Over the weekend, the Christian broadcasting world lost one of its most powerful leaders when Paul Crouch of TBN died Nov. 30 at 79.
Anyone who has read Cerulean Sanctum knows I am not a fan of TBN, largely because it was indiscriminate in who it gave airtime to. For every Jack Hayford or Kirk Cameron featured on its programming, there was Benny Hinn or T.D. Jakes.
And then there was all the garish opulence and money, much of which was spent in ways I’m pretty sure Jesus would not have condoned.
From a TV broadcasting standpoint, though, few can argue with the success of what Paul Crouch built almost singlehandedly. Some might contend that one did not need to be a broadcasting genius to blow through millions of dollars generated through prosperity gospel teachings, but still. In it’s prime, TBN was a force to be reckoned with, and despite some fall-off from its glory days, it remains the largest religious TV network of any kind. At one point, I used to watch TBN because it was the only place one could see Christian music videos. As a popularizer of the Christian subculture through media, Crouch and TBN were both shrewd and peerless.
What will be the legacy of TBN and Paul Crouch? I find it hard to say. Certainly, TBN put Word of Faith and its teachers in a bigger spotlight. Even if Oral Roberts had been the real forerunner in that regard, Crouch perfected it. Those unfamiliar with Pentecostalism got an eyeful and earful of it through TBN, and I’m certain that some of TBN’s broadcasting had an influence on African nations and the religious trends toward Pentecostal Protestantism both there and in South America.
For me, Paul Crouch is a conflicting character, and I don’t know what else to say about him and the television ministry he built. There really is no real contender for that Christian broadcasting throne, and with Pat Robertson hitting 83, the last formidable challenger for Crouch and TBN may also be exiting center stage shortly.