Still here, just writing.
In the meantime, “What’s so bad about Christian radio.” Some good excerpts:
His blog was titled Christian Music Radio Is More Theological Than You Think. I don’t have any doubt that it’s theological. If you’re opening your mouth and talking about God, you are being theological. The problem is, if it’s not grounded in biblical historical orthodoxy, it’s probably pretty bad. I agree with Wax that it’s not fair to say Christian radio has nothing theologically substantive to offer. But I disagree that it’s more than “little.”
Still, I will concede that listening to K-Love is much better for a person’s brain than listening to secular Top 40 or even a country music station. That doesn’t excuse the fact that K-Love would flunk out of any theology course higher than a flannel-board level Sunday school class and needs a major overhaul. More specifically, Christian radio needs reformation. It’s dipped in Osteen, Warren, and Meyer’s theology and savors nothing anywhere as lasting or as flavorful as Piper, MacArthur, or Sproul’s.
Basically, it’s watered down gospel.
Like most radio and television programming, Christian radio caters to a specific demographic, and that demographic is women between the ages of 20 and 50 (give or take). Whether or not Christian radio is doing it on purpose, that demographic is also mostly white.
It gets way more specific than that: this target woman lives in suburbia in a house with a mortgage, drives a mini-van, has three kids, a dog and a cat, a husband who works full-time, she also works but it’s probably part-time, has a household income between $55 and $70K, vacations in July, doesn’t have enough time to read her Bible but she has enough time to journal, loves Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer, and goes to church about 3 times a month. This woman even has a name — Becky.
Some radio stations will put up a mock picture of this woman in the studio, and the DJs are told to look at it and know that’s who they’re talking to. I’ve attended seminars where this was the whole focus of each session: Becky, Becky, Becky. The entire radio station is programmed for her — not her husband and not her kids. Giving glory to God is incidental, or it’s presented like this: “By reaching Becky, you’re giving glory to God.” Becky’s name is mentioned more often at these conferences than God’s name is.
The key is to reach the wife of a family, probably since she’s more likely to turn on the radio to something ‘Christian.’
Why do so many of the songs sound alike?
Because radio is about producing the least number of negatives. Technically a radio station is not actually trying to give you something that you like. They’re trying to give you something you don’t dislike. As long as they can remain as even as possible without too much variation or fluctuation, they’re more likely to keep you on their radio station and not flipping to something else.
When the radio station maintains a continuous blend of sound, it just kind of melts into the background and you become oblivious that you’re still listening to it. You know how when you drive the same route to work every day, sometimes entire stretches of the trip will go by, and you’ll wonder where those miles went? Listening to the radio is kind of like that.
If your listening experience were to change drastically — like a loud up-tempo song were to be followed by a soft, slow song, for example — you come out of your trance, realize that something has changed, and so cognitively you’re more likely to want to change as well and will turn the radio station to something else.
The key is for you to keep it on in the background. Because they’re listener supported.
Why do certain aspects of Christian theology get overlooked?
Again, lyrics aren’t as important as how catchy the song is. Another reason deep songs get hardly any airplay is that they make a person think. Remember, we don’t want a listener to think too much or they might change the station. A thought-provoking song also runs a higher risk of making a person disagree with what the artist is saying. That means, oohh, it might offend someone, and we just can’t have that. The more widely appealing the song lyrics are, the better.
K-Love’s sugar slogan is “Positive, encouraging,” and they try as hard as they can to fulfill that mission statement. My dad started a Christian radio station in the 70s whose slogan was “Making Him Known.” That’s not K-Love’s primary objective. It’s not to preach Christ and share the gospel; it’s just to be positive and encouraging. Their version of God is always positive and encouraging — hence why their DJs avoid references to hell, and would rather talk about the Loch Ness Monster than sin and repentance and how Christ saves us from the wrath of God (John 3:36).
Contemporary Christian radio does not exist to teach. It exists to entertain with Christian-themed content. I’m sure there are people who work at K-Love or the Fish or Way-FM who care about people. But if they were truly genuine, they would know the gospel well and they would share it. They have the perfect opportunity to do it. But they don’t.
I’ve said for years Christian radio doesn’t care about teaching. The response I often heard was, “It’s not the job of Christian radio to teach people. That’s the job of the church!” You’re right, it is the job of the church. It’s also the job of Christian radio. Very plainly, Colossians 3:16 instructs, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
When it comes down to it, the problems in Christian radio are the result of the problems in the church. Why is it that Christian radio eschews sound doctrine and is driven by demographics and marketing strategies? Because many churches are that way. Until the church abandons this approach to ministry and becomes committed to sound doctrine, eating and serving the meat of God’s word, Christian radio will continue to be Little Debbie (Little Becky?) and glass-of-milk theology.
When Rick Warren started Saddleback Church, he said he went door-to-door and asked everyone what they wanted in a church. He didn’t share the gospel with them — he asked them what they wanted their church to be like. Many other churches have followed that course, eating up the strategies of the “Purpose Driven Church.”
This approach to ministry is not “gospel driven,” which focuses entirely on Christ; it’s “Purpose Driven” which focuses entirely on the consumer. Likewise, Christian radio is full of consumer-focused slogans like “Positive, Encouraging” or “Safe for the Whole Family” or “Uplifting, Upbeat, Real.”
Consumer and marketing strategies > gospel.
Anyway, the rest of it is a great analysis of why Christian radio is the way it is. Check it out.