By Stephen P. Willis
You have seen them: Rex Humbard, Jimmy Swaggart, Ernest Angley, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell and others. But, probably the two programs with the biggest influence presently are the 700 Club and the P.T.L. Club. These shows are styled after Johnny Carson or Merv Griffen in that they invite the celebrities of the “Christian community” to come on the shows and give their “testimonies.” During the show, hearers are invited to accept Jesus as their personal savior, and then to call the show and let that “conversion” be made known. Many aids are on hand to take these calls around the clock. Since the programs are syndicated, they may be seen at almost any and all- times. With TV cable systems, one show may be viewed several times a day depending on the programming. With requests for prayer and the sending of the Holy Spirit, such phrases as “when two agree as touching anything . . .” (emphasis theirs) and a final “Amen . . . and Amen” are bywords.
The 700 Club is hosted by Pat Robertson. The name of the program is derived from the way that the Christian Broadcasting Network (C.B.N.) started: “In 1963, when the Christian Broadcasting Network was barely reaching around the block in Portsmouth, Va., Pat, after much prayer, felt led to ask for faith partners who would pledge $10 a month toward the X7,000-a-month budget” (quote taken from The Flame, January, 1977, a C.B.N. publication). They asked 700 people to pledge that amount, hence, the 700 Club.
The letters P.T.L. in the P.T.L. Club stand for Praise the Lord. That phrase is used over and over in the show for anything from somebody’s ear starting on time to a person’s being “saved.” After a humorous story, someone starts up the “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah” chorus. This show is hosted by Jim Bakker. In a recent program Mr. Bakker boasted that this program is currently the number one television program in parts of South America–even over commercial programs. This is evidence of the wide acceptance of such programs.
Both programs boast of world-wide acceptance. Some dub the sound in foreign languages. Some produce shows in the foreign languages. One has launched its own satellite to send programs world-wide. These shows are financed by non-profit organizations-non-profit to the fullest extent of the words. Non-profit usually means that an organization either uses all of its funds for operation, or that the surplus is donated to another non-profit organization. To this extent, the local church is a nonprofit organization. But, the 700 Club and the P.T.L. Club are of no profit spiritually. Here are a few reasons why:
1. They teach one to pray in order to be saved. Sometime during each program, Robertson and Bakker (or a guest host) will ask all non-believers to pray with them. Then they lead a prayer called the “sinner’s prayer,” where one admits that he is a sinner and asks Jesus to come into his heart. There is no New Testament example of persons praying to be born again. New Testament Christians were believing, penitent, confessors, and were baptized before being pronounced new creatures, or alive to God (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 1:16; 10:10).
2. They teach join the church of your choice. Of course by this they mean that Christ is divided (cf. 1 Cor. 1:13, 10), and that it makes no difference to which of those divisions one should join himself. The New Testament teaches that there is but one body (Eph. 4:4) and that we are baptized into that body (1 Cor. 12:13). That is to say, when we are obedient to the word, God adds us to the body (Acts 2:47).
3. They confuse the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation. The scriptures teach that faith is from hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). These TV ministers teach that the Holy Spirit acts miraculously on the heart of the individual and that in many of these cases miracles will occur. In the New Testament the Spirit’s work was in giving the word that saves. In a few cases, the Spirit guided a man to find a preacher (or the preacher to find the man) but, it was the word that caused belief. The gospel is God’s power for salvation (Rom. 1:16).
4. They teach miracles are happening today. In connection with their premillennial concepts (see below) that these are the beginning of the last days in which the Spirit was to be poured out, there are miracles reported by these TV ministers. Notice that the New Testament teaches that the Spirit was poured out in Acts 2, beginning the last days (cf. Heb. 1:1-3). Strangely enough, these same preachers would not have accepted these “miracles” as anything but frauds forty years ago. Now, the in-thing is to be Pentecostal, whether in the Assembly of God or the Church of England. The New Testament church understood that miracles were merely to confirm the word preached (Heb. 2:3, 4) and were to pass away (1 Cor. 13:8-10). Besides, where are the apostles who passed on these gifts (Acts 8:14-18)?
5. They are premillennial. Following the excitement of Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth, these men are awaiting the establishment of the kingdom of Jesus in Israel. What they do not realize is that Christ’s kingdom is established in the hearts of men (cf. Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13) and that when Jesus does come, it will be to gather His kingdom to God (1 Cor. 15:24) not to establish it.
6. They use instruments of music to worship God. The use of the instrument has no authority (which is the meaning of the word translated “iniquity” in Mt. 7:23; lit. no law). This lack of authority is typical of these whole programs and their teachings. The New Testament only tells us to sing (Col. 3:16, 17). (Can you imagine Noah in building his ark of the gopher wood which God specified saying, “But, Lord, a little pine embellishment would really look great!”?)
With such widespread acceptance of these programs, saints everywhere are going to have to fight harder to combat religious error. I have even known of saints who thought they were doing good by sending money to such ministries. Those television ministries are another work of Satan. Do not be caught up by the very convincing job these agents of Satan are doing; defeat them with the truth.
Truth Magazine XXII: 12, pp. 201-202
March 23, 1978