Replacing authentic relationships with superficial media and calling it “church” is ludicrous.
In a recent robo-call, convicted tax-evading televangelist Todd Coontz asked one of us to join his “church by phone.”
Gene Ewing, the tent evangelist who invented “seed faith” fundraising for Oral Roberts and a host of other televangelists, pioneered the “media church.” In 1978, Ewing founded Church by Mail to solicit donations.
First the IRS and then the courts determined the “excessive” salaries paid by Church by Mail to its founders were in violation of the tax code. Church by Mail’s tax exempt status was rejected—all the way to the Supreme Court in 1990. Unfortunately, Ewing re-invented his money machine, it’s current incarnation is St. Matthews Churches, and he continues his massive charade to this day, preying on the most vulnerable in our society.
The courts avoided rendering a decision of whether Church by Mail was a real church; however, one criterion of the IRS’s broad 14-point criterion defining what a church is or is not stands out above all the others—the presence (or absence) of a real congregation (read “Defining Church…” here).
And now SWAGGART… Jimmy Swaggart is embracing Ewing’s ideas. Swaggart’s church website says, “As a Member of FAMILY WORSHIP CENTER (FWC) MEDIA CHURCH, we will expect you to look at FWC as your Church.”
Ironically, the same Swaggart web page promoting “media church” also says, “We believe that the Church should be a mirror of the Book of Acts.” And we have overwhelming evidence that most media do quite the opposite—they produce selfish individualism rather than loving community—just watch almost any family at almost any restaurant staring down at their phones instead of interacting with each other.
The early church turned the world upside down as a small group movement which usually met in people’s homes. Ultimately, Jesus set an example by spending most of his time mentoring not the masses, but rather a small group of disciples.