Proclaiming Hope: 2021 Calvary Chapel Radio Conference
Story by Kate Larsen
Photos by Micah Martin
Although culture, music, and politics frequently change, especially in this time of uncertainty and upheaval, the message and power of the Word of God remain constant. Many people, filled with fear and anxiety, are in need of true hope—and that is where Christian radio can shine. Technology makes radio a big megaphone proclaiming hope. Recent polling studies have shown that radio, even with millennials, is still the preferred way they get information and encouragement.
Pastor Ron Dozler (left) of CC Myrtle Beach, SC, confers with lawyer Matt McCormick, who spoke at the 2021 Calvary Chapel Radio Conference held in late September at Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ.
Encouraging the Encouragers
Since 2005, Calvary Chapel Radio Conferences have been guiding and encouraging pastors and ministry workers in the great privilege of serving God through radio. This year’s conference was held September 27-29 at Calvary Chapel Old Bridge in Old Bridge, NJ. The vision of Pastor Ron Dozler of Calvary Chapel Myrtle Beach, SC, who serves as facilitator of the conference, is to strengthen those who tirelessly serve to get the Gospel message out daily through radio stations across the country. “Often these radio servants get unnoticed until there is a problem, then everyone wonders what going on. We seek to love and encourage all who serve in radio ministry by giving them a couple days of rest and strength to keep going in this [spiritual] fight.”
Pastor Mark Ramirez of Calvary Chapel Fredericksburg, VA, makes a point during a Q&A session at the radio conference.
“For who has despised the day of small things?” Zechariah 4:10a
George Small is the senior pastor at Calvary Chapel-affiliate Horizon Christian Fellowship in Fitchburg, MA. He recounted the beginnings of RenewFM as a daydream the Lord had given him while working as an engineer in 1992 in San Diego, CA. In the daydream, he envisioned himself speaking through the radio airwaves to students at Boston University, where he had attended college.
George stated, “I know today that God was calling me. I had no idea at that time that God was going to call me to the ministry.” As he and his wife began preparing to move to New England a couple of years later to be involved in ministry, George was surprised to learn that a radio station had been donated to Calvary Chapel founder Pastor Chuck Smith—and that radio station was in Massachusetts. In 1994 George and his wife ended up starting that AM radio station; over time, they planted their church and began to build a radio network. In 2016 they started the first Christian FM station in Boston.
“It’s on the roof of the tallest building in Boston, the John Hancock Building,” George said. “And when I’m on the rooftop of that building I can look down and there’s Boston University and the daydream I had. I can see that dorm I envisioned. And God actually fulfilled that vision exactly in an incredible way.”
Pastor Thom Keller (left) of Calvary Chapel Lebanon, PA, and Pastor George Small (right) of Horizon Christian Fellowship in Fitchburg, MA, in a quiet moment. Thom is fulfilling his grandfather’s dream of putting Bible teaching on the radio through his church’s radio station. In 1994, George and his wife started an AM radio station; in 2016, they started the first Christian FM station in Boston.
A Generational Dream
Thom Keller, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Lebanon, PA, recalled the first time he heard expository teaching, and after two church plants, was left with a dream of putting solid Bible teaching on the radio. “I remember a man saying, ‘Undertake something so impossible for God, that if God’s not in it, it’s destined to fail.’ God is looking for people that are willing to dream bigger dreams,” Thom reflected.
After calling around to radio stations, he received a call a year later from a man selling one. With tears in his eyes, Thom remembered going to his father to receive counsel on what seemed to be a far-out idea. His father replied, “Did you know that your grandfather almost [bought] a radio station right before he died? He wanted to put Bible teaching on the radio.” Thom’s grandfather had died young at 49. But his grandson walked away from that conversation on a cloud of air; and God has blessed the ministry of their church’s station, Truth FM 93.1, in extraordinary ways.
“There will be people coming into heaven because of my grandfather’s dream—a dream fulfilled two generations later,” Thom shared, his voice cracking with emotion. “Radio has a story to tell,” he continued, “the story of God and His love communicated to all those listening on their radios. Those of us who serve at these many different Calvary Chapel radio stations are extremely privileged because we get to hear these stories of people getting saved and the spiritual growth that happens through radio. What a joy!”
Tim Collins (left) of CC Fredericksburg, VA, compares notes with others at the conference.
Streams in the Desert
Jim Keavney, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Morris Hills, NJ, shared the impact radio had on his own walk in his early days as a Christian. He now operates 107.9 FM Crossway Radio.
“I was a truck driver and listened to rock and roll on the radio all day long. I switched to Christian radio, because for the most part I did not realize what had happened to me when I got saved. It brought tremendous clarity to my life. And so Christian radio became so incredibly dear to me,” Jim related.
Serving alongside the ministry of The Bridge Christian Radio at CC Old Bridge, the Lord led Jim to eventually plant his own church and begin his own Christian radio station. The letters from people in the prisons are especially impactful to him. “It is a dry, dry desert and we feel like we’re just watering and watering and watering, and it’s been absolutely wonderful,” Jim stated.
Pastor Bill Luebkemann (right) of Calvary Chapel Marlton, NJ, enjoys a conversation with two conference attendees. He testified that the Lord has used his church’s radio station to draw many people into the fellowship and lead many listeners to a relationship with Jesus Christ
Hope FM is the radio network of Calvary Chapel of Marlton, NJ, with Pastor Bill Luebkemann. Bill planted the church in 1997, around the same time the Lord put the desire for a radio station on his heart. Seeing radio as a great way to do outreach, Bill acquired their first radio station license in 2002 and began airing in 2005, now with 20 signals in three states. He testified to the fact that radio has brought a lot of people into their church.
Bill shared a story of a couple who were separated and had individually been listening to the station. The Lord convicted them and they both got saved. On the same day, they separately decided to visit the same local Calvary Chapel. By God’s providence the Lord healed their marriage.
“One lady told us years ago that her son wasn’t home, but he left his clock radio on our station; it turned on and she went in his bedroom to see what was playing. It was our station, and she was intrigued—and she eventually accepted Christ and started attending a local Calvary Chapel!” Bill exclaimed.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17
Pastor Lloyd Pulley (left) of CC Old Bridge in one of many productive discussions during the radio conference. CCOB’s radio station reaches into New York City and beyond—a potential audience of 10 million people in an area representing over 800 language groups.
Touched by God
Lloyd Pulley, senior pastor of CC Old Bridge, shared how the ministry of The Bridge Christian Radio began. “My radio program, Bridging the Gap, aired for a decade on a large Christian station in the area. We received such a great response, but we realized the demand for Bible teaching could be met better if we could broadcast from our own station and introduce many excellent teachers into the New York area,” Lloyd said. “Though it was the beginning of many intense spiritual battles, now the Word of God is penetrating into a potential audience of 10 million in an area that represents over 800 language groups. Truly a world mission!”
Lloyd commented that a potential reach of 25 to 30 million listeners was represented in the room of about 50 conference attendees.
Pastor Robert Baltodano, General Manager of The Bridge Radio out of CCOB and Pastor Lloyd in one of the station’s studios.
“I always ask visitors to our church how they came here—still, the number one response is radio, with internet and personal invitation following,” Lloyd stated. “Radio is a very personal medium. You are with people alone in their cars and at home. One of the wildest illustrations is from my good friend Pastor Bobby Hargraves up in Poughkeepsie, NY. He met a guy in church and asked the same question: What brings you here? The man replied that he was in his car loaded with drugs and had planned to kill himself. Randomly turning the dial on the radio, he heard [his name]: ‘Daniel, don’t do it!’” Bobby had been teaching from the Book of Daniel, and this man Daniel took that as God speaking to him personally.” Now Daniel is in church, growing and excited to be saved.
Pastors Ron Dozler (left) and Bill Luebkemann (right) lead a discussion at the radio conference.
In Enemy Territory
Pastor Ron Dozler, the organizer of the CC Radio Conference and operator of WXMB-LP/101.5 FM in Myrtle Beach, SC, said, “God often uses one person, right? We see that all the time in the Bible, God using that one man or one woman to change things around them. God used Pastor Chuck to stir everyone else into radio,” Ron stated, “by buying KWAVE in Southern California and later on setting up networks of radios stations across the country. You see that when one person does something amazing with God, it encourages others to take that same step of faith”
After losing out for a larger full-power radio station, Ron acquired one perfect for the needs of his listening area. Myrtle Beach is a tourist town as well as a retirement area, and almost 80% of the people who walk through the door of the church come through the radio. “Calvary Chapel Radio is truly phenomenal,” he noted. “We operate in enemy territory; [Satan] is the prince of the power of the air, and we do battle with him daily, but 1 John 4:4 says, You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
The Local Mission
“And you shall be witnesses to Me [Jesus] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8b
Ron exhorted, “Oftentimes, Calvary Chapels have a difficult time finding out how to better reach their “Jerusalem.” Maybe it’s a street outreach or a local homeless shelter or something like that, but radio fulfills so much more and reaches into places that we as a church could never go. I would encourage any pastor or local church to just come out to one of our conferences. Let us help you get on the air—because it will bless not only your people, but your community as well.”
Jim Keavney concluded, “Let us shout that ‘megaphone of hope’ into our generation and be faithful to finish the course.”
For more information about Calvary Chapel Radio Ministry or to watch previous radio conferences on video, visit www.ccradioministry.org.
Mark your calendar! Ron Dozler, Robert Baltodano, and Bill Luebkemann will run a radio workshop at the Calvary Chapel International Pastors’ Conference, November 8-11, 2021, at CC Golden Springs, CA.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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