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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Believing that there just had to be more to life than simply raising a family and being a successful entrepreneur, a man began a 50-year journey into radio broadcasting in 1962 that is still going strong today, while impacting the entire globe with a Christian message.
It started when Richard Bott Sr., of Bott Radio Network, bought and then sold his first radio station in the late 1950s in what amounted to what many would call a “phenomenal business success.”
The Christian husband and father of four looked at that success a little differently than most, however, and had what can fittingly be described as an epiphany.
“After I paid off three mortgages for my first radio station in just three years, and then sold that station for a nice profit, I sat back and looked at my life,” Bott told WND in a recent interview.
“Is that all there is in life,” I wondered.
“Get married, raise a family, start a business, sell the business for a profit, and it’s over?”
Bott’s son, Richard Bott Jr., told WND, “That’s when my dad took the step from success to significance.”
The father and son sat down with WND for an in-depth interview in celebration of what has become 50 years of Christian radio broadcasting.
They shared how the significance sought so many years ago would have eternal implications for Christians throughout the world as their broadcasts literally have changed lives through the Word of God.
“I realized that there was an unserved need in the Christian community, as Christians could greatly benefit from hearing strong Bible teaching over the radio,” Bott Sr. said.
“Christians are black and white, young and old, rich and poor. The unifying thing is they’re Christians. So why not just think of them in our mind as the Christian community?
“A thing that unifies Christians is food, called the Bread of Life, so it just seems so natural to feed them Christian programming.”
Both Botts then added, “Quality Christian programming, with an emphasis on quality.”
So the elder Bott put the word out that he was in the market for a new radio station to buy. His intention? To broadcast the Gospel to radio listeners within range of the signal.
“I wanted this broadcasting to be an advocate for Christians to grow from, using the Word of God as the yardstick.”
In 1962, Bott struck a deal to purchase a country western station in Kansas City, loaded his family in the car and drove east from California to embark on this new endeavor.
“I never looked back and never regretted a minute of it,” Sherley Bott told WND during the interview.
Richard Sr. and Sherley recently celebrated 60 years of marriage, and Richard shared with WND a sentiment he found on a Hallmark plaque he gave his wife to mark the occasion.
“If I had life to do all over again I would have met you sooner so I could love you longer,” Bott shared with moist eyes as he lovingly looked over at his wife.
WND visited the Botts at their Overland Park, Kan., headquarters to learn the story behind the birth of what has become a radio giant.
That first station replaced the country western programming with the Christian broadcast at noon on November 12, 1962.
“After 10 seconds of silence, the country western DJ stood up, and our announcer sat down and introduced the audience to KCCV, or Kansas City Christian Voice radio,” Bott told WND.
The Botts then described how this first AM station was only able to broadcast from sunrise to sunset to make way for the “clear channel” broadcast that dominated the airwaves after the sun went down.
Fifty years later, that one station has grown to 91 stations in 15 states, reaching 50 million radio listeners 24 hours a day. This month, the Bott Radio Network (BRN) will add a 92nd station to the mix.
On top of that, listeners worldwide have discovered livestreaming via smartphones and the BRN website.
In a promotional video marking the network’s anniversary there are testimonials from thankful missionaries in the South Pacific, residents of the Mediterranean, and even soldiers in Afghanistan who get Christian teaching to assist them in their daily walk with Christ, all because of BRN’s global reach.
Bott told WND that he discovered what he already suspected in 1962: People “are hungry for consistent Christian teaching.”
“For that reason, we anchored ourselves with the Lord. The Word of God is the Word of God is the Word of God,” Bott Sr. told WND.
“As long as that is your anchor, the Lord will bless.”
By all accounts, the Botts have proven that statement many times over. The walls of their headquarters are adorned with listener testimonials describing the life-changing effect the Christian teaching at BRN has had on so many lives.
“We are the trusted aggregator of Christian talk radio,” Bott told WND.
They point to the programs offered daily on each of their stations, including Dr. James Dobson with “Family Talk,” Richard Land with “For Faith and Family,” Woodrow Kroll with “Back to the Bible,.”
Billy Graham, Jay Sekulow, Phyllis Schalfly, Tony Evans and many others broadcasting a consistent Christian message all find a home on the Bott Radio Network.
“Every program that we air must pass three tests. Is it true to the Bible? Is it a quality program? Is it a trusted and ethical program?
“People trust what we put on the air, and we take that responsibility seriously,” Bott Jr. told WND.
As the elder Bott provided WND a number of examples of quality Bible teaching that has been broadcast over the years he was asked if there was one thing he would like people to know about his own life and the legacy he will one day leave behind.
“He pursued the dream of serving the Lord by serving people and never quit,” Bott said.
He then recalled an old saying about serving others, “Help thy brother’s boat across and lo thine own has reached the other shore.”
Whether an advertiser on the network or a listener to the daily Bible teachings, the accolades seem to come from far and wide.
Countless notes of thanks are present throughout the BRN building, serving as a constant reminder, according to Bott Jr., of the important mission of each employee.
Bott Sr. likes to say, “Keep the main thing the main thing.”
It is amply evident that the “main thing” at BRN, according to the leadership team, is in a “fervent passion for the Lord,” and the desire to “win others for Christ.”
Bott Sr. displayed a remarkably humble spirit as he casually mentioned honors bestowed on him from an honorary doctorate to being inducted into the religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He then quickly added, “God always has His man for His season of service.”
Bott is clearly humbled that God would choose him to serve and equally honored to pass the mantle on to his son, Richard Jr., who now serves the organization as president and CEO, while the elder Bott remains active as the chairman of the board.
Both men say that they have no idea what lies ahead, but Bott Jr., adds, “Our confidence is not in radio technology, but in the message of the Word of God.”
As the network continues to grow and more people are reached by the signal all across the world, the Botts tell WND, “The main thing will indeed remain the main thing.”
They tell WND of the many detractors over the years that told them their radio concept won’t work. They also heard from detractors who whispered that it may have worked in one town, but it won’t work in another. All were proven wrong.
They tell WND that in each city into which the network expands, the audience grows.
“God only asks us for one thing,” Bott Sr. told WND. “Obedience.”
He quotes another missionary, C. T. Studd, who wrote, “Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Bott Sr. seems more shepherd than chairman as he fondly recounts the history of the station, the network and even the larger Christian community.
“People get it wrong when you say that you’re this occupation, whatever it may be, who happens to be a Christian. What they should proclaim is that this man is a Christian who happens to be a journalist, or this man is a Christian and also a doctor, or a Christian and a carpenter.”
He says, “Christ should always come first.”
If past performance is indicative of future results, the Bott Radio Network should continue to grow and reach countless more souls with their quality Christian broadcasting.
This anniversary video provides more insight into the media giant.
While prayerfully considering the next steps for the company, perhaps Sherley summed things up the best when she said, “When times are good, or times are uncertain, people need to hear the Gospel. BRN strives to be there for them.”
“God’s Word is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that’s what we’re giving people,” says Bott Sr.
That solid truth seems to have found its way into the mission of Bott Radio Network and for 50 years has come across in the broadcasting.
“God told us to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and that’s what we’re doing.