My car radio is pre-set to KPCC, 89.3 FM, our local National Public Radio station. Great programming, in-depth news analysis, comfortable host personalities . . . . and NO COMMERCIALS. Sounds perfect.

So, this morning I turned on the car’s ignition, flipped on the radio and heard one of the familiar KPCC morning programs. I anticipated listening to an update of the news of the day, probably with the latest word on the January 6 Insurrection Special House Committee investigation. Instead, I was greeted by some awkward banter from the news host trying to act as a pitch man for the station’s Spring Membership Pledge Drive: “The next twenty people who call and make a pledge of $10 per month or more will receive a designer mug with my picture on the side,” or something like that.

Yes, “public radio stations” have no commercials, but this is what they do instead. At least the usual radio commercial is polished and clever, maybe even entertaining. But the average KPCC radio personality is out of his/her league. This is not what they signed up to do, and it’s clearly way out of their comfort zone. *

I once became acquainted with a KPCC host, and in a relaxed moment he shared with me how difficult it was to turn from the regular programming, which he really cared about, to become an aggressive, in-your-face pledge salesman for a few minutes, before returning to his more comfortable role as a friendly radio personality. He told me that was the hardest part of his job, and it never seemed to get easier.

This conversation happened years ago, but this morning as I listened to the out-of-character KPCC host trying to sound enthusiastic about another pledge drive, I had a strange flashback. I pictured myself as a young pastor trying to fulfill all the various expectations the congregation had for me. Preaching, teaching, leading the youth, visiting newcomers, counseling people going through crises, performing weddings and funerals — these were all tough to do and to keep in balance, but I had been trained in seminary to expect such responsibilities to come with the job. The fact that administration and management of the church’s many activities, buildings and facilities would fall on 27-year-old me was surprising, but I handled it okay. What came as a slap in the face was the fact that it was my job to worry about building the income needed to support the church’s programs.

I found that I had to try to educate, stimulate and motivate the limited number of families who were committed to the church to give enough money through their offerings to support the facilities, salaries and ministries of the church. I was about as clueless as a beginning KPCC radio host leading his first pledge drive. That’s not what I was trained for, and “salesman” was at the bottom of my comfort list.

I was further hindered by a strong belief I had developed that as the followers of Christ we were not under the Law, and the obligation of believers to “tithe” (give ten percent of their income to the Lord) was part of the Old Testament Law, not of New Testament Grace. Yet, ironically, that church, almost sixty years ago, as well as Altadena Baptist Church in 2022, could not exist apart from the fact that a good percentage of these congregations practiced tithing in their personal finances. I suppose that the lesson I’ve learned through this journey is that people living under Grace are motivated by something even higher than people living under the Law.

We’re entering a challenging time as the family of faith that supports ABC. We’ve come to realize that we can’t stand still as a congregation. We’ve got to expand and enhance our ministry as we focus on a new generation of potential Christian leaders. We’re committed, for instance, to find a Director of Youth Ministries who can launch us into more relevant outreach and discipleship among youth and young adults. This will cost money, which will mean we’re likely to find ourselves in the middle of another pledge drive. It never gets easier. I hate to ask for money.

— Pastor George Van Alstine

* You might enjoy this article about the subject: “Not Another &#@*$! Pledge Drive” –