Engaging CultureChristian Media

Reactions to Traditional “Christian” Television From Christians in Hollywood

The Biola Media Conference was the largest gathering of Christians that work in the mainstream entertainment industry.  At the event I would often spend some time talking to the attendees, and I asked quite a number about what we might call “explicitly traditional Christian media.”  That would especially mean Christian TV stations and networks.

I mentioned a number of the largest television ministries, like Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Steve Furtick, Brian Houston, TD Jakes, and others out there.  The response I received from the conference attendees was sobering at best. Keep in mind these are media professionals that range from 25-50, and are Christians.  After asking if they watch some of the biggest names on religious TV, the overwhelming number responded with: “Who?”

Most had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.  The traditional Christian TV audience is SO lost on the upcoming generation – which isn’t a surprise to most of us.

The questions I would ask you are:

1)  Is there a place in the future of media for preaching on TV?

2)  What do these ministries need to change to reach the next generation?

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  1. "What is ageing and obsolete will soon disappear"

    Is there a future for preaching on TV? Only if it meets people's needs.

    What do ministries need to change to reach the next generation? Perhaps a little less focus on meeting our own needs and a little more on meeting the needs of the viewing audience.

    Hollywood has an expression for productions that only meet the need of the film maker. They are called "vanity films".

    In the entertainment business, the only real test of getting it right is "does anyone actually want to view this?"

    The first steps to success is understanding what business we are in and who are our competitors.

  2. 1.) Yes, there is a place for preaching on television. I'd certainly watch it if it were worth a darn. (I'm 30 years old.)


    2.) What to change?  

    * Maybe less wild-eyed preaching like a 1920's prohibitionist and more real talk. "Pentecostal preaching" abounds and sounds so showy to me. Real talk from a real person is something I can listen to.

    * More honest, real talk about issues that actually affect my life. End times, Islam, the homosexual agenda, Israel anything — NONE of those really affect my life. How about honest talk about stuff I'm going through and how the ministers make it through? Something real and practical.

    *  Stop breaking the teaching and true ministry every 90 seconds to sell a product. If I wanted to watch an infomercial, I'd at least watch something with pretty girls in it. Stop trying to sell me something, and stop trying to convince me to "sow into your ministry" every other sentence. Let me watch some good ministry for a good 20 minutes, and then maybe I'll be happy to send you a check!

    I love the ministry of Andy Stanley, Joseph Prince, Louis Giglio, Bill Johnson, and guys like that. Their ministries deserve a place on Christian television and would be something the under-50 crowd would watch and re-watch. I'd even set my Ti-Vo for stuff like that!

  3. I would have to say no!

    I think the pervasive, negative, perception that most Americans of today's epoch view Tele-evangelists and politicians has morphed into a complete distrust of those who use the medium whether that is fair or not.

    I also believe, or hope maybe is a better word, that we move away from the "masking" type of Christian living we are currently engaged in on television and off  and move into a more transparent form of living.

    Thus, for me, I just don't know if it is truly possible to be transparent on television. Even when I am acting and engaged in a character, there is always some innate understanding, awareness that there is an audience and you play to that audience. In acting that is permissible but when relaying the gospel, I just don't think it is.

    My daughter who is a buster and would rather watch Joel Olsteen on her computer than on tv any day. And, I too, am finding myself on my laptop viewing movies, videos, news, etc more and more as well.

    Actually, won't this be mote, if television is replaced by laptops and computers to view movies and tv? (I just read that, that was a real possibility in the next few years) – I've been reading the television will be a thing of the past.

    One of my favorite ORU Professors always told us that Christians need to step outside the box and create a new box. However we use television in the coming years, we definitely need two things. 1) to know our audience and 2) to create new boxes so that we set the standard instead of always following or adhering to it.




  4. 1) Yes.

    2) Maybe they're not meant to.

    Phil, I appreciate what you are trying to say but I also disagree, a little bit, with the context of the argument.  You're talking to people that are trying to be effective, as Christians, in the "entertainment" industry and the "arts".  I can understand why they are oblivious to the strictly church and "ministry" television programs – it's not their interest or their passion.  It's reassuring to see so many Christians that are trying to make an impact in the "entertainment" media but they're not trying to produce television or movies for TBN or the Inspirational Network.

    My answer to #2 is based on the premise that a minister with a television ministry is meant to reach his or her world and not every audience.  For instance, if a female minister has a ministry to women, why is it she has to try and reach men? The effectiveness of her "gift" is in her reaching women.  To me it's like saying a comedian would be more effective if he did a little drama. 

    I think the world audience is big enough for all sorts of tastes from drama to preaching.  Sometimes, like when 9/11 happened, people might even turn on their TVs to look for a reassuring voice and not a high rated program.

  5. If preaching was an effective way of delivering information to todays culture, wouldn't you think that the TV stations would be using it more in prime time?

  6. 1) No there isn't. If there was a place for preaching in real life, maybe, but I am skeptical of that even, so preaching on TV seems like a waste. Lets look at myself and other fellow Gen Y's. How often do we chose, outside of the Christian church structure, to sit and listen to someone talk for half an hour or more? Outside of academic pursuits it is very rare.

    The reality, which we must face, is that attention spans are shorter (try the length between commercial breaks on television). I find myself losing concentration 6 or so minutes into anything. Further, research shows that people are usually doing something while they are watching television, be it ironing, vacuuming, washing the dishes or homework. Try asking your pastor if he minds you bringing your washing in to do in church.

     2) Change is not enough. I think these ministries need to rebuild. Lets forget everything we have done and lets build it from the ground up.

  7. 1) Yes. As long as there is preaching in the churches, there will be a place for preaching also on TV.

    2) Here, the ministries have to adapt to each target group. The traditional way with worship, preaching, and an altar-call could still work for those who are familiar with the church service. But to reach the rest, they will have to change. The biggest challenge is to reach the youth. The Gospel can be preached by producing virals, add interactive communication, make it available for free, and the ministries would at least be on the right track.

  8. To preface my answer, I am a 19 year old Biblical Studies major, college student.  


    1)  Is there a place in the future of media for preaching on TV?

     Honestly, for me, it has no future. Would I sit down in front of the tv to specifically watch a guy preach on tv? no way. Sometimes when I flip through the channels I stop on one of the "preacher channels" listen for a minute or so then move on. Honestly most of them annoy me. Why listen to a preacher when you can be entertained by a much more exciting program?

    2)  What do these ministries need to change to reach the next generation?

    For my generation, in my opinion preachers just arent cutting it. I don't want to stare at a guy talking for 60 minutes. I've enjoyed some of the nooma videos Rob Bell has out. Theyre short, theyre more than just him talking. They tell a story. They keep my attention and theyre moving. If anything christian programs should be a moving story. I mean look at the stories in the Bible, they arent meant to bore someone. Theyre meant to illustrate teachings, and to cultivate change. A televangelist just doesnt do that for me. So what might work? Christian TV shows that arent cheesy? Why not have a tv show with a christian family, or a christian student, and have the preaching done through this families actions? Then the audience will see what a christian should do, and not simply here it from some guy standing on a stage. 

    1. So very true! It’s time for a lot of things within the modern western version of Christianity to get re-examined. Christians tend to get stuck in the era in which they came to Christ.

      For instance: if a person ‘got saved’ in the 70’s, they tend to go for the type of ministry vehicles that were effective in the 70’s. And the same goes for 80’s up to the present.

      This also leads to generational warfare within the church. When a 1970’s saint encounters Christian rap, they get their choir robes in a bunch. But they forget that the Pat Boone style of gospel music that wooed them to the Lord was actually contemporary with the worldly music of it’s day. It sounded basically the same, with changed lyrics reflecting Christian values.

      Like I said: lots of things with contemporary Christian practices need to be re-examined and re-visited in this hour.

  9. Phil,

    Great post!

    1. Yes

    2. a) Stop disbelief that nothing COULD be new.  Look at the modern world.  Almost all of it is new.  Look at media Christianity.  Almost all of it is old.  The problem is unbelief.  Though the Bible says God wants to do something new, his leaders nowadays don't believe it at all.  So they must stop the disbelief in the new.

    b) Seek the truth about exposing evil spirits — or wiles — of modern media Christianity used to get an audience and extract money.  You cannot shoot out the lights of discernment and concurrently have spiritual growth.  So expose T.D. Jakes' stop-breath, finish-my-sentence wile of emotional tizziness.  Expose the Seed-Faith horrible self-service wickedness.  (Be honest, nobody can guarantee a multifold increase from God if cash is given to Pastor Hidegreed.  What if God wants to expose Pastor Hidegreed's greed, and shut down the donations?)  Expose the rapid speech wile of Paula White and her copycats.  Any speech expert will tell you rapid talk is mesmerizing.  We must repent we let so many get away with this!  Expose the give-to-get premise as being fradulent.  Expose the love of honorary degrees, which the Bible says is "love of men" vs. humility of Christ.  Expose the lack of financial transparency that creates opportunity for evil shenanigans with money.  Expose the horrible lack of responsiveness, starting with the fact few televangelists will answer questions from their own assemblies, their own donors or anyone from the public.  (The richest man on earth, Warren Buffet just spent five hours answering questions at his shareholders meeting.)  Jesus answered questions.  Buffet answers questions.  The US President answers questions.  Televangelists don't, since they are above such — in their minds, anyway.  Mature organizations (The FAA, the US Marines, MorningStar Ministries, etc.) will teach there are no rules, only guidelines.  Why?  Breaking a rule might help a pilot prevent a crash, keep the US Marines from losing a battle, or help a sheep stay away from a wolfish shepherd.  So Christ taught there are no rules, only guidelines.  To understand this maturely, is to understand the rule of tithing has been used as a fixed rule to support media Christianity — to its own harm.  No preacher teaching fixed rules can avoid the label of hypocrit.  To be spiritually free in Christ, modern media ministry must abandon its fixed rule myopia, because it is just way too anti-christ to keep beating that dead horse!

     c) Realize this mindset is a 1950's mindset.  And look at the date:  2008. 

    d)  There are huge amounts of scripture the current copy-cat televangelists ignore.  So much redundancy is perniciously evil.  Why repeat inanities endlessly?

    e)  There are huge movements in Christianity that have no basis in scripture.

    f)  Virtually everyone in Christian media is averse to pointing out these obvious facts.

    g)  So much truth needs to be spoken, so few have the inclination. 

  10. Mr. Burke,

    Brilliant Post!  Thanks.  It's good to be reminded there are other Christians who DO see these things.

  11. Totally dude. If the healing ministries would show us everyday miracles…Benny Hinn sitting at Shae Stadium in the bleachers, eatin' a pretzel, and praying for the sick, stuff like that. Everyday stuff. Have him show-up at Bonnaroo! Man, would that get people to tune in.

    Phil, I'm almost relieved that the response was such. Now, we can totally start fresh ~ it's brand-new again.

  12. I have no issue with Church being taught on the major media-tv or radio.  But when you mention TD Jakes-Who doesn't acknowledge the Trinity, or Joyce Meyers, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Rod Parsley, Dennis Leonard, etc, who distort the true meaning of the gospel-source "Christian Research Institute" (You can hear it with your own ears.  Then what is the message you are trying to get out.  Was Jesus rich?  Did Christ pay for our sins on the cross or did he have to trick the devil in Hell?  Kenneth Cpeland saying he could have done the same thing as our Lord and Savior did.  You tell me Phil.  People can be saved to the Gospel in different ways.  I know someone who excepted Salvation after Jesus Christ Superstar.  They got the truth later but they sought after Jesus after witnessing that movie.  Be careful Phil.

    Loved you on Hugh Hewitt

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