April 3, 2020

Lessons from the Televangelists

During this time of quarantine from the COVID-19 virus many are reflecting on its meaning for the church. Concerns abound: the doors of our churches were barely open, now they are shut; our attendance was dwindling, now it’s zero; our income was falling, now it’s further decreased; our pastoral care was spotty, now it’s non-existent; our community outreach was fragile, now it’s shuttered. This is a pessimistic view and thankfully creative church solutions are already being deployed to address these unusual times. We can further explore.

For many homebound on Sunday mornings the televangelist on the religious television stations have been a source for worship. Many televangelists have been vilified for questionable activities, however for some their popularity and longevity demonstrate success in ministry. Below are some observations.

Communication – They are prolific, using all media to broadcast their message. This ranges from reading material, radio, television, website, livestream, social media etc. We need to be mindful that some in our church are technology lagging due to education or resource issues. How can we broaden our reach?

Stewardship – They ask multiple times for offerings, sometimes including “free stuff”, confident that they have met a need and providing multiple modes for giving - mail, online, text, etc. A lot of the messaging for our stewardship campaigns are centered around the building, e.g. we need to fix the roof. Without a building can we plan stewardship effectively?

Evangelism – They build community through constant outreach to their members. They also continually appeal to non-members. Some even encourage attendance at nearby unaffiliated congregations, perhaps understanding their limitations e.g. no communion, and willing to have others fill the need. How do we partner to extend our ministry?

Pastoral Care – They have prayer lines, many staffed 24 hours, for individuals with specific needs. How robust is our pastoral care especially during this crisis?

“Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new.” Thomas Merton