‘Just call what’s his (or her) name’

The death of Oral Roberts, a pioneer of television evangelism, takes me back to the days when he, Rex Humbard, Bob Harrington, “Reverend Ike” and an assortment of local and regional preachers took to the airwaves of my youth. And then there was Ernest Angley, of course, who healed multitudes but never removed that awful toupee and touched the top of his own head.

While some may argue for the positive impact of television preachers, my opinion in general is quite low.

Roberts is widely credited — or, more correctly, rightly blamed — for creating the “prosperity gospel.” His “seed faith” concept called for people to send money to him in order to receive special “blessings” for themselves.

This give-to-get perspective turned the message of Jesus — about serving others sacrificially and unselfishly — on its head. But this manipulative approach has become a good fund-raising technique replicated over the years by many televangelists (e.g., Paula White).

The merits-versus-misbehavior of television preachers can be an ongoing debate. And lumping them into one slick bunch is surely unfair to those few who avoid some of the familiar traps that have snared others.

Yet the negative aspects of their presence on the airwaves are plentiful. Some proprietors of the electronic church are proven swindlers — like Jim Bakker and Robert Tilton — while the financial practices of many others have led to much-deserved suspicion.

And, sadly, the financial support that has permitted most televangelists to not only stay on the air, but to live like royalty, has come from the shallow pockets of poor, gullible, undereducated people. It’s the religiously inclined version of the primary lottery audience.

One of the worst results is that often church members will unfairly compare their local pastors — who carry out multiple ministry tasks with often-difficult people outside the spotlight of fame — to these silver-tongued showmen.

Back in the ’70s, there was a little book on the electronic church with a chapter titled something like, “If Rex won’t do your funeral, call what’s his name.”

It made the good point that the famous TV preachers are glad to receive your money, send mail to you requesting more money, and even offer a religious souvenir now and then. But it is the local pastor who shows up at the hospital when you’re sick and will even cut a family vacation short to meet a family in grief.

That is a good thought to have in mind before writing a “seed faith” check or criticizing your pastor for lacking the flash of the one you tune in on TV.


  1. John,

    You said,

    "sadly, the financial support that has permitted most televangelists to not only stay on the air, but to live like royalty, has come from the shallow pockets of poor, gullible, undereducated people. It’s the religiously inclined version of the primary lottery audience."

    Yeah, just like the gullible, rich, educated people have been systematically raped, monetarily and spiritually, by the the modernists through the University, hospital and "charitable" institutions of the more traditional Protestant and Baptist denominations. Or like the Roman Catholic Pope with his heirarchy who have for centuries raped, not only the souls and wealth of rich and poor alike, but the very bodies of their children. And what shall we say of the great Mormon hoax, when according to latest statistics the "Latter Day Saints" are posed to surpass the Methodist heresy as the third largest denomination in the country?

    These all make Oral Roberts, Robert Tilton and Jerry Falwell look like amateurs on the grisly business of merchandising men's fortunes and souls in the name of God!

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  2. John,

    (ignoring Mark)

    I hope that we continue to expose this kind of thing with TV "ministries" and the prosperity gospel.

    While LifeWay has successfully rid it's shelves of "liberal" theology (except when it sells – see the return of C.S. Lewis to LifeWay when Chronicles of Narnia hit the cinemas), they continue to sell authors who are connected to the prosperity gospel movement like Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and John Hagee.

    I know few greater heresies for the SBC and independent evangelicals than to allow their worship services to be broadcast on Trinity Broadcasting Network, or to appear on the network, as John MacArthur and David Jeremiah have done repeatedly.

    And then, to allow the prosperity preachers' works to be sold in the denominational bookstore sounds like the SBC forgot to remove the plank while straining out the gnats.

    God bless!

  3. wow Mark what are you smoking?

    Tim you are right on.

    Bravo Johnny, I suppose Mark's customary attack is also proof of a good blog.

  4. Mark,

    What about the heretical Landmark Baptists, their misguided allegience to the King James Bible, and all who have been misled by their indoctrination, and their propensity to anger, hate, separation and suspicion of anyone who thinks different?

    God bless!

  5. John MacArthur & Pretrib Rapture

    Who knows, maybe John (Reformedispy) MacArthur is right and the greatest Greek scholars (Google "Famous Rapture Watchers"), who uniformly said that Rev. 3:10 means PRESERVATION THROUGH, were wrong. But John has a conflict. On the one hand, since he knows that all Christian theology and organized churches before 1830 believed the church would be on earth during the tribulation, he would like to be seen as one who stands with the great Reformers. On the other hand, if John has a warehouse of unsold pretrib rapture material, and if he wants to have "security" for his retirement years and hopes that the big California quake won't louse up his plans, he has a decided conflict of interest. Maybe the Lord will have to help strip off the layers of his seared conscience which have grown for years in order to please his parents and his supporters – who knows? One thing is for sure: pretrib is truly a house of cards and is so fragile that if a person removes just one card from the TOP of the pile, the whole thing can collapse. Which is why pretrib teachers don't dare to even suggest they could be wrong on even one little subpoint! Don't you feel sorry for the straitjacket they are in? While you're mulling all this over, Google "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" for a rare behind-the-scenes look at the same 180-year-old fantasy.

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