A Biographical Sketch: Jim and Tammy Bakker

By Daniel W. Petty

Bakker was born in 1940, the son of a poor Muskegon, Michigan factory worker. In his autobiography, Move That Mountain (1976, 1985), Bakker tells of suffering from an inferiority complex as a child. He attributes his conversion to a tragic experience in high school at the age of eighteen. While playing hooky from school, he accidentally ran over a three-year old boy. The child lived, but because of the experience, Bakker made a commitment and began to take seriously his parents’ Pentecostal Assemblies of God religion.

Bakker entered the Pentecostal North Central Bible College to prepare for the ministry but dropped out during the second year to marry Tammy Fay LaValley. Bakker was ordained in his denomination, and the couple travelled as evangelists for several years. With a successful puppet show for children, they soon caught the attention of Pat Robertson, who asked them to join the staff of the fledgling Christian Broadcasting Network. While at CBN they stared in the “Jim and Tammy Show” and pioneered the 700 Club. After a short stay with the Trinity Broadcasting Company, they went to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1972 and founded the PTL Television Network, beginning in a furniture store building. The “PTL Club” began in 1974, and by 1980 commanded an audience of over 600,000, and was broadcast over more than 300 affiliate stations in 50 nations. Staged in Johnny Carson fashion, the talk show often had the Holy Spirit as its main topic. The show has witnessed tongue-speaking and emotional pleas for financial support.

Jim and Tammy Bakker’s career was often stormy. In 1979 the FCC began an investigation into the Bakker’s use of solicited funds. In March 1987, Jim Bakker stepped down from PTL leadership and withdrew from the denomination, admitting to sexual misconduct and payment of hush money. The fate of PTL and of TV evangelists generally as a result of the scandal have not yet been determined.

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 12, p. 363
June 18, 1987