A quick scan of the radio dial anywhere in the United States will almost certainly find an evangelical Christian singing, preaching, or talking. Focus on the Family airs on over 2,000 radio outlets, and the preaching of John MacArthur, Charles Swindoll, and the late J. Vernon McGee is broadcast thousands of times each day around the world.

In addition to these nationally known "radio preachers," countless local church pastors broadcast their sermons weekly or head down to the local station to pray or answer questions from callers. But this is certainly not a recent phenomenon. Evangelicals have been active in radio since it first dawned on the American scene.

Getting Started

Paul Rader (1879-1938) was one of the pioneers of Christian radio. Before becoming a famous evangelist, Rader had been a cowboy, a football coach, and a boxer. He pastored the Moody Church of Chicago from 1915 to 1921, and in 1922 started the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle on Chicago's north side. The 5,000-seat "steel tent" was erected to house a summer evangelistic campaign. When the crowds kept coming, the structure was enclosed and the evangelistic ministries of the "Tab" became a fixture of Chicago fundamentalism in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Rader utilized every means at his disposal to draw people to hear the gospel, including jazzy music and cutting-edge advertising. In June 1922 Rader received a call from William Hale Thompson, the mayor of Chicago. Thompson had recently built a radio station on the roof of City Hall. He invited Rader to come down and fill some time on Saturday, June 17.

Rader immediately saw the invitation as another way to get the gospel out. He once said of radio, "It can push out the walls of the biggest church and reach the unsaved ...

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