FBC and TBN: What Paul Crouch’s Life Tells Us about Southern Baptists in the Twenty-First Century

by Bart Barber on December 2, 2013 · 83 comments

Yesterday Paul Crouch, founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), died at the age of 79 (New York Times). Begun as a single Christian TV station in California, TBN is now a family of more than 20 television networks the span the globe. By the way, the Barber family has neither cable nor satellite television, but even our plain over-the-air TV antenna picks up at least five TBN-related channels. It is only barely an overstatement to claim that Paul Crouch founded an empire.

The pervasiveness of his influence, the opulence of his lifestyle, and the particulars of his theology necessarily mean that Christian blogs will heap upon him in equal measures both plaudits and opprobrium in the coming days. To speak specifically of Southern Baptist pastors, although a few have evidenced toward Crouch what might be termed approval or envy, a larger number (in my experience) have chosen their attitudes from among indifference, distaste, or anathema.

And so, confident that others will praise his accomplishments and criticize his failures, I choose to write today, to the best of my abilities, as church historian rather than as pastor-theologian. Furthermore, I write as someone who loves the Southern Baptist Convention, lives within the Southern Baptist Convention, and observes the Southern Baptist Convention. What does Paul Crouch’s life tell us about Southern Baptists in the this century?

Paul Crouch, Southern Baptists, and Broadcast Media

In the story of Southern Baptist blogging since 2006, TBN has played a small, uncredited role. In 2008 the network broadcast a panel discussion consisting of Richard Hogue, Scott Camp, Dwight McKissic, and Dwaine Miller. The episode featured a characterization of non-Pentecostalism as “silly” (especially the views of Dr. Paige Patterson on the subject) and concluded with panel participants looking into the camera and imploring with Southern Baptist pastors to be converted to the gospel of Pentecostalism.

Also, a number of prominent Southern Baptists—influential pastors and denominational employees alike—have appeared on TBN programs in recent years. Perhaps the most recent is Ed Stetzer, who (if I understood his tweets correctly) has landed something of a repeating gig on the network. Paul Crouch and the network that he founded exerts some influence upon even the Southern Baptist Convention.

Whenever something like this happens, I hear about it from some of my friends. “Why are our SBC leaders appearing on TBN? Don’t they realize what damage the Name-It-Claim-It Prosperity Gospel has done to American Christianity? Aren’t they dragging the reputation of our entire convention down into the theological gutter when they do that?”

The question “Why are our SBC leadership appearing on TBN?” may be an interesting question, but here’s what I think is a far more interesting one: Why isn’t there anywhere else for them to appear? Southern Baptists leaders do not choose TBN from among some larger universe of successful Christian broadcast media empires because they prefer Paul Crouch’s theology; if they want to appear on widely viewed Christian television, there simply are not many other options available to them. Paul Crouch monopolized the market.

Sometimes it seems to me that Southern Baptists aren’t self-aware enough to mourn the loss of the Radio and Television Commission (RTVC). Of course, the RTVC was lost (in terms of hope that it would have any significant impact) long before it was dissolved. Whether the failure of the RTVC was a result of insufficient funding or insufficient dreaming I am not able to say. Perhaps it was a doomed venture from the start—Paul Crouch succeeded by way of entrepreneurial chutzpah rather than by means of a committee. But Southern Baptists never produced a media mogul—nobody but Pentecostals ever did. Whatever broadcast media hopes we had, we pinned them all to the RTVC and buried them with it in 1995′s “Covenant for a New Century.”

Dream with me for a moment: How would the story be different if Southern Baptists had somehow succeeded in Christian television? From the New York Times article linked above, “In 2010, donations to TBN totaled $93 million. The Crouches had his-and-her mansions in Newport Beach, Calif., and used corporate jets valued at $8 million and $49 million each.” Certainly Southern Baptists would have exercised better stewardship than this. How might Southern Baptist missionary enterprises have been fueled by a successful SBC media venture? Southern Baptists would be in a position to harness the airwaves to promote responsible, sound doctrine rather than the epidemic of error for which TBN has too often served as a vector.

Why have we Southern Baptists failed so miserably in our feeble attempts to harness radio and television for our ministries? One can argue that Pentecostal worship is far more entertaining to watch than is the average Southern Baptist worship service. And yet even the Pentecostalest (I just made up that word) of Pentecostal worship services isn’t all that entertaining either. TBN’s stock in trade has been the studio program rather than the broadcast of worship services. Southern Baptists, who more than most ought not to have depended upon their worship services to drive ratings, could hardly think of anything to do with a TV camera other than to point it at themselves while they were preaching (I’m speaking here not so much about the folks who worked at RTVC as about SBC pastors).

Also, I think that TBN has understood and has (MIS-?)applied a truth that David understood and employed in the composition of the Psalms. The Hebrews sang Psalms prior to the life of David. David didn’t invent the psalm. But during the prolific life of David the Hebrews began to sing psalms about every facet of life. Aaron and Miriam sang in times of celebration, but David sang in times of despair, or even in times of personal humiliation and contrition. David changed worship forever when he taught God’s people how to sing honestly but hopefully to God even on the darkest of days. TBN, likewise, has spoken a word of hope to the poor, lonely, and downtrodden. Even if it has predominantly been a word of false hope motivated by an avaricious plot for self-enrichment, it has proven to be more than a match for “Seven Steps to a Superhero Faith” when it comes to what the world would rather watch on television.

If there is a bright spot in all of this for Southern Baptists, it is the promising strength that Southern Baptists have shown in the realm of new media. Of course, the apparatus of the convention has generally alternated between belittlement and toleration of blogging and Twitter (after all, the SBC is Microsoft, not Apple). But I think all of that is slowly changing, and it needs to change. New media is more propositional and less visual than TV. Twitter does not lend itself well to sermonizing, simply because of length. The SBC is well-poised to contribute solid content in the world of new media, and it has shown in the success of SBCers online. Southern Baptists have some rockstars and some potential rockstars in the realm of Christian new media. If we will be deliberate and visionary about it, we may find ourselves doing better in the coming media age than we did in the last one.

Paul Crouch and SBC International Missions

Of course, there is a wide world for whom their 2013 is our 1993, where TBN rather than Twitter is the new media. A few years ago I taught Church History in Kenya. I encountered there a student who presumed that I was a prosperity gospel preacher (of which he did not approve) simply because I was an American. You see, all he had ever encountered of American Christianity was TBN, which is beamed by satellite around the world. Likewise, just a couple of weeks ago I found myself in Africa defending the Christian orthodoxy of the Assemblies of God and of other tongues-speaking Christians against the attacks of a black Christian pastor (my friends will appreciate the delicious irony in this). For this man, his predominant exposure to American Christianity (and charismatic Christianity in general) had been TBN-related networks.

And so, I think we must acknowledge about Paul Crouch that he has affected the way that the entire world sees not only him but also us. The average member of a Southern Baptist FBC Somewhere may see a mighty chasm between his church and TBN, but to a tribal animist in the DRC, we’re all the same thing. My experience with international missions is limited, but from what I’ve seen so far, Crouch’s influence harms the broader Christian missionary effort. Missionaries face the challenge of getting themselves out from under the shadow of broadcast charlatans without inaugurating an internecine shooting war among evangelical denominations in areas where the Christian movement is young and fragile.

The Media Empire and the Local Church

Paul Crouch equated the growth of his business enterprise with the growth of the Kingdom. While reflecting upon the expansion of his network into more cities, Crouch said “All over the country, [people are] coming to know Jesus.…Church, I think we ought to rejoice ’cause the whole world is getting saved.”

And yet, Crouch’s ascendancy has not resulted in any measurable growth of Christianity “all over the country.” Worldwide, the statistics for Crouch’s brand of Pentecostalism are rosier than in the USA, depending upon who is doing the counting and whom they are willing to count. But setting aside the question of statistics for a moment, there’s no doubt that whatever the details of Crouch’s ecclesiology, Crouch figured prominently in it. There are those who erroneously think that all of their countrymen are Christians because of their citizenship. It is an equally grievous error to think that all of one’s customers are Christians because of their contributions.

Southern Baptists did indeed miss an opportunity by failing to take better advantage of radio and television. I’m more comfortable with making that mistake, however, than with the idea that we might have diluted our focus upon the local church in order to pursue broadcast media domination. Jesus Christ did not found a television network. We have no promise that TBN (or any network we might have started) will prevail over the gates of Hell.

It is therefore most accurate, if we will evaluate the contributions of Paul Crouch to the Kingdom of God (or of anyone else), to ask ourselves not how many nations his satellites reach nor how much money he made nor how many Christian celebrities have occupied a couch on his studio stage, but instead, we must ask ourselves whether churches are healthier and more numerous because of TBN. Because Crouch’s doctrinal errors are of sufficient gravity to call his contributions into question, I would struggle to conclude that Crouch has made churches healthier through his endeavors, although the aftermath of the man’s death is perhaps not an appropriate time to indulge in excessive criticism of his life’s work.

Indeed, I only mention what I consider to be this critical failure on Crouch’s part to make this appeal to Southern Baptists: Whatever we will do with new media—be it Twitter or YouTube—we must be careful to focus our efforts upon the strengthening and planting of local churches rather than upon the accumulation of personal wealth or the vicissitudes of fame. To the degree that we can harness media to the benefit of local churches we will have done something lasting and worthwhile.

1 Kevin Sanders December 2, 2013 at 10:28 am

Good thoughts here, brother.

2 David R. Brumbelow December 2, 2013 at 11:10 am

I too lament the demise of the SBC Radio & Television Commission.
But a denominational agency has some limitations. They can’t fundraise like TBN, etc.

I’ve wondered whether we could have an agency like the RTVC just to make some solid documentaries of Church and Baptist history, and on biblical and evangelistic subjects. Using our college and seminary professors, etc.
Maybe a panel discussion from time to time.

But I certainly think we’re capable of more than we’ve done.
David R. Brumbelow

3 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Lifeway makes money. The RTVC might have done so, too.

But really, as I tried to acknowledge in the post, my quest would’ve been realized if there had simply been a Southern Baptist who had launched a channel entrepreneurially and had succeeded.

4 Bill Mac December 2, 2013 at 11:44 am

I think the horse has left the barn. Any foray into television media is likely to get us confused with TBN and we do NOT want that to happen. Any good that came from it would likely be negated ten-fold by the harm of being associated with that stronghold of shysters and con-men.

5 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Bill,

Although I am not calling for the SBC to try to rebirth the RTVC, I do not think it impossible that a Christian TV network could emerge in the future that could distinguish itself from TBN and such as that.

6 David Rogers December 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

For the sake of perhaps stimulating more conversation, here is a comment I already posted on this over at Bart’s blog where this article first appeared:

Bart,

I think you have an astute observation here:

“Missionaries face the challenge of getting themselves out from under the shadow of broadcast charlatans without inaugurating an internecine shooting war among evangelical denominations in areas where the Christian movement is young and fragile.”

Though there are a few television ministries that are making a positive impact (I count my father’s among them), I agree that God’s “channel of choice” for getting out the gospel and making disciples is the local church.

That is also one of the main problems, in my opinion, of judging the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement by its most well-known media personalities. If MacArthur and co. were to examine faithful Charismatic/Pentecostal pastors of local churches rather than focus on the media personalities, I believe the evaluation would be very different than that of Strange Fire.

For that matter, I think many of the most unbalanced non-Charismatics are those primarily involved in media ministry, and not so much in the local church.

7 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Continued agreement, especially regarding the impact of your father’s work. And yet, although I would place his work toward the top of televised preaching ministries, I do believe that the best use of the medium is found in studio programming.

Also, although a reply to you is probably not the right place to locate this, I do think that Sherwood Baptist Church has demonstrated exemplary leadership in the production of movies for the big screen. That sort of effort directed toward the medium of television would be (a) extremely difficult, requiring talent that I do not possess, and (b) amazingly successful if done well.

If an SBC entrepreneur were to arise and to hire Phil Vischer and Alex Kendrick, I’d sit up and take notice.

8 Tarheel December 2, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Bart,

Thank you for posting this. I do think that when respected and faithful pastors so publicly link arms and ministry with those who are perverting the gospel…it lends a sense credibility to these teachers of “another gospel” in the minds of many.

For example….Think back to the thing on the capitol when Glenn Beck (and way too many prominent orthodox Christians) rallied at the US capitol calling everyone in America to “turn to God”….remember when Billy Graham Assoc. waffled on the cult known as Mormonism just before endorsing a Mormon for President? I was so distressed by the numbers of people thought and still think that Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney are Christians because Billy Graham, Jonathon Falwell, and Richard Land said so…(of course non of the three actually said that…but their presence lent a certain amount of credibility to Beck’s god being equated with the real God, and BGEA washing its site from delineating Mormonism as a cult.)

In your post you interjected the following retort that many of us Southern Baptists often say…I admit I am one of those Southern Baptists…and I know I am not alone….

“Whenever something like this happens, I hear about it from some of my friends. “Why are our SBC leaders appearing on TBN? Don’t they realize what damage the Name-It-Claim-It Prosperity Gospel has done to American Christianity? Aren’t they dragging the reputation of our entire convention down into the theological gutter when they do that?”

I say absolutely.

Sound, orthodox theology and preaching will always find it hard to ‘compete’ compete with “prosperity”/”feel good”/”name it claim it” teaching.

I would contend that perhaps an even better question than your “what if we had given a better effort to compete”…might be;

“should we even try to compete with them”?

I would be interested to read your and others thoughts on that.

(not trying to steal your thread, Bart…I enjoyed your post.)

9 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Tarheel,

Thanks for the affirmations in your comment. I’m happy to reply to your question: Joel Osteen writes books that I don’t find very helpful, but I’m not ready to abandon the medium of ink on paper just because of that. Electronic media are just that: Media. It would be a good thing to make good use of them.

10 Tarheel December 3, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Yea, I see your point. I would make a distinction though….you don’t co author books with Osteen. If you did…you would be lending some of your credibility to him, no? People who have read your writings, or listen to your sermons, or know you will be like “Hey Osteen must be OK, Bart and he are writing books together.”

Here are some of the issues I have had with the ‘join’ the TBN movement…

Sitting next to and yucking it up like best buds with heretics on TBN.

Placing lone/few orthodox ministry hours or preaching shows in a vacuum against otherwise wall to wall heretical prosperity/health/wealth teaching.

Doing commercials encouraging people to watch and even give to the TBN network also lends a sense of credibility.

Evangelicals have done all of these things….

I understand the “get your message out” argument, and I am not a ‘boycott’ kinda fella either…but how far into this world, linking arms with heretics are we willing to go, and how far can we go without ‘weakening’ the true gospel message?

I am not sure that ‘we’ should be doing that.

I also am not sure that we (SBC) should endeavor spend bookoos of money to compete with them with a network of our own either…I think that money can be used more wisely.

11 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I was replying to your “should we even try to compete with them” comment. I took that to mean “Why should we even think about having a competing television network that is Southern Baptist in nature?” I wasn’t commenting about whether SBC leaders should appear on TBN.

12 Greg Harvey December 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm

The RTVC as an independent producer of TV-appropriate content had some minor successes before, during, and after ACTS. The ACTS and BTN launches were quite forward-looking at the time and were conceived by Jimmy Allen (who is probably most notable as the answer to the trivia question “Who was the last pre-CR SBC President?” as well as “Who was the Founding Moderator of the CBF?”)

That ACTS launched as a non-profit suggests part of the difficulty it faced: funding was constrained and there wasn’t a good way to improve it without going back to the Convention for more. In 1984 the commercial/public internet wasn’t in existence yet and the concept of delivering content inexpensively to local churches via BTN was a “good” but expensive solution. Essentially to use the BTN effectively you had to have a downlink satellite dish and some pretty decent recording equipment. Yes: there were consumers with that equipment and those of us who remember that time remember going to their houses and seeing shelves and shelves of VCR tapes. Satellite feeds were generally in the clear and relatively easy to pull down. But it wasn’t in the “wheelhouse” of most churches.

The ACTS network went through several re-configurations including the acquisition of Falwell’s FamilyNet and it’s eventual sale–with most of the RTVC broadcast assets–to Stanley’s InTouch ministries (which we discussed some just a few years ago, though prior to SBCVoices I think?) That included a private investment to turn ACTS into a for-profit (with mostly conservative but non-SB religious voices) to eventually joining in a partnership with VISN (VISN-ACTS) which opened the permitted “voices” even further but left SBs with the responsibility to still produce programming for the network.)

In other words: there were MANY attempts to make the RTVC work before it got folded into NAMB and it still was operated separately even after that (I found a reference to “NAMB West” in an article about the sale of the former RTVC building in Fort Worth: a place I affectionately remember as the home of JOT (the dot).)

Today’s “big” dish satellite feeds are almost entirely encrypted to protect the value for rebroadcast to media providers including local TV stations that use direct, over-the-air broadcast and re-casters like cable (originally “Community-Access Television” or “CATV”) and “small” dish satellite providers. It still is costly to “narrowcast” over the Internet but it’s far more accessible. The real issue for making that successful is marketing: how do you drive people to a place where they can benefit?

One of the interesting pieces from the ACTS story was this one in the paragraph in the Wikipedia ACTS article that precedes the VISN merger:

“This was made even more problematic by the fact that local Baptist owned resources including churches and schools were sometimes providing the downlink to the local cable system.[22] Also, partially because the Baptist Press had been muted from reporting on the matter,[22] those local affiliates were not informed about the deal until after it was signed.[22] Still others expressed concern that the goal of VISN had been to replace and supplant ACTS.[24]”

Other fascinating links I found:

Jimmy Allen resume from day1.org

Article on Falwell-founded FamilyNet that was merged into ACTS and then rolled back out to Stanley’s InTouch and now is part of Rural TV/RFD-TV.

I think we have fond memories of the ACTS launch because it was national and sufficiently bold to highlight SBC “chutzpah”. It emphasized Southern Baptist life as a brand in a time when we first were realizing the value of that brand from a conservative perspective. As a counternote: the sbc.net domain should have been taken up by a Internet network provider and not by the SBC. For the record, it’s blocked at the place I work due to it being a “religious” site probably as a response to practicing “diversity”.

I would try to get that changed, but it isn’t worth the political cost to do it in a company that is more concerned with image than it is facts. (And, no, don’t try to convince me of how it takes “courage” to make the change as it primarily has to do with the operation of the Convention so it’s very difficult to construct a “work appropriate” argument.)

I was thinking on the way in to work that another of the non-profit models that is currently successful–network-based, listener-supported radio–might be on its last legs, too. I’ve noticed a lot of consolidation as local stations have trouble in their out years keeping funding going. Now the networks–in this case I’m referring to Air1–are extending and doubling their fund raisers and asking supporters to support at the $40 per month and up levels. I guess it’s “hard” to stay solvent with a non-profit (or it’s related cousin “not-for-profit”) model…

With that said: NAMB wasn’t a bad choice for where to locate the media assets. The Brotherhood absorption was a little less obvious (though it was a declining ministry). The FMB/IMB understood for a long time the value of media-based communication which included both the “deputation” work and the Commission magazine. And all of us wonder why we can’t run effective marketing and advertising that highlights Southern Baptist life in the way that the LDS has.

I think the answer is really pretty simple: we have never treated that as a necessity in order to bring in money. Perhaps if we thought of it that way, we’d become better at it. Which is not a suggestion that we do that…just a comment on who has been successful with these kinds of networks.

Oh, one other thing: being telegenic is helpful, too. Which is why some of our celebrities are better off in grainy Internet feeds instead of on high-definition television sets…

I just don’t think we want to pay those prices without it being extremely well thought out. The abortive attempts in the past to do so should serve as a bracing and continuing reminder of what could go wrong. And yes: that was in SPITE of a repeated call for prayer for the ACTS launch.

P.S. A moderator must free this comment for it to be posted…I put in more than one link.

13 dr. james willingham December 2, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Too bad, Bart, that you never studied conspiracy theory; it ought to be a part of the requirements of every Southern Baptist minister, especially that of infiltration into our circles by those who really belong heart and soul to other denominations. One of the reasons why Southern Baptists never got into the television business and were sadly and sorely limited in our radio ministry was due to the Moderates and their influence. Dr. R.G. Lee tells of the fuss he had with Dr. Ellis Fuller, President of SBTS at that time, “Dear Ellis, your eatin’ peas with your knife. Love, Bob” To which Dr. Fuller responded, “Dear Bob, I eat my peas with honey, Done so all my life, Makes my peas taste funny, but it holds them on my knife. Love, Ellis.”
Take a look at the collar being worn by Crouch. Strange is it not?

I think back to the Assembly of God woman preacher who came into Nimmons, Arkansas and founded or took over a church there. She soon had it filled with people, and it was a seen of madness with people running up and down the pews and aisles and rolling in the aisles and, supposedly, speaking in tongues. Then she topped it off by disappearing with one of the deacons who had four sons. In the years since, I have had other encounters with people of that persuasion or been affected by them, one way or another, and mostly the adverse way. A few were good experiences, and a some of them were good people. In fact, the fellow in front of me for the doctor of ministry degree and hood at SEBTS was a missionary to Israel and he used languages/tongues in his private devotion. Even so one group has some declare that they had made more progress in winning people among the Protestants than any other means they had used.

I do verily believe that there some who wish to use differences like those between the Traditionalists and the Calvinists as a means to fracture and fragment the greatest Protestant Mission force in history. Isolate and segregate us from one another, and it will be accomplished. The other day I had one blog editor/director, whatever title they give to the person in control, tell me I could post no longer on that blog, due to my following or attributing God’s blessing to a certain theology and to certain persons (followers of that theology), but I even believe God blesses some whose theology is wanting in many respects. However, I do think one needs to deal honestly and forthrightly with any situation, especially, where another is giving a position “down the road” or like “hit the road, Jack.” All I did was ask the question, what about the blessing on those whose position was of the Sovereign Grace variety. And it wasn’t that I had been vituperative or vindictive. The editor warned me that pursuing theology and persons would get me off that blog. In other words, if I did not agree whole heartedly with their theology, I was off. When I tried to discuss the issue with him in private communication, he told me I was off and stopped communicating with me altogether.

14 Louis December 3, 2013 at 10:21 am

Too bad you were treated that way. That blog will miss you, whether the moderator and the participants realize it or not.

15 dr. james willingham December 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Dear Louis: Thank you for your encouraging words. I found the whole affair to be rather depressing. My Brother-in-Law who is a Traditionalist wrote me, “What part of BLOG, BLOG, BlOG, does he not understand?” All I could do was grieve and feel apprehensive that the action might be a forecast of things to come. I hope not for the sake of our mission programs.

16 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I don’t know what blog you have in mind (nor do I WANT to know), but I can assure you that the future of the SBC does not lie in the direction that you are describing.

17 Greg Harvey December 3, 2013 at 4:27 pm

That is very encouraging, Bart. Particularly since I can’t imagine a time or place where all Southern Baptists will be in 100% agreement…at least prior to Jesus’s return that is. (I still wonder about afterwards!!)

18 dr. james willingham December 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Bart, I sure hope you are right. That thing has troubled me for two days now. It has been a matter of prayer ever since.

19 Tim G December 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Bart,
Great thoughts within this post. Having led television and radio ministries in three churches I can attest to the frustration that we in the SBC could not get TV right. For SBC churches to get on a channel prior to the internet boom, money required was huge. In our approach, we went the cable route and worked via city and regional local cable. We could afford this and often were on 5 to 6 times a week. Yet even with this approach, our fees for Television reached $10,000 a year for a coverage of more than 1.2 million homes. Not bad, but it took a lot of work. I came to the realization several years ago that one of the main reasons for the SBC media failure was our small thinking motivated from our cheap approach to most all things err denominational buildings! We poured money into SBC structures on the national and state level instead of media. No commercials, no SBC network, no radio, and on.

The internet boom has leveled the playing field for the most part. I have more feedback from listeners to our podcast than I ever did from television and radio. And this is a good thing that I am thankful for. But I do often wonder what could have been? And now I am trying to dream beyond in looking at what will be?

20 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Great words, Tim. And I think your observations about your podcast are astute.

Churches can produce in-house video that looks pretty good for an investment of thousands, not tens of thousands, of dollars. Distributing it on the Internet is not difficult. All it costs to attract viewership is talent. There is a future there!

21 Dwight McKissic December 2, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Bart,
1. Thanks for your reflections and perspective here.
2. I don’t recall the SBC Pastors in 2008:
“Characterizing non-Pentecostalism as ‘silly,’” but rather cessationism as silly. “Silly” is not a word that I would have used or approved of to describe cessationism, but cessationism is biblically indefensible. Therefore, I do understand why one of the panelist (I believe it was Richard Hogue.) used that term.
It is unfair and inaccurate to project the notion that all four SBC pastors (including myself) on the 2008 TBN panel would have approved of the word “silly” with reference to any theological view of Dr. Patterson or to non-Pentecostalism.
3. There was no appeal for “Southern Baptist pastors to be converted to the gospel of Pentecostalism.” There was an appeal for SBC pastors to be filled with the Spirit. There is no “gospel of Pentecostalism”—only the gospel of the Kingdom (Mark 1:14-15). You have misrepresented what was stated on that panel in this regard.
4. You asked the right question; and that is: “Why is it that the SBC does not have a TV empire comparable to TBN?” I love that question.
5. I have nothing but praise and thanksgiving for TBN providing a platform for the preaching of the gospel throughout the world by men such as the late Dr. E.V. Hill, Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, Tony Evans, T.D. Jakes, Ken Ulmer and others.
6. I give God praise for Paul and Jan Crouch and the success given to them by God to create a network for preaching the gospel and disciple believers.
7. There are many souls that will be in heaven because of the gospel heard and preached on TBN, and for that I give God thanks for the instrument He used, Paul Crouch. May he rest in peace!

22 Max December 2, 2013 at 9:40 pm

“I give God praise for Paul and Jan Crouch and the success given to them by God to create a network for preaching the gospel and disciple believers. There are many souls that will be in heaven because of the gospel heard and preached on TBN, and for that I give God thanks for the instrument He used, Paul Crouch. May he rest in peace!”

Amen! TBN has truly been a vehicle used by God – the fruit is evident. Do they do everything right? Does the SBC?

This planet could use a few more Bapti-costals, Brother McKissic! Lord knows we need more SBC pastors filled with the Spirit, rather than self. I grieve when I see the passing of saints in love with Christ who tried to make a difference in their lifetime for the sake of the Kingdom … working diligently and urgently to redeem the time, knowing that their life on earth was but a vapor. Paul Crouch made an impact and will be missed by those who looked beyond the outward appearance and listened with ears to hear.

23 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Dwight,

I know that you did not utter the word “silly” and I know that you yourself were uncomfortable with regard to some of what happened in that program. As our Lord, who searches our hearts, can bear witness, I was not trying to describe you; I was simply trying to describe TBN. I think that the characterization stands as an accurate one of the network. I should have noted in the text of the post that you replied at length shortly thereafter distancing yourself from the content of the show. I didn’t simply because I didn’t think to do so.

24 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I also want to add that in my posts about you or directed toward you I try to be very careful to represent you accurately. It is because this post is neither about you nor specifically directed toward you that I failed to exercise appropriate caution in the way that it might have depicted your participation in the program.

25 Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. December 3, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Bart,

Thanks for the clarification. Your defense of the AoG orthodoxy, and other tongues-speaking Christians was quite a Kingdom-like vision, that I wish we would see more often in the body of Christ. At the end of the day we all belong to the same Kingdom of God, who have received Christ, and believe in fundamental/orthodox doctrine, particularly, as it relates to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

26 Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. December 3, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Bart,

One more thought. In Africa you defend tongues-speaking Christians against the attacks of an African pastor who is a cessationist. In America you defend cessationist against the attacks of an African American pastor who is a continuationist. How ironic? Now if we can just get you to be consistent -:).

27 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I’m consistent in this—and sometimes it gets me into trouble: I defend people. :-)

28 Dale B December 3, 2013 at 1:24 am

So, the Crouch family needed 13 mansions for their use and the son’s praise was, “My father was an amazing business man” — real emphasis on salvation there, huh? And you see that as ‘God’s blessing’? Get a grip, a charlatan does not become a saint because he tickles your personal fancy. You’re welcome, Dale

29 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm

“A charlatan does not become a saint because he tickles your personal fancy.”

Amen, Dale B. Amen.

Of course, I’m approving this general truth that you have articulated here. This would apply equally to all men and to every situation. For me to apply it to any particular individual in the aftermath of his death would be, as I see things, an unseemly and inappropriate action for a sitting officer of the SBC to take. So I’ll refrain from that.

But I will offer my strongest possible affirmation for this general truth to which you have given such eloquent articulation.

30 Tarheel December 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Bart,

Is that like saying…

“I don’t cuss, but if you will write it down I’ll sign it.”

31 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Now, Tarheel, I think it was a lot more sophisticated and nuanced than that. :-)

32 Tarheel December 3, 2013 at 4:29 pm

;-)

Of course, of course!

33 Louis December 3, 2013 at 10:44 am

Bart:

Thanks so much for writing such a thoughtful piece about TBN and Paul Crouch.

I am not a fan of that network. Can’t bear to watch it. In fact, I don’t watch much preaching on TV, of any variety.

I, too, can admire what Crouch accomplished in some ways and thank God that there is at least some presence on the air, though I agree it is so flawed one must wonder at times whether it is more of hindrance than a help.

As to the SBC and Television, I am not smart enough about that industry to wonder whether it’s too late forever.

I love the SBC, but we are not cutting edge types. And for a network to thrive (there are plenty that fail, even with the best of minds and talent – look at Oprah’s network and Al Gore’s, recently sold to the Taliban).

And SBC types are very self interested. I had someone high placed within the LifeWay world who recently told me that it is amazing how many Southern Baptist pastors believe that they can write a book that LifeWay should publish and sell, and they believe it would do well. Can you imagine if the SBC had a TV network. There would be so many pastors clamoring to get on, it would be unbelievable. And let’s face it. What appeals to “us”, doesn’t often appeal to a large enough cross section of a viewing audience to attract advertisers to pay for the network. I can imagine even if something like “Duck Dynasty”, which is incredibly popular, were to end up on the SBC network, it would be fiddled with by the committee running the thing that it would no longer appeal to a large enough group of people to make a splash. And then again, we would have the problem of earnest, sincere pastors believing that Duck Dynasty should be replaced with films of them preaching.

LifeWay is a tough enough enterprise to run. The amount of criticism it gets for selling outside the approved canon of acceptable books is INCREDIBLE. So much so that people even call for it to shut down from time to time. The range of Christian tastes and the commercial pressures are such that LifeWay sells things that some in our family do not like.

Now, can you imagine if this show were taken to TV. How many resolutions would we see at the Convention every year complaining about some show, some interview, some host, the balance of Calvinist vs. Non-Calvinist shows an speakers.

We could spend the entire Convention talking about what aired the previous year, and whether it should, and what should air next year.

So, while I firmly believe that it would be good for a network to be run by people with convictions such as my brothers and sisters in the SBC, and I would still support such an effort, my common sense and experience tell me that such an enterprise is doomed to either failure or ineffectiveness.

It is more likely that some Murdock like figure from the SBC world will come along and found a network, or even just a program that would be interesting to watch. Huckaby, whom I did not vote for, is making a great attempt with his show on Fox. He is very fit for the medium, though I have to admit that I don’t care for the show.

At any rate, this is a worthy topic, and certainly deserves hundreds of posts. I guess we’ll have to wait until another Calvinist dispute comes up for that.

And that fact, right there, will tell you in and of itself why the SBC would probably not produce something that people would want to watch.

34 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Louis, I agree 100%. These are PRECISELY the things that would make it terribly difficult for the SBC to have an ENTITY engaged in the media business. Democracy has a poor track record with regard to creative arts.

Mike Huckabee is on Fox. He’s perhaps the closest we have ever come to having an SBC-related TV entrepreneur.

35 Bill Mac December 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

How much out and out heresy is tolerable for the very little solid teaching that escapes TBN? How much strychnine can people swallow before they get to the salad?

36 Betty c December 3, 2013 at 11:27 am

I am a firm believer in reaching out to the lost. I am not a firm believer in evangelists begging for money and then reading how much people send and the poor and many others who are vulnerable about the Crouch’s having several mansions even one for the dog. I suggest to anyone to go into the Internet and find out about the Crouch’s personal lives. Get a grip people, people can have the mansions here on earth but they can’t compare with the mansion God has for His people. We have childen in the US going hungry. I suggest selling and give to the poor, This is what would please Jesus as this is what He tells us to do.

37 volfan007 December 3, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I always wondered why SB’s weren’t making TV commercials like the Mormons and the Methodists made for years? I always wished that the old, RTVC would’ve made some good, positive commercials for TV and the radio. And now, I wish that NAMB, or someone in the SBC, would make some great commercials. I believe it would open doors for SB Churches to be able to share the Gospel with more people. I bet those old, Mormon commercials made people think about attending a Mormon Church. Or, in the least, it made them feel better about Mormonism. Because, the commercials were always about family, and faith, and they were warm and cozy. And, if a cult can do that, and do it good, then surely those of us with the true Gospel of Jesus could make some very positive, truthful commercials, that would make people feel better about SB’s.

Bart, I’ve been saying this for 30 years….oh, wait, in case there’s anyone obsessed with catching me in a lie….I’d better figure this out to the “T”….since the late 1980′s, or early 1990′s…well, that’s about as accurate as I can get. But, if any of you can find any of my writings on some piece of paper at my Momma’s house, or from Seminary, which shows a more exact date, then please have at it. I’ll adhere to your findings. ;)

David

PS. Bart, I’d love to see a TV station run by the SBC, where they had all kinds of programming…from talk shows to preachers to music….from all kinds of SB’s, and not just one kind.

38 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Such a station might convince me to pay for cable again!

39 Tarheel December 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Volfan….

no one is obsessed with you.

;-)

Seriously, if that were the kind of “ball-parking” EC was accused of…your banter might be more appropriate…but it is not. He is accused of outright lying….big difference.

40 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I don’t want that conversation in this thread. There’s another thread ongoing for that conversation. Have it over there.

41 volfan007 December 3, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Tarheel,

I was just joking….good grief.

David

42 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 4:51 pm

You guys may be joking, but I am not. I don’t want that conversation in this thread. Both of you are brothers. David, you’re more than that: You’re a friend. (Tarheel, if we’ve met, you did not introduce yourself as “Tarheel”). I’m not angry with either of you. I’m merely asserting my rights as the owner of the thread. No more cross-pollination from the other conversation.

43 volfan007 December 3, 2013 at 4:59 pm

There’ll be none from me, Bart. I’m sorry I joked in that way, and I’ll abide by your wishes.

David

44 Tarheel December 3, 2013 at 4:46 pm

OK….I was simply responding…I am cool with that.

45 David December 3, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Bart,
I think the reason that TBN has had the “success” it has had over the last 40 years and the ACTS network did not is that TBN, like the other Christian TV networks, has been run by an entrepreneur and his family with little accountability. In other words, Paul Crouch, Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker and Marcus Lamb of Daystar (with the help of their respective families) have been able to “call the shots” on the programming their networks have offered. Any T.V. network established by the SBC would not have that degree of autonomy.

I am probably one of the few folks who remembers watching the ACTS network and I especially enjoyed watching the services of various churches – Dr.Pollard at FBC Jackson, MS stands out. However, I also remember watching services from churches of other denominations – Peachtree Presbyterian in Atlanta, First Methodist Houston, among others. It is hard for me to imagine any network the SBC would have now which would allow broadcasting services from non SBC churches.

Even within the SBC, there would be controversy over the same issues which are discussed and debated here – how many Traditional pastors vs. Calvinists, etc. What if a SBC pastor was charismatic or into prosperity teaching?

Over and beyond that each of the Christian cable networks has had a flagship talk show – Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Paul and Jan Crouch, and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. Who could the SBC get to play hosts to such a show who would be appealing across the spectrum of 16 million Southern Baptists. What young hipster with spiked hair and his equally coiffed wife would play hosts?

Finally who would play the role of Jan Crouch and decide whose sermon’s are broadcast (and whose are not)?

Because of these concerns, I think that we will never see a SBC cable network – there isn’t enough of a consensus to make it happen. TBN, CBN and the old PTL Network all had in common an independent entrepreneur who called the shots and didn’t have to worry about pleasing 16 million Southern Baptists.

46 Dwight McKissic December 4, 2013 at 12:28 am

David,

Great analysis. Yet, I refuse to believe that as gifted, talented, & resourceful as the SBC is, we could not successfully operate a Christian Television Station. If we adopt a Kingdom Vision & Kingdom mindset, recognizing that the Kingdom of God is greater than Southern Baptist, I see it within the realm of possiblity. I too remember Dr. Pollard & the old ACTS programming. In order for a new network to succeed it would have to reflect the diversity that is represented in today’s SBC.

Paige Patterson & Al Mohler both have recently released statements endorsing Christian Rap Music. Patterson calked it a form of preaching. I am so proud of both of them for their stands. I must admit that I am also surprised. But if the two of them are ready to embrace Rap Music, I am not convinced that the SBC cannot launch a successful tv network. If we can’t all of the criticism & negativity that SBC pastors on this blog & elsewhere directed toward TBN & Paul Crouch must be judged in light of the fact that he demonstrated a capability for great SBC preachers such as your dad, Charles Stanley, & others to preach the gospel in places by way of TV where the SBC was not capable of providing the same opportunity. And we really are going to condemn him? Rather than condemning him we need to be questioning our own inability to do at least what he has done.

47 Louis December 4, 2013 at 9:30 am

Dwight:

You might be right. Maybe people will be open.

But in conservative SBC life (of which I am proudly a part) it’s the getting there that’s the thing.

For media to be successful, it has to be out front. Creative enterprises are creative, not reactive.

And by the time we are through condemning something for years and years to the point where we embrace it, we’re behind the curve, and thus, not appealing to a lot of people.

Case in point.

When my daughters were little, they read the Harry Potter books and we went to see the Harry Potter movies. It was all great fun. They were in no danger of believing any of that, as their maturation into adulthood has proven.

But when they were younger in the midst of the craze there was no shortage of kids from Christian families (often homeschoolers) who told them that it was wrong to read Harry Potter and go to Harry Potter movies.

Here’s the irony. One of the kids from these families posted on Facebook last year how much she was enjoying reading the Harry Potter series. My kids saw that and wondered why that same child had to lay into them for reading Harry Potter years ago. They also noted that this person is now 18. I know that Harry Potter is fun for all ages, but 18 is probably not the sweet spot for a culturally relevant person to discover Harry Potter.

That illustrates to me what goes on in the Christian community sometimes with regard to cultural fads and trends. We condemn, we ignore, we dabble, and then we embrace.

Problem is when we condemn and ignore in the beginning, we are forever seen as condemning. We are also seen as culturally behind the curve.

Patterson’s and Mohler’s acknowledgment of some virtue in some rap music is interesting, and I am glad you are encouraged. But they are 20 years behind the curve.

If the SBC ran a TV station, we would face the same issues, I am afraid.

I remarked to someone recently that I wondered how different American Christianity would be for the baby boom generation if it had not spent so much time and zeal, in some quarters, condemning musical trends, rock and roll in particular.

It is something to ponder.

But at any rate, people with that personality distinctive are not cut out for creative enterprises generally.

But I would enjoy being surprised.

48 Bart Barber December 4, 2013 at 11:16 am

It’s not about the SBC’s being “conservative.” Mainline denominations have not exactly been trend-setters over the course of their history. It’s more about being large and non-hierarchical (less-hierarchical?).

Entrepreneurial work grants a leading individual enormous freedom to succeed or fail without much in the way of external hindrances. That’s easier to do in the for-profit space—people who think you are nuts will often nonetheless do what you tell them to do if you will give them money to do it. Those who won’t you simply fire.

Volunteer-based non-profits are a different animal. Regardless of what your organizational chart may say, you can’t do anything big unless and until you can convince a group of volunteers that they agree so strongly that they are willing to sacrifice their time and money to make it happen. All of that persuasion overhead makes it more difficult to work creatively, at least until you’ve convinced people that you are a genius whom they ought to follow even when they don’t understand what you are doing.

Of course, the risk is that there are fewer geniuses in the world than there are people who think that they are geniuses. :-) And the entrepreneurial system, in its zeal to remove the shackles that might prevent an entrepreneur from succeeding, removes the safety harnesses that would keep him from plummeting into the chasm and meeting his demise on the rocks.

Churches and church members don’t have to experience the fall very many times before they start trying to remember where they put that harness.

49 Louis December 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Good point.

50 Dwight McKissic December 4, 2013 at 11:19 am

Louis,

“But in a conservative SBC…”

Could it be that the “proud identity” and public perception which is reality, that the two most important labels and core values of the SBC are “conservative” and “Southern”—are the biggest hindrances standing in the way of reaching our nation for Jesus Christ, by way of television, and other ways as well? The majority of America is neither “conservative” nor “Southern”. Yet, in order to become accepted and appreciated among Southern Baptists, one has to culturally become “conservative” and “Southern”. One person who accepted Christ in California, at the witness of SBC personalities, then, sincerely asked the question–do I have to become a Republican now? As long as the SBC two most visible perceptions are that they are “conservative” and “Southern” they are going to have a hard time reaching people who don’t readily or “proudly” identify with those two monikers. As a matter of fact many are repelled by those two proud points of identity. I honestly don’t believe Jesus would wear either one of those labels, even if he had been born in Arkansas, as I was. Neither of those identities have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God, and that was Jesus’ sole identity. Would we really let “conservative” and “Southern” stand in the way of reaching people for the Kingdom? If so, we have misplaced values and identities.

I am not saying deny our theological conservative beliefs, or deny our Southern roots & heritage. I too am proud and thankful for my conservative belief system, and Southern roots & heritage. But, when it comes to advancing the Kingdom, my Southern roots & heritage should be a non-issue. My belief conservative belief system must be identified more-so with orthodoxy and a Kingdom Agenda, rather than “conservatism,” which is not a Kingdom or theological term. The two things that we are best known for “conservatism” and “Southern” are neither biblical values or terms. That may explain why the SBC has not been able in recent years to expand beyond “conservative” and “Southern” boundaries, for the most part.

Patterson & Mohler embracing Christian Rap takes us out of our “conservative” and “Southern” comfort zones. But from a Kingdom perspective, that’s good; and it will open the possibility of reaching others for the Kingdom, who would normally, readily dismiss us because of our conservative & Southern identities.

I have a mission church in Holly Springs, Mississippi, struggling to grow; in part, because they meet in the Associational building. The public perception is, that’s a White, conservative, Southern, organization that has been historically racists. Therefore, we refuse to go & meet there.The SBC must work to change the perception if they want to expand their outreach beyond “conservative” & “Southern” people. Fred Luter was/is a great start. But there is much more work to be done.

Ravi Zacharias has embraced Joyce Meyer as an effective Bible teacher. Jack Ghrahm has shared the platform in major events in Dallas with TD Jakes. They have cosponsored prayer rallies together with thousands in attendence. Jim Cymbala has preached at FBC Dallas on several occasions. Patterson & Mohler are now embracing Christian Rap. Ed Young, Jr has hosted Joyce Meyer. For the Kingdom’s sake could we not have a T V station that appealed to the entire body of Christ & reach the Kingdom?

51 Louis December 4, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I agree with what you are saying. Hey, I was FOR a name change!

A TV station will always have an orientation, as we do, but we don’t need to add things that don’t help.

Are you pastoring in Holly Springs? I have a daughter at Ole Miss. Will try and stop by next time I am down there.

Also, my grandparents on my dad’s side were from Arkansas. Grandfather was born in Randolph County, in the North, but my great grandfather moved the family to Texarkana to work with the rail road. My grandfather graduated from the University of Arkansas in about 1921 or 1922.

My grandmother was raised in Mineral Springs, Howard County, Arkansas. Her father married into the Bell family, which is still prominent there. My great grandfather bought 120 acres there in about 1905. That was sold by our family just about 10 years ago.

52 Doug Hibbard December 4, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Living in North MS, I remember that US HWY 78 showed an amazing amount of division and disparity from one end to the other–starting inside Memphis, then getting across into the “higher-end” segments of North Mississippi, then back down the socio-economic scale going through Byhalia and into Holly Springs.

Not a lot of miles, but a whole lot of difference in lives.

53 Dwight McKissic December 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Louis,

The mission congregation in Holly Springs, Mississippi is pastored by Telsa Deberry, one of my former staff members. He is a native of Holly Springs. We are very grateful for the support that he has received from the local association, state convention, & local SBC churches in the area. They have purchased a downtown facility-not far from Rust College( a small Black college of about a 1000 students) where they hope to relocate to when renovations are completed in late February. He would be excited to have you visit.

As a lawyer you would be interested in knowing that his church had to take the city to court and won, because city codes would not allow a church to relocate to where they are relocating to. I believe that his church gas great potential. And when they relocate, this predominately African American town will not view them as being “controlled” and representing “Southern” “conservatives” when they establish a seperate location. The name if the church is Oppulent Life Baptist Church, Holly Springs. Perhaps if you googled his name & church’s name, you could read about his legal battle to gain the right to purchase property in downtown Holly Springs. We are trusting that his church having their own independent location, that carries with it no cultural baggage or stigma(at least with some people) will remove one excuse people gave expressed as a reason for not attending his church.

Thanks for your feedback. I didn’t know that you had such a rich Arkansas background & history. I’m glad that you were for the name change, as I was also. You are the lawyer, I’m not; but not changing the name for legal reasons was a huge question mark for me. If the stated reasons that Bryant Wright gave for wanting to change the name were valid in the first place-and they were-…the decision to not change the name because of legal encumbrances was unjustifiable to me. That whole excersize became a whole lot to do about nothing. It would have been better to not raise the issue, rather than raise the issue, and then do nothing. But as a legal person, perhaps you understand & see’s it differently?

54 Louis December 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm

I will definitely look that church up. That is an awesome strategy. I was part of a new church 20 years ago, so I know the struggles and the victories. I am excited to meet Telsa Deberry and hope that will work out. I saw the signs for Rust College, and we may have even driven by it if I recall correctly.

I am not a corporate lawyer, and even though I am licensed in Georgia (practiced there from 1986 to 1989), I don’t know the ins and outs of Georgia corporate law.

The SBC is chartered in Georgia by the legislature back in 1845. I read that having that charter gives some legal advantage to the SBC. I don’t know if that is true, but I believe that the Convention lawyer, Jim Guenther, would have vetted that carefully and given an opinion. He has been around SBC life a long time. So, I basically relied on the assertion that a name change would create some legal disadvantage.

I agreed with coming up with an unofficial. d/b/a, which is essentially what we did.

But to add insult to injury, in my opinion, not meaning any disrespect, they picked a real clunker. “Great Commission Baptist” does not communicate well to anyone but the already initiated. It actually raises more questions than it solves. And it is not popular, as shown by its lack of use.

I am not in marketing, but I thought other names I heard were better.

I really hope that I get to meet Telsa some day.

55 Adam G. in NC December 4, 2013 at 10:26 am

Gospel Rap was going to be huge whether Patterson and Mohler acknowledged it or not. It has no company in Christian music regarding its ability to be a contemporary musical match for the secular emcees. The quality of content has no comparison in christian music either.

56 Tarheel December 4, 2013 at 11:32 am

Right on….

I was skeptical when people started telling me to check it out….but once I did I became hooked! I grew up hating rap as its secular variety (the only kind aviliable till the last 10 years or so…and really the last 5-7 years conveyed messages that were so completely not the type of lyrics/lifestyles I desired to listen to or participate in….understatement lol

(I don’t count DC TALK or KJ52 as demonstrating near the quality and theological acumen of Lacrae, Tripp Lee or Shai Linne. )

Ive said from the pulpit that the best and most sound theology in modern Christian music is most consistently found in Christian hip hop.

57 Adam G. in NC December 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Yup. Has anyone been able to “contextualize” to the degree that Reach, Lamp Mode, Humble Beest, P4CM has? Not even close.

SBC could have its own syndicated hip hop show. Talk about full circle.

58 Tarheel December 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm

LOL!

;-)

59 Dwight McKissic December 4, 2013 at 12:35 am

David,

One more thought. The success of the Christian Television Entrepeneurs that you mentioned suceeded not only for the reasons that you mentioned, but also because they had a Kingdom vision. That I believe was the primary reason for their success. They allowed diversity.

If the SBC limit their programming only to the historic traditional SBC type personalities, they too will be criticized by persons who would object to various theological positions that would be articulated. But if the Kingdom is being enlarged & expanded that is simply the price that has to be paid for that expansion.

60 David December 4, 2013 at 11:11 am

Dwight,
Thanks for your comments. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said: “If the SBC limit their programming only to the historic traditional SBC type personalities, they too will be criticized by persons who would object to various theological positions that would be articulated. But if the Kingdom is being enlarged & expanded that is simply the price that has to be paid for that expansion. ”

That is the key issue, are people willing to pay the price that has to be paid for expansion. Let me give another example of another Christian ministry founded by an “entrepreneur”, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). When Billy was in college at Bob Jones University, Bob Jones, senior, told him that he would never amount to much – that he would make a good preacher at a small country church. Billy however, took on a more ecumenical approach to his ministry and that is still evident to day. While attending a conference this summer at The Cove (the conference center for BGEA), I observed in conversations that a fair number of the conferees were members of Presbyterian Church USA and Methodist churches. While I believe that Billy Graham has been strong in his doctrine, he didn’t limit himself to the boundaries that would have pleased Bob Jones, Sr. To me the question is whether to take the approach of the Bob Jones of the world or the Billy Grahams.

In our modern American evangelical context, there are strong forces to go the way of the Bob Jones approach which is to narrowly define doctrine beyond scripture and isolate one’s self and family from the larger corrupt culture. The home schoolers are probably a good example of this.

I mentioned in my earlier post who would host the talk show such a network would have – if you had a young hip pastor like a Steven Furdick (for example) how would folks respond when it is revealed he and his wife just bought a 10,000 sq. ft. house (I say this not to pick on Steven, but to provide a contemporary example).

Going back to Billy Graham, the BGEA is still a family run operation similar to the Crouch’s but with much greater financial accountability. A recent issue of Decision Magazine had articles by both Franklin and Anne Graham Lotz. Billy’s grandson, William (IV) is now the heir apparent in the preaching ministry. This supports my earlier post that an entrepreneur (and his family) has been more successful in starting ministries.

A bureaucracy of a denomination is not as likely to start a T.V. ministry as there are too many opinions to be pleased which an individual doesn’t have to appease. I wish I could say the bureaucracy could, but the evidence – Paul Crouch, Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker and Billy Graham, says otherwise.

61 David Rogers December 4, 2013 at 12:45 am

FYI, the David who posted the last comments here is not me. I do agree, though, he has some good observations.

62 David Rogers December 4, 2013 at 12:56 am

In the following point, I may not be in agreement with you, though, Dwight. Not sure what the other David thinks. Though there certainly is a possibility of going overboard in either direction, in our current American church culture (and in many other places as well), I believe there is greater need for more accountabilty than there is for more entrepreneurship. As Americans, we specialize in entrpreneurship. And though it does have its value and place in the work of the Kingdom, its pitfalls are also many, especially if they are not balanced by appropriate accountability.

63 Dwight McKissic December 4, 2013 at 1:04 am

David,

Accountability definitely needs to be in place. But it should not stifle creativity & connecting & communicating with cultures different from our own. The SBC is capable of maintaining appropriate accountability.and allowing for creativity. Again, the Patterson-Mohler remarks on Christian Rap certainly lead me to that conclusion.

64 David Rogers December 4, 2013 at 1:10 am

Some more thoughts I wrote several years back on Americans in ministry and entrepreneurial spirit:

http://loveeachstone.blogspot.com/2006/12/entrepreneurial-spirit.html?m=1

65 Bart Barber December 4, 2013 at 11:25 am

The balance to be struck in order to be successful, in my opinion, is to create a television enterprise that is simply aligned with the market that is evangelicalism. After all, I’ve been saying for a long time that evangelicalism (as it exists in the US, at least, with some influence upon Western Europe) is more a market than a theology. The book and music market has already demonstrated the winning strategy:

1. Baptists have to tone down their ecclesiology.
2. Presbyterians have to tone down their soteriology.
3. Pentecostals et al have to tone down their pneumatology.
4. The product has to be at least ALMOST as good as its secular counterparts.
5. Controversy, if you will generate it, must not fall along denominational lines. Controversy sells, but only new controversy sells. Tired, old controversy (whether worthwhile or not) doesn’t sell.

66 Dwight McKissic December 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Bart,

Bingo!!! I always thought you would be the next President of SWBTS. But with the winning TV formula that you just articulated, I think you ought to head up the new SBC Television Network.-:).

67 Bart Barber December 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Knowing what would succeed and being called (or even wanting to be called) to make it happen are two different things. :-)

68 Greg Harvey December 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Hmm…if that works for a television network, perhaps it’s a good start for redefining the SBC as well…

69 Bart Barber December 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Sure, if the objectives of a television network and a church are the same (get big, make lots of money). If, on the other hand, the “tone down”s above reflected any element of truth, and truth was something about which you ought to care at all…

70 Greg Harvey December 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm

I’m sorry. I thought you were making a salient point about how to re-market something with a Christian brand attached to it in order to demonstrate to “the world” that we were serious about the enterprise not specifically about how much money it would make. In retrospect I see that you were just humoring us with your comment.

71 David Rogers December 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm

“The word Christian, when applied to anything other than a human being, is a marketing term.” —Derek Webb

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Derek-Webb-Interview.mp3

72 Bart Barber December 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Not “humoring” at all. It is possible for me to know what it would need to do in order to succeed while at the same time believing that the cost of success would be too high.

73 Bart Barber December 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Amen, David.

74 Greg Harvey December 5, 2013 at 8:35 am

By exactly the same logic, “Southern Baptist” is merely a marketing term and one of questionable salience in the history of Christianity as a movement. That use of “Christian” is also suspect, but since all three if us had some form of church history class at an SB seminary, I guess we’ll demur on seeking to parse it further…

75 David Rogers December 4, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Here is an interesting and fairly insightful article on this topic by J. Lee Grady, former editor of Charisma Magazine: “It’s Time to Reboot Christian Television”

http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/fire-in-my-bones/19293-it-s-time-to-reboot-christian-television

76 Dwight McKissic December 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm

David,

Thanks for the link. Great article. Sounds as if he adresses many of the concerns expressed here regarding TBN. Thanks again.

77 Bart Barber December 4, 2013 at 8:09 pm

:-)

I just saw that on Facebook and was on the way here to post the same link. :-)

78 Brady justice December 4, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I have never written to anyone on a blog, but I am amazed at how little
Any of these people know about the radio and television commission.
None of this comes close to the real story

79 Stuart December 4, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Off the top of my head (as in “I really haven’t fleshed this out yet, but here goes)…

With the advent of Apple TV, Roku, etc. there’s an opportunity to do most of what ACTS did, but with a whole lot less overhead. Several churches (most notably Saddleback, Ed Young Jr., etc.) already have their own Roku “channel” and there are other entrepeneurial channels that label themselves “Baptist churches” or “Southern Baptist Churches.” I have no idea who runs them, but they feature the preaching (and some original productions) from several SBC churches of various sizes and stripes. It seems like some entity, (Lifeway, NAMB, or the EC) could probably very inexpensively become the proprietor of an SBC AppleTV/Roku channel, which could be a sort of clearinghouse for any SBC church with the money to spend on production costs. It would mostly likely feature preaching predominantly, but could also feature any original programming the participating churches produce. It would also cost the churches a fraction of what they pay for air time for cable/satellite/over-the-air programming. Granted, it wouldn’t have nearly the penetration of cable or satellite, but since just about everyone has the internet these days the market is only going to grow.

80 Bart Barber December 4, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Exactly. New media (by which I mean Internet-based media) can re-define the rules of the media game.

81 C. R. Johnson January 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm

How about prayers for the wife that lost her husband? Or the children that lost their father and grandfather? One thing I always noticed on TBN was all were welcomed regardless of race or color. That has not always been evident with the SBC. If you disagreed with anything on TBN then forgive them 7 times 70 and pray for them to get back on track. In other words do what JESUS did and told us to do. PRAY!!!!

82 Marilyln Fox February 13, 2014 at 6:07 pm

I am a born and bred Southern Baptist who at the request of several loyal members of our church am teaching a class on what Baptist Believe. as a result of trying to locate information on The Radio-TV commission happened on your article. I wonder how many of the commenters have prayerfully, with Bible in hand, watched TBN/ the other ‘Christian’ networks. Sometimes we are quick to condemn all “name it and claim it” ministers while at the same time not considering our own preachings and monetary drives. Also do Baptist Pastors not have investments, property etc. that they are quick to give God the credit for blessing them with ? And while I’m at, it where do we get the nerve to say some Biblical practices have been done away with? I thought Jesus said one jot nor tittle would pass away. Could it just be that “we don’t want to…”. Why don’t we just let the Word speak to and deal with each of us individually?

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