Thursday, July 2, 2009

Book Review of “The Last TV Evangelist”

           I feel like I am late for the party after reading Phil Cooke's new book The Last TV Evangelist. My calling is to be an evangelist and I have been thinking about buying airtime on local stations in order to explore the medium of television. All my heroes are preachers who became famous during the heyday of TV evangelism. I grew up listening to preachers like Oral Roberts, Marilyn Hickey, Billy Graham, and Joyce Meyer. Their common denominator is that they used media as a platform to build mega-ministries. As I read Phil Cooke's book, I was disappointed to discover that what worked for them will no longer work.

            The bad news is that television is too expensive, there are too many channels demanding people's attention, it is nearly impossible for a new ministry to be heard above the chatter of ministries offering "Jesus-junk" and asking for seed-faith offerings, and the bar for producing quality programming is prohibitively expensive. Every ministry is reaching the whole world, leading millions to Christ, available in umpteen millions of households, and offering books and tapes. So how am I different? How can I be heard over the noise?

            The good news is that I have a Mac and I can make videos, I can post those videos on You Tube, I can promote those videos through social networking sites like FaceBook, Twitter, and MySpace. I can build a nitch community that cares about reaching people who have never heard the Gospel before.

            In the past, TV has been the gateway for people discovering ministries. Now, with the proliferation of channels, TV no longer is a gateway, it is a destination for those who already know about a ministry. Because there is so much programming available, people will have to deliberately search for your ministry. In the future, every ministry will have its own channel. Or at least every ministry will have on demand programming on their website. So, television is still an important tool in maintaining relations with those interested in your ministry, but it is less effective as a means to finding an audience.

            Here are some questions I am thinking about:

1. Do I have a compelling enough story to attract attention in today's media saturated environment?

2. When there are hundreds of ministries "reaching the world" how can I stand out?

3. How do I genuinely reach out to today's younger generation instead of just fundraising from an older generation of Christians?

4. How do I pay for equipment, production, and airtime. I want to be excellent, but where does the money come from?

5. If TV ministry was last generation, what is the tool that will reach this generation?

6. Is it worth the time and effort for us to become a media ministry?