Televangelism can be defined as the use of television networks to spread the Christian faith and its teachings. On the other hand, a televangelist can be defined as a person, basically a Christian minister who fully dedicates his entire or part of his ministerial work to broadcast on television. Presently, most televangelists posses institutions where they hold their sermons and carry out their activities of spreading the gospel. The difference between televangelists and other religious institutions and organizations is that they rely majorly on television in sending their messages across. Their messages are normally conveyed in form of strong and mesmerizing sermons on our televisions.
Basically, televangelism owes its origins in America where it started as a result of the availability of many televisions and the presence of a large and almost always expanding Christian population. During the mid 20th century, the media houses in the united nation did not face any regulatory restrictions from the government and therefore it was easier for an evangelist to establish a new a cable TV provided that he or she could afford it. The presence of an enormous Christian population made the funding of such TV networks and cable TVs to be readily available to the Christian ministers. America and Canada were among the first pioneers of televangelism mainly because their countries’ populations were composed of many Christians. The availability of international broadcast networks enabled many American televangelists to reach a wider audience. Some countries over the world have a strictly regulated media with stringent rules governing the broadcast of religious information, and in such countries, religious programmes are often handled by television production companies. Countries such as Brazil have an evangelism work that is produced domestically. Most of the televangelists in the developing world are often regular church leaders who frequent their churches which are normally very big. In spite of this, most of their followers are derived from TV and radio audiences. Majority of those involved in televangelism in the third world nations do not have a distinct congregation and therefore entirely rely on TV for passing information about the gospel and funding. Some of the earliest Christian broadcasting networks include the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the God channel and the Bible Broadcasting Network (BBN).
Development of televangelism
Over the years, televangelism has with no doubt grown by heaps and bounds. Television broadcast of religious information began in the period of 1930’s but it did not become well established until after the end of the Second World War. A Roman Catholic archbishop known as Fulton Sheen was the first person to successfully preach on television. He did this in the year 1951, after twenty years of teaching using radio broadcasts. His program ran from early 1950’s to late 1960’s making a very significant impact on the development of television evangelism. Financial problem was the most significant problem facing evangelists at that time. The largest breakthrough in televangelism at that time was accomplished by a man known as Oral Roberts who established the largest broadcast in 1957.He was able to reach over eighty percent of the possible television audience across one hundred and thirty five channels (Kenneth, 2006).in the periods of 1960’s and 970’s, radio evangelism was completely overtaken by television ministry. There was the emergence of very prominent televangelists during this period due to the availability of numerous television networks. Some of these evangelists included Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Fallwell, Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye. The 21st century has seen more and more growth of television audiences with services such as those of Robert Schuler attracting very large audiences.
Jim Bakker is an American televangelist and was born on 2nd January 1940.He was married to Tammy Faye Bakker whom he later divorced and together with his former wife; they hosted the famous PTL Club, a programme that taught the faith of assemblies of God church. He attended North Central University, a bible college that offered him the knowledge of Christian teachings and therefore formed the basis to start evangelism. He married Tammy in 1961 and they were blessed with two children Tammy Sue and Jamie Charles. On the other hand, Tammy Faye was born on 7th march 1942 in Minnesota alongside seven other siblings. She developed a desire to become a missionary, a condition that she got from the devoted Christian life that was instilled into her by her mother through her strict teachings. She enrolled at a college in Minneapolis called North Central Bible College where she became friends with many people including a fellow classmate, Jim Bakker who she would later marry. They were later suspended from the school by the administrators due to the strict rules that governed the institution.
They came to be referred to as the Bakkers and in 1966 they started working at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (PRCBN) where they helped improve the standards of the network and its growth. Following their continued success of their programmes that included interviews and puppets, they were able to create the programme known as The 700 Club that was among the longest-aired and most successful televangelism programmes. Through their efforts, the children had something for teaching evangelism due to the creation and airing of the famous Jim and Tammy show that entertained them with various movies including ‘Davey and Goliath’. They then moved to California where they worked with Paul and Jan crouch, who were their childhood pastors. Together, they produced a show which was featured in the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). They later moved to Charlotte where they began the PTL Club that grew tremendously by being corporate in more than one hundred TV stations (Frank, 2009). After being supported by close to twelve million viewers, the Bakkers started their own network known as the PTL Television network that helped them grow further in their career, a fact they attributed to their indiscriminatory attitude towards all denominations regardless of their races and sexual differences. They invested heavily in entertainment parks and institutions that helped in spreading the gospel. They constructed Heritage USA that was the most prestigious and successful amusement parks in the united states in the earlier part of the 1980’s and also set up a satellite system that enabled the distribution of their network all day long for 24 hours. This was not a mere achievement in the development of televangelism and therefore their efforts were remarkably recognized. It was also the most profitable televangelist network at the time since the viewers contributed close to a million dollars a week, with the proceeds going to the expansion of the park as well as enhancing the mission of PTL. People argued that the Bakkers took an excess of proceeds from a nonprofit organization and therefore this was a source of criticism. The Bakkers parted ways in 1992 after a thirty one year-relationship and Tammy Faye got married to Roe Messner the following year who was later to be imprisoned for committing fraud.
Role of televangelism in the spread of Christianity
The use of radio and television broadcasts for their role in the spread of Christian salvation by conveying messages through their strong and attractive ways in putting messages across to Christians has been in use for more seven decades now. Televangelism is used as a tool of bringing the word of God straight to families at their homes and therefore large numbers of audiences are reached. They majorly rely on the belief in faith and also the belief in the rapture at the final times of the earth taking Christians physically up to heaven before Jews and the rest of the non Christians break into fight.
Televangelism has played a very significant role in the spread of Christianity since it incorporates the use of media that the general population enjoys associating with, the TV. This has been a better alternative to the use of other approaches to evangelism such as open air preaching and door to door preaching that are rather boring to the major section of the audience. The use of TV has seen the rise in the number of people who appreciate and embrace Christianity since the information is conveyed in a more friendly way with the perfect combination of both visual and audio technologies. Televangelism attracts all types of audiences including the youth who are sometimes hard to convince in a one to one situation.
Another way in which televangelism enhances the spread of Christianity is the employment of internet use. Most of the ministries involved have websites that provide a forum for online discussions with their followers. Using such websites, they are able to post information about Christianity and its teachings and therefore further improve the spread of Christianity.
Moreover, most of these ministries have heavily invested in the publishing and film industries some owning renowned film agencies. These companies are able to create almost all forms of entertainment concerning Christianity and therefore they are able to reach more audience than using television alone. Some of the entertainment works produced include books, television shows, video games and movies. From the sale and letting of these materials to their followers, they are able to generate considerable amounts of funds to the tune of billions which are used for the continuity of other activities in missionary work.
Through the funds generated from the various activities and Christian materials produced by televangelists, these ministers are able to set up theological colleges that offer training to aspiring future ministers. Most of these colleges provide almost all requirements of the students being trained and therefore it only takes a calling by the voice of God to pursue theological studies. The training of students on Christianity and its spread ensures that the world does not run out of people to spread the gospel.
In addition, televangelism can also change a population’s perception about their lives. This is because most of the followers of these Christian mega churches make their audience believe that poverty is a curse from the almighty and therefore each and every person should toil effortlessly to eradicate the menace. This encourages the listeners and viewers to learn that donating to others is the only way of saving oneself from the curse. Therefore these followers may even donate every thing up to the last coin just to ensure that God is happy. Ultimately, this leads to the amassing of wealth by most ministers.
The use of drama in the quest to spread the gospel was an ideal method to enhance Christianity. It was especially put to the use when a televangelist known as Swaggart was caught in a sex scandal with a prostitute. He therefore schemed a way of convincing his congregation that he was not involved in anything like that and after thinking for a while, he recorded a programme on TV focusing on forgiveness among Christians. As a result, many Christians at the time came to understand the importance of forgiveness among them further spreading a virtue of the Holy Spirit.
The use of television as a modern way of spreading Christianity is the basis of transformation from the traditional and not so interesting methods of doing the same since modern societies need a forum for communication through pictures and sound since their combination does not cause distractions on the recipient of the message. Anything that requires reflection be it Christian or otherwise requires the use of television for it’s convey. For evangelists to keep on attracting more members to their congregation, they need to employ eye-catching visuals and learn to speak in an amusing way.
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