Televangelism: Is Tuning In the Best Way to God?
Why So Many Messengers of God on TV?
There are possibly hundreds of church channels on TV these days, and surely thousands if not millions of preachers on them, all day every day, all talking about God. Has it all become too much? Is so much focus on God killing any chance of anyone being able to believe? Does God really need that many messengers in the form of human beings, to help us understand a book that, if we want, we can read for ourselves?
Has the prevalence of televangelism become so overwhelming that it is drowning out the true voice of God in our lives? Isn't it also true that with so many voices speaking, there is no excuse for not hearing the word? We certainly have ample opportunities every day to gain a deeper understanding of the word, and have many suitors waiting to take us on a closer walk with Jesus. And all it takes is one little click on the TV remote control.
In my opinion, there can never be too many true crusaders for Christ. And while I am sure that not everyone who stands behind a podium talking about “God this and Jesus that” actually believes in or follows the words of God or Jesus, I am truly thankful for those sincere men and women who do. I thank God for the truth that comes to me through Christian authors and evangelists and ministers, even those that come into my life through television broadcasting networks.
World of Televangelism Rocked by Scandal
No doubt many of those who dislike the prevalence of church channels, and televangelists, have been influenced by the many "scandals" that have rocked the world of TV evangelism. Just to refresh your memory, in the following paragraphs I will recap several of them ("those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it").
In 2004, the Los Angeles Times published several articles questioning the fundraising practices of TBN, the world's largest evangelical Christian television network. Paul Crouch is the network's founder and president. The newspaper also published allegations of a former ministry employee who claimed that he had a homosexual affair with Crouch during the 1990s. TBN denied all allegations and said the former employee's claims were part of an extortion scheme. In 2005, that same former employee appeared at the taping of the ION Television show "Lie Detector." The show was never aired, the lie detector test results were never revealed, and none of the allegations were ever substantiated.
Another famous scandal involved evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. In 1986, Swaggart waged several on-screen attacks against fellow televangelists Jim Bakker and Marvin Gorman. He helped to reveal Bakker's infidelity with Jessica Hahn, and Gorman's affair with a member of Gorman's congregation. The revelations garnered widespread media coverage, leading Gorman to retaliate. He hired a private investigator that uncovered Swaggart's adulterous indiscretions with a prostitute, and that discovery ultimately forced Swaggert to step down from his pulpit for a year. In February, 1988, he apologized on television to his congregation, saying "I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God's forgiveness."
While a sex scandal led to Jim Bakker's resignation from the ministry, it was later revelations about accounting fraud that led to his imprisonment and to his divorce from the now deceased Tammy Faye Bakker. Jim Bakker started the Praise the Lord (PTL) Club while working for Paul Crouch at TBN.
More recently, televangelist Bishop Eddie Lee Long, in September 2010, was accused by four young men who filed civil suits against him, claiming that the pastor of New Birth Missionary Church, an Atlanta mega-church (with more than 25,000 members), used his authority as a religious leader to persuade them into sexual relations. The men claimed Long lavished them with gifts and took them on trips around the world when they were teenagers. Then they produced cell phone pictures, which added fuel to the fire of media stories about the scandal. In them, Eddie Long was seen posing in muscle shirts, and the young men said he sent the pictures to them, trying to entice them. Although Long said the accusations against him were false, he and his attorney settled the lawsuits out of court in May, 2011, and no one involved publicly discussed the terms of the settlement. Long passed away in January of 2017.
A Narrow Path
I believe there is a narrow path to God's righteousness (as the old gospel song said, "everybody talking 'bout Heaven ain't going there!"). And because this is true, there is no doubt in my mind that as long as there is sin in the world, there will never be a shortage of scandals in the Christian church. The church is not immune to sin. And, while it is certainly true that many of the men and women “of the cloth” are most definitely in it for the money and/or the fame, I believe there are more ministers, televangelists, writers, best-selling Christian authors, counselors, and teachers, who are genuine in their love of God, and that are doing a great deal of blessed work for God that is truly inspired and needed.
I'm sure you probably question, as I do, why anyone would go into the pulpit as a follower of Christ, knowing full well he or she engages routinely in actions and activities that are against God? How anyone can preach against sin, asking others to listen to them and to uphold them as someone trying to walk the walk of Christ, when they know they are hiding a life of sin and deceit that is definitely not like Christ? Jesus provided a good example for those He asked to follow Him. And, while you and I know no one can live a sin-free life the way that Jesus did, still, as Christians, televangelists and other ministers should do their best to commit to living lives based on how God's word says we are to live.
Still, I don't believe we should throw the baby out, if you will, along with the dirty bathwater. And I know there are millions more people like me who are thirsty and in need of help and enlightenment, who are truly seeking help from those Christian men and women who really are devoted to living their lives for God and Christ, while also delivering the Word of God in a way that can help and heal others.
"Declare Ye Among the Nations"
Is that what God wants? Church TV? In fact, even though millions and millions of people go to church, to an actual physical building devoted to church services, every Sunday, I’m sure many more millions get their “spiritual enlightenment” from the preachers and teachers of television. Is that a good thing for the church? Are people becoming believers by hearing the word on television? Is listening to a preacher on television, in the comfort (or discomfort) of our own homes, just as legitimate as hearing the same preacher inside the church?
Then what’s the difference? I’m asking you that question: What’s the difference? If a preacher is truly someone who is among the few willing to do the work it takes to gain fruitful understanding of the word, then wouldn’t God want him or her to become a light for others? Doesn’t he, in fact, say these preachers and teachers should “publish” his word to the nations? Jeremiah 50:2 (KJV) says:
“Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces.”
Isn’t that the call to action for televangelist and preachers alike? When we know and understand the word, and yet do not share it or use it to help light the way for others, doesn’t Jesus tell us it’s as though we took our light, and hid it under a barrel, keeping it in secret? And aren’t we to understand that concealing His word from others is not pleasing to God?
Through Holy Scripture, God is directing us to use our ability to help others achieve true understanding by sharing our light with those in need of it that are willing to consider its illumination, its truth, and its potency. I believe we are to share so that the person we help is then able to share her or his light with other willing listeners, and so on, and so on. And while I am not a minister or a televangelist (nor do I plan to become either), it is still my hope that my articles on Christian living are shining a light, providing illumination toward a path others can discover, to follow Christ. Just as every other group on the planet can be vocal and demanding when it comes to having representation on television, shouldn’t those who believe in God and Jesus Christ have the same right?
Sure, there are preachers who are “in it” for the money and fame. There are also men and women in the ministry, on TV and not on TV, that are not authentic as church leaders; they are committed to living lives of sin and then hiding it behind religion, instead of practicing what they preach. I understand that ministers, like the rest of us, are all sinners in the eyes of God. I get that. it's true that there are all kinds of men and women out there today preaching and teaching the word of God, and not all of them are truly called by God to preach. Still, I don’t think there can or will ever be too many sincere, true-to-their-own-hearts preachers of the gospel. Ultimately, it is a good thing that anyone who wants to can pick up a TV remote control and tune in to some of them on television, without leaving home.