For more than half a century, the Reverend David Mainse, founder of Crossroads Christian Communications Inc. and YES TV, used television and other media to speak into Canadian homes and lives.
Throughout that time, the technology changed but his message did not; in the simplest of words that message can be summed up as: “Jesus loves you! This I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Born August 13th, 1936 in Campbell’s Bay, Quebec and raised on the outskirts of Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, Ontario, David’s earliest influences were his rural environment and his parents – who were missionaries and educators, and who inspired him to take a message of hope and love to the world.
His mother died when he was 12, leading David to become angry at God until he experienced a religious conversion at about the age of 16. He began teaching public school while still in his teens, studied theology, and was ordained. He served as a pastor across Ontario in Brighton, Deep River, Sudbury and Hamilton.
David met and married Norma-Jean Rutledge in 1958; she would be his partner in life and ministry for the next 59 years. Their foray into television began in Pembroke, Ontario, on June 2nd, 1962 with a 15-minute program following the late night news called “Crossroads.” The format was simple: while David delivered a message, Norma-Jean (and her brothers) would share their musical talents.
The program expanded to stations across the country. In 1971, David resigned from his then role as pastor of Hamilton Bethel Gospel Tabernacle to concentrate on television. The next few years brought rapid ministry growth. Crossroads launched “Circle Square,” a long-running children’s program that has been carried in over 50 countries.
In 1977, the program began telecasting daily out of a newly-created studio at 100 Huntley Street in downtown Toronto. On June 15th, of that year, the first of what would become more than 10,300 broadcasts (and counting!) of the interview/talk show named for the studio’s street address began. Norma-Jean produced the live, daily, 90-minute telecast. It was David’s idea to have 24/7 telephone “prayer lines” staffed by volunteers to offer support to viewers. From the beginning, David modelled an ecumenical spirit and open, respectful dialogue on faith issues among citizens, including clergy and guests from across the denominational spectrum. To date, 100 Huntley Street has featured more than 16,000 guests sharing their personal stories and music, and has processed more than 11 million telephone calls from people seeking prayer. 100 Huntley Street has an on-air average weekly reach of over 1.3 million Canadian viewers.
Also in the 1970’s, Crossroads created a teen television show called “Inside Track,” and launched weekly productions in 18 different languages which aired both in Canada and internationally.
In 1979, David served as executive producer and host of the “Crossroads Creation Series,” the first ever release of faith-based TV across the Soviet Union. The goal of the prime-time series was not to preach, but to introduce faith to the lives of atheists and explore the evidence for Creation. David subsequently travelled to Moscow to speak at the first-ever conference of Christian leaders from all fifteen Soviet Republics.
The release of “Kingdom Adventure,” a Canadian TV series for children (which Crossroads produced in partnership with the CTV network) followed in the U.S.S.R. Millions of viewers wrote letters to the Moscow ministry office requesting the free colouring book offered through the show. This series was subsequently carried in other countries around the world, and continues to air in many countries today.
Crossroads also produced the award-winning film “Apples of Gold” in 1979, telling the story of the history and struggles of the Jewish people beginning with the time of the early Zionist movement. Jewish Community groups around the world purchased copies. It reportedly became Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s favourite movie on the subject, and played twice weekly in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel for more than a decade.
Also in the late 1970’s, the CRTC started licensing Satellite TV stations in remote and underserved communities. David sensed an opportunity for religious groups to participate in that expansion, but the Broadcasting Act of the time prevented religious organizations from owning and operating television stations. Under David’s leadership, Crossroads presented arguments to the CRTC and to which the broadcast regulator responded, seeing the merit of including religious communities in the expansion. As a result of David’s vision and his team’s work, it became permissible for religious groups to own and operate broadcast stations in the early 1980’s, an opportunity that had not existed for 50 years in Canada.
In 1981, another of David’s dreams materialized when Crossroads launched a School of Broadcasting and Communication. It would run until 2008. During that time, the school taught 1200 full time students and countless part-time students. Today, graduates serve in 78 countries, producing television programs seen by an estimated potential audience of 3 billion people.
Passionate about Canadian unity, David made headlines in the summer of 1981 when he took “100 Huntley Street” across Canada. His “Salute To Canada” tour encompassed a month of daily, live broadcasts from Victoria to Charlottetown and points in between. His purpose: to speak a message of love and unity to a hurting nation.
After receiving a heartbreaking amount of mail from children going through family stress, David challenged viewers to do more for the country’s children. Their response resulted in a ranch property being donated to Crossroads in 1978. That first ranch quickly evolved into several summer camps known as Circle Square Ranches, and became one of the largest camping programs in Canada. (In 2011, Crossroads gifted Circle Square Ranches to the long-time operator of Pioneer Camps, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.)
In 1982, “100 Huntley Street” originated from the mall in Washington for a week-long series called “The Maple Leaf Salutes the Stars and Stripes.” President and Mrs. Reagan recognized the effort with warm congratulations.
Through David’s determined and visionary leadership, the Emergency Response and Development Fund (formerly ERDF now “Crossroads Relief and Development”) was established that same year. Since then, it has disbursed over $20 million to humanitarian projects worldwide.
In 1992, the Crossroads family of ministries moved their headquarters to a brand new, state-of-the-art, 143,000 sq. ft. television production facility called “The Crossroads Centre” in Burlington, Ontario.
Six years later, in 1998, David founded Crossroads Television System (CTS), a broadcast corporation separate from the Crossroads ministry. CTS launched September 30th of that year, following David’s successful application to the CRTC for a 24-hour, over-the-air religious channel with a mandate to broadcast family-friendly and balanced programming. (In 2014, the entity rebranded as YES-TV. Today, there are also YES-TV outlets in Calgary and Edmonton.)
At the dawn of the new millennium, David launched the “Channel of Hope,” which covered the world via three satellite networks from Expo 2000, in Hanover, Germany, telecasting 24 hours a day for six months.
He stepped down as C.E.O. of Crossroads and host of “100 Huntley Street” in the summer of 2003, but continued to appear from time to time on special productions. He never really retired, but lived out his vision and calling to reach people everywhere with God’s love, most recently through a daily devotional blog (100words.ca).
From 2010 – 2012 David conducted a “Thank You Canada Tour,” spanning the country to meet with ministry supporters and well-wishers in 170 communities to convey his personal thanks to Canadians for their support throughout his life of public ministry.
In 2012, David was diagnosed with MDS leukemia. He died at the age of 81 on September 25th, 2017. He leaves behind his wife of 59 years, Norma-Jean, their four children, 16 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
Also of note:
David served for several years at the request of the world’s most successful mutual funds leader, Sir John Templeton, as a judge for “The Templeton Prize For Progress in Religion.”
David has received numerous awards for excellence in television production from the National Religious Broadcasters in the USA, and has several honorary doctorates, including from Tyndale University in Toronto (2003) and McMaster Divinity College (2011).
Four Canadian universities and colleges have scholarship funds available in Rev. Mainse’s name to young people pursuing studies in the field of communications.
In 2005, David received the Christian Film & Television Commission, Movieguide Award in Hollywood California for “Lifetime Faith & Values.”
In 2008, David Mainse was honoured (along with the Rev. Billy Graham) for exemplifying the highest integrity, both personally and organizationally while running a charity for more than forty years. This award was given to David by The Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC), an association whose purpose is to minister to and be a watchdog agency for Christian charities and the public, with practical aspects of management, stewardship and accountability.
Two of Canada’s longest serving Prime Ministers have recognized David’s service to Canada. Excerpts follow: “I congratulate the Reverend David Mainse for inviting all of us to think about the debt we owe to the faith of our Fathers and to the spiritual heritage which finds expression in countless ways in our daily lives.” ~ The Rt. Hon. Pierre Trudeau on 100 Huntley Street.
“As one who served as Prime Minister of Canada for nine years, I can say that David Mainse contributed mightily to the well-being of this nation. His qualities of tolerance inspired our youth; his sense of decency warmed our national spirit; and his exemplary personal life and compassionate outlook contributed to the strength of our citizenship.” ~ The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney