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What's in the future for Christian talk radio?

Tim Wildmon talks about taking his father’s place at the American Family Radio Network


Tim Wildman YouTube/Answers in Genesis

What's in the future for Christian talk radio?

The American Family Radio Network is one of the largest Christian radio networks in the nation. It’s also in transition. Founded by conservative firebrand Don Wildmon in the 1970s, it’s now led by his son, Tim. The network, which has mostly been in small towns across America, just bought a station in the Washington, D.C., area. I talked to Wildmon at the recent Values Voter Summit about the organization’s ongoing transformation.

How is American Family Radio Network changing right now? We’ve been expanding our radio ministry across the country to over 200 stations. Our vision, our mission is, … we want to reach people who are lost for Christ, yes, but we want to inform the Christian community about what’s going on in the country, as well. I’ve got a saying I use, which is not popular with English teachers. “We don’t need no more ignorant Christians.” Break that sentence down however you want to, but I think people get the idea.

Your stations are mostly not in major markets, but they’re in markets where you might be one of the dominant stations. There’s no need for us to go to Atlanta with American Family Radio, or Chicago or Los Angeles. They’ve got five Christian radio stations already. Now, maybe we’re unique, I would say. It’s extremely expensive to go in those large metropolitan markets, so our basis is Middle America—the heartland, small towns who can’t get Christian radio anywhere else. That’s our mission field. That’s what American Family Radio’s been doing for a long time. Our largest markets are Little Rock, Ark., Richmond, Va., Baton Rouge, La., and those kinds of things.

What’s your assessment on the state of the culture and the role that Christian media have had in either moving it in a positive direction or keeping it from going in a negative direction? Just depending on how you look at it, I would say, “Where would we be without? Where would we be without?” We may be worse, far worse down the road toward secular progressivism if not for Christian radio that is informative. I’m not talking about the Christian radio stations that just play music. That’s good and fine if that’s what they want to do. I’m talking abut Christian radio stations that have news, information, solid Bible teaching, those kinds of things that are being used to transform people’s lives and their worldview, to borrow from WORLD Magazine.

That’s our mission. That’s our goal. I don’t know how you measure that exactly. Secularism has been on the marks for what, 50 years now in this country, so we’re trying to do our part to fight back against that. Yogi Berra, who just died, had a great saying I use when I go talk to people. He said, “You win some, you lose some, and some are rained out.” That’s my view. We get up every day to do the right thing. We’re going to win some, lose some, and some remain to be seen.

What should Christian media, Christian radio in particular, be doing better? What do we need to stop doing that is not effective? What are we not doing that we should be doing in the 21st century? I think you’ve got to communicate your message in a way that’s honest and truthful and will cause people to do what the Bible commands us to do without being abrasive. Somebody said, “Just don’t do Christian things in an un-Christian way.” For a talk-radio network, that’s something we have to be on guard for, because it’s easy, especially when you’re “competing” with secular talk radio. They can say anything—personal attacks on people, even profanity and those kinds of things. Obviously, we can’t do that with Christian radio. We have to have a higher standard in terms of how we say our message. ... That’s a work in progress, all the time. We have to be mindful that while we speak truth, we speak truth in love.

As you and I are having this conversation on a Friday afternoon, the news going around the summit is the resignation announcement of House Speaker John Boehner this morning. Was that a victory for the conservative movement? Yes, I think it was. … I’m sure he’s a great guy personally, but he has not fought President [Barack] Obama enough and hard enough. That’s the general feeling among conservatives. … I’m sure Speaker Boehner and his supporters would say that’s not true, but that’s the perception and has been for about a year or two now, maybe longer. I think it was a wise decision for him to go. The de-funding of Planned Parenthood, that was going to be a blood bath for him if he opposed doing that, and I think he saw that as well as a fight he didn’t have the stomach for.

Listen to Warren Smith’s report from the Values Voter Summit on Listening In.


Warren Cole Smith

Warren is the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. He previously served as WORLD’s vice president and associate publisher. He currently serves as president of MinistryWatch and has written or co-written several books, including Restoring All Things: God's Audacious Plan To Change the World Through Everyday People. Warren resides in Charlotte, N.C.

@WarrenColeSmith

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