How a generation of Evangelicals failed to colonise TV

How a generation of Evangelicals failed to colonise TV October 29, 2013

The Reformers commandeered  the printing press to great effect in the battle of ideas. In the past 20 years, Evangelicals have also invaded the Internet, publishing a multitude of gospel-centered blogs, sermons, and magazine sites. Unfortunately many of the generation that came before ours signally failed to colonise TV.

I have now finished reading Strange Fire. I want to address the topic of what is on Christian TV before I get back to my series of posts aiming to counter each biblical argument (see parts 1,  2, and 3).

As I have mentioned before a large portion of MacArthur’s book is highlighting the abuses, scandals, and false teaching of many different TV evangelists. I have no intention here of trying to defend the prosperity preachers. I don’t support them, don’t watch them, and actually don’t  think I have any friends who do. I have not watched any Christian TV for years, apart from recently when I found a video from God TV online where they were “rehabilitating” Todd Bentley. It made me feel physically sick.

I hear from some people that there are some outposts of helpful programming on Christian TV. I now feel that if that is indeed the case I should give some consideration to covering some of them here on the blog.

One reasons for the popularity of certain TV preachers is that we are not co-ordinated enough in our promotion of helpful ministries. We are often too tribal, and thus there is no clear message for ordinary Christians about which ministries represent traditional Evangelical beliefs.  We even see this online where I feel that evangelicals  could be much better at linking to helpful material from each other on our blogs and Twitter streams.  As always if you see something you think will be of especial interest to my readers feel free to DM me on Twitter or email me.

In the main, although I didn’t know most of the detail I was reading in Strange Fire, I would agree with the majority of MacArthur’s criticisms of  TV preachers, though I cannot confirm whether his research was accurate.  I did struggle with why it was necessary for me to read scandal after scandal. I certainly didn’t enjoy it.

Just to give you an example of criticism that I would have no problem agreeing with (assuming it was accurate, but which I cannot confirm or deny due to my own lack of knowledge). MacArthur was speaking about Oral Roberts:

 “In all the many times I saw him on television, I never once heard him preach the gospel. His message—every time—was about seed-faith. The reason for that is obvious: the message of the cross—an atoning sacrifice for sins wrought through Jesus’ sufferings—doesn’t mesh with the notion that God guarantees health, wealth, and prosperity to people who send money to television preachers. Our fellowship in Jesus’ sufferings (Phil. 3:10), and our duty to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:20–23), are likewise antithetical to the core principles of prosperity doctrine. As previously discussed in chapter 2, the prosperity message is a different gospel (cf. Gal. 1:8–9). (Strange Fire, page 156).

This quote did make me think that MacArthur has been watching too much so-called “Christian” Television! Surely one of the main reasons for the different way MacArthur and I assess the charismatic movement is TV.  I am starting to feel that I watch too little, while he watches way more than is healthy!

It is very easy to use certain TV evangelists as a stick to beat charismatics over the head with. But as far as I know most  do not have the official support of any main stream groups of Charismatic or Pentecostal churches. As far as I know there are no denominations or groups of churches that strongly support the prosperity televangelists.  Most of them do not hold broad official church leadership positions at all. They seem to prey on individuals rather than whole churches.

The truth is that many TV evangelists are an embarrassment not just to Charismatics but to all Christians.  We could just as easily say after watching, “The Christian movement is hopelessly compromised with prosperity preaching.”

All this is a major problem for us in the West, but in Africa it is a tragedy. When starving people are being taken advantage of and given a distorted version of our faith, the damage is incalculable.  I don’t believe that every single Christian or church group outside of the West has bought into this, however. I do agree that this kind of preaching is the worst export that the USA has ever given the World. 

The truth is that ALL Evangelical Christians are to blame for what is served up on Christian TV. We have allowed an environment to develop where very unhelpful minisries can flourish. We have abdicated our responsibility to fill the airwaves with the true Gospel.

Unfortunately it also seems that in some cases that the quality of preaching in many churches is not proving a compelling enough antidote. Solid and passionate preaching of the glory of Christ should immunise people against the prosperity heresy.

I am interested in hearing from Christian businessmen who want to support good material on TV. I am interested in speaking with executives working in Television who want to brainstorm about improving the general level of quality and gospel content.  I want to understand why some of the current TV preachers continue to be so popular, and how they can continue to domonate the airwaves the way they do. I am interested in discussing with Evangelical Ministry leaders why they have never put their material on the TV. I want to know how much it would cost us to get more Gospel-focussed programming available across the world.

I would love to see something change in a major way, as I do not believe that TV is due to die just yet.  We cannot leave the TV to the prosperity preachers.  Perhaps we need to pool resources in some way.  I do not have the answers, but I think it is time to start asking the questions in a serious way.


Over the weekend, I was musing about how blessed I have been to grow up in the part of the Charismatic movement I have:


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