News Articles

Former TV anchor follows God’s call to Southern

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Dan Odle was climbing the career ladder, and he was doing quite well.

It was early 1998, and Odle was working as a political reporter and weekend news anchor for KFVS-12, the CBS television affiliate in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His interview list included the likes of Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Elizabeth Dole and Mel Carnahan.

He was known by TV viewers throughout the region, and had even done a live national telephone report on CNN the day of the 1997 school shooting at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky. Since graduating from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Odle had been working 10-12 hours a day, five days a week, in order to get ahead in the competitive world of television reporting.

But Odle wasn’t happy. He felt God leading him in another direction, to another career.

“It was a real uneasiness,” he said. “I was having a great time doing what I was doing in television. I enjoyed the work and enjoyed being on TV and enjoyed the reporting, but I was not happy. It just really came to the point where we realized the only way I was going to be happy was to say [to God], ‘We’ll do whatever you want us to do'”

He and his wife, Stephanie, asked their church to pray for them. In April 1998, they visited Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“In May we put our house up for sale,” he said. “We sold it in June, closed in July and moved in August. We actually closed on our house the day before we moved to Louisville.”

Just like that, the 28-year-old Odle went from reporting on politics to studying subjects such as Greek and Hebrew. Many of his co-workers at the TV station were puzzled at his sudden move.

“People couldn’t understand why you would just give that up,” Odle said. “In a lot of ways, I couldn’t explain it to them. How do you explain to somebody, ‘I feel like God is calling me to do this,’ when they don’t really have a good concept of who God is. … Most of the people I worked with just sort of laughed and [asked], ‘Why would you do that?'”

If Odle needed any confirmation of his calling, it occurred shortly after his arrival at the Louisville, Ky., campus. Highview Baptist Church, the largest Baptist church in the city, was beginning a weekly 30-minute television broadcast. The program needed a producer, and Odle filled that void in the summer of 2000. He developed and launched “Growing Strong,” which features the preaching of Highview pastor Kevin Ezell.

Odle said he wants everything he produces to look professional.

“We feel like if it’s not worth doing well, it’s not worth doing,” he said.

He is also the producer of the Bible and Life, a weekly 30-minute roundtable that features seminary professors and focuses on the upcoming Sunday school lesson. It is taped on the seminary campus and broadcast on Family Net.

“It’s been really neat to see how God is using what I used to do with where he’s calling me now, and how those have come together in a way that I never would have imagined,” Odle said. “I really questioned when I got here, ‘Why did I spend five years in television when God was calling me into ministry?’ Then, God works it out and says, ‘This is why.'”

Odle says the biggest story he covered as a TV reporter took place in 1997, when three students were shot and killed during a morning prayer session at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky. He was able to give a live report via telephone for CNN. However, his view of the national media changed forever.

In addition to broadcast journalism, another one of Odle’s passions is music. His father is a bi-vocational music minister, and Odle sang in high school and college. His wife was a music major in college.

“I’ve always been around music,” said Odle, who is working toward a master of divinity degree in church music. “So when I came to seminary — knowing that God was calling me into ministry but not knowing exactly what that meant — I decided to do the M.Div in church music [degree] because I felt like that gave me the core of both theology and music.”

Odle believes it is important for music ministers to have a solid biblical foundation.

“With the incredible options out there and the different music to choose from, if you don’t understand Scripture and don’t understand theology, how are you going to be discerning in what you choose for your people to sing?” he asked. “There’s a lot of music that sounds good and it may be popular, but it isn’t necessarily theologically sound.

“As a music minister, I want to major in ministry and not just major in music only.”

Odle has two children — Bekah, 3; and Jacob, 1. He doesn’t know what God has in store for the next few years, but he knows God already has a plan.

“We’ve come this far, so we don’t want to get too comfortable.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: DAN ODLE.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust