Image     Image

 

But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4)

It was the click that was heard around the world. When, on January 8, 1982,  AT&T, whom owned and controlled Bell Operating Systems throughout the U.S. (otherwise known as Ma Bell), was ordered by the judgement of the Federal Court to relinquish control of the Bell Operating Companies that had provided local telephone service in the United States. That Federal mandate would forever change the very dynamics of telecommunications in the United States.

It seems there is another shaking occurring within the framework of telecommunications, but this has more to do with television and less about phone service, to be more precise – Christian T.V.. It wasn’t until the late 1970’s and the very early years of the 1980’s that key innovators such as Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker and Paul Crouch began to pioneer what we now call Christian Television. There is no question that the vision these men had were appointed by God at such a time as it was then. Their vision and determination to bring about a network completely devoted to reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ thru television literally paved the way to build an electronic empire that rivaled the secular world. But out of this ingenuity to a vision came what I deem as the unintended consequence of television for the believer – control.

There is no question that the vision and dreams of each of these men who built their vast empire for the kingdom of God truly were doing what they felt led by God, and out of that came opportunities for many preachers to take advantage of the medium of television. Yet the rule of unintended consequences always sets the rule, and one of those consequences was the monopolization of television to where only the select few who had the financial backing could enter the game. It was a country club for preachers.

Because the medium of television required such a large investment, it set the stage where the people could only receive “truth” from only many of the top players within the Christian community. Men such as Rex Humbard, Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller and many more, were all affluent big league players in the realm of Christian television. Yet they had the finances. TBN in its early stages, provided a platform for many an opportunity for up and coming preachers, men such as Dwight Thompson, and Benny Hinn and even Perry Stone. Through the Trinity Broadcasting Network alone, as it grew across the nation, as well as the world through its satellites, literally opened the door for many a pastor or preacher to establish themselves with the public. But TBN was only one of many struggling networks that was beginning their own path to success.

PTL, before the fall, was making deep inroads within the Christian community itself, equally providing for the people new talents in music, entertainment and in ministry. But things came to an end by 1988 and PTL was no more. For a period of time, TBN began to grow and develop itself as a genuine source for Pentecostal/Charismatic teaching as well as doctrine. But others began to see the possibilities as well thru the medium of television, men such as Marcus and Joni Lamb out of Texas, who too, heard the call of God to establish their own voice in the television market. Others began to rise for the occasion, men such as Franklin Z Adell, a television developer working within Detroit, established the Word Network. Even in the heartland of the midwest in South Bend, Dr. Lester Sumrall began to focus on both radio as well as television programming while the Swaggarts in Louisiana also, began to turn from buying airtime and instead began to devote their attention to network ownership, the result? A conglomerate of Christian networks had now been formed.

Still, while innovation can be a good thing, the problem still persisted, only those who had the funds, who had the financial means to spend literally thousands of dollars it takes to go on television could afford – to go on television. Let me state here and now, by no means do I disregard the pioneers of the past, even those who have went on to glory for their drive to spread the gospel by any means they could (television), but I have equally learned that when only a few can utilize the medium at large (television) then it means that the people are subject to only one particular voice. This is not God’s way nor his will. So, for years these powerful men in religious broadcasting continued to group and monopolize the market, only providing those voices they themselves could support, or, in many cases, those who could provide the services for the right price, stood able to gain the rewards that came with such affluence.

But then came the internet.

With every innovation, every new idea, something must go to the weigh side. Buy a computer today, within 10 months that same computer will have become outdated simply because the growing leap of technology. Buy a cell phone in 1994, today it’s now considered a relic. It’s simply the advancement in technology. Yet for many years, well over 30 years to be exact, Christian television has not changed, not really. It’s still the same voices, the same personalities (in some cases) and some remnants of the past years. This certainly does not discount their voices and I for one am not suggesting as such, but it also must be understood that God never goes backwards, he moves forwards, and what is happening right now in Christian television is proving to become the shaking of the monopoly of Christian television.

When the internet came into existence in the late 70’s and developed into a more established form of technology throughout the 80’s, many people, even Christian leaders, scoffed at the idea which said that one day the internet would surpass television as the means people will receive the gospel. Unheard of, and even threatening at the time, many of the past pioneers of television could not, nor would not see the vision of this brand new technology, but what they truly feared was what the internet meant, a loss of revenue.

The fact remains, the real danger, the only true danger to Christian television is not the Government, nor is it Satan, the real threat to traditional Christian television is in fact, the internet. But why? Why would the top Christian programmers not be happy or even see the viability of the increasing wave which is in fact going to sweep the world in vast communication of the world wide web? Because it takes out of the hands of long held power brokers and instead, it breaks the glass ceiling in such a way that anyone who has a camera and internet account, a website, Youtube or Facebook, can literally reach thousands, if not millions with the gospel, and here’s the other big point – they can do it for less than $100!

The world has drastically changed since the 1980’s, secular television has changed, the way we communicate has changed, everything has changed except the one thing, those within power have managed to control the power, thereby reducing the voices which could be raised up to reach the world. But now a shaking is occurring within Christian television that is proving the days of receiving the gospel will no longer be TBN or Daystar or even Sonlife Broadcasting network. No, this new form will be found in the internet where the ability of anyone who has a message from the Lord, those who have the desire to preach, will no longer be regulated to just the local churches and even radio or local television. No, the past form of Christian television is becoming a thing of the past, and the statistics prove it.

According to the results of a recent online survey conducted by IBM, television sets are losing ground to the internet when it comes to personal leisure time. 19 percent of all respondents stated that they spent six hours or more per day on the internet versus nine percent of respondents spending the same amount of time in front of the television. 66 percent responded that they spent one to four hours in front of the television versus 60 percent on the internet.

Consumers are demonstrating their desire for both wired and wireless access to content: an average of 81 percent of consumers surveyed globally indicated they’ve watched or want to watch PC video, and an average of 42 percent indicated they’ve watched or want to watch mobile video,” said Bill Battino, Communications Sector managing partner of IBM Global Business Services.

Even donations to such large networks like TBN and Daystar, even SBN (sonlife broadcasting Network) are declining. TBN, reported last year a 30 million dollar loss in revenue in public donations. (source)  But it’s not just TBN, Daystar, CTN, The Word Network, even the new Sonlife Broadcasting Network (begun by the Swaggarts) are all seeing a steady decline in donations, even though public support is steady, yet the one common thread still holds, these networks are falling under the weight of the change of technology and within the next decade, the way we receive the gospel, the limits of who the people are able to listen to, will equally change as well as the open market of fresh new voices, new faces and new ideas all without the need to press the people for money.

All Christians (especially those in the media) have a responsibility to present the Gospel without cost, yet the way television is created, has created a stumbling block to those who would desire to preach to as many people as possible, connect their ministry to others across the world, but cost has become a limitation. This is not how it was, nor is supposed to be. Yet God is changing that with this new ability to literally get online, get an account and reach people across the world – and not cost one cent.

The financial abuses of the past, the scandals, the financial unaccountability is partly what I believe God will utilize thru this new form of technology. Long gone will be the days of flamboyant preachers in their $5,000 dollar suits and luxury cars and planes, not to mention the million dollar mansions. The advent of the internet is going to hinder and restrict the old school of thought and replace it with a new one.  When Jesus laid the principle of freely you have received, freely you give; I believe He meant it. Everyone should be able to receive the Gospel free of charge. Thus, this is why the internet will be so vital in the last days.

While we can appreciate the past, we must continue to look forward to the present as well as the future, for the future is changing and the way we do the gospel is equally changing. I only hope those who are still clinging to the past will not resist, for this change is long overdue.

Christopher

christopher152@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Comments
  1. ajc says:

    I think that most or all of the people you mentioned were out to build mega empires for themselves. Magnets for money. ajc

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s