Is Televangelism Dead?
We’ve seen the demise of Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, and Oral Roberts. Pat Robertson still has the 700 club, but the Christian Coalition has seen better days. Joel Osteen notwithstanding (and maybe someone can explain why he’s the exception), it appears as though television ministries may be a thing of the past. Now, word comes of the potential demise of the Crystal Cathedral, the once-hugely-successful television ministry built by Robert H. Schuller, who seems to have some differences with his son, Robert, A. Schuller, who had taken over the ministry from his father.
The church is in financial turmoil: It plans to sell more than $65 million worth of its Orange County property to pay off debt. Revenue dropped by nearly $5 million last year, according to a recent letter from the elder Schuller to elite donors. In the letter, Schuller Sr. implored the Eagle’s Club members – who supply 30 percent of the church’s revenue – for donations and hinted that the show might go off the air without their support.
“The final months of 2008 were devastating for our ministry,” the 82-year-old pastor wrote.
The problem seems less the recession than the ceding of power from father to son. These ministries are built upon the cult of personalty, and when transition comes, visions change, and donors dry up. Founder Robert H. Schuller was a preacher of positive thinking, much like his mentor, Norman Vincent Peale. The younger Schuller, Robert A, tends to incorporate more Gospel into his presentation. The rift between the two seems to involve the elder Schuller’s desire to expand the weekly “Hour of Power” beyond just presenting preachers name Schuller, telling the congregation last fall, “The real minister’s name that we honor is Jesus, not Schuller.”
So, is it that unless you have a compelling personality, such as Joel Osteen or Robert H. Schuller, televangelism can’t survive? Or is the very nature of religion changing in America, in that in a time of economic crisis and false prophets, Americans are tired of being asked for money, in this case, by preachers they’ve never met doing so in the name of Jesus?Click here for reuse options!
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