Berean cogitations

Friday, May 30, 2008

Revisiting the loss of teaching on Christian radio

On March 1st, 2008, I lamented the way more and more Christian radio stations have chosen to focus on music. They've been reducing the amount of airtime for teaching and preaching, and some have abandoned it altogether.

I happened to share this bit of disappointment over dinner with some believers one night. One fella apparently didn't grasp what I was saying, for he exclaimed, "Oh, yeah! I love Christian music! I like more than any of those teaching programs." He stopped short of saying that Christian teaching was boring, but that was the clear implication of his words.

I am deeply troubled by this trend. Today, I received a newsletter from John MacArthur in which he expressed the same disappointment. Dr. MacArthur said,

The pressure on stations to compete for a larger audience share is intense. Their very survival depends on those ratings, so wise stewardship includes a legitimate concern for reaching the largest audience they can reasonably attract.

On the other hand, Christian ardio is a niche market by definition. Biblical content doesn't appeal to everyone, and Christian programmers can't try to appeal to everyone without sacrificing their distinctiveness. To draw new and increasingly younger audiences while offering serious, edifying, biblical content is to walk a very thin tightrope.

But when stations start eliminating Bible teaching from their broadcast schedule, what message are they giving their audience? As much as I love good Christian music, I have to wonder, "Is the increase in audience size worth the loss of Bible teaching? In today's entertainment-saturated culture, is more music and less clear teaching what people need most?