Thinking Out Loud

February 12, 2012

Don’t Follow Television Jesus

About three decades ago, I was writing monthly checks to three different television ministries. 

I believe in the good that Christian television can do, and I know a number of people who — with apologies to their pastors — receive their greatest spiritual nurture from Christian television. 

And I worked in Christian television.

As the only community television producer at a Toronto station who was allowed to direct his own program, I produced 48 half-hour Christian music showcase shows. I also was an audio engineer and worked in guest relations and music coordination for a national daily Christian television show. I also assisted a local church with their weekly broadcast of their Sunday morning service, seen on a national network to this day.

So you would expect me to be a little more supportive, right?

And you would also expect after all the flak I took two years ago for posting a picture of a prominent TV Bible teacher’s luxurious house — or, houses — I wouldn’t have wanted to do it again yesterday, right?

But that opulence; that excess is wrong. Just plain wrong.

There’s a saying in ministry that as a pastor, you should get a salary reflective of the median income of the people you are serving, live in a house that is typical of your parishioners, and enjoy vacations and benefits equal to the average member of your church.

That should apply with parachurch ministries as well, such as relief and development agencies, music ministries and (especially) television ministries.

The ease with which some people are corrupted by the finances involved in Christian broadcasting makes their theology somewhat suspect. I’m not saying that they are guilty of completely misreading the Bible or ignoring the basic laws of Biblical exegesis. But they either are (a) not understanding the text, (b) skipping sections they don’t want to read, (c) or fully understand what it all means but feel it applies to someone else. Or of course there’s always (d) they are in ministry for the money.

Certainly, this does not apply to everyone in television ministry. Not by a long-shot. Many are sincere, and present the gospel with clarity.

However,  I think the very thing in the personality of some people compels them to go on television means that the Jesus they present on air will be partially skewed by the elements of their own personality.

Christian television is a great place to let the introduction to Jesus happen. But from there it’s time to move on to (a) corporate worship in a local church, (b) interactive Bible study in a small group or coffee klatch, (c) finding a personal mentor, counselor, or prayer and accountability partner, (d) finding a place of Christian service, (e) finding a context for Christian witness; or (f) all of the above.

Generally speaking, Christian television doesn’t give you an outlet to do the things listed above. You receive — on various levels depending on the type of program or number of programs you watch — some degree of Bible teaching and exhortation; as well as the opportunity to give money. But that’s really all these shows can do for you.

Though you do get a kind of look at Jesus as he appears on television; the “television Jesus”  somehow robs you of the full picture. There are so many other voices who want to share in your fullest discovery of the infinite aspects of Jesus Christ.

And unless you’re reading this in a really, really remote place; you’ll find the opportunity to pursue Jesus in a local church not too far from where you live.

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