24 April 2015

Janet Mefferd: the interviewer interviewed (Part One)

by Dan Phillips

I think that, before Kregel got me an interview opportunity with her, I'd never heard of Janet Mefferd. As it turns out, Janet's questions were so insightful and incisive that I started listening, and found that she was doing what, as far as I could tell, no one else was doing, and doing it with excellence. Hugh Hewitt calls Janet "extremely esteemed in the world of talk show hosts," and her listeners would heartily agree.

Obviously with a solid background herself, Janet had an array of scholars, preachers, authors and opinion-formers on her show, and always seemed to ask just the right central questions — like an expert jeweler, who knows just the right point at which to tap the raw diamond.

Of course, her interview with Mark Driscoll, and the disheartening aftermath, is the stuff of legend. To say the least, many we'd respected in the past did not cover themselves with glory. In what followed, Janet herself was more than vindicated. 

Then — I believe it was the day she had me on to talk about Sufficient Fire! — Janet unexpectedly announced her coming retirement from Salem Radio.

This is, I believe, Janet's first interview since her show left the air.

DJP: So, wait… you’re not Janet Parshall?
JM: Nope, I’m not Janet Parshall. I met her once, so I have to operate on the assumption that we’re not the same person!
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DJP:  Sketch the show: when did it start, what was the growth of its coverage? 
JM: It was really a rather accidental career. I’d worked part-time at SRN News as a weekend anchor for several years, and I was asked by one of the Salem Radio Network executives to fill in one time for a local Christian talk show on KWRD-FM in Dallas. Before I knew it, I was being asked to take the job permanently. I really didn’t want to do it. But my husband, who’s also in the Christian radio industry, strongly encouraged me to give it a shot. I prayed it about it a lot, and I eventually decided to try it out.

Within six months, the Salem Radio Network approached me to syndicate the show nationally. We launched the national show in February 2010, and we were on about 180 radio stations by the end of my run.
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DJP: You refer to a time “in J-school,” and clearly have doctrinal background. Sketch out the course of experience and education that prepared you to host this show. 
JM: I majored in journalism and history at Baylor University, and I worked at the school paper for several years. I also took a radio class my freshman year, and I worked shifts at the campus radio station and did on-air news, as well. After college, I worked in newspapers for several years as a reporter and editor, while staying active in Christian radio on the side.

But I’d say my biggest doctrinal preparation for my show started in college. My roommate and I decided that when we went home for Christmas break one year, we’d research a doctrinal topic and report back to each other what we’d learned. I remember heading into my public library, determined to research some great subject, but realizing I didn’t have a clue where to start. The only Christian author I knew at the time was C.S. Lewis. So I prayed, “Lord, please lead me to a good Christian book!”

I scoured the shelves for a long time, and  a little red book on a bottom shelf finally caught my eye. It was called “The Christ of Christmas” by James Montgomery Boice. I’d never heard of him, but I went home and read the book, and it honestly changed my life. I kept saying out loud, “Dr. Boice knows the same Jesus I know, but he knows so much more about Him than I do!” And I became something of a Dr. Boice fanatic, wanting to read everything he wrote so I could learn more about Jesus and the Bible -- and he taught me so much. I went on a quest to own every book he ever wrote, at a time when there was no Internet to help me.

And soon after, I started reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones and had the same response. What I didn’t realize at the time was that these men were teaching me the Reformed faith, though they never named it as such. I just knew they were teaching me the Bible. It wasn’t until a few years later that I really learned what the Reformed faith was and started reading theology and doctrine all the time. I took a few seminary classes here and there for fun, but most of my doctrinal preparation was through a lot of reading and listening to Christian radio.

It’s so neat to look back on it all now and see God’s clear and providential answer to that one little prayer: “Lord, please lead me to a good Christian book!” Did He ever!
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DJP:  What books have been most formative to you? 
JM: That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child! But as far as Christian books, I’d have to include “The Christ of Christmas” by James Montgomery  Boice; “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones; “The Christian in Complete Armour” by William Gurnall; “Sanctification: Christ in Action” by Harold Senkbeil and the four-book “No Place for Truth” series by David Wells. I also can’t fail to mention”The God Makers” by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt. That book was formative in my life at a time when I was completely obsessed with studying and refuting all the cults, particularly Mormonism.

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THIS WAY TO PART TWO, where we turn to surprising guests and interviews. You know what that means.

Dan Phillips's signature


Striker said...

I already miss Janet's show. I take it this question would be a bit off the rails but one thing I haven't been able to figure out about her is her alignment with the wartburg watch. I listened to enough of her shows to understand her rejection of liberal theology. Tww is about as far on the other end of the theology spectrum than she could have gone yet, at times, she counted them as a great ally. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of anything but I was always curious about that.

Alf Cengia said...

Quote: It’s so neat to look back on it all now and see God’s clear and providential answer to that one little prayer: “Lord, please lead me to a good Christian book!” Did He ever! ~ end quote

I so resonate with that. Thanks, Dan. Looking forward to Part two.

PS I am getting so much out of Gurnall's book. It's like I've found a hidden treasure. I'm even getting up before sunrise to get some reading in.

jbboren said...

Just found out my wife and I were at Baylor the same time she was...wonder if we ever crossed paths?

Hopefully she'll make a comeback...we need folks in media like her.

Christine Pack said...

I was so surprised and so sad to see that her show was going off the air. Thanks for this interview, Dan. Now I have some books to add to my wish list.

Andrew Lindsey said...

This was way more focused than most SHSTs.

DJP said...

Well... yeah.