Sunday, March 11, 2007

God of the Airwaves?

Picture from the Gospel for Asia radio ministry website.

Here's a little test. Say the word "televangelist" out loud, and see how long it takes you to cringe. If it takes you any more than two seconds, you're probably not American.

Both Christians and anti-Christians in this country lament the prosperity preachers who kidnap the airwaves in efforts to amass earthly riches. They often promise that blessing their ministry financially by sowing a "seed" of a certain dollar amount will result in a miraculous blessing from God. They even encourage viewers to use credit cards, to take a "step of faith" even if they're on their last dime. Like a true infomercial, they publish testimonials where past seed-sowers rave about the miracles God performed in their life as a direct result of their support of the ministry. Interestingly, these preachers rarely mention that the work of God spans more than just one channel and that giving is not limited to their particular ministry.

Nor do they stop to talk about the true, spiritual riches of a relationship with Christ. People should give because they will get, not because they want to reach the world for Christ. I have actually seen a preacher say, "This is not the salvation program. This is the prosperity program. If you want the salvation program, tune in later."

Looking at how mass consumerism has impacted the mega-church generation in America, it's not surprising that wolves in sheep's clothes have gotten in on the telecommunications market. In many other countries though, the broadcast media are regularly used for noble, eternal purposes.

Unlike the schnazzy-suited, slick-haired salesmen that grace American TV, those who broadcast the good news in closed countries have nothing to gain but persecution. I just read a story about a Christian in Algeria who put his cell number on TV for anyone who wanted to learn how to follow Jesus. The man that called him back had been looking for another Christian in Algeria for years. The broadcast media continue to play an integral role in maintaining the revival that resulted.

Gospel for Asia, a ministry that targets the most unreached people groups throughout the 10/40 window, uses radio to get the word out to places a missionary may never reach. Thousands have come to Christ as broadcasters speak the simple truth of the Gospel, a story that many people in these remote regions have never heard. Although the airtime is expensive, the harvest of souls has been well worth the cost.

If you support a television ministry, don't get the idea that I'm condemning you. There are some good programs to counteract the bad. But I'm glad that for every preacher farming for cash in America, there's a selfless servant of Christ using the airwaves to carry his light to out-of-the-way villages in the most shadowy places throughout the world.

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