Editor's Note: This year, NRB will be recognizing a record number of organizations with the NRB Milestone Award, which is presented each year at the annual NRB Convention in recognition of pioneers in Christian communications who have demonstrated exemplary service in the industry for five decades or more. In recognition of their accomplishment, Milestone Award honorees will be spotlighted in each weekly edition of NRB Today leading up to the NRB 2013 Convention & Exposition. This week, we recognize First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, TX, which began broadcasting nearly 84 years ago. Here is their story:
First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, TX, actually began broadcasting on radio in April 1929. Beginning with services broadcast twice a month, the church never looked back and eventually established a broadcast ministry that was not only heard but also seen literally around the world.
Initially, the church broadcast over radio station KGKO. Services began with an organ prelude and often featured the sounds of the church choir. Within a short time, FBC began receiving letters of appreciation from folks who were unable to attend regular worship services.
By 1941, and during the war years of World War II, the church had also begun broadcasting on radio station KWFT. With the new Sheppard Field, which later became today’s Sheppard Air Force Base, the church had realized that not every serviceman could come to their downtown location, but that through radio they could still take the Gospel to the troops stationed nearby.
The church still produces a broadcast Sunday School class, The Word of Truth, for shut-ins and those who cannot attend a regular class. This program has been in continual production for more than 25 years. The original version of this class was The Victory Bible Class, which the church broadcast on Sundays on radio station KTRN beginning in 1944. By 1947, the church was being heard on as many as three radio stations. Two of these radio stations would later become early television stations in the area. In 1948, First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, began the regular weekly broadcast of its Sunday morning services over radio station KWFT 620 AM – a practice that carried through to the departure of that frequency from the market in the 1990s.
Always an innovative church, FBC was to later use radio for such programs as The Family Altar at 6:00 a.m. daily in 1954 to reach homes with a daily dose of encouragement. The church continued broadcasting services throughout the 50s.
Television loomed on the national media horizon and in April 1958 then-pastor Dr. Jimmy Landes brought a message over the national NBC network as part of the Frontiers of Faith program.
On June 4, 1961, the church began regular weekly television broadcasts over KSYD, later KAUZ, CBS Channel 6. The weekly broadcasts later moved to the NBC affiliate, KFDX TV-3, where they remain on the air to this day.
When Dr. Ronald Harris was called to work at FBC, he brought a wealth of new ideas in the area of media. He developed the concept and hosted FBC’s foray into the Christian talk show format with the program First Things First. The program was recognized for its excellence in production with the very first ACTS Program of the Year Award in 1985.
Rod Payne, who has served as the NRB’s TV Committee Chairman and now serves as the Chairman of the Church Media Committee, joined the FBC staff in 1987. Under his leadership, the church expanded their broadcast reach, including producing for several years the internationally broadcast program Pathway to Victory. Internet audio and video delivery, a satellite campus fed by a low-power digital television signal and other avenues continue to be used and explored by this pioneering church.
Published: February 14, 2013