One of the challenges of getting settled into a new community is learning the new TV channels. With three children, I opted for the “family package” which provides more channels for viewing. This should provide enough differences in programming to please just about everyone in the house. Unfortunately, having more channels in Springfield does not necessarily equate to a greater variety of choices. Getting an increase in channels means receiving a disproportionate number of religious channels along with several home shopping networks. I’m not pleased about this, and I’m not certain what to do about it. We’ll see how critical this is when football season starts and when TV viewing gets more serious. I could always use more sports channels. The last thing this preacher needs is more inspirational networks.
Jim Bakker is back on television. His broadcast out of Branson is called the “The New Jim Bakker Show” and his wife co-hosts along the same line as did Tammy Fae and looks like her to some degree. I watched a little bit of it tonight, and they were celebrating 1000 broadcasts by asking people to contribute money to the ministry. Bakker talked about the construction of a Grace chapel and asked folks who believed in grace to give him a $1000. There were incentives to pull out your credit card, as the camera panned over to items that you’d likely to stumble over at a rummage sale. Several pictures of Jesus were available along with nativity figurines and from my estimation, cheap looking jewelry. As Ray Stevens sang, “Would Jesus wear a Rolex?” Let’s not forget about the VIP club you can join if the price is right. This offers special discounts and allows you get these items for free. Sounds like a spiritual Sam’s Club.
I’m grateful that Bakker is out of prison and proclaiming a message of grace and love to his viewers. His remarks about getting to know his son have been particularly meaningful. Apparently, his experiences in recent years are forging his message, although tonight he was quoting from the Old Testament to get people to give toward rebuilding his ministry. There may very well be place for a broadcast like this one, but the idea of selling material things in exchange for financial donations turns me off. These items looked really tacky to me. Bakker’s message sounded like a remix of the old PTL club pitch from decades ago. No doubt he will have his critics, simply because he is back in television ministry after his fall. I’m not criticial of that part of it, as my only acquaintance with him has been watching him on Larry King Live a time or two.
I’ll never be on television or know the thrill of reaching into thousands or millions of homes. I’ll also never have to stoop to selling trinkets to church members while asking them for $1000 seed gifts that the Lord will surely honor. Do you think we’ll ever hear about a televangelist giving away $1000 away in order for the Lord to bless his own ministry? You can figure that one out. I recall Oral Roberts asking for donations to support his TV ministry and locking himself in a room. He said he wouldn’t come out until he had enough money and that “God would strike him dead” if he didn’t raise one million dollars. Roberts got the money from the owner of a dog racing track. The Lord works in mysterious ways, indeed.
There is a precarious balance between money and ministry, and one cannot love the former and effectively carry out the latter. As a pastor, I have found that there are times to challenge the people in their giving. But, I’ve never thought of providing pictures of Jesus should church members give up to a certain amount or offer VIP seating in the sanctuary. There shouldn’t be material incentives in order to get folks to seek spiritual blessings. Bakker sounded pretty sincere in his appeals tonight, emphasizing that he totally depends on the financial support of his viewers to remain on the air. However, you would think that the request itself would be enough to persuade his supporters.
Bakker is not the only one out there making appeals and I have been an equal opportunity offender when it comes to certain types of religious programming. TV preachers know how to use spiritual language in order to cash in. I wonder to what extent these television ministers would go to bring in financial support. Bakker and others might be selling something, but I’m not buying. The local church is where the real ministry occurs and I’ll send my money toward impacting our own community for Christ. Besides, if I had any additional funds they’d be directed towards getting a better cable package. Five religious channels is almost more that I can stand.