With the passing of TBN founder Paul Crouch on the weekend, J. Lee Grady takes time to suggest reinventing the wheel, or as he calls it It’s Time To Reboot Christian Television. Knowing statistically all of you won’t click through however, here are the high points:
1. Support it with advertising, not donations. Who said Christian programming has to be donor-funded? I’d rather watch ads for steak knives or dietary supplements than endure two hours of begging—especially when the slick-haired evangelist running the telethon reminds you of a used-car salesman.
2. Prosperity preaching shouldn’t be allowed. Networks need to declare a moratorium on sermons that promise magical monetary benefits to people who “call now” to give a credit card donation. This type of merchandising of the anointing of the Holy Spirit grieves God and drags Christian TV down to the level of scam artists.
3. Preachers—and their doctrines—should be more carefully screened. Christian networks should not air programs by ministers who have questionable morals. If we wouldn’t allow that person in our church’s pulpit, why would we let them preach in front of millions on the air?
4. Donors should never be manipulated. If there is an appeal for donations, there should be no hanky-panky allowed. Don’t tell people that if they give tonight, God will give them a house. Don’t promise that God will heal their bodies if they sow a “$1,000 seed.” And don’t tell viewers that if they give in this special “Day of Atonement offering,” God will forgive their sins. This is witchcraft! Shame on any broadcaster who has allowed this garbage to deceive audiences.
5. Money should never be misused. TBN makes millions in donations every year—and the network has donated some of the funds to charitable causes. But why is it that broadcasters like Paul and Jan Crouch had to purchase lavish homes, a private jet and an enormous trailer for their dogs? Donors should demand more accountability for financial contributions.
6. It should be relevant to today’s culture. Young Christians today care about justice, world poverty and community transformation. They also want teaching on relationships, sexuality and practical discipleship. Christian TV must move beyond the talking-head style of the 1980s. If we want to appeal to young viewers, the false eyelashes, pink fright wigs and “Granny hootenanny” music will have to go.
7. Network owners should not set up broadcasting kingdoms. Some leaders in the past generation believed that ministries are like dynasties—that God expects the founder’s son to run it when he dies. But there is nothing in Scripture that even hints at ministries being passed down through family lines. God entrusts His work to faithful people—and He expects us to manage ministries with integrity, humility and accountability. Many of the disasters we have seen in American televangelism occurred because men thought they could take ownership of the work of God.