By Chris Moon
It all started when Wayne Kent and his church, First Christian Church of Decatur, Ill., were looking for a way to make an impact on their community.
They launched a ministry in a local school and then in the hospital. And then Kent had the idea of buying airtime from a local radio station for a talk radio show.
The radio station jumped at the idea and gave the church the Wednesday afternoon drive-time slot.
Sixteen years later, Direct Line is still on the air on Newstalk 1340.
“We have more people listening to the radio show than . . . on Sunday mornings,” Kent said. “It really has put us in the middle of the community.”
Kent describes Direct Line as “current events through a religious lens.” He will interview nationally recognized Christian authors and leaders—such as John Maxwell or Mark Steyn—and then may pivot to local dignitaries, such as the mayor or police chief of Decatur.
The show takes calls from listeners, and it always tries to do something to lighten the mood.
A recent show discussed a story about a chicken-processing facility that was lacking chickens due to a new collection of roosters—“because the roosters were not doing their job appropriately,” Kent said. Another show discussed the story of a company near Yellowstone National Park that wants to use sewage water to make snow.
It’s funny stuff, and it’s perfect for the radio, even if it might seem strange to hear a pastor in the middle of the banter. To Kent, it’s exactly what people need to hear on their way home from a hard day’s work.
“I think people appreciate a little self-deprecating humor,” he said.
Hosting a radio show certainly isn’t the typical outreach ministry for a church, but it has borne a lot of fruit over the years. First Christian Church has had leaders and elders who first started attending after listening to the show.
Kent recalls on elderly gentleman who contacted the church after hearing the show. The man listened to Direct Line every Wednesday while making an hour-plus commute from work. The man asked if he could come to church.
“He came to Christ,” Kent said. “His wife came to Christ.”
Those types of moments make it worth it.
“It’s a great ministry,” Kent said. “It’s beyond what I expected. When you think about it, you can’t buy this kind of publicity.”
And many people need to hear a Christian who is relatable.
“No matter what comes along, they will hear a reasoned Christian voice who knows how to laugh and make fun of himself and who may make a profound theological statement along the way,” Kent said.
The idea has been so successful that Kent’s longtime co-host, Greg Taylor, now has his own show in Danville, Ill. When Taylor moved to that city in 2019 to lead Second Church of Christ, the radio station recruited him to host a show there.
Now you can hear Taylor’s own Direct Line at 8 a.m. on Thursdays on WDAN-AM.
“I 100 percent stole this idea from Wayne,” Taylor said.
Taylor recently interviewed popular Christian podcaster, author, and musician Alisa Childers.
He encourages other pastors to “think outside the box” when it comes to reaching into their communities. What kind of media might reach new people for Christ?
“You have no idea who is listening,” Taylor said.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.