by Lisa Hall-Wilson

Originally published in the Christian Herald, January 2017

I usually begin with the same question for everyone. Yes, you were raised in a Christian home. When did that faith become your own?

LD: I had a really troubled childhood and I moved in and out of faith, but when I was just turning 18 I committed my life to Christ at a Bible camp in Winkler, MB around a campfire. I went straight into Winkler Bible College and I started to really cement my faith as my own. And then 28 years ago, I had a crisis of faith when I realized that I needed a deeper level of God and that’s when I started learning how to have personal daily Bible reading and prayer time and started to do some really reflective work of my soul. That’s where things made a big turn for me, where I moved from religion to relationship.

I won’t even begin to count the number of people you have interviewed over the last 30 years, but is there one or two that stand out in your memory? That you can’t forget?

LD: There’s a few. They all fall under this category: persecuted Christians who faced death for their faith. One was a Cuban Christian and the other was a Chinese man called The Heavenly Man. When you talk to someone who has been willing to die and has faced a life-threatening situation for their faith – those two stand out completely. Persecuted Christian is off the charts for me.

You’ve been in media for 30 years and you’re seen as a trailblazer. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

LD: Fundraising. Just trusting in God when it looks bleak.

How did those struggles make you a better leader?

LD: It drives you to your knees. You realize that somehow God has led you into a leadership role that requires well over one million dollars a year to maintain. Context was small. Crossroads is a $12 million media ministry. So, I think you learn persistence, you learn dependence on God. You learn grace. It’s made me a more spirit-dependent person. That’s just fundraising. I learned a lot more on my leadership journey than from just fundraising.

We’re all given specific gifts and passions to do the work set before us. In my experience, there are certain skills and traits that help me succeed as a journalist but are a hindrance in relationships some- times. Have you found that also?

LD: I find I’m always finding a better story for whatever the situation is. You have so much imagination, so much story, so much problem solving from hearing other people’s lives. I always have – I’m an activator – I have advice and ideas for every situation and that can be irritating. A dear friend told me that few relationships can stand the strain of constant good advice. As someone who’s interviewed so many people with so many good stories, you have to learn to listen a lot more than always have better ideas. Especially when it comes to your family.

What led you to say yes to Crossroads?

LD: I felt a call from God. I wrestled with it for a month. I felt that when the Board of Directors at Crossroads was eager to see Context come along with Crossroads and Yes TV, I felt there was a unity in the body of Christ moment that I could not ignore. I also felt that I was actually a good fit for the job because I love that ministry. I loved Crossroads. It started me in Christian storytelling. I knew the challenges of holding a Christian charity that is media focused. My husband just said yeah — you’re the best person in Canada for this. I consulted with those who knew me best, knew my skills, my weaknesses, and they all in unison said I was the best person for this job. Through that counsel and my own deep admiration for the media charity of Crossroads and Yes TV, I felt a call towards it. It was a difficult decision but I’m honoured and loving every day at work.

Most new leaders have a vision when they take on a new role. What are the first things you’re looking to change, tweak, or improve at Crossroads?

LD: I’m working on rebuilding the financial health of Crossroads and Yes TV. It was at one time a robust debt-free media light. But like every media house in the country, it got hit with enormous winds of change in technology. Audience loyalties changed. There’s a reason that the Canadian Heritage Committee from the Federal government has held meetings into the crisis. Every media house in the country is trying to figure out how to financially survive. I’ve been on the job for four months and that’s the first thing I’m working on. Second thing, we’re launching a campaign to double the audience of 100 Huntley Street. We are seeing a rapid decline in traditional sourcing of religious truth. People are not going to church like they used to in this country. They’re not learning in traditional methods. But they’re still consuming media. Over 8.9 million views on our YouTube material last year alone. That’s online. Not to mention the one million we’re reaching every week through broadcast television. I just think the appetite for our content where people can know and understand that God loves and what salvation and forgiveness in God can mean for their lives, those are the two biggies I’m working on.

Do you have a plan on how you’re going to double that audience?

LD: You’ll start to see, even in this newspaper. Across the country, we’ve launched billboards, radio ads and social media advertising. We’ve made significant change to the content of 100 Huntley Street. We’ve heard the audience loud and clear that they want a Canadian story-driven life- changing hope-giving show. You’ll see more music, more live music. We’re excited about some of the dynamic stories we have in the pipeline. Celebrities when appropriate, sports, entertainment, personal stories of families being touched – it’s all coming to the new 100 Huntley Street.

Do people of faith have a voice in main-stream media in Canada?

LD: No. Not at all. I know for 12 years plus I’ve written at The Globe and Mail as their only Christian faith columnist and all I can say it is – no. It’s not even deliberate on the media’s part. It’s just interest and application of Christian faith in this country has been kicked to the curb in the fast-paced world of media. Unless you have people who own the content, who care for it, who sponsor missionaries like myself into the media world it will not happen. There is no profit model interested in telling the Christian story. It is a completely donor- driven model. If a pastor would knock on the door of a secular radio station and ask for air time, saying his church will pay for it, he would get it, that’s how starved they are to sell media time. We just haven’t got the vision in place where churches and pastors are doing that. Don’t have the vision in place.

What needs to happen? Do we need more journalists willing to work in main-stream media? More people interested in reaching people through those media channels?

LD: Yes. Both of those things. We need more Christians willing to purchase a voice into media and people who will work with us so we can create more different generational type of media. Millennial is different than boomer media. The creativity is out there, the pipelines are out there – but who will sponsor the missionaries in media? That’s the missing link.

What will be our biggest challenge as people of faith trying to have a voice in Canada?

LD: The challenges that we’ve always had. Love, integrity, relevance, boldness. Never let your zeal be lacking is what scripture says. Will we have the zeal to tackle the media landscape and the huge opportunity that it presents?

Christians I have spoken with have disengaged from mainstream media. They feel they’re not represented in mainstream media.

LD: They’re too passive! No, we’re not represented at all in the mainstream media, but we’re far too passive. However – take Kim’s Convenience. That is an evangelical family being played out on prime-time television. You know who started that? A little Korean church that had Ins Choi in their church. They sponsored it. Great example of a Christian voice with mainstream access. Choi has sacrificially given his life and finances to make that show the hit that it now is. It all began when his Korean church paid for the first presentation for his stage play. Christians have just got to invest in the arts and then let the Holy Spirit take it where It needs to go. We are all just humble practitioners. It’s persistence and zeal. We just have to keep pushing through doors.

Is there anything you would like to add?

LD: Pray for us. Pray for anyone you know who works in the media. It’s one of the pillars of society and I cannot imagine that God would want us to take a pass on trying to use media for the Christian gospel. I love what the Christian Herald does – and shout out to its supporters – because these are the kind of vehicles we need to remind the community of God that we are indeed a community and we are stronger together with our voice. Newspaper media tells the stories that no one else is telling. You’ll rarely see a Christian Herald story in the mainstream press. You have to create media that will tell the story.

Originally published in the Christian Herald, January 2017