I've been reading Donald Miller's book, Searching for God Knows What. Maybe I'll share some insights from this book over the next few days. Miller's earlier book, which made a big splash in some circles, was Blue Like Jazz. I really liked that book because it challenged my thinking in a number of areas, and this newer book is doing the same thing to me.
In Chapter 2, Miller goes off on some televangelists...you know, the ones that spend most of their time raising money and drawing attention to themselves. Miller calls them imposters. He says they are people who say they represent God but don't. An example is Robert Tilton. Wow, listen to what Miller says about him:
"I can't imagine he [Tilton] actually believes in God at all. I can't imagine what sort of horrible things are going to happen to him when he dies, what sort of terror he is going to face and what sort of begging and manipulating he is going to try to get out of what God has in store for him and to what degree God is going to make him pay for what he is doing to people."
Thank you, Donald Miller. Thank you for saying it straight. The guys and gals I see "preaching" on "Christian" TV make me really angry. Sometimes I pause on those channels and just stare at these self-proclaimed Christian leaders saying the most outlandish, unbiblical things, yet drawing enormous, adoring crowds...and making lots of money. Yesterday I watched this one preacher walking slowly back and forth in front of his congregation, saying "uh huh" over and over at least a hundred times, while people were laughing uncontrollably, thrashing about on the floor, clapping, babbling, and who knows what else. And it always comes down to "planting a seed" or "making a vow" or "giving a pledge," all of which is equivalent to sending in a contribution.
Now I know it says in Philippians 1:18, "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached." Paul was talking there about some of the evangelists of his day who were out in the streets of Rome telling others about Jesus, but doing so with questionable motives. So I've tried to ask myself, Are these people on Christian TV preaching Christ? If they are, then I need to tolerate the junk I see on those channels and rejoice that at least the Word of God is getting out there.
I suppose some of the televangelists are truly preaching Christ (don't ask me to name names). But guys like Tilton (and there are lots of them, and ladies too) are not preaching Christ, and here are five reasons why:
1. It's always about money...and getting back more than you put in.
2. The "Jesus" they preach is one who offers personal fulfillment instead of a cross; victory instead of sanctification; healing instead of wholeness; answered prayer instead of refinement; and immediate instead of delayed gratification.
3. It's almost always about "me and Jesus," instead of the community of faith.
4. They always use the Bible as a self-help manual, a promise book, a decision-making guide, a collection of principles for victorious living, or a set of predictions about the future instead of as a revelation of the Person and work of Christ.
5. The power they use to influence their followers is that of manipulative, self-serving, guilt-producing, and uninformed rhetoric rather than loving, well-reasoned argument from Scripture. Also, it often has a sensual, almost sexual feel to it, which explains a lot.
For these reasons, and I could come up with a few more, I cannot rejoice that Christ is preached by these people, because I don't think He is. Instead, they are preaching a false christ, a self-serving god, a messiah of health, wealth, and prosperity instead of the Messiah of Scripture.
Bottom line, it's all about money.