Results

There is a very strong tendency today to want to obtain instant results. We tend to have largely forgotten the more philosophical aspects of life which tend towards viewing things over the long term. Evangelicals are among those most anxious to demonstrate tangible results, whether on the basis of the imperative to fulfil the Great Commission or in an attempt to convince their supporters of the validity of their efforts.

A process of re-education will be necessary for those who hold this view if they are to fully understand radio in mission and use it well. Radio is not for the impatient. It does not yield instant results, and neither does it lend itself to ready quantification of its effectiveness.

E. Western Misconceptions based upon Experience

It is not uncommon to run into western church and mission leaders who question the claims to the effectiveness of radio in missions with a large measure of scepticism or disinterest. Their reservations appear to be based on three main factors: –

  1. 1. Their own experience of radio, and shortwave in particular. Who, they ask, listens to shortwave? Who has radios capable of receiving shortwave? From their own limited experience of radio, which did not include shortwave, they are under the impression that few people – apart from the enthusiasts – listen to shortwave in today’s world. In many instances they could not be further from the truth. So many of the world’s people tune in to shortwave as a matter of daily routine – whether for information, for entertainment or for companionship. In some countries shortwave listening is the rule rather than the exception.
  2. 2. Those with a North American background are influenced in addition by their own experience of radio programs, emanating from their local Christian radio station. It is hardly “rivetting stuff” for the non-Christian and unlikely to make any evangelistic impression on the community. Why should Christian radio be any different elsewhere?
  3. 3. Others feel that radio has had its day, and that television is the modern means of communicati on. These fears were expressed many years ago but have proved to be largely unfounded. In western societies peoples’ listening habits may have changed as a result of television’s influence but it is still listened to on a regular basis. In missions we recognize that television is a force to be reckoned with, and we need to be cognizant of “prime time” viewing so as to avoid conflict, but many still have no television set of their own, and maybe never will. Besides, television does not offer the “private experience” afforded by radio.

F. Unproven Secular Hypotheses

There is a widespread rumour that suggests radio is ineffective in bringing about attitude change, and therefore cannot be very effective in missions. Radio’s greatest strength, it is claimed, lies in the ability to reinforce existing attitudes.

While international broadcasters of all shades are going to such lengths to increase the extent and power of their shortwave broadcast services, it is hard to give credence to such a hypothesis without qualification. International radio is one of the most powerful means known for effective propaganda between nations and is powerful for sowing ideas and seeds of doubt in peoples’ minds.

The confusion seems to have risen out of suggestions made by Klapper in his book The Effects of Mass Communication. This is unfortunate since much of what he tentatively proposed is being quoted as fact and the basis for other theories. It says in effect that radio is good for reinforcing previously held opinions rather than effecting change of opinion.

This would appear to be in conflict with much of what has been observed in the realm of Christian radio where listeners have been moved toward or into establishing a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. How can we explain this? Could it be that we are witnessing the truth of the Paul’s words in Romans chapter 1 which tell us that the Truth is already within us? People know deep down what that Truth is. It just needs to be brought to life. Radio programming is a God-given means of doing this.

This being the case we may find that we are not in conflict with secular theory but rather supporting it. Secular theory has, after all, been based upon market research.

Carl Lawrence seems to put things in the right perspective when he suggests that while radio may not produce attitude change under stable conditions, it will be powerful in effecting change when the conditions are ripe.

Church Growth theory, too, points to conditions being ripe for evangelism whenever social change is taking place and there are signs of unrest and upheaval. When we consider the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual we can see that radio can be extremely effective in becoming an explicit witness to the Truth under the Holy Spirit’s direction.

G. Overlooking the Multi-step Factor

If the claims made for radio hitherto have seemed over-stated it could be that the “multi-step” aspects of ministry through radio have not been fully appreciated. By “multi-step” we mean the effect by which radio can influence others to do those things it cannot do directly, or cannot do well. For example the question has been asked as to whether radio can in fact be a shepherd for the flock. While a radio pastor could be very influential in this area – and here I am thinking of isolated radio chur ches (as Barrett describes them) in the Soviet Union – it is perhaps more likely that the radio programs will be most effective in encouraging, teaching and inspiring a local lay leader so that he in turn, might be a good pastor to his people.

Similarly for evangelism, the radio programs could provide the stimulus, the apologetic context, or the wider perspective that would equip the average believer and encourage him to be a witness to those around.

Seen in these terms we find radio to provide a lifeline by which teaching, encouragement, admonition – or whatever – might be transferred to the needed areas, such that through it, somehow, the desired results might be obtained whether directly or indirectly.


VI. CONCLUSIONS

We have come to the closing years of this 20th century in which thoughts of a completion of world evangelization are uppermost in the minds of many people.

While some doubt if it is possible others, with their eyes of faith firmly fixed on the Lord Jesus, point to the abundance of resources which God has made available to His Church during these days.

Radio is one such resource permitting access to many of the unreached peoples of this world. It is especially influential among the opinion-leaders of society and may be one of the best means known to us for softening up the soil among resistant people groups where little impact has so far been made.

It is not offered as a panacea for world evangelization. It is but one means that God has made available to us and which we believe He expects us to use to the fullest potential as a means for reaching the lost.

Neither do we pretend that it is an easy medium to use. Its effective use demands creativity, a good understanding of the nature of the medium, and broadcasters who are in touch with the world in which we are living. Such understanding calls for increased training of broadcasters and a greater awareness in the churches of how radio can be used effectively for the Gospel.

In the broader context we need to encourage Christians, and especially the younger generation, to become involved in secular media and seek to become professional as Christians in this field so that the secular media are not devoid of Christian influence. They are powerful in society and we could find ourselves making the task of world mission harder if we neglect this key area.


Footnotes:

  1. Barrett, David B. World Christian Encyclopedia, Oxford University Press, Nairobi, 1982. p.19
  2. Ibid, Table 2, p.695
  3. Ibid, pp.830-831
  4. Taylor, Dr.James Hudson III. Private conversation in Singapore, January 7, 1989
  5. McLeish, Robert. Presentation made at FEB International conference, Singapore, Nov. 15, 1988
  6. Brooks, R.T.Person to Person, The Epworth Press, London, 1964. p.19.
  7. Wood, Dr.Richard E., (article) Annenberg Journal of Communication, Spring 1979, pp.122-123.
  8. Klapper, J.T. The Effects of Mass Communication, New York: The Free Press, pp. 49-50.
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