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Matt Prater Interview

Matt Prater
On Air Host / Pastor
Vision Christian Radio
Queensland, Australia

Career Capsule: I am married to Carol & have 3 children, Lydia, Joshua & Grace. I grew up in Coffs Harbour NSW. Previously I have served as a Youth Pastor for 10 years and I’ve been Senior Pastor at New Hope Church Brisbane since 2006. I started in radio at a Community Youth Radio Station when I was 15, I was on-air and in sales for 5 years. Then I did 2 years at a Commercial radio station in Sales & on-air. I then did Bible College & felt a call to ministry. I moved to Brisbane and worked as Sales manager for a Christian community station called 96five for 5 years. It was there that I launched my weekly syndicated radio show called “Historymakers” which now plays on over 760 radio stations around Australia. I have also released 2 books featuring interviews from Historymakers & have hosted 2 series of Historymakers TV. I currently host weekends on Vision Radio across Australia. And I’m the fill-in guy for Breakfast, Talkback & Drive. More than anything I’m passionate about sharing the gospel with people on the streets, on-air, on social media, with Business people, Students, Churches & with anyone who’ll listen, especially over a good coffee. Find out more at www.historymakersradio.com

 

Matt, tell us what’s new at Vision Christian Radio… news, changes, & with new with YOU… etc?

Vision Christian Radio is switching on new stations every week! We have a Network of 740 stations which covers about 25% of Australia. We are hoping to switch on another 100 stations in the next few years! Some are high powered AM stations, some are high powered FM Stations, but most of them are low-powered FM stations. Our latest survey shows that we have 600,000 listeners per week. We are very active in podcasting on many platforms, and we have an Amazing App, many people listen online to us from all over the world! We are also very Active on Social media with 6 different pages, our largest has over 52,000 followers! We have a $7 million dollar building which we moved into when Covid hit! And we have about 60 staff. We also have a youth radio station, a daily devotional for adults & one for youth. And we have a prayer line which is impacting so many people! We are a part of UCB, and we also run UCB Asia Pacific which has several stations around the Pacific!

 

Tell us all about your podcast “Historymakers”?

I started the show with the idea of simply asking people to share their testimony. 15 years ago my first interview was with the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, and another politician who soon after became the Prime Minister. Over the years I have interview many Christian Artists, Pastors, Authors, Sports Stars and anyone with a good story to tell! I like to find out about people’s upbringing, and how they became successful, and how they came to faith. And in most interviews I ask people to share the gospel.

 

What is the best show/programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?

The best bit of advice I’ve been given is that people love listening to people who have passion! So much of radio is boring. Time, temperature, traffic & news are all available on our smart phones, so why should we repeat it every voice break as though people are waiting to hear an update? People want to be inspired and the want to hear opinions, they want to have a laugh & they want to be moved and challenged. The most popular announcers are the ones that are passionate about their beliefs, and aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions and stir the pot! If Paul or Peter were working in Christian radio, would they waste their words talking about rubbish? Or would they tackle the big issues and bring in a perspective from God’s Word? Look at all the topics that are covered in the Epistles, there are some great topics for radio in there, don’t be afraid to cover those subjects, but do it in a way that isn’t preachy, do it with all the skills you’ve been trained in for good radio!

The worst advice I’ve been given was “Don’t play any more Third Day!” This was from my PD, after I had been sneaking in my favorite Third Day songs every hour on my breakfast shift for weeks. I know we shouldn’t play too many songs from the same artist. But I really love Third Day!

 

What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?

I have seen a massive increase in fear, anxiety & mental health issues in people. I believe this is where Christian radio has the potential to really make a difference in people’s lives! I have had talkback shifts on-air where people have called up in tears and we have been able to pray for people live on-air and encourage them and talk through their battles. I felt a bit like Frasier the Psychologist & radio guy from TV who would counsel people on-air!

 

What is your opinion of podcasts for stations & air talent, are they necessary, must have one, etc?…  Please explain…

I think we need to re-purpose our content for podcasts as much as possible. A segment on the radio can be broadcast and maybe re-used a couple of times on-air. But if it’s uploaded to a podcast on multiple platforms it will have much more potential reach & will be available possibly forever! I think it’s great to also create specific podcast content tailored for the podcast market as well. If possible I think all on-air talent should have a podcast as well.

 

Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?

I started at Australia’s only Youth radio station. And many of my mates have gone on to be at the top of the Aussie radio industry! It would be great to see more people trained at school age! It gave us a head start on the rest! Sadly, in Australia I don’t see much new up & coming talent being raised up. I think we need to look at organizations like YWAM & other youth ministries to partner with.

 

Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?

One of my concerns is that some people see working on Christian radio as a job, not as a ministry. If you want a job in radio, there are plenty of secular stations where you can make money. When we are in Christian ministry, it’s clearly not about the money! But it has to be about our calling. If we are called to ministry in Christian radio, as Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” We need to have a spirit of Excellence, and we need to be creative and not just go through the motions. As Christians I believe we should be the most innovative, we should be pioneers. We should be creating content that packs a punch and really impacts people lives! When I’m chasing people to interview, I want to get the best guests I can find. Leo Burnett  said, “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” Let’s aim high, think big & give it our best shot! Some of the things I’ve loved seeing at our station has been new programs we’ve launched. We’ve launched a 10 minute daily show which is a chat between two announcers about the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith. We’ve partnered with Pastor Jeff Vines from California to launch his daily preaching program, he’s one of our most popular shows now! We’ve been utilizing FB live to interact with our audience during segments on-air. And one of my favorite memories has been travelling with Will Graham (Billy Graham’s grandson) on 3 different trips to remote locations around Australia and reporting from his outreach events. Since doing this, I’ve now launched my own evangelistic ministry, and have now done several trips where I do radio interviews, preach at schools, youth events, combined church events and also develop lot’s of social media & on-air content. Every since I was a kid, I loved meeting local radio announcers at their Outside Broadcasts. We need to always look for opportunities to get out of the studio & connect with our listeners on the street & also reach some new potential listeners!

On another note, I have tried to connect with some US stations to see if they would air my radio show Historymakers. I didn’t have the budget to buy air-time. And some stations said the Aussie accent wouldn’t work in the USA! But I thought Americans loved the Aussie accent! We need to be open to more international flavors in Christian radio, we live in a multicultural world, and many people listen to our stations online from all over the world now! I have been planning to come the USA to do some preaching and hopefully visit some stations while I’m there. I’d also love to visit some of the UCB stations around the world. I think we can learn a lot from other nations and how they operate. We have to be careful not to just have a westernized view of Christianity.

 

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

One of my heroes is Wayne Cordeiro from New Hope Oahu. Our Church is a part of the New Hope Network, and I’ve had to go to Hawaii for many conferences over the years! Suffering for Jesus! Wayne has used Radio & the media to reach so many people and is a captivating speaker! When I first became a Senior Pastor at the age of 30, he believed in me & has been a great encouragement!

Another one of my heroes is James Dobson. I have been so impacted by his interviews and his passion to impact people through radio. The issues he has tackled on the radio over the years has changed my life in so many ways!

Phil Edwards, the CEO of Vision radio has been a massive influence. Many years ago Phil suggested I start an interview style radio show, and that’s how Historymakers started. Phil also employed me as a Breakfast presenter and coached me a lot in my early years. He explained about the importance of chemistry with your co-host & making sure you don’t ramble on, but try to focus on one main thing every voice break. He also has encouraged me to pray on-air and to share God’s word as often as I can. But to do it in a conversational way, and not to be too preachy. Which for a preacher is a big call! It all comes down to our delivery. He once complimented me and said I was the same person on-air as I am off-air. This was a great encouragement to me! I think people want to hear the real you, and not someone putting on a show! Phil is also a great leader who has raised up a great team around him, and his dulcet tones are also great on-air!

The other person I would see as a hero is Jon Hull from KSBJ. He came out and coached our team for our fundraisers over a few years. He is like a cross between Jesus & Yoda! He would always make you feel like you just did the best voice break ever, then he would suggest something else you could do to change it up. He would be correcting you, but you didn’t even realize it! And you’d want to do whatever he said, because he’s such a warm, friendly guy! He would give examples of voice breaks he’d heard that had inspired him and I would steal those ideas and use them regularly! He taught us about the power of the pregnant pause on-air. Like the time that “I can only Imagine,” aired for the first time on his station. The announcer came on and just said, “Wow!” and then paused and then talked more about the song. We need to realize our listeners are listening to songs, and they are hopefully being moved. And we need to be sensitive & have empathy with our listeners after a song finishes, and not just bulldoze ahead with our latest info we need to share!

My greatest influence would have to be Billy Graham. He utilized radio to preach the gospel and I don’t think anyone has impacted the modern world with the gospel more than him! He was passionate, focused, disciplined and powerful. I’m praying that the Lord will raise up a whole new generation of Billy Grahams!

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