(Photo: Christian Post/Alex Murashko)
GLENDALE, Calif. – Working as a phone call screener and talk show host for one of the most listened to rock 'n' roll stations in Southern California for more than 20 years, Frank Sontag confesses that as a "new ager" and someone who had not yet accepted Jesus Christ he didn't really want to hear what Christians, who called into the station to talk about the Gospel, had to say – he hung up on them.
"They would start reading Scripture and I could not hang up on them fast enough," said Sontag, talking to The Christian Post inside the Glendale, Calif., studio of Christian radio station KKLA 99.5 during a break of his new show. "I would hide under the guise that this isn't a religious show and if I allowed you to preach from your book, anybody can call with their book and preach, and that wouldn't be good."
Sontag's is talking about his 21 years as a talk show host of the thought-provoking, highly-rated "Impact" program on the top-rated classic rock FM station KLOS in Los Angeles.
He told CP that the truth, in his "heart of hearts," was that he didn't want to hear about Christ when Christians called into his former radio station.
"I grew up in the Catholic Church [and schools], and I didn't have abuse per se, but let's just say that some of the nuns weren't the most loving nuns on the planet," explained Sontag, 58. "So I got a really bad message … the bottom line is that I did not have a good taste in my mouth about religion, so I walked away and fell in love with my sin and love of the world, and the world celebrates that. I hung up on them because I did not want to hear God's Word.
"I was such a hypocrite. I would talk about spirituality and I would revere the Dalai Lama. You are so foolish when you don't know the Lord and yet they would call and try to share from the Bible and I would go into this rap … like [asking] how many times has the Bible been re-written … you know, just lies."
On the air during his current show, Sontag tells the story of how he gave his life to Christ after having lunch with two good friends, one being a pastor.
"The pastor asks, 'You're a new age kind of guy. You sound ideologically very sure on your show. If you were to have sadly passed away on the way home are you straight with God?' And I said to the pastor, 'absolutely,'" Sontag said. "He asked me to kind of meditate on that reality if you will.
"After we said goodbye, I went to go and turn the ignition on in my car and I thought, oh, wait, … I sat in my car for a couple of minutes, prayed, meditated, thought about that reality and I began to get very hot and my first thought was, was I out in the sun too much? Was it a fever? Was it an exceptionally warm day? A little while later, I heard, 'Are you ready to submit to me?' I was raised a Catholic … I honestly never thought I would ever go back into church. And I knew who it was, I knew it was Jesus Christ, and I said yes. And He said, 'Pick up your cross and follow me.'"
Although he had previously casually read the Bible, Sontag said he had "no biblical reference to what 'pick up your cross and follow me' meant."
He said the hot sensation passed and he called his friend to tell them what happened. Upon hearing his story, they said, "Praise God."
One week later, he said he was reading the Bible and came across Luke 9:23.
"I'm a week old in my faith, and again, I heard a voice say, 'Pick up your cross and follow me,' and then I'm reading this, 'And He said to all if anyone would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.' I read that and I thought, I couldn't fake that in a million years," Sontag said. "So I got on my knees that night and said, 'Lord, I'm all yours.'"
Sontag's show on KKLA is in the same time slot as the late Frank Pastore's show. Pastore died near the end of last year, one month after a motorcycle accident on a Southern California freeway left him in a coma.
Sontag said he's been a Christian for just a "handful of years." His enthusiasm to share the Gospel on air is evident and asking his guests to share how they came to accept Jesus has made for some remarkable and emotional moments on air.
He told CP that his own transformation after accepting Jesus, which came while at KLOS, was remarkable.
"I was in that culture. I smoked pot. I played ball (basketball) in college and then let my hair grow and found Led Zepplin and did all that stuff," he said.
He shared about meeting legendary singer Tom Jones and rocker Steven Tyler at the KLOS station.
"Before I came to Christ, we had Tom Jones on, and Mark and Brian (talk show hosts) asked him how much he was worth," Sontag recalled. "He basically said $500 million and my heart was so envious and jealous. I thought, 'Wow, what's that like?' A handful of years later, after I came to Christ, we had Steven Tyler on, from Aerosmith, he carried this big bag and he dumped out on the table these big gold bars, $100 bills everywhere, and he went into great detail about all of his wealth, and my heart hurt. So I went from being envious and jealous, to after I came to Christ, my heart really hurt for him. I knew the transformation [in myself] happened."
After becoming a Christian, there were some difficulties in his life, including a period of time when he and his wife, Erin, who was not a believer at the time, spent some time apart. Things began to change for the better, and two years ago, Erin, also accepted Jesus into her life.
When he was no longer the host of the Impact show and working as a board operator for the famed "Mark and Brian Show" on KLOS, Sontag's walk with the Lord included praying for answers in regards to his career.
"When I came to Christ, I was so burdened on that show, and my wife said she wanted to leave, I came to work one morning and was crying in the hallway and my janitor found me. I didn't know it at the time, but he's a pastor and he prayed with me that morning," he said. "We prayed every morning for two, three years and I prayed 'Lord, I don't know why you have me here, but this is not fun and I want out.' We would pray in the studio with the guys there … finally, in August of last year they (KLOS) fired [everyone involved with the Mark and Brian Show]."
Prior to coming to KKLA, Sontag said he thought that maybe he was done with his radio career. However, after filling in on The Frank Pastore Show time slot periodically since Thanksgiving of last year, on June 13, KKLA officially announced that Sontag would be the successor.
Following one of the nights that first week he was filling in on the air for the show before a decision was made by the station as to who to hire, his thoughts were: "I did 21 years of radio and I never experienced what I experienced that day. Not only in the context of doing the show of Christian radio, speaking about my love for my Lord, Jesus Christ, but in the hallway I would have people stop me and pray with me and I remember calling my wife and saying 'You are not going to believe what a day I just had.' I said, 'I feel like I'm home.'"