Televangelists: Who’s Laughing At Them?

Written by Carter Theis

Stumbling blocks for Christian’s are usually things like lust or pride, but for me, a big one has always been the televangelist scene. For many people, televangelists are like a joke. A fake, unmeaningful slice of our society that seems like a scam. It would seem that some of the basic requirements of a televangelist would be: bad or weird hair, odd pronunciation or delivery of dialect, a blatant disregard for basic cultural codes of conduct, and a fixation on money and health. I can remember the old days back when I was in art school: coming back  from a night on the town with my buddies and laughing at the antics of these guys as we bit into tacos and shared hot sauce packets. It was our own version of Mystery Science Theater as we added comments and cracked wise between the sweaty rants and the goofy special offers for 3 easy payments of $99.95.


In those days, I was pretty wild. Even though I knew in my heart that I was on God’s side or wanted to be on God’s side, the televangelists seemed to be on the opposite side. You may not agree with my basic analysis. And certainly there are different levels of what I’m talking about. I do not consider the Pastor that films his sermon and airs it on TV a televangelist. However, if that Pastor is doing it because he sells more of his books, then he might be in a different category because the priority to sell books is the primary motivation.

You might not see the "hair," and the "gold chains," and the "special offers" like my friends and I initially did. But how do you justify all the goofy stuff that goes along with the God stuff? Why is it there? Where is the simplicity of trust, truth and love? In other words, if all the "repent preaching" and "give money talk"and "glory hallelujahs" and "odd appearances" are turning some people away from God, is it really God they are turning away from? I’ll say it a different way: If my friends think Jesus and religion is all a scam and a crutch, justified in their minds by what they have seen on TV, then have they truly had the chance to meet God and reject him?

If your answer is "no," then where is God in all of this? If we are called to share the Gospel, then shouldn’t we be aware of these images that are in people’s minds when they hear the word Jesus? What is our role as Christians? Would we be loving our neighbor if we publicaly rejected this stuff that’s on TV? Now, I don’t like it when people make comments or assessments about God issues and refuse to look at the Bible while doing so. So I will leave some verses that are in my head while I’ve been writing this. But these verses are just a few. Please do your own research and email me with other verses and reflections, (my address is in the “about us” tab above)

Luke 18:9-14 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I  thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be  humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." 

Mark 9:38-48 
John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group." "Don’t stop him!" Jesus said. "No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me.   Anyone who is not against us is for us. If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded. "But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck…"

PS: I used the word "religion" next to "Jesus" at the end of the third paragraph. To me, religion is man-made and not of God. But I used it there to illustrate the thought process of my friends who consider religion and Jesus one in the same.

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to “Televangelists: Who’s Laughing At Them?”
  1. i bet this carter guy has bad hair. it seems he writes these edgey articles. I like the scripture verses but there has to be some legit televangelists out there with decent hair and no gold chains. Maybe if this carter guy feels against some of that he should become one and try to do better.

  2. Brook Otis says:

    Thanks for writing this article. Whether or not people agree with you, it is good for believers to discuss these kinds of things. It is so important for Christians to be relevant to what is happening in the world today-not in terms of being popular or “in style” but to know the minds of people who are searching-who we are trying to reach. We are missing the point if this article becomes the battleground for people to beat each other up with opinions and theology. The point is to see that people who don’t know Jesus are provided the opportunity to see Him in truth and Love. Bless you guys.

  3. Carter says:

    Whoops, please note the second paragraph…i just updated this blog cause I noticed that as I was trying to slim down my thoughts, I cut out a part which needed to stay in:
    “And certainly there are different levels of what I’m talking about. I do not consider the Pastor that films his sermon and airs it on TV a televangelist. However, if that Pastor is doing it because he sells more of his books, then he might be in a different category because the priority to sell books is the primary motivation.”

    Sorry, to anyone who read this without those 3 important sentences in there…(forgiveness yall)

  4. I remember when I got saved. TBN in California was also known to me and my friends as Channel 40- coming in super blurry too from my bunny ear antenna. I personally never struggled with this issue- and I am pretty confident to say that I come out of a highly critical sub-culture like skateboarding- to where you were conscience to what you wore, what choice of tricks you do, what kind of music you listen to, even to what stickers are on your skateboards. My friends and acquaintances were highly observant cats, and vocal about it too. The truth is for me is that Holy Spirit broke past all that and captured my heart. I couldn’t care less if I Jan Crouch hair was 3 feet tall and rising- Holy Spirit was faithful to convict my heart that Jesus was real. And after I became a Christian, now identifying myself with Christians on television did not really bother me. I really think there are a lot of things that the church does that can be opportunities to be offended- whether it be style, name it and claim it( where people get “extended” on real faith principles I believe God has restored to the church), etc. Whatever it is, we have to believe God knows what He’s doing and He is in control. I mean- look how ridiculous tongues look like! You can get fully offended if you had no revelation on its purpose. You look like an idiot when you pray in tongues- however it unlocks the manifold wisdom of God in a believer that prays in their most holy faith! Expressing your feeling on how television preachers look, etc is understandable, but to criticize a style that we don’t agree with is to me walking the line. Jesus will Judge his church. I do believe that though the church should keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. The bible says is Psalms there Yahweh commands the blessing. I know some amazing Christians that work at TBN and I even used to watch Breakthru with Rod Parsley when I first got saved. So is Televangelists going to mess it up for our friends to get saved? I highly doubt it. Jesus is passionately pursuing this generation will fiery eyes and a jealous Holy Spirit that woos hearts past styles of Charismatic TV expressions that we, including myself, not necessarily comfortable with.

  5. Mike Morse says:

    I’m so stoked you went for it and started this conversation, because its needed. It’s hard to make sweeping generalizations, as the group we call televangelist are individuals. We could site discontinuities of it producing well and we can accredit it to Gods grace. I too have come to feel these people lead way to many people way from God and the message of Jesus. We know that God can use and Acs (book of numbers) to speak to humans, but we can do better and should. There are too many subjects to cover with in this issue and I’m not going to rant and create an endless book, which could easily be done and maybe should be at some point. I speak into just one issue that is prevalent with in televangelist circles the health/wealth prosperity doctrine. It is not in line with the teachings of Christ any more than Mormonism is. One speaker who has done a wonderful job talking about this is John Piper. I have had the pleasure of reading a number of his books and would like to post the address of a video that explains why this doctrine is so counter to the beautiful message of Christ. It’s just a start. Youtube rocks for this sort of stuff.


    Mike Morse

  6. Carter says:

    Ya, Mike Morse- right on bro. Well, know that I was really careful writing this article, cause once you start adding the pics next to the text, it really looks like I’m trying to start a war or something.

    I’ve had some criticisms come to me personally on this topic. So, let me suggest another way to look at it:
    All of us Americans want to believe the Muslims who say their religion is non-violent, right? But we never really believe what they say because they will never go public and denounce the terrorists. I think some non-Christians look at the televangelist thing the same way. Guys like Peter Popoff, I mean come-on. You think Paul (in the Bible) would shy away from putting that guy in check?

  7. admin says:

    Interesting YouTube video there Mike. I was quite unaware of some of the horrible gospel missions going on outside of the U.S. until I watched some YouTube videos a month ago. Impoverished crowds would gather around charismatic preachers who teached that God would bring them immediate, worldly prosperity.

    That’s all good, but what happens when the preacher leaves and their life/wealth has not changed, and might not ever? What happens when you try to mask the fact that we all must “repent and be saved” with the “accept Jesus and you can get instant rewards?”

    I can’t bash on’em too much because I have not even been out of our country. However, I think that promoting worldly prosperity OVER everlasting prosperity could be derailing desperate seekers and creating an inevitable backslider.

  8. Carter says:

    Mike, I just watched your video link…and I think I’m going to have nightmares! Not being able to see his face, along with the car crash scenario, freaked me out bro. I wasn’t prepared for the intensity… But, again, thank you for your comments and commitment to the kingdom.- carter

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