With everybody asking and wondering what happened and what was next for Chris and Emilee, I volunteered to see if I could help in any way. I am very used to volunteering with Chris and Emilee. I have been with The Chris and Emilee Show since 2007. I worked with them as an in-studio call screener when they were with Family Life in Arizona. I stayed on as a volunteer for some projects, including some of their social media and writing comedy bits with Chris. I’ve been involved behind the scenes as Admin on The Chris and Emilee Show Facebook page since it’s inception for over 6 years now. Although I now live on the East coast, I still follow the Danielson’s and their ministry and know their heart.
I suggested a conference call and I would try and write an article. Instead, I thought to just transcribe the discussion. The following are some of the actual excerpts from our time on the phone Good Friday afternoon.
Jon: Let’s talk about what’s ahead, what happened at JQ, and how you guys are doing, sound good?
Emilee: Sounds like a plan.
Jon: You guys ready to start?
Chris: I am good.
Emilee: Fire away.
Chris: She said fired. (all laugh)
Jon: First, what is next for you guys?
Chris: Well, several years ago, we founded the non-profit ministry Because I Believe Media Group in Arizona. You were there, Jonny Boy. (laughs)
Jon: I remember it well.
Chris: When we started the ministry, our mission statement was to develop broadcasts and events to strengthen the remnant church and that still holds true today. The new project we are hoping to launch is rooted in that mission and will still be with the BIB Media Group. What some people may not realize, is we came to West Michigan because JQ was a commercial Christian radio station so we could raise donations without conflict of interest. There is more to the story in regards to how I was to be positioned within JQ, but basically, we would be their morning show and they would encourage and help where they could BIB Media develop.
JON: Did that happen? Did they support BIB Media efforts?
Chris: Oh yeah, especially in the first year. Keep in mind, when we got here we were still broadcasting our syndicated talk show in 9 cities across America. We attempted to do both shows but after 4 months, we decided JQ had invested a lot in us, we were really starting to connect with the audience here, so we put the BIB show in hiatus. Plus that took the fund raising pressure off and allowed us to just flow with comedy and marriage conferences and what not, see what God had planned and really step back and allow His timing on the whole deal.
Jon: Is that when you started the podcast?
Chris: The podcast came a little later, but yeah, the podcast was owned by BIB but we were always allowed to use the JQ equipment and studios and even the bits and audio from the JQ show.
Emilee: When the JQ audience became the biggest portion of the podcast listeners, JQ made Family Reward points available to their listeners that downloaded it. But that is (pause) I guess (pause) is a sensitive subject for Chris.
Chris: It’s not a sensitive subject, I just feel (pause) sensitive about it. (all laugh) The podcast was something that seemed to always cause (pause) I don’t know how to put it. There were always problems with it whether it was a computer problem or a content problem or even a fulfill our calling and mission with BIB problem. I tried a few different options to try to format it, but there were always things outside our control that made it challenging to keep any momentum. Also, when we finally shelved it, we felt we could be near the end within the walls of JQ anyway, so why keep pushing a struggling product.
Emilee: I don’t know if I totally agree, I think a lot people liked the podcast. There were some other things going on as well. Our big question was what do we do overall with BIB. Our board in Arizona decided it was best for us dropping the podcast until we could regroup in Phoenix in the fall.
Chris: When we went to Phoenix for a comedy show in September the board met in Scottsdale and we decided to take the rest of 2012 and pray through what our next step should be. The internet project we are going to attempt to launch now, with God’s blessings of course, is a direct result of those fall months of prayer and reflection.
Emilee: interrupting Prayer and reflection? Hoity toity theology boy. (all laugh)
Chris: (still laughing)… Alright, alright, I get ya, but seriously, we had been praying and asking for what could be next for a while. Next Sunday, the 7th at Lighthouse church at 10:15AM and again for community wide from West Michigan were presenting the Free Comedy Celebration on Thursday night April 18th at 7PM in Allendale at the Fine Arts Center at the High School. We are going to unveil the details of our new Internet outreach under the banner of the BIB Media Group.
Emilee: Still putting the final touches on the complete project, but this will mean we would be back broadcasting The Chris and Emilee Show in a new an improved way over the internet as part of BIB.
Jon: So you say you felt the JQ experience could be ending, what do you mean?
Chris: Hang on, I want to say one more thing about JQ support of BIB and when you write your article I want to make sure you stress that especially in the first year, JQ was real cool about a lot of stuff and they deserve some credit here. Look, regardless what has happened, I give Brad Lanser tons of credit for doing some really awesome things for us. He did some really supportive things that many others in the industry wouldn’t have done. He knows how much I appreciated his help on certain things.
Jon: This is the Brad that fired you?
Chris: Yup, the very same.
Jon: And you want to make sure people know how he tried to help BIB?
Chris: Yeah, I even told him that as we were leaving his office last Friday. I am sorry if that doesn’t sound (pause) Here’s the deal, there are MANY things I could go into where I am very disappointed in him, but why? I don’t think your article is the place for that. I don’t think is serves any purpose and would take away from the truly awesome things he did for us and for BIB Media. I still genuinely like the guy. He cares very little for me, obviously, but that may have more to do with people in his ear than what our actual relationship was.
Emilee: He (Chris) always quotes Matthew 18 in the car.
Chris: I don’t want to be the unforgiving servant. The dude was forgiven like 10 million dollars from the King. Then he goes out and chokes his fellow servant over 20 bucks. How can I be forgiven by Christ, shown incredible mercy over my entire life, claim I am now His and living for Him and then, while not in the heat of the moment, not forgive and move on. In that real process, why deny the positive?
Jon: Let’s go back to your understanding that it could be ending at JQ quite a while ago. Is that right?
Emilee: Chris kept telling me they are positioning themselves to fire us. I’m not as skilled is he is in the inner works of business. I often really did not know what to think because, like, Troy had said in more than one meeting , in front of the whole staff, that the great thing about JQ is they would never just up and fire anybody. They were better than that and that no one had to ever worry about being put out on the street by JQ. Working there was extremely difficult when you’re not part of the cool kids. So I really felt I had no option than to just trust in what they said. When everything you do is met with resistance and a raised eyebrow it’s frustrating. I really wondered what God was doing, but worst case scenario, I knew God would move us when that time was right. Our job was to do the best we could regardless of what was going on around us. AND the fact that we didn’t have to face it alone, we had each other, Chris made it bearable to face it everyday.
Chris: Everyday? Like the days you were sick and I had to do the woodchuck riddles (all laugh)
Emilee: You know what…
Chris: I know. I know.
Emilee: You know what I mean.
Jon: What specifically led you to think your days were numbered at JQ?
Chris: They had been taking away our talk time on the show, took Emilee off the news, didn’t have any new promos for the show and unveiled a new internal mission statement in October that is completely void of Scripture and a host of other things. The writing was on the wall. Their new philosophy and ours when it comes to ministry are not in sync at a deeper level. But we found we could still be faithful to both our calling and give straight up efforts to be obedient to what they asked us to do. Direct proof of that is in the direct testimony from listeners this past week.
Jon: What do you mean by philosophy? Radio philosophy? Religious philosophy?
Chris: In a way, both.
Emilee: Little by little you could see the decisions they made radio wise, did not help the morning show and some quite detrimental. It is there business so you have to always accept it, do the best you can and try and be positive about it, right. But aside from that, I think the biggest difference, being in ministry together for so many years, Chris and I have learned that when you proclaim God’s truth, you’re going to get blow back. We’ve pretty much come to expect it. I think JQ struggles to reconcile with that. Understandably, they’re a business and you don’t want to loose dollars, but with that, they seemed to never really accept the fact that if you want to claim Christ in any real way, you’re going to get complaints. So anytime we started talking about something Biblically that bucked culture, if they got a complaint, they would rather stop us from what we were doing on air, than stand up to any Biblical defense of what was said.
Jon: Were you told to stop talking about things?
Chris: There were things we were told we could not mention.
Jon: Can you give specifics?
Chris: Certain political persons and biblical philosophies became off limits.
Emilee: (interrupts) Which was kind of tough for me since in my past 10 years in broadcasting I had always been told you can talk about pretty much anything, it’s all a matter of how it’s presented and is it relevant to the audience. In this case, believers.
Jon: But aren’t most Christian stations doing the same thing, moving away from anything political? Anything that may cause division?
Chris: Your right, and I am not saying it’s bad or wrong. I am simply saying I disagree that it can’t be done and done in a way that honors Christ. Remember when we had the Christmas tree issue in Arizona? Or challenging Safeway stores over the Harvey Milk Banner? Those types of things are not part of what they want to be about. People who listen know what I am saying.
In Arizona in 2007 then Governor Janet Napalotono refused to call the tree at the state capital a Christmas tree and wanted to enforce Holiday tree. Many listeners were upset, so Chris started a call in campaign, made it fun like always, including renaming the Governor “J-No” and the state employees were then allowed to call it whatever they wanted. Then Secretary of State Jan Brewer had called the show, and after becoming Governor herself, she sought out the Danielsons to meet them. I was always impressed with how they would tackle those issues. Based on what I read on Facebook, sounds like a lot of listeners in Michigan would agree. – Jon
Chris: (continuing) Certain religious leaders and theological dialogue also became off limits. Again my opinion is because they didn’t want the hassle. And speaking from experience, you grow an audience by confronting your culture. It’s HOW you confront them that is crucial. Start having discussion on what people are already talking about and deal with it. Either you can handle it or you can’t. So many claim they can, but when the real moment shows (pause) well (long pause) Again, look, just continue to pray for all the stations across the country that are weakening their position to gain ratings and revenue. I am moving on.
Emilee: I think the low point for Chris was when they said no more political and he had to cancel the weekly call from Congressman Huizenga.
Chris: Bill is one of my favorite people in west Michigan. Off air, he was always real with us and no one else beside him from Washington ever attended our comedy events and played our game show in front of a live audience straight up. He and his wife Natalie are people we consider simply friends. Bill would say off air, hey seriously guys, pray for me I need it out here in D.C. (pause) and to say to him, hey JQ wants to go in a non offensive non political direction going forward (pause) that was a disappointing day for me for sure (pause) but I chose to again be obedient and do the best with the hand I was dealt.
Jon: Watching this past week it sure looks like a lot of people are in shock and obviously confused over being let go like you did.
Chris: Yeah, but the support has been amazing!
Emilee: It’s been a good reminder for us that God is the one doing the work. We just need to continue to be obedient regardless of the situation we are in. He’s always doing things through us that we are so not aware of.
Chris: I am thinking the shock has to be proof that God did honor our obedience to our employer and more importantly to Him. Doing what He wanted us to do. This outpouring of support testifies, to me anyway, that our efforts to overcome being an outcast did in fact advanced the Kingdom. What more can we ask for? I can just see the saints in heaven saying “Oh boo hoo, they don’t like you. Too bad, suck it up, turn on the microphone and point to Christ like the sold out believer you claim to be.”
Emilee: Can you imagine talking with Paul in heaven. Yeah, I was imprison and.. uh… beheaded. how bout you? Well, I was kinda unpopular at work… and all the cool kids hated me… and then I was unemployed… WHATEVER!
Jon: Let’s back up to what was going on behind the scenes. People don’t get fired for no reason. It’s obvious there’s a disconnect between the show and the station. Can you give example?
Chris: When I tried to explain the real ministry going on, the real connection God was giving us over the air and many times in person with listeners after the show, it was received as if I was bragging. Not by everybody, but enough, follow? I even suggested as a way to encourage the staff that I write a weekly review email to be sent internally, while protecting the confidence of the listener we were engaged with, and I was told that would be received as arrogant on my part. Whenever there would be the rare issue or disagreement or whatever, anywhere we went, it was totally assumed I should be blamed. There was one situation a year ago where ALL the evidence was in my favor, but to no avail, they were sure, somehow, I was at fault.
Emilee: Once a small clique of people harden their hearts toward you (pause) Well, a little yeast can spread throughout the whole loaf as they say.
Chris: We asked for a clean slate and forgiveness a number of times to a number of people. Many times not even really sure what we did wrong, but really trying (pause) really asking if there was something we could do. I mean, hey aren’t we all Christians here? But we couldn’t get them to change their stance. We were not one of them.
Note: At the end of one and a half years in Michigan, Chris published a video and choose the song "The Outsiders" for very specific reasons. At the end you can hear Emilee tell Chris “Just be yourself honey.”
Emilee: We could go on for an hour on how we tried and failed to connect within the walls there but let’s not. We’ve really been longing to go deeper in God’s Word and in understanding life’s events as they unfold. That is what our new show will continue to do.
Chris: The listeners aren’t stupid. They can hear the difference between what is real and what is fluff. They said as much this last week.
Jon: Do you think the station is surprised by the reaction of the listeners?
Chris: Based on what we were told over the last six months, I bet they are very caught off guard.
Jon: What are some things you were told?
Chris: That we come off on the air as if the whole show is all about us, full of ourselves, people don’t want to hear you they want more music and what not. I am sure that is true for some, but this last week proves otherwise I would think.
Emilee: They said their programming philosophy was not to make waves. The goal was to be “vanilla” and not upset the apple cart. I tried to explain how there will always be those who oppose the truth even from within the church. But their’s appeared to be that of if we just did things differently. If we could just get people to like us – then they will like Jesus too. But I suppose if that is your philosophy, the pressure is on to not do anything to offend anyone. That’s just not ours. They wanted us to reflect Christ, but not make any waves. I’m personally not sure what that means.
Chris: Again, let me stress they are not bad folks. I still like Troy and most of the people there. They just don’t like us and it is simply time to move on.
Jon: Why didn’t you just quit?
Chris: Couple reasons, first, we hadn’t felt released by God from our calling yet. The last thing you want to do is stay when God tells you to go. Or go when God wants you to stay. Like Emilee said earlier, God is always doing things that we are totally unaware of. We didn’t want to short circuit that. We went to the studios everyday for the listeners, What else did God want us to do for them? This past week demonstrates I didn’t over estimate that bond. They know how much love we put on the air regardless of what else was going on. All the other internal high school clique junk couldn’t stop that. Secondly, we really don’t want to move and no other doors opened to us, We felt we would ride it out until such time as God would move. Lastly, we didn’t have BIB in position to step out on it’s own yet. Still don’t really, but God is doing something or we wouldn’t have been fired and the listeners wouldn’t rally around us like they are now.
Emilee: There were times out of sheer exasperation I asked God to release us. And appropriately for this Good Friday interview. In the end, it was His will not mine that I prayed would be done. Setting my own feelings aside. Dying to self. Kinda sucks living that one out.
Jon: So is BIB ready now for the new internet broadcast and event outreach projects?
Emilee: We are about to find out aren’t we.
Chris: Ready or not, here we come! (all laugh)
Jon: So, how did it all go down? Obviously, people really want to know. What can you share with them?
Emilee: We were called in to Brad Lanser’s office with his Lawyer present after our show last Friday and told they wanted to make a change. We asked if there was any other reason, and we were told no. The letter we each received only says they want a new direction.
Chris: Backing up a sec. Earlier on Wednesday morning after our programming meeting, I stopped by Brad’s office to see if we were ever going to talk about an idea I had. It was obvious to me in the meeting with the programming team that something was up, I just didn’t know what exactly. He told me then that he felt our relationship was past the point of no return. The plan was to fire us on Good Friday, but he would be gone on Thursday for the MSU basketball game and we would get together on Friday (3/22) and go over it. He says he wants to pray about it for a day or two. When I asked for what specific thing pushed it this far, he expressed hearsay from a fellow employee who claimed I said something that obviously was taken out of context, but whatever at this point, know what I mean? This has been brewing for over a year.
Jon: So the other people in your department knew you were to be fired Friday? They knew this on Wednesday?
Chris: It sure looks that way to a betting man. WHICH I AM NOT (all laugh) Who knew? Who didn’t? We really don’t know, and I really don’t care, but a lot of decisions need to be made in order to lead up to a change in a morning show. It would be tough to pull that off to an entire staff with sponsorships and endorsements on the line.
Emilee: Like I said, Chris saw it coming, but we tried and documented several occasions to find resolution. We were never reprimanded for job performance, we were never told we were not meeting expectation on the job. But we knew what was going on and tried to address it. Did they want to put an exit strategy together for us? Had we done something that we need forgiveness for? Those types of things. We weren’t trying to save our jobs, it was more of a desire, like I said, resolution and if possible reconciliation.
Chris: But I guess I am too honest and abrasive for this group of people and there simply wasn’t going to be room for us in their club regardless. To this day, no one has given us one true example of what we did to fall into such unfavorable status. They just use generic terms that don’t create any clarity. Or they would tell me it’s all good, but turns out it really wasn’t, know what I mean? Funny thing is Brad then went on to say our job performance was 100% solid.
Jon: He said your job performance was 100% solid?
Chris: Yeah, but I knew what was coming regardless, just based on the unfortunate reality surrounding our situation.
Emilee: After ALL that went on I was still a little shocked at how we were fired. I think in part because I have never actually been fired before. But also, to know your fired, but you still have work to do. Human tendency is of course to shove it right back to them. But that’s no longer the tendency of one who walks with Christ. So knowing we are going to be fired, we still stayed faithful in doing our shows and even a live remote. Even those closest to us said they listened to our last few shows and had “no idea” this was coming.
Chris: That was weird, to greet listeners and hold up the integrity of JQ while we know our days are literally numbered, we know that almost everyone else at the station knows and yet we all just act like nothing is going on. (pause) but after all we have seen…
Emilee: (interrupts) I don’t think is was “pretending nothing was wrong”. It was definitely Christ’s strength in the midst of our weakness.
Chris: (continues) We can face this (pause) and what we have heard over the years, it’s just par I guess. Our goal was and is to try and simply serve the Lord and be real. Bottom line, if you really serve Jesus, you don’t go rogue just because you know someone doesn’t see things as you do or plans to do you in. If the Lord is really your provision and really your refuge and really your protector, holding to His truth has to take priority in a situation like this.
Jon: What’s behind the feeling to share openly about being fired from JQ?
Emilee: When someone commits to a morning show, my view is just that, they have made a commitment. It’s a commitment of their time, their trust, and when parents let you into the life of their children, that is a huge deal. We just felt they deserved the same respect.
Chris: The biggest reason I want to share some of this is to let people know we are still moving forward and they can move forward with us. This is not the end. We hope to be back behind the microphones soon and we need their help for us to do that. Also to ask they pray for JQ and ask God for a new direction for them. That they can create shows that really point people to the true Jesus of the bible and not something that can be conjured up to sound cool. That they will have wisdom that comes from the living God.
Jon: Looks like a huge amount of people have reached out to you this week. How has that been?
Chris: Awesome and exhausting, but exhausting in a good kind of way. We have each answered well over 100 private messages.
Jon: Each of you? Over a hundred private messages?
Chris: Yeah, that is a conservative estimate. I will count up an actual tally for you later. Not to mention all the posts in the strings on Facebook and I want to try and get to each and everyone of them. More have come in today. Wait (pause) more are coming in right now.
Emilee: We are trying to put the focus on Easter weekend till Monday, but the people have meant so much to us this week.
Jon: Has anyone reached out to you from the station?
Chris: Just one phone call from Adam, who wanted to thank me for some of the on air coaching I provided. I told him how much better he is sounding now. He really has improved. I also told him to listen to Troy and try to get his mind around how good he is. Troy is and will always be one of the best single voice break guys in all of radio. Other than that, not a single email, text or phone call from anyone there (pause) all week.
Emilee: Because I am sure many of them will read your article when it’s done, please stress we hold no ill will. We wanted the listeners to know there is no smoking gun. We didn’t do anything to be fired. It was purely a personal and business decision on their part. We are truly excited about what the future holds and it is squarely in God’s hands.
Jon: Did they give you anything?
Chris: Like what?
Jon: Like a six month severence? Or the standard three month severance? Anything solid to help you with transition?
Chris: No, nothing like that. We are hopeful they will step up and do something. Looks kinda harsh to put a whole family on the street with no warning, especially one that served obediently by the company’s own admission, but I am just trying to focus on the new Internet outreach for now. Again, we have to trust Christ.
Emilee: We are at will employees and that is what they are using as reason. That is legal, so we will just review what is best option for us now. We know we have to focus on Jesus and what he would like us to do with the time he has given us today, tomorrow and in the future.
Jon: Any thing else I should know?
Chris: I think we said too much already (all laugh)
Emilee: I just really wanted to share the truth. Not in order to hurt anyone. But I do know that when something happens and you can’t get answers the mind naturally wants to start filling in those gaps. i.e. well if they were fired, they must of had good reason. They must have done something to be fired. We just wanted to let people know there is no scandal here.
Chris: Again, there’s no smoking gun. Two groups of people with different philosophies. Unfortunately, at the moment, it looks like were are the ones on the loosing end of this stick. However, our confidence is in Christ. He is in the business of working all thing for the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. The list of promises he has for us is amazing and we look forward to seeing his faithfulness continue in our lives.
Jon: Thanks guys! I will do what I can with this.
Chris: Do what you do and think is best. It’s all good.
Emilee: Appreciate it!
Chris and Emilee ask you to attend either the Free Comedy Celebration on April 18th in Allendale at the Fine Arts Center at the High School at 7PM (Open to public, no ticket required) or church service where Chris will be speaking on April 7th @10:15 AM at Lighthouse Community Church . www.lighthouse-ministries.org
Also, consider standing with them in their new outreach project both financially and prayerfully. They value you!
Lastly, as of Saturday morning they had responded to 242 private messages. Feel free to reach out to them with private message on Facebook. I know they will like to connect with you!