For someone who grew up listening to the Hamm’s Beer “Sky Blue Waters” commercials during Twins games, today’s mid-game breaks can be a little jarring. One moment, you’re listening to baseball, maybe cursing a bad call, the next you’re hearing about Jesus dying on the cross for you.
This season, in the middle of the fifth inning of every Twins game radio broadcast, that’s what you get: a 60-second sermonette, time purchased by the Radio Ministry of the Wooddale Church of Eden Prairie and Edina.
“We’re pleased with the results,” said Brian Anderson, communications director of the massive church (5,000 people attend services each Sunday) and the preacher’s son. “We do get mixed results. Some really like it. We get comments like, ‘It’s a breath of fresh air.’ Some think we’re shoving God down their throats.”
The spots — Anderson calls them “programs,” not “commercials” — all are taken from 25 years of sermons of Leith Anderson, pastor of the mega-church, which is home base for Gov. Tim Pawlenty. During the course of the Twins’ 162-game season, the church will offer more than 100 different messages, all written by a professional writer and read by Brian Anderson.
Most of the messages are fairly soft, little parables that offer a message of “the truth and hope of Jesus,” according to Anderson. (Today’s message can be read here.)
In truth, most of the Jesus spots are not nearly so jarring as some of the spots the Twins’ flagship station, KSTP, runs to promote Joe Soucheray’s radio program on the station. The Soucheray promos often are blatantly political and a bit off-putting for those not enrolled in the Soucheray flat-earth society.
Nonetheless, it almost always is surprising to get the mix of baseball and religion. Brian Anderson does admit that the approach is a little nontraditional and that “the Twins were nervous about it” when the time was purchased for the entire Twins radio network. Until this season, the church purchased time only on some of the team’s outstate stations. As the season progresses, the team’s comfort level seems to be growing.
The move into baseball marks just another step in the evolution of the church’s radio ministry, according to Anderson.
In the beginning, the church broadcast half-hour programs on Christian radio stations. But, in time, it realized that its messages were essentially preaching to the choir.
So a few years ago, the church decided to go with two-minute “programs” on music stations.
“If you think it sounds strange to hear our message in a baseball game, you should have heard what it was like after a Quiet Riot song,” said Anderson. Country stations also were favored by Wooddale.
About five years ago, the station decided to reload and put the messages on KFAN radio, a sports talk station.
There is a common theme here: The hard rock, country and sports station and now baseball all appeal to a male demographic.
“We believe that males are less likely to be the spiritual leaders in their households,” Anderson said. “We want to catch their attention.”