by David Brown
It all started with a single apple tree. An apple grower, a believer in County Armagh, tied a radio to an apple tree. He would listen to the radio everyday while he worked in the orchard. One day, he heard an advert on the radio offering airtime to anyone willing to accept it for the purpose of sharing religious broadcasts. He had recently heard a man called John Morrison preach at a meeting of 500 people and so approached him, asking ‘could this be an opportunity to share the gospel on the radio and something he could commit to on a weekly basis?’
From a young age, John accompanied his father in his Christian ministry around Ireland. As John grew up, through a series of events in his personal life, he understood that God was training him for another ministry and this came with a very definite and clear call. When he was asked about speaking on the radio, he knew this was the ministry for which God had trained him.
Over time, this radio ministry grew from a single slot of airtime on one radio station on a Saturday night, repeated on a Sunday morning. Then another radio station in the north took up the programme, then John’s broadcasts were accepted onto yet another one in Dublin. As time went on, it was obvious that the call of God was on the ministry and many more opportunities started to open up.
Currently, John broadcasts the gospel from 16 radio stations each week, primarily in the Republic of Ireland but also in Wales. He works with a number of professional recording studios, each of which produces programmes to full broadcast quality. Radio stations range from Belfast to County Donegal, County Cork and many more. Every day of the week there are people listening to the programmes and hearing the gospel. John is encouraged in the knowledge that, ‘every day, someone, somewhere is listening.’
Planted by Streams
A typical broadcast today would be the Country Gospel Hour, which is a 15-minute message and a number of songs and hymns appropriate to the talk. John also gets people to read out the words of hymns, since he has found people take on the meaning of them in a different way when hearing them sung. Typical production time, including editing, for each programme is seven hours. As part of the quality control process, John listens to each master track, checking it has the correct content and time length before distribution.
imagine walking into a football stadium with 80,000 people there and sharing the gospel for an hour
John has an amazing freedom to share the gospel on the radio and his talks are designed to preach the gospel of the grace of God. He is often broadcasting to a predominantly Catholic audience. He is very careful with the selection of music, the talk and the content, ensuring he does not dilute the message down in any way. He is able to preach as clearly as anyone in a church or out in the open air. He emphasises the Lord Jesus Christ loving us, giving His life for us and shedding His precious blood on the Cross – across all communities in Ireland – it is an amazing privilege indeed!
John was invited to present one-hour Christmas and Easter specials on Midwest, one of Ireland’s largest commercial radio stations. If you can imagine walking into a football stadium with 80,000 people there and sharing the gospel for an hour, that is the platform given to John with these programmes.
Ireland is becoming increasingly secular and the influence of the gospel is waning in Northern Ireland too, so John isn’t sure how much longer believers will have this kind of freedom to share the gospel on the radio waves.
During the Troubles, John would work with little stations broadcasting all along the border area. Both communities were living life as if there would be no day of accountability, as if life was worthless. But God spoke very clearly through the radio ministry. At one of the radio stations John worked at, someone wrote in from Magilligan Prison and said, ‘Before I turn the light out at 12 o’clock, I listen to your programme – could I have some more information about other programmes?’ Years later, John heard from a Baptist minister who said that he knew of many within the prison who would regularly listen in to John’s broadcasts and they had an effect. People would comment to John personally with the highest respect: ‘John, you are showing us how to live.’
Fruits Yielded in Season
John looks to the Lord to provide, supported by local believers, although Covid put a stop to some of the meetings he used to organise to share about his ministry. He is grateful to Echoes International, which has supported his radio work as a cross-cultural mission project in the Republic of Ireland, reaching out to people where they are.
While John casts bread upon the water, he gets lovely messages from people who listen in, sometimes thanking him, sometimes sharing about where they are listening from or requesting a particular hymn.
About two years ago, he was encouraged to hear from Brendan, a man from Belfast. Brendan had offered a song to use in the broadcast, which John is happy to do for listeners. Brendan then kept listening to the programmes for six months, until one morning he sent John a text to say, ‘I have received Christ – everything has changed and I am very happy now!’
‘O, can it be, upon a tree
the Saviour died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me!’
- that God will continue to prosper the radio ministry and many will come to the knowledge of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
- for wisdom for John, as he prepares and records his talks
- for freedom to continue to share the gospel over the airwaves.