Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

The Luxury Life of TV Evangelists is Coming to an End

This subject represents a significant stumbling block to the Christian community’s ability to impact the culture.  Remember that in today’s media-driven world, perception matters, and regardless of your theological persuasion, it’s time to realize that some of our efforts – even well intentioned efforts – can have damaging consequences.  Yesterday we talked about what’s called the “prosperity message.”  Today, the next step is how the luxury life of many TV evangelists is coming to an end.

Talk about stumbling blocks to the culture. There is more criticism leveled at luxury cars, mansions, jets, and other accoutrements of rich ministry leaders than anything else.  It’s not a matter of being deserving – whatever that is.  It’s about our perception in the culture, and from that perspective it’s killing us.

The interesting thing I’m finding is that the unrelenting desire to be rich comes about 90% from the first generation of media ministers.  When it comes to today’s younger pastors and ministry leaders, I find that most live very modestly by comparison.  Could it be that first generation leaders grew up poor and were determined to show the world they were successful?  Could it be the second generation leaders grew up in a better lifestyle, and it doesn’t matter so much to them?

From the perspective of African-American churches, I believe we’re seeing a dramatic shift as well.  During slavery, when few slaves had access to the outside world, a pastor acted as the emissary to the white establishment.  He was the person who became the intermediary representing the black community.  During segregation, that idea still was in force.  In those days, it was perfectly understandable that black congregations wanted that representative to look like he belonged there.  So they wanted him to drive a nicer car, live in a nicer house, dress better.

The problem is, today, any member of the black community can be a person of success (Especially in a country where an African-American man is now president).  But in too many of these congregations, the pastor still enjoys being celebrated as the “representative,” and really enjoys living like a king.  While some black congregations and ministries struggle financially, their pastor is driving a Rolls, and living in a mansion.  But as more and more members of those congregations start asking these and other important questions about their leader’s lifestyle, I believe we’ll see some significant changes.

The bottom line is that no matter what the race, age, location, or doctrinal position, I predict we’ll see less and less ostentatious luxury among serious Christian leaders in the future – especially from those who are committed to reach the next generation.

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  1. Dr Kennedy also was a Dominionist so that was enough for me not to see him as one to admire.

    Only America mattered to him and if he had any concern for the rest of the world I never saw it.

    Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel and this means what it says.

    I am sure that this country will see the worse judgment of God more than any nation on earth for taking the gospel in Rome from the apostles and bringing it here to save themselves.

    Yes the Romans are here today only now they are called Americans.

    If you study history it is that the Romans were saved once and after the apostles died they took the gospel only to themselves and it ended up here and no further.

    Kennedy was a promoter of that.

  2. It's one thing to be blessed by your congregation as an honest expression of their appreciation. And it's another thing entirely, when that blessing is demanded and then, becomes just another form of addiction. (And it can happen to anyone of us if we're not careful.)

    If the television ministries had poured their on-air resources into creating "Must See TV" rather than just pandering for cash, they could've had a stream of income that would've lasted for a long, long time. But Christian broadcasters have never thought about it that way. Maybe some of the new guard can do just that. And, pour that extra income into production, and project development ~ rather than just another trip to the mall, or a salary increase. Let's hope. Let's ask God for financial wisdom to filter down into every aspect of Christian media.   


  3. It's about balance.

    There are pastors who lives in a million dollar home…those attending his church live in trailers.

    There are other pastors who lives in a million dollar home…those attending his church have several homes that are multi-million dollars.

    There are churches who pay their pastors very well, and do little for there community.
    There are other churches who pay their pastors well and give abundantly.

    There are pastors who demand, even preach, private jets.
    There are pastors who have frozen their own pay raises to give raises to jr. staff.

    Side note: I believe in being generous to the pastor…but I also believe in the pastor and the church to be just as generous. Don't preach about me needing to give generously and then turn around in a Tuesday meeting and ask me to do everything for free.


  4. Oooh!!  At the risk of speaking my mind…I love it!!! 
    Too many preachers living high on the hog while their congregation is struggling to meet the next house payment…they preach "if you only believe it, it will come to pass"…the folks believe with all their heart, and nothing changes….why is another story but, never the less it doesn't …then what follows for the congregant…a crisis of faith…self doubt…abandonment of the church for "other" paths….The CHURCH leaders need to be very careful what they tell their congregation and how they live by comparison…  Their is so much more to asking for God's blessings!
    God wants us to succeed, but God's plan for success requires that we live our lives with HIM as our focus!  We need to be the change the world wants to see. It is not about getting, but giving, making more of what you have in order to be a blessing.  I love the parable of the talents…that says it all! 
    Nothing wrong with success…lots wrong with living like the world!  
    Preach it Phil….be the voice of reason!!!
  5. Hello Phil.  Thanks for this piece. 
    It's a shame that many of Dr. Kennedy's TV peers failed to emulate his lifestyle.  Here's a man that tithed his entire salary back to the Church, relinquished millions of dollars in royalties to Coral Ridge Ministries (which he could have kept for himself), lived in a modest home, and was practically begged by his congregants to upgrade his dated car.  It was his desire live a life above reproach and wanted nothing to detract an individual from coming to Christ…and that included his lifestyle.
    One story comes to mind.  I am told that he would not go to restaurants on Sundays after Church because one day, while at lunch at a local restaurant, a waitress approached him and told him that it was because people like him (allegedly customers) that she was unable to attend Church.  While I am certain that this was an excuse on behalf of the waitress (she could have quit her job), it nevertheless convicted the man sufficiently to keep him and his family from restaurants on Sunday afternoons. 
    It is not my intention to deify the man because we know he was a fallen man redeemed by Christ, but can we find this type of integrity and self-sacrifice amongst TV Evangelists today (1Cor 11:1)?  If young pastors are looking for a role model, Dr. D. James Kennedy has my vote.
  6. While I agree with this article to a certain extent, it seems a bit short sighted to me.  "TV Evangelism" is for the most part an American creation, because you don't see it very prevalent in other countries.  How does this argument hold up when dealing with the Catholic church?  (The foundation of our faith!)  Isn't the Pope a TV evangelist?  After all, I see him every Christmas and Easter on TV….in 26 languages no less!  What does his house cost?  What is his salary?  What does the bullet proof "Popemobile" cost?  Does he deserve to live in such luxury?  But the bigger issue is….."Does it matter?"  Hundreds of millions, donate billions of dollars to that church, many who live in shacks and can only afford to give farm animals.  But I don't hear any of them whining.  Why?

  7. Hi Paul,

    We know that of all people out there that know TV evangelists, you definitely do. And I'm sure you have some pretty funny stories. What have you observed that bugs you about the whole scene? (If you could change the past in Christian broadcasting, what would you change?) And where could things be improved across the board, in your opinion? Also, what do you see coming in the future in the realm of television ministry?

    I know you've probably read a lot of our rants and raves on this blog. So, thank you for joining the conversation.

  8. <But I don't hear any of them whining. Why? >

    To a certain extent, because many of them believe they are buying their way into heaven. We're free from that philosophy (or should be…)

  9. Paul Crouch, 

    Way to shift the argument to the catholic church.  It is not bible nor is it scriptural that evangelist demand $40,000 to come preach.  While single moms are struggling to make it for their families.  Your argument is a lame way to put the spotlight on another faith so that you don't have to examine your motives.  God prospers us to do his will and reach the lost not so you can feel like your a success according to worldly standards.  And didn,t we leave the catholic church due such reason.  Please.


  10. The analogy to the Roman Catholic Church is a nonstarter.  St. Peter's Basilica is much more the product of indulgences than evangelism. 

    The issue with the current "prosperity teaching" is not with prosperity, per se, but how it is accomplished, both for the believer and the minister.  The true foundation for NT prosperity is found in Galatians 3.13 – Christians are redeemed from the curse of the law.  While redeemed from the curses contained in Deuteronomy 28 (poverty included), Christians are to be content with food and clothing (Timothy) while focusing their eyes on things above (Col. 3.1).

    Current prosperity preaching is founded upon both a superficial reading of 2 Cor. 9 and a wrongheaded doctrine of NT tithing.  Both teachings are not Christ-centered, but work-centered.  And as these doctrines take the believer's eyes away from the redemptive work of Christ, they work to fill the preachers' pockets.  Nowhere, for instance, in the NT is money used as a seed and a man's ministry as "good ground."  

    As Phil writes, future pulpits are less likely to be filled with preachers who show off their supposed spiritual maturity by the Rolexes on their wrists.  That should happen as a result of a return to sound doctrinal teaching about redemption, but it will more likely be due to the downward spiral of the American consumer culture and the demise of the Ozzie-and-Harriet ministry supporters. 

  11. When we have reduced the entire Kingdom of God to nothing more than just preaching and teaching what do we expect? Who will be the beneficiaries of this system – preachers and teachers. The whole system of Church is in need of a complete reboot and has been in need of one since Emperor Constantine’s ‘conversion’ and joining the Body of Christ in the process making Christianity a state religion – which was never the way the Lord was going to change the world. The Lord Jesus Christ has been building His Church despite this formidable tare in the history of the Church age but I think we will begin to see a refining take place – and this will become more evident when Christians become more confident in their identity in Christ Jesus and grow in Him and not an individual or a church system. Jesus Christ intended His Body to be a relationally and organically growing Body with flexible structures and systems to enable consistent growth and adapt to Him in ever changing unstable world. But as long as the only people doing the building are the preachers and teachers (and the rest of the five-fold ministry) then we will see less than 5% of the Body of Christ do anything relevant and the continued one-way style of church we currently have – and we will continue to have such issues as Phil has raised. But there is hope – there really is hope because the LORD always has a remnant that will do what He truly wants to get done on the earth.

  12. Sometimes I feel like Phil's tame Catholic…

    I think it's important to remember that His Holiness the Pope is not going to pass St. Peter's Basilica on to his children. (Well, at least, we hope not.) The Church abolished the sale of indulgences because people confused giving money to the church with devotion and penitence, and the priests were using it for their own personal gain. Isn't that what you're talking about? We seem to be ahead of the curve on that one. (A rare victrory for our side.)

    And the comment about the Popemobile, which was acquired by the Holy See after Pope John Paul II was shot by a terrorist is just silly.

    I have no problem with a preacher being paid well to speak, but they should be held to account for how they use the money, just as any Christian should be.

    Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles has a very nice new house and a beautiful new $250 million dollar church (it's worth a visit), and when he is replaced, it all goes to the next Bishop.

    Here's how I see Phil's point: if money is given to a Church, it should be used to further the Church's mission: if the Church's mission is to enrich the pastor, something is wrong. If people love their pastor so much that they want to give a gift directly to them, that's fine, within reason. But modesty should forbid indulgence. (There's that word again!)

    I don't recall the passage about "If you love me, give me things." I do recall something about "Sell all you have, and follow me."

    Thanks, Phil, for another provocative piece. God bless you, and God bless and all the good Protestant pastors and evangelists who selflessly spead God's truth.

    Your brother in Christ, 


  13. Do you guys honestly believe that the real Paul Crouch, Jr. would write a comment like that using his real name?

    Benny Hinn, Jr.

  14. IM late here..IT S May..Wow DR D James Kennedy..What a Man of God..I dont understand WHY He died so Young..He was 76 I think..Maybe God needed him…I know his adopted Daughter had a Lavish Beautiful Wedding as She should have..He was not a fanny kisser in any way..He rarely appeared on TBN or any other Christian TV..What A Man of Integrity..Not many Men left like Him(My Dad, he is 85)

  15. Why don’t they whine?

    Because they have been brainwashed to believe that the wicked pope is the vicar of Christ.

    They truly believe that he is God in the Vatican thtat the pope is the representaive of Christ here on earth.

    They keep quiet out of fear.

  16. Know what, I notice some of the really big TV evangalist now days, using the BIG letters (Phd, etc.) behind their name, so now, many of those that do have to have armed guards with them when they do these big city “revivals” (did they used to call them crusades?), their level of fame and fortune (God wants us to PROSPER, right?) requires this level of physical security when they are in large crowds, until such time that they can make it back to their “castles”.  They have their success, their beautiful homes, nice clothes, and ALL THAT, hopefully they have peace at their “Kublakan”.  I for one can not muster the energy to “bless their ministry” with my offering, while I drive a +10 year old car and they fly around in private jets, own millions in real estate, etc. Do not wish them any harm or malice, but some preach as if you do not want mansions and Rolls Royces you are not accepting the scriptures…to thine own self be true. When I want to be a blessing I give blood, volunteer at a food bank, etc., my time is my donation. Imagine the dollar amount that some of these prosperity ministers have spent defending themselves and some of their practices, hmmm?

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