By Harold V. Comer
What is the audience (or the congregation) of the Television Church like?
What motivates Christians to watch TV preachers and give their approval? Will their TV interest effect their local church affiliation and attendance?
If viewers stay home more and attend services less, what benefits will they miss?
What kind of personalities are particularly influenced by the appeals of today’s TV evangelists?
Why do people give money so readily to people and programs of work that they know so little about?
There are a number of questions that I have about the “congregation” of the Television Church that gathers a few feet from the flat glass pulpit and seems to respond so thoroughly to the appeals and messages of the television evangelist. Some of these questions cannot be completely answered but the questions that can be answered will provide us with a greater awareness of our challenges today and also give us an appreciation of the benefits of God’s plan of worship.
Examples And Case Studies
Harry is an untalented salesman who is struggling to be a success. He is addicted to the programs of Robert Schuller and Jim Bakker.
Harry is irregular at the local church where his wife, who is stronger than Harry spiritually, attends faithfully. For her part, she is repulsed by the television preachers he watches and is fearful of the doctrinal efforts they teach. Harry admits that they are wrong some of the time, but thinks that his favorite preachers still say a lot of “good things.”
“Good things” to Harry are the materialistic promises of the “wealth” and “success” theology at the core of the preachers that he listens to. He thinks that he is going to be a better salesman by watching them and that is very important to Harry.
Harry illustrates some of the motivation that traps weaker Christians and draws them into the audience of the Television Church.
A Different Case Study
A second example will illustrate another personality that finds TV preachers appealing. Alice is a Christian who is also a fan of some television ministers. Alice has a great awareness of her aches and pains. She is in relatively good health but has a great fear of illness and poor health.
Like Harry, she is a weaker member also. She likes the assurances of the “healing” ministers who promise her a perfectly healthy body. In contrast, the local preacher has a crippled leg and he recently lost a child. He has preached some on biblical help for your suffering. Alice is always troubled by those lessons and prefers a “positive” approach that assures her that God will never allow her to have to face such difficulties.
Her loyalty has gradually shifted from assembling with the congregation of saints to being in her Lazy Boy pew when the 15 piece band opens the program.
We live in a materialistic, body-conscious world and television ministers must touch very deep immediate motivations to open up people’s pocketbooks. Health, wealth, unity, and entertainment to replace reformation of character, are appealing approaches to weak Christians who don’t understand all of the things they are missing as they gravitate to the Television Church.
What You Miss In The Lord’s Supper
The first thing you miss if you stay home more is the loss of the benefits of the Lord’s Supper. You miss the communion with Christ (Matt. 26:29) and with the body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16). You lose the deep intense motivation that comes from fully visualizing the cross and the body and the blood of the Lord. Without that weekly image, you become weak and sick spiritually (1 Cor. 11:30).
When you say that the Lord’s Supper didn’t do you much good when you went, you simply confess that you did not .observe it reverently and thoughtfully. When the Lord’s Supper is properly visualized and appreciated, it will always be meaningful and effective in moving us to greater spirituality. When you miss service, you miss the Lord’s Supper and the many deep benefits that God incorporated into this act.
What You Miss In The Singing
The second thing you miss when you stay home to be entertained by the well performed “special music” of the expensive television productions is the loss of the subconscious instructions you receive when you sing in worship. Singing is for teaching and admonition to one another (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), but I teach myself most of all when I sing with awareness and reverence.
When I repeat familiar songs, I deepen the process of “keeping my heart” (Prov. 4:23) through that repetition of valuable messages. There is a significant loss when I don’t sing, don’t sing with alertness, or watch someone else perform.
What You Miss With Your Brethren
The third thing I miss when I withdraw to my television set is the loss of association with God’s people. Urbanized brethren are taught by their daily experiences to withdraw from closer associations. Yet God teaches us to prefer our brethren (Rom. 12:10), and to love them (1 Pet. 1:22).
That loving family closeness is lost when I don’t make an effort or when I seldom go to service. Note, the Bible doesn’t tell us to “be loved,” it tells us to do the loving. Maslow says that one basic need of human beings is that of “belonging.” I belong more when “I love them” than I do when “they love me.” I only begin to start to develop these deeper relationships by fellowshipping with my brethren in worship together.
The contacts of the television watcher are more distant, less intimate, less personal, and therefore less satisfying and fulfilling. You need more than that.
What You Miss With Soft Preaching
Finally, the man who stays home to watch the television preacher will miss some pointed and important lesson that he needs. Television preaching must be less controversial and less provocative. Hard preaching drives away too many essential contributors.
So the viewer finds the T.V. messages unoffensive. His toes are never stepped on, except about general morality, selfishness, and giving. He loses the stimulation that comes from a minister who cares about him as a person and from elders that back the preacher to fully say what God commanded. I’ve never heard a television preacher deal with the subject of divorce except to be accommodating about it finally. You need someone who cares enough about you to say the painful things. We all need our toes stepped on.
Many of us don’t appreciate the great benefits we have in following the simplicity of God’s plan. When we neglect the assembly for a television performance, we weaken our souls and our spirituality and we sin before God. We all need something far better than the erroneous “health and wealth” promises of today’s television ministries. They offer false assurances and they rob the weak of far more important gifts that God has hidden for us within His commands to assemble reverently and lovingly with His saints.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 12, pp. 353, 391
June 18, 1987