Jim Bakker in his heyday (1980’s) Jim Bakker on the Jim Bakker Show (from YouTube)
Televangelist Jim Bakker, a long-time target of investigations at Trinity Foundation, is recovering from a stroke. On May 8th, Bakker’s wife Lori posted the news on The Jim Bakker Show website:
“I wanted to share with you, our loving and caring partners, that Jim recently experienced a stroke. We are thankful that Jim is okay, and that he is now at home with our family. Under the guidance of medical professionals and our Board of Directors, Jim will be taking a sabbatical from the show. Jim will be back! He is still dreaming and hearing from the Lord, and he already has a powerful word to deliver when he returns to the air.”
Those last words from Lori alarm us at Trinity Foundation. Is Jim really hearing from God? We’ve watched as televangelists have repeatedly fundraised off dubious so-called prophecies.
Trinity Foundation has kept a watchful eye on Jim Bakker’s operations since the 1980s. In the early years, Trinity Foundation studied the demographics of religious TV audiences, but our focus changed to investigating allegations of religious fraud and financial excess. Following Bakker’s indictment, Congress held a hearing in October 1987 to explore the topics of oversight and self-regulation. Trinity Foundation President Ole Anthony told Congress:
“The system requires an endless cycle of appeals for money to keep the ministry on the air, coupled with ‘gift offer’ enticements. These are all aimed at an audience of generally older women and widows who are least able to resist this psychological high-pressure sales pitch.”
While Bakker was serving the final months of his sentence in a North Carolina halfway house during the winter of 1994/1995, Trinity Foundation investigators explored the trash outside Bakker’s attorney’s office for clues. Was Bakker still profiting from the most loyal members of his former viewing audience? The investigation revealed that Bakker’s daughter Tammy Sue maintained the ministry mailing list, sending updates to the most generous donors. Bakker’s mailing list had been “kept alive” during his years in prison with regular letters to donors from “New Covenant Church” (no longer as PTL).
After completing his sentence, Bakker authored the book I Was Wrong: The Untold Story of the Shocking Journey from PTL Power to Prison and Beyond. The autobiography rehabilitated Bakker’s image and convinced many Christians that Bakker was abused by the court system.
Jim and Lori married in 1998. Then preparation began for a return to the airwaves.
The Jim Bakker Show website reports, “Sixteen years to the date (2003) that Pastor Jim had made his last broadcast from PTL, he and Lori launched their new television ministry from Branson, Missouri. With the help of PTL Partner, Jerry Crawford, the ministry staff converted a bar/restaurant to a café/television studio called Studio City Café.” Trinity Foundation investigators again collected evidence from trash runs in Branson, and from mailings to a PO Box showing that Bakker’s mailing list was still supporting his newly revived television broadcast—the Jim Bakker Show—as a broadcast of the New Covenant Fellowship.
In 2015, the Bakkers relaunched the PTL Television Network. It currently exists as a shadow of its former self.
Property developer Jerry Crawford constructed a chapel, cottages, condominiums and an RV park near Bakker’s Morningside Church with the goal of creating a small Christian community near Branson.
But Bakker’s dreams have now been put on hold.
During an episode of The Jim Bakker Show, Dr. Sherrill Sellman promoted Silver Solution to fight Covid-19. “Well, let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it’s been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours.”
The State of Missouri sued Bakker to end the promotion of Silver Solution as a Covid-19 cure. Ronnie Marin, one of Bakker’s customer’s, filed a class action lawsuit in federal court claiming that “there are more than 100 class members and the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000.00 …”
Because of fraud allegations, the credit card processing companies put a hold on monies donated to Bakker’s ministry. This financial pressure may have contributed to causing Bakker’s stroke.
It is our prayer that Bakker recovers quickly, and during this time of recovery, re-evaluates his priorities and decides to retire from religious broadcasting.