Welcome to our Faith in the Media interview series on Christian Media Leadership, where we delve into the minds and experiences of influential leaders in the field of Christian media. In this series, we aim to explore the unique challenges and opportunities faced by these leaders as they navigate the ever-evolving landscape of media and technology while staying true to their Christian values. Join us as we gain insights, wisdom, and inspiration from these remarkable individuals who are making a profound impact in spreading the message of faith through various forms of media. In today’s installment, we chat with Chris Lemke, founder and president of Lemke Media Partners and board member for Christian Music Broadcasters.
Chris has dedicated his life to Christian media and Christian radio. He climbed the media ladder for 36 years, from on-air host to general manager and finally executive director, at 91.3 WSCG-FM, a Christian radio station based in Grand Rapids, MI. He’s also served as a board member for Christian Music Broadcasters for the last 14 years.
Q: As a leader in Christian Media, why do you do what you do?
“For the longest time, I never really considered why I did what I did — I just did, almost as if it was inherent. I confess that too often, it went something like, “Ready… FIRE!…Aim.” God have mercy on those who worked with me in the past.”
“That still happens sometimes, but thankfully it’s far less often. I think passion is always a part of my mix, as is skill and expertise developed over time. But in saying that, I strive for humility and a servant’s heart in my desire to be a positive influence. Too often, I feel I still miss the mark in a balanced approach of these characteristics, but for those who truly know me, it’s this mix in my heart that forges me into who I am and drives what I do. #notwhatbutwhy (John 9:1-4a, 2 Corinthians 5:13-15)”
Q: What are your thoughts on AI and how it might impact Christian Media?
“Captain James Kirk said, “I feel…only a fool would stand in the way of progress, if this is progress.” Trekkies will find that reference from the original series of Star Trek (S2, E24, The Ultimate Computer). In the episode, Kirk and the majority of his crew are displaced by M-5. The similarities between that episode of 1968 and today are, to emulate Mr. Spock, “fascinating.”
“I believe there’s plenty of room for AI in mainstream and Christian media. As an industry, we’ve already been using rudimentary forms of AI in music scheduling, design work, voice tracking, engineering, etc., all with the goal of making our work better and our lives more simple. But AI is only as good as the people who create it, and we as humans are an imperfect, fallen bunch. The more technology advances, it seems there are more challenges raised than challenges solved.”
“I think there should be a label on each new piece of AI: USE WITH CAUTION. I’ll also add that AI is not RW — real wisdom. AI can write good copy, voice good breaks, and create good presentations, all based on inputted or learned data. AI gives us options, a.k.a. “informed choices,” but that’s not necessarily the same as wise, discerning choices. Is it likely that AI decisions and results will morph from intelligence to wisdom? Check back with me in five years, and let’s see if it really is making our lives better. #icantdothatdave (1 Corinthians 1:25-31)”
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for Christian Media in the next 5 years?
“Hmmm… I think it’s a toss-up between our inability to work together and our mediocrity of/distraction from mission. I don’t have the answer on how best to work together, but I’m willing to put in the time and energy to hammer it out, and that requires people; people zealous for Jesus, zealous for others, and zealous for excellence. It doesn’t mean we all do it the same way. There’s only one way (one answer) for eternal life, and that is Jesus, but there are several means and methods the Spirit uses to point in his direction. Doing that in a united way that expresses love for each other is what makes the difference. I find it incredibly eye-opening and encouraging that that’s what Jesus prayed just hours before his death. He prayed for you and me today; he prayed for us to be united. We would do well to be reminded of that more often. #allforone (John 17:20-21, Philippians 2:1-12, 1 John 3:16-18).”
Q: What advice do you have for mid-level leaders that desire to grow to Senior Leadership roles in a Media Company?
“Last year, I finished my master’s degree in organizational leadership. I was impressed by the amount of so much good counsel available. Three books that stood out to me were Rasmus Ankersen’s Hunger in Paradise, Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Harvard Business Review and SHRN.”
“If I have to come up with something, it probably includes:
- Hire the right people in the right seats (thank you, Jim Collins)
- Set clear goals and communication that inspire progress
- Develop a healthy culture of trust and respect
“To the mid-level leader desirous of moving up – don’t underestimate the influence you have where you are. I’ve always said and always believed my greatest challenge was not to be better than anyone else but to be better than I was yesterday. #forward (Philippians 3:12-16, Ephesians 2:9-10)”
Q: As a leader of a Christian Media organization, how would you define success: 1. as a leader 2. for your organization
“Years ago, I heard singer/songwriter, Mylon LeFevre, define success simply as “faithful obedience to God.” That’s it. And it’s stuck with me for these past 40 years. I’m all about benchmarks — great ratings, strong revenue, happy staff, healthy culture — all signs of “success.” But as Paul said to the Corinthian church, if you don’t have what truly matters, it means nothing.”
“Psalm 127:1 is a great reminder of the mystery of how God and his image-bearers (us) work together for a desired outcome. To me, success is faithful obedience to God in the context of aspiring to make myself and my organization indispensable to the marketplace. That may not mean being #1 in the ratings with an eight-figure revenue stream and a hard-working, happy staff, but it should mean there’s a noticeable, positive difference in the market because of who we are and what we do. #itsnotrocketscience (Micah 6:8, Matthew 22:34-40)”
Q: What should the #1 priority be for Christian leaders in media?
“I should just let that answer stand by itself because how a leader makes Jesus the priority will look different from person to person and station to station. If I were to add anything to my initial response, I’d defer to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and ask the question, “Is Jesus at the center of my circle?” “Does everything I do point back to Jesus as ‘The Why?'” That kind of introspection may take time to digest and some collaborative thinking with my team. I need to be willing to admit it when my motives are not on target and adjust any action that may be misguided. Yes, there can be positive, tangible, “aspiritual” benefits to my decisions, but in my opinion, they need to be byproducts to the end and not the end itself. #jesusistheanswer (Matthew 6:25, 33-34, 1 Timothy 6:6-14)”
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