“Worship the Lord with joy! Enter His presence with joyful singing!” (Psalm 100:2, NET)
Each week we pile into our cars, buckle our children in, start the engine, and turn the radio on as we embark on five more days of work, school, or running errands. We look to music or radio show hosts to fill the silence in our cars. Many of us also stream a radio station as we work, breaking the monotony of the tasks at hand. Whether we realize it or not, radio is interwoven into our daily lives. But is radio more than a silence-filler or a distraction? Christian radio certainly is more—it is an avenue for joy and encouragement as we journey through life each day.
As human beings, we need encouragement in one form or another. We need to be moved, we need to laugh, and we need Christ’s joy when we don’t feel like smiling. It could be a Scripture, a ministering song, or a word of truth spoken on air that resonates in our spirit. What we listen to fills our hearts and minds and stays with us throughout the day. There are radio stations that share God’s love and make an eternal impact on the lives of people every day, and The JOY FM is one such station.
REACHING PEOPLE FOR CHRIST
For over 25 years, The JOY FM has offered uplifting music and family-friendly programming. Currently, the station’s cast of hosts is comprised of dynamic personalities who will make you chuckle, discuss thought-provoking topics, and share their faith in unique ways. All of the staff at The JOY FM, including popular host Jayar Reeves, have one thing in common: they are dedicated to bringing joy over the airwaves.
The mission of The JOY FM is to “encourage people and strengthen the Church through contemporary Christian music media,” said Jeff MacFarlane, The JOY FM’s general manager. He shared about the history of the station, explaining that it was founded in 1986 as “JOY 88 WJIS” in the Bradenton-Sarasota area. “Over the years The JOY FM network has grown to create full power FM stations in Port Richey, Gainesville, Ocala, Crystal River, Sebring, and Frostproof, [as well as] a patchwork of low-power repeaters throughout the Bay area.”
The JOY FM’s vision is to continue reaching and serving more people, which supports their newest development going on now: the signal upgrade project, One Day. “Once the project is completed, 91.5 FM in Port Richey will have six times the reach and cover all of Tampa Bay with one signal,” Jeff explained. This has been the prayer of the station for over ten years, but the project is a huge undertaking. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit ministry, the station looks to their listeners and business underwriters to help raise the one million dollars needed to make this dream a reality.
What does the station hope to accomplish through being on air and expanding their listening area? Jeff said, “Ultimately, everything that happens on The JOY FM is a response to the Gospel and what Christ has done. He has done the work, so it’s our joy to celebrate that with our listeners and financial supporters. Only He can target the right heart, with the right song, at the right time. Those moments happen every day, and each one carries transformative impact for individuals and communities in the Tampa Bay area.”
ONE HOST’S WALK
Jayar Reeves, the Afternoon Drive host, expressed similar sentiments during our interview with him. He said that it’s the music and the Scriptures that have the impact on the listeners, “and if I say anything great, that’s a cherry on top.” He humbly deflected his ability to minister to people and gave the credit to God alone. Jayar revealed another side to him, one we may not always hear during the show. He opened up about his personal journey and candidly shared about his faith walk and struggles, his career in radio, and his views on Christian music.
Raised in a Christian home, Jayar spent much of his childhood and adolescence in church. His story may seem familiar to some who are navigating the effects of religious legalism and rebellion in their lives. As a young man, Jayar compared his attitude to that of Paul’s before he converted. Jayar explained that Paul strove to live according to the letter of the law and that was what he was trying to do. Jayar fell into leading a life full of legalism and rule keeping for fear of rejection from God, relying on everything he could do right instead of cultivating a relationship with Christ.
Jayar could quote just about any Scripture, but during his time at Bible college in Ireland, he started to question whether he really knew God. “I hated every second of it for two years,” he said and upon his return to the States, Jayar’s confusion with his faith compounded. “I finally came to the point where I was just going to do whatever I wanted.” As many of us have experienced, destructive behavior never leads to happiness; it only further deepens the empty feeling in our soul and perpetuates the brokenness we suffer without Christ.
FINDING REFUGE IN SCRIPTURE
Although he was jaded by his early experience with church, Jayar explained that it was legalism that he needed to get away from, not God. He honestly shared that, like many believers, he still struggles with the feelings of brokenness, but he looks to God to heal. “Every day I am desperate for Scripture to give me a point of balance. It’s on my mind to draw near to Him in spite of my dysfunction,” Jayar said. One Scripture passage that brings him solace is Psalm 52:8-9 (NIV): “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good….”
“I love David’s brokenness and the very fact that God [still] adored him,” Jayar said. Jayar also pointed out that despite David’s many mistakes, God forgave David, loved him, and prospered him. David wrote over 75 psalms speaking of God’s love and goodness and how he hopes in God’s Name. “I relate with that so much, that brokenness, but yet not being too broken that you fall off the planet and let the brokenness win. You’re still in the ring fighting because you know what is right and true. Somewhere deep down there, He is working this stuff out. I think people can relate with that, but it doesn’t make you want to run to the front of the microphone, so to speak. I know that is kind of ironic because that is what I do,” Jayar shared.
These Scriptures really capture the heart of God, because no matter what David did, God never stopped loving him and never left his side. He poured His grace upon David. So, it can follow that no matter what our past holds or what our current struggles are, God loves us and will never leave us. We can’t live life perfectly and we can’t earn our salvation and right standing with God through our own efforts. We can only gain eternity with our Father God through Jesus Christ. This is a free gift, and the path to holy living is resting in the finished work at the cross. Jayar said, “Someone once told me, ‘I don’t [stay away from] sin anymore just because I’m told to. I don’t sin as much anymore because this transaction that took place is so one-sided. I get the great deal here. [Jesus’ love] makes you feel good and that makes you want to keep your hand from evil.’”
Just as Scripture can offer joy and healing in our lives, God uses Christian radio to minister to our hearts and sometimes, as in Jayar’s case, uses it to lead us down a path toward our calling. Christian media has come a long way in the past fifteen years. It is authentic and personable hosts like Jayar and musicians like Matt Redman and Hillsong that make Christian radio just as entertaining as mainstream stations. The clear difference is what the listeners are offered through the content of the shows and the lyrics of the songs.
Surprisingly the NEEDTOBREATHE super-fan, Jayar, didn’t like Christian music growing up and wanted to become a baseball announcer for the Mariners. So how did a guy from the Northwest end up at The JOY FM surrounded by music all day, every day? Jayar scored an internship at KISS 106.1 in Seattle, believing it was a means to an end (in baseball), but it was just the beginning of his radio journey. “I think God dangles a carrot over here because you wouldn’t have gotten here if He hadn’t made your eyes go there,” Jayar said.
He started at the bottom of a legendary station and worked hard to get a chance at his own show. He moved out of state a few times for other radio gigs. “Through all these stops, I would come back to Seattle with more experience and get a higher and higher shift [on the radio],” Jayar explained. Eventually he was offered the afternoon show for the Christian station, Air One, in Portland, which then moved him to Sacramento for a year before he took a morning show job in Boise at a hip-hop/pop station. Jayar said the show was very successful, but things didn’t work out with management.
A year later, God put him back in Christian radio in Nashville where he stayed for three years. “It was an artist-driven show where TobyMac dropped by one day and Matthew West was in the studio the next day,” Jayar said. Then in 2008 Jayar joined the family at The JOY FM. “Everything just felt right and this is the longest I have ever been anywhere.” He attributes his happiness at the station to the president, Jim Campbell; “I love the aggressiveness of somebody who wants to put a quality product on, but has a ministry heart too. I wish the guy was my grandpa. He’s an amazing guy. He’s hired really good people, [and] Carmen and Jeff do a great job here of leading the way.”
ON THE AIR
There is definitely quality programming on The JOY FM, and that is in part due to Jayar’s Afternoon Drive show each week day from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. On any given day, you’ll hear bits inspired by his three children, including his most successful spot, “Story Time with Jayar’s Kid.” Children have some wonderful imaginations and Jayar said, “I thought, what if kids could just tell a story and we use some sound effects and music to make people’s minds go somewhere.” He records his two daughters, who are nine and six-years-old, telling stories and has them produced, making hilarious and heartwarming bits. You can’t help but smile when you listen to their imaginations come to life. Most of us have been around little ones who say the funniest things, so we can relate to how entertaining a child’s thought process can be.
And that is Jayar’s whole point, finding things to share on the show that his listeners can relate to and bring a little joy in the midst of a busy day. “The ability to move somebody’s emotions is such a huge challenge for me,” Jayar said. So he’s constantly preparing for his shows, keeping the content fresh and entertaining. Each week you can tune in for Jayar’s Thursday Afternoon Chats and listen to interviews, which include a line-up of TobyMac, Tony Dungee, Ben & Julianna Zobrist, David Crowder, Switchfoot, and so many more prominent Christian artists and leaders. There’s even an archive on the website.
Although Jayar started in mainstream radio, he has now spent much of his career enveloped in the world of Christian radio. This experience has enabled him to learn a thing or two about music. He now refers to himself as a “connoisseur” of good worship music. So we asked the expert, “What’s the difference between Christian and mainstream music today and how has that changed over the years?” Jayar explained that today’s Christian artists are as talented as mainstream artists. “The [Christian] talent has blown up. The very fact that Hillsong can be #2 on the iTunes albums list right below Eminem the day after it comes out [proves that],” Jayar said. He also explained that people resonate with vertical worship more and more.
The big difference though is “[mainstream music] doesn’t need to rely on the lyrics to take a song to #1. We’ve got a magic component that our songs say something. They will at least bring you closer to God and your faith, hopefully,” Jayar said. Today’s hit Christian music has to rely on more than a great sound and good vocals. “It’s a marriage between a hook that you cannot get out of your head and a message,” he added. Song lyrics and commercial jingles inevitably get stuck in your head, so why not sing words of worship to God, and what better place is there to hear those words than tuning into Christian radio.
You can get it all from The JOY FM: great music, genuine hosts, daily encouragement, laughter, moving stories, meaningful Scripture, and most importantly, joy. The JOY FM is listener supported, and they need our community’s help to continue “helping you find joy.” We encourage you to prayerfully consider giving into this wonderful ministry. Learn more at www.thejoyfm.com.