There's a lot that's good on Christian radio, but I have problems with some of what I hear at the local and national levels. Most of the programming doesn't go into much depth. There isn't much maturity. A lot of what you hear would be appropriate for somebody being introduced to Christianity, but there isn't much use for it beyond that. Think of how many Christians have been on the radio for a couple of decades or longer, and you wouldn't learn much more from them in their twentieth or thirtieth year on the air than you learned from them the first year they were on.
There's a place for introductory material. Churches should have classes to teach people the basics of the faith, for example. But when you live in an information age, with all of the political freedoms, technology, and other advantages that we have in a nation like the United States, should we be spending so much time repeating the same basic information over and over? How many more vague sermons do we need about trusting God in difficult times or following the leading of the Holy Spirit? Do we need yet another Christmas sermon about what a good Christian model Mary or Joseph was? Mature Christians can benefit from listening to introductory material a second, third, or eighty-ninth time. But wouldn't they benefit even more if the material went into more depth?
Then there's all of the false teaching and false ecumenism that are so common on Christian radio. All of the triviality. Bad music. Embarrassing attempts at humor. Bad imitations of the non-Christian world. The concern for appealing to non-Christians in the wrong way. You get the impression that a lot of the people working in Christian radio don't know much about what they're doing. You wait for them to improve, and it doesn't happen much, if at all.
One of the Christian stations in my area has a local program that airs on weekday evenings. It's a talk show. There have been a lot of hosts over the years. The format changes a lot. In its latest form, the hosts spend a lot of time talking about things like the movies they watched over the weekend, what they ate for dinner yesterday, or a concert they're going to tonight. They'll spend five minutes, fifteen minutes, or even longer discussing such things. Then they'll have an interview or a discussion of something like a theological or political issue. They'll go into a lot of detail about something like health care legislation or abortion, but they tend to address theological issues, apologetics, and such in a more vague manner. They often have topics like "hope" and "trusting God". After that, they return to talking about their daughter's soccer practice yesterday or a news story about a hot dog eating contest. They seem to get a lot of their material from sources like Christianity Today and CNN.
I've had email discussions with some of the hosts of the program over the years. One told me that he wouldn't get many listeners if he spent more time talking about doctrine. One host told me that he considers Roman Catholicism "a garbage heap with an umbrella over it", but there's only so much he can say on the air.
Back in the 1990s, one of the hosts was Mark Elfstrand. I don't remember many of the details of his program. One thing he said, though, has stuck in my mind over the years, probably close to fifteen years now. A Roman Catholic caller, if I remember correctly, was criticizing eternal security. He said, as Catholics often do, that nobody believed in eternal security before the Reformation. Elfstrand quickly answered (as if it was an issue he'd thought about and studied) by noting that there were people who believed in eternal security between the time of the apostles and the Reformation, and he went on to note that some scholars who study church history have told him so. He didn't name any names. He didn't go into as much detail as I'd like. But how many Christians on the radio would even go as far as Elfstrand did? How many even have that much concern about historical theology, let alone would study something like the history of eternal security, consult some relevant scholars on the subject, and be prepared to quickly answer a Catholic who brings the subject up? That's highly unusual. And I remember it to this day. I can even remember where I was driving when I heard it. It's that unusual, and it impressed me that much. I don't know much about Mark Elfstrand. Maybe he's wrong on some issues, overly ecumenical, or whatever. But I remember him because of things like that discussion he had with a Catholic caller. It's so unusual.
Instead of spending five minutes talking about how their air conditioning broke down last week, or fifteen minutes discussing a movie they recently saw, why don't Christian talk show hosts use that time to discuss something more significant? Why don't they find better guests to interview, such as scholars who are more knowledgeable than the ones who are so often interviewed on Christian radio? Think of how little people know about Christian doctrine, church history, and other significant subjects. For example, how many Christians can even explain why the Bible contains the books it does? Why not try to educate people about issues like the canon of scripture? The subject is important, and it’s often brought up by the likes of Dan Brown and Bart Ehrman, yet Christians, including Christians on radio, do so little to address it. What about the historicity of the Bible, inerrancy, Roman Catholicism, the historical roots of Evangelicalism, paranormal phenomena, and other subjects that come up so often and in so many areas of life, yet are so poorly addressed by Christian radio (and parents, churches, etc.)? Why is there so much immaturity on matters like philosophy, history, and apologetics? Yet, we find so much time to discuss things like sports and movies. The local Christian program I referred to above used to devote its first hour on Mondays to discussing the Steelers game the previous Sunday.
One of the problems is that many of the people who are on the air are chosen for the wrong reasons. A lot of the people on Christian radio are pastors. They're often occupied with conducting weddings and funerals, counseling people, attending church events, etc. They don't know much about things like church history, philosophy, and apologetics. Or somebody is on the air largely because of his voice, his association with somebody else who's famous, or his humor, even though he doesn't know much about the Bible or other relevant subjects. As I said above, there's a place for people who are working at an introductory level. But shouldn't we have more meat along with the milk? A lot more?