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Paul Rader, Clarence Jones and the Beginnings of Christian Radio

First Religious Broadcaster - Paul Raders speaks from the broadcast booth of WBU on top of Chicago City Hall.  June 15th, 1922
Paul Rader speaks from the broadcast booth of WBU on top of Chicago City Hall. June 15th, 1922

As a young man living in Chicago, Illinois, Clarence Jones played trombone in a Salvation Army band often led by his father.  Clarence was a gifted musician and was invited to play in the band at Moody Church, where Paul Rader was pastor. It was there that God began working in Clarence's heart. One Sunday when Rader gave an invitation, Clarence stood up and truly gave his life to God. Within a week Clarence felt God's calling to full-time Christian service. Clarence studied at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and graduated as president of his class.

Clarence became part of the founding staff of the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle led by evangelist Paul Rader in 1922.  Rader took to the airwaves to announce the upcoming opening of the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle. While many thought radio to be a tool of the Devil, Rader was determined to use radio to spread the Gospel.

For two weeks, Rader brought Clarence Jones and the Chicago Tabernacle's newly formed brass band along with him to radio station WBU. At that time, WBU was located in a wooden shack on top of Chicago's City Hall. Clarence Jones recalled that the band stood outside the shack on the roof, and on cue, literally played into a small hole in the wall where a microphone was held from the other side. This was the start of Paul Rader's and Clarence Jones' radio ministry. 

Chicago Gospel Tabernacle Radio Station WJBT Flyer signed by Clarence Jones

Rader was not afraid to use unconventional tools to tell people about Christ. His services were unusual and have been described as almost having a circus-like atmosphere. People were drawn to the spectacle that combined popular music, drama and the larger-than-life cowboy, athlete and boxer turned evangelist.

This atmosphere was perhaps the perfect training ground for Clarence whose talent, determination and vision for ministry had few limits. 

In the following years, Rader and the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle staff, under the direction of Clarence Jones, regularly produced some 14 hours of programming each Sunday on the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle's station WJBT (Where Jesus Blesses Thousands) using a shared frequency with WBBM.

While Rader and WJBT were not the first to broadcast a Christian program via radio, [Radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh aired a Sunday evening service from Calvary Episcopal Church on Jan 2, 1922.] Rader went beyond simply airing a church service and embraced the medium of radio to speak to people outside of church. Rader's radio programs included "The Breakfast Brigade", which was aired daily on many local stations and even nationwide through CBS affiliates. Because of this, Paul Rader is recognized as the first religious broadcaster. 

Paul Rader's Global Influence

Rader's willingness to use any tool to reach people for the sake of the Gospel left an indelible impression on those he mentored and challenged during his time as pastor of Moody Church, president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and founder and Pastor of The Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, and The World-wide Christian Couriers missionary society. 

Rader's pioneering spirit continued in Clarence Jones who sought to use the latest tools in missions including radio, movies, aviation, and eventually television, to reach the regions beyond.  

Rader inspired and mentored many world changers including:

Clarence Jones – HCJB/Reach Beyond

Peter Deyneka – Slavic Gospel Association

Howard Ferrin – Providence Bible Institute

Paul Fleming – New Tribes Missions

Charles Fuller – Fuller Theological Seminary

Torrey Johnson – Youth for Christ

Lance Latham – AWANA


Next: 1927 - Arise and Go South with Radio!


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