Secular music mix approach developed with Reach Beyond’s help to encourage listeners to ‘think for themselves’ spreads in parts of former Soviet Union
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.— A pioneering form of evangelistic Christian radio is spreading across parts of Eastern Europe, asking questions instead of giving answers.
Mixing secular and Christian music with conversation-starting commentary about life, Joy FM is breaking new ground and winning an audience in Romania and neighboring Moldova.
A partnership between Colorado Springs, Colo.-headquartered media and medical ministry Reach Beyond and local Christian ministries in both countries, Joy FM broadcasts 24/7 on eight stations under the tagline, “Music. Life. Community.”
The target audience is the majority unchurched population in each country, both of which were long under communist rule.
“The people were told what to think for a long time, but now we are encouraging them to think for themselves, so we ask a lot of questions on air,” said Reach Beyond’s Dave Jolly who helped launch the project.
“We’re a very different kind of station because we are not telling people what to think or believe; we want to ask questions to bring people into conversation and hopefully point them to a relationship with Jesus.”
Joy FM first went on the air in Arad, in western Romania, in late 2014. The response was positive with the phone calls, emails and social media responses. Then operators of seven Christian radio stations in neighboring Moldova—which was part of Romania until 1991—learned about the project and wanted to be part of it.
Those stations dropped their former, more traditional format of Christian music in June, becoming part of the Joy FM partnership. Now they carry the programming from Arad, whose Romanian-speaking presenters can be understood by many Moldovans who speak Romanian.
The opportunity in each country is big. According to Operation World, evangelical Christians account for only about 5 percent of Romania’s almost 20 million population and just 4 percent of Moldova’s 4 million people.
The Moldova expansion has been welcomed as an early affirmation of the new broadcast approach with hopes that it might be extended to other parts of the region.
The Joy FM menu is mainly English and Romanian secular music plus some Christian songs in both English and Romanian. “It’s a good mix of carefully chosen secular music,” said Jolly. “We don’t want it to detract from the main purpose, so we screen it very carefully.
“You can always find ideas in secular songs that can jump-start conversations, whether they are about relationships, broken relationships or love,” he continued. “We take them and use them as jumping-off points for dialogue.”
A former station manager in the U.S., Jolly has served in various duties with Reach Beyond, the latest one based in Arad since 2014. Originally the station manager, he has since moved into a consultancy role after helping train national staff.
He asked Reach Beyond supporters to pray that financial support would be forthcoming to keep the Joy FM stations on air, and for the development of a network of supporters to help befriend listeners who seek more information about faith through the broadcasts and connect them with local churches.
“It’s very exciting to see how Joy FM is being received because of its completely unique approach,” Jolly said. “It is an affirmation of the vision that we have to see God use us to communicate His truth in a different way and a confirmation that asking questions and trying to build relationships is working and impacting people, probably more so than preaching in this particular region of the world.”
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Reach Beyond (reachbeyond.org) is a media- and medical-based evangelical ministry with operations on five continents. It spreads the message of Jesus in places that are primarily unreached or unengaged in the gospel. Reach Beyond uses media, including radio broadcasts, webcasts, social media and the distribution of solar-powered radios. It also reaches out to the needy throughout its growing network of healthcare services.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Reach Beyond trainer Dave Jolly at the Joy FM studios in Romania.