Nov 3, 2009

Remixed: truth and rock music collide

by Amanda Sullivan

“You’ll get some action within a yard of hell,” Radio personality Dawson McAllister said during Liberty University’s Friday convocation, encouraging students to get involved with the Hopeline.

The Hopeline works in conjunction with his radio show that airs on many Top 40 radio stations across the country, including Lynchburg’s 102.7 FM WJJS.

McAllister’s desire to work with teenagers and young adults began in 1968 while touring at his alma mater, Bethel College, where he was the keynote speaker. He noticed during his speech that parents tolerated him, but teens seemed to really connect with him.

“I can relate to kids, and they relate to me.” McAllister said. “It was like a natural phenomenon.”

McAllister continued to notice the effect that he had on students during another conference when a girl from Jacksonville, Fla., handed him a note. He received about 25 letters that night.

“I looked at the letters, and they were all heartbreaks,” McAllister said. “Most of them were from broken homes.”

McAllister traveled to Houston the following week to speak at Second Baptist Church (SBC). Students started bringing letters to the stage without any announcement or provocation, according to McAllister.

“By the end of the weekend we had over 500 notes,” McAllister said. “We finally had to say, ‘Do not come up to the stage, just put (the letters) in a box.’ That’s when I knew that those conferences were powerful,” McAllister said.

He also realized that he needed to further develop his ministry with the youth.

“The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Dawson, you’re blowing in, blowing up and blowing out,” McAllister said. “All these kids have problems, and you’re blowing in for a weekend and helping them. (I was) giving the youth pastors tools, which was legitimate. But (God) said that (I) needed to talk with these kids one on one.”
McAllister began to consider other avenues that he could use to reach out to the teenagers.

“I thought radio because I’d done television, and I didn’t like it,” McAllister said.

He later received a call from a major Christian radio station in Minneapolis and was asked to do a show because parents were calling in and wanting advice. McAllister was only able to do the show on Sunday nights, which is the worst night for radio because of low listenership, he said.

“I said, ‘Listen, if you build it, they will come,’” McAllister said. “If you meet needs, kids will come.”

The program started airing on four stations in January 1991. The program grew in popularity until it was airing on 256 Christian radio stations by 1994.

McAllister’s program allows people to call in and talk about their problems or struggles.

“Kids think they know me when they call, but they don’t,” McAllister said. “They just think I’m the hip father they never had.”
McAllister and his team developed radio promotional spots that he called “rockumentaries.” The rockumentary concept stemmed from the Top 40 song “Rockstar” by Nickelback.

“My idea was what if we played a song, then we countered it with someone saying how that lifestyle didn’t work out,” McAllister said. “We should have nothing to do with the deeds of the darkness, rather expose it.”

McAllister does not proclaim that he is a Christian on air, but does not hide the fact when asked or if an opportunity presents itself, he said. His team’s goal is to illuminate the truth, according to McAllister.

“We help to give teenagers and young adults the okay to say no because truth takes care of itself,” McAllister said.
McAllister is only able to give each individual a certain amount of time because of the time restraints present with radio. So he developed the Hopeline, which lets people call in and talk to a trained individual for as long as he or she needs.

For more information about Dawson McAllister or how to get involved with the Hopeline, visit

Contact Amanda Sullivan at


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