Thinking Out Loud

June 20, 2017

Christian Television from the Other Side

Filed under: Christianity, media, ministry — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

Forty years ago, I was getting up daily at 5:30 so I could down a quick breakfast, catch a 6:00 AM Toronto bus to the subway, and by 7:00 be on the set of 100 Huntley Street, North America’s longest running daily Christian talk show, plugging in microphones and doing all the things for which an audio technician is responsible. I worked for the production company, Crossroads Christian Communications for a grand total of only five months before getting caught in the middle of a situation where a former friend, also gifted in audio, arranged for his mother to make a large donation so that he could basically steal my job. I was moved over to another area — the music department — where I would love to have stayed for a lifetime, but for the fact they already had a music director and after a couple of months of growth, the organization staged what would be the first of many job cuts.

Last week 100 Huntley Street had its 40th anniversary. In all of their various celebrations, I have never once been asked to be among the former staff invited to the party. I guess I wasn’t there long enough.

I do have a story to tell. It’s a shared story, one highlight of which is being a part of that miracle morning where the first show went to air on the Global Television Network. We all stayed overnight, but there wasn’t much I could do with a studio that wasn’t ready, given that the audio system is applied only after the set is completely dressed and much of the lighting work is done. I would say that by 5:30 AM we did not have a working studio. By 9:30 we were on the air. It was a 90-minute show back then. Today it’s 30 minutes.

My other memory is approaching the host and senior producer — a husband and wife team — and asking if an upcoming music guest could be given a block of time instead of the usual spacing out of songs at various points in the script. They agreed, and what happened when Keith Green started ministering to people on the program was unforgettable.

Today, Christian television is not in high regard in several quarters, including among the evangelicals who were responsible for its growth. The format has been exploited for profit and for ego, and there are too many people out there creating a fragmented viewership. Contemporary Christian Music gets a somewhat negative attitude from many as well. I find it interesting that the two vehicles — the two media you could say — that God used so powerfully in my life are now looked down upon by so many. 

From the other side, the inside, I can say that to the extent I knew the hearts of my co-workers, the desire to produce an excellent program each day and the desire to see the message of Jesus go out over the air was first and foremost. I know there is much skepticism about this today and I’m sure there are those simply in it for the paycheck, but at that time, the young skeleton crew and office staff with whom I worked were forging something new, something vital, something that was all the motivation anyone needed.

While a university student, my goal was to work in Christian television. An opportunity in Virginia to study at CBN University fell through because, in order to achieve accreditation, the school couldn’t accept foreign students in its first year. I looked at studying journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, but in this country, the feeling is that working journalists should be fluent in both official languages. After four years of college, suddenly people were probing into my high school marks in French, which were not great. That left a journalism program in British Columbia which was further than I wanted to travel at that stage of life.

And then along came 100 Huntley Street. I walked out of a set of exams right into a job doing the thing I wanted to do, but was caught in a series of circumstances — a major equipment failure on air being one — over which I had no control, but still took the blame. I didn’t know the power of arrangement back then or I would fought harder to keep my job, stood up for myself, and exposed the politics of the organization whereby a large donation by a relative ensured someone getting a job. I was young. They were inexperienced in managing a large enterprise.

However, all that said, I believe God had other plans for me and that having fulfilled my dream, however briefly, he wanted me to move on and do other things. A couple of decades later I began to see how the various pieces of the puzzle of my life were starting to fit together to form something useful, though in all the intervening years, an actual title, desk, office or salary have proved unattainable. I relate to the missionaries who serve for an entire career and then have nothing material to show for it. I often wonder what a lifetime at Huntley Street would have looked like.

I do congratulate the people at Crossroads Christian Communications. In the last few years the daily program has been rebuilt and restructured and I believe is something its former critics can actually enjoy watching. It’s the sixth longest running television program in the world of any genre, not just talk shows; and every weekday morning the production staff and on air guests walk into that studio and by 9:30 AM, the miracle I experienced 40 years ago is in many ways repeated.


March 20, 2013

Wednesday Link List

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Praying Dogs

September 16, 2009

What is a “Friend?” — Crossroads / 100 Huntley Street Saga Continues

Over ninety days since this blog decided to go public with information concerning the absence of the regular hosts from Canada’s daily Christian television program; 100 Huntley Street viewers were informed on Monday of the greater details regarding what has taken place.

I have abstained from following the story in greater detail — despite the blog traffic it brought — because I felt it was being better covered at the blog Bene Diction Blogs On.    Though it concerns me that despite direct correspondence off the blog, I still have no idea who Bene Diction is, I refer you to the latest updates on the story here and here or you can simply view for yourself (high speed internet needed) by going to the Crossroads site and watching Monday’s (September 14) program, advancing to the last seven or eight minutes of the program.  Be sure to select the Monday program.

driver2I think, at this point, the story is sufficiently ‘out there’ that there’s nothing left do at this point than wait for the outcome both involving Ronald and Reynold Mainse, and involving Gordon Driver.   However, I want to look a little closer at the statement made by Ron Mainse, “A couple of years ago, I was presented with an investment opportunity by someone I considered to be a close friend.”

An ‘acquaintance,’ obviously.  A ‘neighbor,’ to be sure.  A ‘recent friend,’ is allowable.  A ‘person we knew years ago who reappeared,’ definitely.   But ‘close friend,’ implies a long term connection which would, if entirely true, justify the deception.

ronald mainsePersonally, I doubt if Driver had any contact with the Mainse brothers during those thirty-plus years he was in California.   The original reports said they ‘discovered’ that each other was living in the same neighborhood, something a true friend would already know.

Of course, it simplifies the story, because the fact remains that Driver is “a charmer” who could talk anybody into just about anything.   So perhaps I should give Ron Mainse back some points for trying to put it more concisely.

But the fact remains that ‘close friend’ really puts some spin on this.   We tend to use this word too freely; talking about “our good friend” so-and-so, when in fact they are an online contact we’ve never met in person.

Facebook has confused the whole ‘friend’ issue, also; but in the interest of space I’ll let you consider that for yourself.

The point is that here we have a case of someone who wormed their way into the lives of some people who normally have some built in defenses against “the public,” and who no doubt did indeed reach their ‘inner sanctum.’    Think Bill Murray in the movie What About Bob. The Bob character is clearly just a patient of the psychologist in the story, but to his family, Bob has become family.

Many have the ability, after only a few minutes, to seem like someone you’ve known all your life; while other people you have known all your life can still remain distant.  Also, many people who are in the spotlight — possibly including your pastor — have so many defenses protecting their personal life from their parishioners that many are just dying for someone with whom they can share their lives more deeply.   Who better than a neighbor whose children attend the same schools as your own?

Still, I have people I consider friends, but that doesn’t mean I would trust them with financial matters, or even share personal financial information with them.

And finally of course, there is the obvious:  Friends don’t expose friends to extreme risk and vulnerability.

So Ron Mainse, why not just state it more simply, as in, “We got charmed and conned?”    Let’s not cheapen the word ‘friend’ in the process.

Photos – upper: Gordon Driver; lower: Ronald Mainse

June 10, 2009

100 Huntley Street: Canadian Christian Television Hosts Off Air

It’s time to go public with a story that many of us have known for several days but has been almost completely invisible online.

For several weeks, Ron Mainse, president of Crossroads Christian Communications, Inc., and his brother Reynold Mainse, director of missions for Crossroads, have been absent from their daily, flagship program, 100 Huntley Street. The opening credits of the program have been re-edited and longtime on-air staff member Moira Brown and Canadian radio/television broadcaster and author Jim Cantelon have been fronting the daily telecast.

The best explanation seems to be found in this lone media report, which appeared May 21st in the Hamilton Spectator.    (Although The Spectator is owned by The Toronto Star, it appears the story was considered too local to Hamilton to be picked up by the larger daily.)

Driver Mainse StoryClick link above or image for full story

The story identifies the Mainse brothers, sons of Crossroads founder David Mainse, as investing in a project sold by Axcess Automation which the story identifies as a Ponzi scheme, illegal both in Canada and the U.S.

The seller is identified as Gordon Driver.    Gord, as he was known when he lived in Southern Ontario, was the founder of Sounds of Triumph, a non-profit organization that produced Christian concerts and radio programs, one of which was produced for Toronto Teen Challenge.    Offices and studios were located in the now demolished Evangelistic Centre at Yonge and York Mills in Toronto; the same Pentecostal Holiness Church which for several years rented space on Monday nights to a young evangelist named Benny Hinn.

Gord frequently traveled between Toronto and Orange County, California where he was well known to the thriving Christian music community on the west coast.   Bringing back that same enthusiasm to Southern Ontario proved challenging.    A fundraising dinner for a Christian nightclub, The Captain’s Table, ended up losing money, but Gord took his losses with his successes and was never phased by projects that didn’t succeed.

At least not until the summer of 1980.    Freeway Festival ’80, as it was called, was Gord’s most ambitious project ever, involving the massive Niagara Falls (NY) Convention Center, and some of the top names in Christian music.    But by the time the weekend was over, the festival consisted of a few concerts in the parking lot of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Orchard Park, NY.    With staggering financial losses, Gord packed up his wife and moved permanently to Costa Mesa, CA.

For nearly 30 years, Gord Driver wasn’t seen or heard from.   An attempt by this writer a few years ago to contact his sister, a Vice President of EMI Christian Music Group in Nashville, TN, occurred while she was visiting family in British Columbia.   No calls were returned.  Then, a few months ago, a mutual acquaintance informed me that Gord had moved back to Ontario and was living outside Hamilton.

Thereafter, there was nothing until the Hamilton Spectator story ran a few weeks ago.

The story mentions that Gord had a previous contact with Crossroads, working as a sound engineer there as a teenager.    That’s true.   I know that because I was hired as the original sound technician for the 100 Huntley Street telecast, but several days in, Gord turned up around the studio as a volunteer.   Then suddenly, after only nine broadcasts, I was called into an office and told that after waiting three months for the program to go to air, I was being bumped to assistant sound engineer.   (It was alleged at the time that this followed a large donation to Crossroads by Gord’s mother, but thirty years later, the how or why is not important.)   While that alone would have been enough to ruin a friendship — although I did dissolve a business partnership I had with Gord in a record company — we did travel together to California in the late fall of 1979; proving that I was either very forgiving or extremely naive.

That Gord should so handsomely charm the senior management at Crossroads nearly thirty years later is, at the very least, rather ironic.

While I did not hear the only statement to be issued on the broadcast, I understand its intent was to convey that while there was some issue that the Mainse brothers were sorting out, it did not directly involve the use of Crossroads funds.    I hope that is indeed the case.    However, if they only implicated personal funds, the damage their absence could be doing to the income at Crossroads may be creating unnecessary financial stress for that ministry.    See this article in this blog a few days ago for a rather cryptic assessment of the situation, written prior to this more overt publication of these events.

I say that because of a very brief conversation I had at MissionFest with the people at Living Truth, the broadcast ministry of The Peoples Church, Toronto.   They told me that viewer support is greatly impacted by Sundays that Pastor Charles Price doesn’t appear on the telecast, with the result that they now simply air repeat broadcasts if Price is away preaching in other places, or even if they simply have guest speakers.

While the Mainse brothers certainly have to take personal responsibility for their actions, it would be regrettable if a ministry organization such as Crossroads was impacted by Gord Driver’s high profile transaction with these two men, in a way that even the economic slowdown couldn’t cripple it.

I should also repeat here, since the language of financial stories in the media may be somewhat foreign to some of you, that the Mainse brothers were victims here.   There is no evidence in the Spectator story itself  — beyond Driver’s own claim — that they propagated the investment scheme or sold investments to third parties.

June 12  UPDATE:  The sentiments expressed in the final paragraph above are increasingly being challenged.    I was simply acting in the spirit of I Cor. 13; that Christian charity means “believing the best;” but the comments I’ve received, both on and off the blog, would suggest that there is more taking place here.   The ministry organization is expected to make more information public on Monday, June 15th.

June 12  UPDATE:  After wrestling with whether to print this or not, I discovered that someone had committed information to the online world the day following our “Once Upon A Time” version.  You can read that story here, and another post by the same writer responding to my own, but on a different blog,  here.

Disclaimer:  This is a blog.  The opinions expressed here are are those of the author and are still waiting be confirmed in other media and/or with the story sources.

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