One of the most concerning developments in the ministry sector is the disappointing lack of enthusiasm in using broadcast television to influence today’s culture. Men like Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Rex Humbard, and others were able to reach a large audience through television in the 1970s and 1980s.
Those years were a “golden era” in Christian broadcasting in many ways, and they gave birth to a slew of international television networks. However, a series of scandals have fueled a backlash against the medium among a younger generation of pastors and leaders.
As a result, many of these pastors use the Internet and mobile apps for evangelism and discipleship, and aren’t interested in watching broadcast television. Nonetheless, despite the incredible rise of the Internet and mobile devices, I believe that television will continue to be a vital medium for the Church.
After all, radio has never destroyed movies, and television has never killed radio. In the media realm, everything has a level. So, despite the fact that the number of homes watching traditional television declined by around 1.2 million last year, television remains the only truly “mass” media.
That notion is backed up by the recent and growing demand for TV commercial spots. After fears that the internet will take ad revenue, TV ad dollars are on the rise, which is why the average cost of a network TV spot increased by 17% during the previous TV season. Major marketers continue to seek the broadest possible audience, which has huge ramifications for ministry. While many people are turning away from traditional television in favor of the internet, two factors must be kept in mind:
- A large portion of those people are just watching famous television shows on their laptops.
They may not be watching “American Idol,” “Glee,” or the NBA playoffs on a typical television set, but they are nonetheless watching. On a recent flight, I sat next to a woman who was watching a Joyce Meyer program on her iPad. That message had been created a few weeks before for Joyce’s daily television show. While short films on sites like YouTube are highly popular, a sizable portion of the population is merely trading hardware rather than seeking out new material.
- While more individuals are using social media, blogs, and other websites, the audience is dispersed and split.
There are over 600 million Facebook users on the planet, yet they aren’t all accessing the same content. It’s basically tens of millions of people engaging with tens of millions of unique – and disparate – friends.
The last big American campfire has become television.
That is why, when it comes to reaching a large, concentrated audience, television remains the most effective medium. Despite the fact that local satellite and cable systems have a large number of channels, the most popular by far are only a few. As a result, television has become America’s last great campfire. One location where an entire nation — and indeed the entire planet – is essentially focused on the same information and entertainment.