This was written for a Christian radio industry site, and certainly isn't for everybody. But it might mean something to you, too, in your realm.
Dear Other Radio People,
First of all, thank you for your work as an Other Radio Person. This is the hardest kind of radio to do, this “Christian radio” thing. Most of us who’ve done other formats figure that out, the first time we say something that didn’t… come out… quite right. We figure this out, subtly, because when we say something the wrong way in this format, someone calls and tells us we are masters of deceit, leading thousands of people to eternal punishment.
In another format, when we mess up, we’re just stupid. And that’s it.
Anyway, I’ve had to deal with a lot of crazy people, and crazy people can take it to a new level of crazy when they dish out regular-brand crazy with a heapin’ helpin’ of Bible-talk. Radio friends have even asked me, “How do you handle it?” And I admit, I’ve gotten frustrated with people. I wish they’d go away, but only after replacing their “‘Fireproof’ is the finest film ever made!” selves with chai-sipping N.T. Wright fans.
In other words, I wish they’d go away, and I’d be left with more people like… me.
That’s a problem. If this is ministry, it’s not about me. Nor is it about my elitism, my biases, or my desire to feel superior to the people who call to wrap up every discussion, every question, no matter what, with “Jesus”, “The Bible”, or “God”.
So here’s what I remind myself:
1) These people are family.
Because they are. Growing up, I said things many times that embarrassed my much-cooler brother. But I was always his brother, and the church is — truly — family. I’m glad he put up with me, and still puts up with me. Family is like that.
2) They’re family, but I will not let these people define Jesus for me.
Yes, there are horrible legalists in the world, and some of them listen to Christian radio. But while they may embody a particular American church subcultural type, they are not the total picture of the word “Christian”. The “median” Christian, statistically speaking, is not even American. She’s a poor woman in Africa, and hasn’t heard of Casting Crowns, Night of Joy, or WWJD? bracelets. Fine things, all, but I’m not going to confuse our products and subculture with Jesus.
3) Some of these people are new to the faith.
And they’re excited about it. They should be. And they just turned on a Christian station, and they’re elated. The songs are speaking to them, deeply. They didn’t even know music could be like this! They want to hear more about God! And then I come on, and I talk about Jesus — or about what my dog ate last night.
There’s a reason for this. The dog thing is life, too, and I’m going to represent life, highs, lows, and even the amusing mundane, on the show. Christ fills everything with meaning! — but I’m not going to hold it against the listener, who may be a new believer, from not getting it just yet.
You and I have no idea how long that caller has been a believer, or if she even is one. She may be merely playing church on the “church station”, and know no better.
4) The church has always been full of freaks.
And thank you, Lord, for that. Otherwise, I don't get in.
I don’t know who said it first, but the Church has been described as H.C.E.: ”Here Comes Everybody”. The whole motley lot of us, sprinting and jumping and limping and being wheeled and carried in on a gurney. Cool, uncool – doesn’t matter. Just glad you’re here. And it’s been that way since Jesus hand-picked his first disciples.
So why would we expect any different? ”But some of my callers and emailers seem kind of simple and needy, and, even more so than typical people, and — ”
Well, Jesus’ message has always appealed first to the needy. Always. Don’t be shocked, and don’t be surprised, either, when you visit a doc’s office, and the people inside seem sicker than those outside. Makes sense. So we can quit reacting to it.
5) Diminishing them is just a way for me to feel superior.
And I’m not. And you’re not, either.
Thank God. Here comes everybody, including you and me.