Christian radio host in Wilsonville uses airwaves to inspire
Over the years, Wilsonville resident David Harms hasn't bent to the trends of Christian radio. When most programming was too traditional, he preferred modernization. And when he felt the lessons of Christianity had been obscured in favor of catchy tunes and generic messages, Harms shifted in the other direction.
His goal is to both reach a wide audience and make the listening experience meaningful.
"I got into Christian radio because I wanted people to understand Jesus in some way, shape or form, no matter where they started from," Harms said. "If they're of no faith perspective whatsoever, I want them to get a little taste of it, and if they're from a church perspective, that it would strengthen their faith."
And it's this ethos that has led Harms, with his wife Barbara Harms, to start the Worship 24/7 website and radio station last year. The station is a churchlike experience and has reached over 30,000 people from countries across the world. Its headquarters is located at Parkway Avenue in Wilsonville.
David Harms, who grew up in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, says he's been a "radio nerd" since he was a teenager and first opined about sports on the air at his brother's college radio station when he was 15 years old.
"There was no one else who could pronounce 'Martina Navratilova,'" he said. "That got the bug going."
The budding radio personality continued to hone his craft while attending Westminster College in Pennsylvania, even working for professional radio stations. He was interested in joining a Christian radio station, but at the time, most stations weren't professionally produced, and the mixture of Christian messaging and rock 'n' roll was generally frowned upon. He disagreed with the latter idea and even wrote a paper explaining his reasoning.
"It was a huge opportunity for people to understand faith in a whole different way through a medium of music that was relevant to culture and was listenable," Harms said.
Harms spent a few years working in general radio before taking his first job at a Christian radio station in Sandusky, Ohio, and then at a bigger station in Detroit.
After a while, he felt burned out in his job, and he considered a career change, he admitted. Instead, though, he received a rush of inspiration while on a mission trip to Senegal.
Harms ended up in Portland through a radio station merger and subsequently started his business 58:10 Media, which raises money for gospel rescue missions and faith-based nonprofit organizations and uses radio to tell stories related to their message. There, he began to interview thousands of homeless people in Portland, which were then broadcast at stations in the area.
"(What he learned was) It's (homelessness) not that far from my own experiences or potential experiences. It doesn't take much for someone to slip and get down that low," Harms said. "I talked to guys who went to Yale, Harvard, and ended up on the street. Addiction takes a really hard toll. Mental illness is significant."
Over the last couple decades, Harms has seen the quality of Christian music and radio improve exponentially. And in turn, he said that's led to increased popularity. However, he has also noticed a worrisome trend: that there isn't as much of a focus on the teachings of Christianity.
"Some of the things Christian radio used to do all the time, it no longer does. They don't pray on the air. Now a lot of Christian radio, you will not hear scripture on the air," David Harms said.
David and Barbara Harms moved to Wilsonville from Lake Oswego in 2007 because their church (Grace Chapel) and many of their friends are located here.
A bright idea
About a year ago, this idea of a more scripture-focused station was simply a PowerPoint presentation. But after a lease at the property in Wilsonville serendipitously opened up and a friend agreed to build the studio for the cost of a nightly stay at Motel 6, David Harms went live on the internet last April.
Then, in November, he bought a radio station that serves residents of Sisters, Bend, Prineville and other areas in central Oregon.
The broadcast features many of the same songs played by other Christian radio stations, but David Harms and other "worship hosts" also talk about what individual songs mean to them and how they relate to scripture.
"He's a great storyteller," Barbara Harms said of her husband. "He's very friendly and approachable. All my friends, they love hearing his soothing voice."
She added: "I love hearing Dave on the radio, but it's also nice to have the other people as well, because they add variety and their own perspective on the song you just heard."
The station focuses on issues that some consider controversial, like mental illness and pornography, but it steers clear of politically polarizing topics like abortion, gun control and gay marriage.
"I don't want to say something or do something that will interfere with someone's pursuit of Jesus, and if it's a hot-button political thing, a social issue, I have beliefs on those things, but I'm not going to convince anyone of anything. Only God can do that," David Harms said.
Through word of mouth, the broadcast has become popular among missionaries in countries like the Philippines, Belize and Spain.
The venture has progressed much more rapidly than the Harmses expected. And for them, this progress has been reaffirming.
"It's confirmation that Christian listeners are hungry for this kind of programming," Barbara Harms said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.