"distance" and "evangelism
," meaning "ministry
," sometimes called teleministry
) is the use of media, specifically radio
, to communicate Christianity
. Televangelists are ministers
, whether official or self-proclaimed, who devote a large portion of their ministry to television broadcasting
. Some televangelists are also regular pastors
or ministers in their own places of worship (often a megachurch
), but the majority of their followers come from TV and radio audiences. Others do not have a conventional congregation, and work primarily through television. The term is also used derisively by critics as an insinuation of aggrandizement by such ministers.
Televangelism began as a uniquely American phenomenon, resulting from a largely deregulated media
where access to television networks
and cable TV
is open to virtually anyone who can afford it, combined with a large Christian population
that is able to provide the necessary funding. It became especially popular among Evangelical Protestant
audiences, whether independent or organized around Christian denominations. However, the increasing globalisation of broadcasting has enabled some American televangelists to reach a wider audience through international broadcast networks, including some that are specifically Christian in nature.
Some countries have a more regulated media with either general restrictions on access or specific rules regarding religious broadcasting. In such countries, religious programming is typically produced by TV companies (sometimes as a regulatory or public service requirement) rather than private interest groups
The word televangelism
is a portmanteau
and it was coined in 1958 as the title of a television miniseries by the Southern Baptist Convention
. Jeffrey K. Hadden
and Charles E. Swann have been credited with popularising the word in their 1981 survey Prime Time Preachers: The Rising Power of Televangelism
However, the term televangelist
was employed by Time
magazine already in 1952, when telegenic Roman Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen
was referred to as the "first televangelist".
Christianity has always emphasized preaching the gospel
to the whole world, taking as inspiration the Great Commission
. Historically, this was achieved by sending missionaries
, beginning with the Dispersion of the Apostles
, and later, after the invention of the printing press
, included the distribution of Bibles
and religious tracts
. Some Christians realized that the rapid uptake of radio
beginning in the 1920s provided a powerful new tool for this task, and they were amongst the first producers of radio programming
. Radio broadcasts were seen as a complementary activity to traditional missionaries, enabling vast numbers to be reached at relatively low cost, but also enabling Christianity to be preached in countries where this was illegal and missionaries were banned. The aim of Christian radio was to both convert people to Christianity and to provide teaching and support to believers. These activities continue today, particularly in the developing world. Shortwave
radio stations with a Christian format broadcast worldwide, such as HCJB
, Family Radio
, and the Bible Broadcasting Network (BBN)
, among others.
One of the first ministers to use radio extensively was S. Parkes Cadman
, beginning in 1923.
In 1923, Calvary Baptist Church
in New York City
was the first church to operate its own radio station.
"Tell It From Calvary" is a radio show that the church still produces weekly; its heard on WMCA AM570.
By 1928, Cadman had a weekly Sunday afternoon radio broadcast on the NBC
radio network, his powerful oratory reaching a nationwide audience of five million persons.
Aimee Semple McPherson
was another pioneering tent-revivalist who soon turned to radio to reach a larger audience. Radio eventually gave her nationwide notoriety in the 1920s and 1930s and she even built one of the earliest Pentecostal megachurches
In the 1930s, a famous radio evangelist of the period was Roman Catholic
priest Father Charles Coughlin
, whose strongly anti-Communist
radio programs reached millions of listeners. Other early Christian radio programs broadcast nationwide in the U.S. beginning in the 1920s–1930s include (years of radio broadcast shown): Bob Jones, Sr.
(1927–1962), Ralph W. Sockman
(1928–1962), G. E. Lowman
(1930–1965), Music and the Spoken Word
(1929–present), The Lutheran Hour
(1930–present), and Charles E. Fuller
magazine reported in 1946 that Rev. Ralph Sockman's National Radio Pulpit
received 4,000 letters weekly and Roman Catholic archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
received between 3,000 and 6,000 letters weekly. The total radio audience for radio ministers in the U.S. that year was estimated to be 10 million listeners.
also began in the 1930s, it was not used for religious purposes until the early 1950s. Jack Wyrtzen
and Percy Crawford
switched to TV broadcasting in the Spring of 1949. Another television preacher of note was Fulton J. Sheen
, who successfully switched to television in 1951 after two decades of popular radio broadcasts and whom Time
called "the first 'televangelist'".
Sheen would win numerous Emmy Awards
for his program that ran from the early 1950s, until the late 1960s.
After years of radio broadcasting in 1952 Rex Humbard
became the first to have a weekly church service broadcast on television. By 1980 the Rex Humbard programs spanned the globe across 695 stations in 91 languages and to date the largest coverage of any evangelistic program. Oral Roberts
's broadcast by 1957 reached 80% of the possible television audience through 135 of the possible 500 stations.
In Uruguay, Channel 4
airs the Roman Catholic Church mass since 1961.
The 1960s and early 1970s saw television replace radio as the primary home entertainment medium, but also corresponded with a further rise in Evangelical Christianity
, particularly through the international television and radio ministry of Billy Graham
. Many well-known televangelists began during this period, most notably Oral Roberts
, Jimmy Swaggart
, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker
, Jerry Falwell
, and Pat Robertson
. Most developed their own media networks, news exposure, and political influence. In the 21st century, some televised church services continue to attract large audiences. In the US, there are Joel Osteen
, Joyce Meyer
and T. D. Jakes
In Nigeria, there are Enoch Adeboye
and Chris Oyakhilome
Controversies and criticism
Televangelists frequently draw criticism from other Christian ministers. For example, preacher John MacArthur
published a number of articles in December 2009 that were highly critical of some televangelists.
Someone needs to say this plainly: The faith healers and health-and-wealth preachers who dominate religious television are shameless frauds. Their message is not the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing spiritual or miraculous about their on-stage chicanery. It is all a devious ruse designed to take advantage of desperate people. They are not Godly ministers but greedy impostors who corrupt the Word of God for money's sake. They are not real pastors who shepherd the flock of God but hirelings whose only design is to fleece the sheep. Their love of money is glaringly obvious in what they say as well as how they live. They claim to possess great spiritual power, but in reality they are rank materialists and enemies of everything holy.
Similarly, Ole Anthony
wrote very critically of televangelists in 1994.
A proportion of their methods and theology are held by some to be conflicting with Christian doctrine taught in long existing traditionalist congregations. Many televangelists are featured by "discernment ministries" run by other Christians that are concerned about what they perceive as departures from sound Christian doctrine.
- Many televangelists exist outside the structures of Christian denominations, meaning that they are not accountable to anyone.
- The financial practices of many televangelists are unclear. A 2003 survey by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch indicated that only one out of the 17 televangelists researched were members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
- The prosperity gospel taught by many televangelists promises material, financial, physical, and spiritual success to believers, which can run counter to several aspects of Christian teaching that warn of suffering for following Christ and recommend surrendering one's material possessions (see: Jesus and the rich young man).
- Some televangelists have significant personal wealth and own large properties, luxury cars, and various transportation vehicles such as private aircraft or ministry aircraft. This is seen by critics to be contradictory to traditional Christian thinking.
- Televangelism requires substantial amounts of money to produce programs and purchase airtime on cable and satellite networks. Televangelists devote time to fundraising activities. Products such as books, CDs, DVDs, and trinkets are promoted to viewers.
- Televangelists claim to be reaching millions of people worldwide with the gospel and producing numerous converts to Christianity. However, such claims are difficult to verify independently and are often disputed.
- Several televangelists are very active in the national or international political arena (e.g., Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, John Hagee), and often espouse conservative politics on their programs. Such televangelists may occasionally arouse controversy by making remarks deemed offensive on their programs or elsewhere, or by endorsing partisan political candidates on donor-paid airtime, which runs afoul of the Johnson Amendment's ban on tax-exempt organizations supporting or opposing candidates for political office.
In 2007, Senator Chuck Grassley
opened a probe into the finances of six televangelists who preach a "prosperity gospel
The probe investigated reports of lavish lifestyles by televangelists including fleets of Rolls Royces
, palatial mansions, private jets, and other expensive items purportedly paid for by television viewers who donate due to the ministries' encouragement of offerings. The six that were investigated are:
- Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas;
- Creflo Dollar and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Georgia;
- Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas;
- Eddie L. Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Georgia; "DocuSeries – Sex Scandals and Religion" did a 2011 investigative episode on his alleged sexual misconduct
- Joyce Meyer and David Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Missouri (exonerated); and
- Randy White and ex-wife Paula White of the Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa.
On January 6, 2011 Grassley released his review of the six ministries response to his inquiry. He called for a further congressional review of tax-exemption laws for religious groups.
In other religions
The concept of using Internet videos
and television to preach has spread beyond its American Evangelical roots. In Islam, the related concept of dawah
has also given rise to similar figures who are often described as "Islamic televangelists".
Examples include Moez Masoud
, Zakir Naik
and Amr Khaled
, amongst others.
These figures may build on the longstanding da'i
tradition but also draw inspiration from Christian televangelists. Similarly to Christian televangelists, critics have argued that some Islamic televangelists may be too political
, especially those pandering to fundamental Islamism
including the far-right
Critics also claim that many will make significant amounts of money from their work and therefore may not be motivated by spiritual or charitable causes.
Hindu religious leaders and preachers have also utilised practises inspired by Christian televangelism, with this becoming increasingly popular in recent times.
The Hare Krishna
movement has a strong proselytizing
tradition which sometimes extends into the internet
and television spheres.
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Last edited on 16 May 2021, at 02:19
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