“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience.”
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)
Ah, man. Where’s a good playwright when you need one to talk to the Church? So, did TV land hear that adage? TBN? Daystar? Someone? Anyone?
It’s important to ask the two big faith-based networks because it’s their clientele pulling back the curtain and their shows for network TV.
Go ahead, name the preacher… to whom you used to give offerings? Jakes, Parsley, Meyer, White, Hinn, Robertson, Dollar, Long, Dobson, et al. According to this story in the USA Today, even the celebrities of Christendom are feeling the pinch in this economy.
The industry shows signs of contraction at a time when its future is fraught with uncertainty. And it’s not just the economic downturn that is causing turmoil: last year, a study found that the percentage of megachurches with a radio ministry dropped from 44% in 2000 to 24% in 2008. Likewise, the percentage with television ministries dropped from 38% to 23%.
When Christian television was created, its premise was to exalt God and see people edified. Nowadays, that formula for success is a bit askew as money seems to be exalted and preachers are deified.
To save on production costs and those picturesque, on-location remotes, these folk have made fewer shows for broadcast, which means the networks don’t get their coin.
See, it’s cyclical – you pay… er, donate to the ministry, they pay the network and a star is born.
In this economy, you don’t… and they don’t… and Christian television becomes a black hole.
You see, when folk presume you are dripping with cash, hand-made suits and all that bling, they keep their cash and you get stuck with a larger bill. MEMO to the megachurch megaminister: If perhaps you appeared more modest, people would find more than lint in that piggy bank bellybutton to give you. Just like it used to be. However…
“The industry is at a crossroads,” says Paul Creasman, associate professor of communications at Southern Wesleyan University in Central, S.C., and a former Christian radio personality and producer. “The audience is dwindling, and they have to figure out what to do. But the Web is not the answer because older audiences don’t use the Internet… and younger audiences will go to the Web for content, but they’ll probably be less likely to donate.”
Moving content online may be broadcasting’s future, but it’s a nerve-wracking endeavor that doesn’t necessarily pay the bills of the present. “Everyone (in religious broadcasting) is doing it,” he said. “And everyone is asking each other: ‘Are you making money at it? Because we’re not.‘”
Listen, in case it’s a news flash to some folk, ministries have to ask for money to survive. They rely on the kind hearts, open minds and yielding spirits of the Body of Christ to give. If the world can uphold causes like breast cancer, the MDA, HIV, Katrina and a tsunami, certainly a ministry shouldn’t be that far out of reach?!
The problem is that people don’t see the ministry being blessed, it’s the ministers. We have all seen the stories and heard the tales of woe. When those cease, despite the beneficence of some on TBN and Daystar who are doing it right, money will drop.
Kinda like pennies from heaven, and wouldn’t all of that be an experience man could learn from?
(Masonry shout out to Another Brick in the Wall, “Get Religion” for the nice magazine cover).