And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15

There is a law which says any positive or negative effect from an action or deed are the result from an original intended action, good or bad, by a purposeful action. This is called the law of unintended consequences. In layman’s term, this simply means that whatever was originally created and then implemented, ultimately had an unexpected result that was not originally considered in the decision making process or design. It had a side effect to the original plan. Enter Christian television.

At its inception, Christian pioneers sought to do something that at the time not been done before, that is to create what the secular world was already doing – using television to reach the world. By 1980, Christian television was still very much in its infancy with programming regulated to peak hours of the day and even then, had to be purchased on most secular channels. It wasn’t until Paul Crouch had a concept, along with other innovators such as Jim Bakker and Pat Robertson, came up with the idea of a 24 hour network of nothing but Christian programming. Thus, Christian television as we know it, was born.

What came out of Christian television and its desire to “reach the world” though is anything but what some see as beneficial to the gospel. Instead, what the innovators of this medium of technology might have originally intended, has instead done the complete opposite – hindering the great commission.

When Jesus told his disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” he was giving a clear and precise command not only for his original 12, but also for the church itself. From the moment the church was established at the advent of the upper room, the instruction for the church of God was never more understood than then, when 3,000 people came to know the Lord, followed by an additional 5,000. Within just a few years later, even under great adversity thru persecution, the church grew in ranks of multiple thousands. But it was done by following the word of the Lord to literally go into the world and make disciples. It was not done by any other means other than physically going out into the world, thereby meeting the spiritual needs of the people. That was the original plan Christ had for the church, and still does.

Yet today, in the 21st century, the macedonian call has been replaced, literally, by another medium – television, and the results have been anything but what it was originally planned for it to be. Americans love their television. No matter what it might be, the American appetite is ever expanding when it comes to television entertainment. They simply cannot get enough of the boob tube. The church is no different.

Today, a simple flip of the channel to any of the 3 large Christian networks will yield a buffet of religious porn whose sole intent is to market what the people crave, be it the latest book, cd, or dvd, the list goes on and on of the flurry of religious commercialization that is currently being aired on Christian television. Yet we’re told from the each of the leaders of these large networks, whose empires stand to gain millions in yearly revenue, that it’s all to promote the gospel around the world. But is that true? Is Christian television really reaching the globe for Christ and seeing millions saved daily as we’re being told?

There is no question that because of the advent of television to reach a global audience, combined with the growing trend of the internet (which is proving itself as this generations better technology which is replacing the traditional and outdated method of television) people are in fact hearing the gospel, but the numbers are not actually clear, nor do we truly have a full blueprint of these results. The reason? Television cannot physically see any of its potential results, so all we’re left with are letters from those who can say for certainty that their lives have been changed by what they saw on Christian television. It’s the big “unknown”.

In the 19th and 20th century, the continents of Europe, Africa, Asia and Russia was inundated with evangelical missionaries which produced a combined millions in converts coming to Jesus Christ. From D. L. Moody, to Livingston and Hudson Taylor who ventured into China in the late 1800’s, missionaries were numbered to be over 40,000. The church in the United States produced more missionaries who trekked into the jungles of Africa, trod the sands of India and climbed the rugged mountains of eastern Europe than any other nation known to man. By the 1950’s, missions was the thrust of the evangelical church. Then a change in the nation began to take place with the advent of a new technology – television. Although it would take several decades, by the 1980’s the churches focus was no longer foreign missions, but domestic endeavors. Little by little, the mission field had gone from being the #1 focus of the modern church, to becoming something more of a historic aspect of the older days. It was Christian television that I believe which played a major part in this decline when it came to missions and the church.

Another unintended consequence to Christian television as it regards the great commission and world missions was the financial complexities that arose from this form of medium. The funding of missions went equally along with the call of missions, the sending of young men and women out into the field. Financial support for missions from the 1900’s through the next 50 years reached into hundreds of millions of dollars, yet today, because missions have been segregated to the side, less than 2% of money raised actually goes to world missions, that being paying for missionaires, building supplies, food and shelter. The fact is, the largest machine which is literally eating up the financial giving of the body of Christ is Christian television, and it’s growing.

In 2012, the estimated gross revenue of all of the large Christian networks were half a billion dollars combined. But what’s interesting to note is that in those millions generated per year, only 5% of that was delegated to missions. The overall expenditures were instead directed to salaries, homes, cars, planes, perks (vacations) and many more. Again, it is the direct result of the law of unintended consequences at play.

The final adverse affect of Christian television that has played its part against the commission is it has relegated the people into sitting out from their duties in reaching those around them. The American Christian has grown solitary in their physical duties when it comes to going out and reaching their world, instead, they have become religious couch potato’s instead of the missionary’s they were supposed to be. The argument is they donate to keep Christian television on the air, but neglect the command of Christ to literally go out into the world and proclaim the gospel. Christian television, combined with the American diet of laziness and apathy, has produced a nation that no longer has the desire nor fortitude to go and reach their world. This is the result of the unintended consequences of Christian television.

Some would argue I am against Christian television or other forms of technology and to that I say “Not so”. I am however firm in my belief that we as a body in America have allowed one format to set the tone of the modern church, instead of going out into the world and reaching the masses, we have pinned all our hopes on one small tube to do all the work, this is not what Christ spoke about, nor did he approve of. There must be a balance when it comes to understanding the methods we use, such as the medium of television, and one on one evangelism. The truth is, we’ve become soft and apathetic, not to mention lazy because we’re more willing to sit on the couch instead of going into the villages of Thailand, or the Cities of China to reach the unreachable. Instead, we’ve relegated that responsibility to Christian television and the results will be multitudes of people who will actually die lost and enter a place called hell who could have had the opportunity to hear the gospel had someone told them. The truth is, not everyone overseas watches television, not compared to the U.S.

Until the church repents and seeks the face of God over our inability to physically go and reach we will not see the end times results we are preaching and promising that we’ll see. It simply won’t surface, because we’re too focused on being glued to the tube for the next promise of a blessing.











  1. ajc says:

    How can anyone think that Paul Crouch, Jim Baker and Pat Robertson had anything in mind with their t.v. shows other than making themselves rich. So much has come out about their life styles in the past and present. They have made millions off of the gullible as so many charlatans have. I was never taken in by these people. Is the gay thing any worse than the adultery thing?

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