Engaging Culture

Do Certain Media Ministries Target Low Income Groups?

It doesn’t take much channel surfing – especially in the morning – to see that outside the normal full time religious television channels, some TV evangelists seem to be ganged up in blocks. Further, a closer examination seems to reveal that those “ministries” (which some would call “fringe”) who spend the whole program talking about and asking for money seem to be all gathered around the early morning block on The WORD Network or BET.

So here’s the guys who are most aggressive about asking for major financial donations (my favorite is the “$1,000 seed”) who seem to be aimed directly at inner city viewers. Does that mean these hard core prosperity ministries are targeting lower income, minority viewers?

Interesting question.

I’m not talking about all media ministries that broadcast on BET. That particular network has been very welcoming for religious programmers, and some of my clients are there for good reasons. My beef is with the $1,000 vow guys. The TV evangelists who claim they have a “financial anointing” and all they talk about is how you need to send your money to them.

Here’s the issue for me: Yes – we live in a free country, and programmers – no matter how offensive – are free to broadcast in whatever available time-slot is successful for them. (Outside family hour issues of course.) If low income minorities, or anyone else for that matter want to send these guys money, then go ahead, no one’s putting a gun to their head.

I’m for as little regulation as possible when it comes to media. But these are supposedly Christian ministries. We have a hard enough time in the culture trying to keep Christians from looking like con-artists and crooks. So could we have a little help here? Because this money thing is coming to a head. If media ministries can’t restrain themselves, the government is going to do it for you. Just ask Senator Grassley.

And these “financial miracle” guys will have shot the starting gun.

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  1. I'm not sure these folks are hoping to connect with low-income minorities.  I suspect they simply hope to connect with people who aren't very well educated or logical.

    Many Christians aren't very rigorous in their Bible study habits.  Many college educated people don't read a book after they graduate. 


     ***QUOTE*****1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college. 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. 57 percent of new books are not read to completion. 70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance. 70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.(Source: Jerold Jenkins, http://www.JenkinsGroupInc.com) ****END QUOTE***

    Further, while developmental readiness for Algebra is traditionally considered to coincide with puberty, there are a few studies that conclude that many people never cross this intellectual milestone.  This does not mean they will not be able to graduate college.  It just means they need to stick to classes where their memory skills are helpful and abstract reasoning isn't important.  A remarkably high percentage of college graduates may fall into this category, depending on which study you believe. 


    So I don't think these "ministers" need to connect with low income minorities to get a flood of checks in the mail.  They just need to connect with people who don't know their Bible very well and can't or won't engage in reason.  High income would be a plus!!!  Ethnicity probably doesn't matter. 


     Odder still, I'm never sure if these people intentionally fleece the sheep.   I think many of them may be charming people who are intellectually similar to their followers.  They may  simply be doing what has always worked for them, without wondering if it is right. 

  2. PS:

    I've personally known 2 people I would catagorize as con artists.  Neither of them was particularly good at abstract reason, nor did they have any viable life skills beyond being likeable and convincing.    I have to wonder, should we blame a crab for scuttling sideways?

  3. I am in favor of media ministries providing "warning label" instructions with all money requests.  The warnings would be to dissavow any guarantees that money sent by donor would result in multiple returns somehow coming to donor, and that money that the donor's family needs should not be sent to the media ministry.  It is just common sense, and following with other such things as warning brochures at Nevada casinos talking about the dangers of gambling too much, the warning labels you see on visors of cars that warn about airbags and tipping over, and warnings you see on tobacco products.  In truth, Christian media ministries are laggards, indeed, in providing warnmings about the dangers of their products and services. 

  4. I think the low income target is correct, but I don't believe it is racially directed.  Like the lottery, giving money to get more money is most attractive to those who don't have any money – and that goes for red and yellow, black, brown and white.

    You are also right that these types of ministries add significant fuel to secular (and Senatorial) viewpoints that television ministries are crooks out for money. 

    While no one stands on Free Speach more than Chrstian broadcasters, the question might be would it be wrong for us to appeal to these "fringe" ministries to change their methods?  I believe God is faithful when we are faithful but I'm not sure I believe in the $1000 seed.  Would we be out of line questioning their faith or responsibly standing for the Gospel?

  5. Just look at the audience on their TV programs.  The audience for Don Stewart, Peter Popoff, and these other guys are pretty much all African-American grandmothers.  Phil's exactly right.  It doesn't take much to see these folks are being exploited financially.

  6. Do you think that ministries are, with their airtime choices, specifically targeting their audiences, or merely buying up the cheapest blocks of time?  It's hard for me to believe that some of these guys actually think about target audiences, hard sell/soft sell, positioning, etc.  It is, however TOTALLY believable that they're only concerned about price.

    Just my two cents.  I'd love to know your opinion on this, Phil.

  7. After my journey these past few year at Oral Roberts University, nothing in the sowing seed principles would surprise me. I’m glad ORU is moving past all that.

    What saddens me about the request for seed money is that the focus of the broadcast is off. The purpose (I thought) is to be a bridge between the church (ministry) and the people who might not visit a church as well as to share with them who Jesus is? How is asking for a $1,000 seed beneficial in furthering the kingdom of God?

    Additionally, if the “outsiders” already perceive us as using mind games to get our way, doesn’t the money give the same impression? And how does the seed further the image and story of Jesus Christ?

    I really struggle with the whole seed-sowing principle. I get the basic gist of it but I can’t find anywhere in scripture where Jesus asked for money. He usually did without. So the principle has always smacked me as off kilter.

    I sincerely hope that these ministries aren’t targeting low-income areas because that would indicate that we have fallen to an even lower level.

    Thanks again for the book suggestion – UnChristian.

    Remaining Steadfast,

  8. These ministries know exactly what they are doing.  They have researched the demographics, psychographics and the methods they are using down to the smallest degree and the purpose of their methodology is to maximize revenue.

  9. Here is what I fave found about the seed-sowing principle.  We worship God in spirit and truth, so… If a greedy egomanica faith preacher offers you a hundred fold return on monies sent to his greedy egnomaniac ministry, and you send him a thousand bucks, here is what happens.  Likely as not, you get a hundred fold return of that ministry man's spirits.  You will find you have a hundred grand worth of greed and egomania.  You probably won't get a hundred thousand dollars, but your family will wonder where your sudden greed and egomania came from.  It may take a long time to shake off that ministry's spirits from your life.

  10. Bart, Great post!  RE:  "These ministries know exactly what they are doing":

    Lyrics from "Heaven help us all"… 

    Heaven help the black man if he struggles one more day,
    Heaven help the white man if he turns his back away,
    Heaven help the man who kicks the man who has to crawl,
    Heaven help us all.

  11. Great post Phil!

     All it would take to put a stop to this is one whopper of a class action lawsuit (won of course), against the "ministers" who make the plea and the owners who sponsor them (BET, TBN, etc).

  12. Here is a recurring theme… if you have been reading this blog for longer than a few days you will recognize it… if you have had any serious discussion with those who want to make a difference within the Christian TV universe, it will come as no surprise: The underlying problem is the business model of Christian television.

    For the uninformed, ministries “buy time” from the stations or networks or internet streamers. In turn, the ministry gets to broadcast a program. The station/network limits the amount of that time that can be used for fundraising or sales of product. One major network limits the ministry to 2 minutes out of the 28:30 for this purpose.

    The major media ministries have a HUGE amount of money they need to bring in to pay for all of this air time. By huge I mean tens of millions of dollars. So as an example… if you need to pay $10 million for airtime, then each daily (Monday thru Friday) show needs to bring in more than $38,000 each day just to pay for the air time, then you need to add in the staff, equipment, coffee, etc.

    So they resort to extreme measures to get this money in the door. It is tremendous pressure. I am not excusing what is done to get the money, but the system needs to change.

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