Pre-weekend update

Curious reader AB raises two interesting issues related to the Big TV Ministries like Jimmy Swaggart’s, Benny Hinn’s, or the Crouch’s TBN. The first is a stylistic point about the influence of televised ministries on local congregations:

I remember the heyday of Jimmy Swaggart must see TV days, prior to his fall from grace. Soloists included John Starnes and Janet Paschal, along with the choir. … pretty powerful show. It’s funny how my home church followed the rise and fall of these ministries styles & trends: during the Jimmy Swaggart heydays, we all sang their songs, same with PTL and TBN; [then we] went homecoming style during the mid to late 90’s. Now we are copying all the big black choirs that flood the TV airwaves. I personally have never enjoyed the TBN staple of talent through the years; all too artificial … maybe even “wannabees.”

And too, AB wonders about the business dynamic of televised ministries, compared to sg:

How did Jimmy Swaggart get Janet Paschal to leave the Nelons and join his entourage? Do these ministries throw a lot of $$ to these people to join their teams? It probably didn’t take much $$ to lure Janet from Rex Nelon. [The Nelons] have had trouble keeping sopranos [and] probably didn’t pay that well. Anyway, what is the lure of joining a ministry team? Less travel, more $$?

My own sense is that AB has probably already answered his own questions when he suggests that televised ministries pay better and give solo performers fixed schedules mostly in one place. At least that’s a major part of it. But looking at it from the soloist’s perspective, it’s also important to remember that these gigs are televised, and regularly. For soloists, upfront name recognition across as large a segment of Christian households as possible is more important than growing a loyal fan base of listeners within the narrower range of listeners that comprise sg music. In this sense, Bill Gaither’s Homecoming series has accomplished in the last few decades for soloists and other non-traditional performers within sg what the televised ministries did for them in the 70s and 80s: high-profile, well-financed, reliable gigs with big names and even bigger crowds. If you’re Janet Paschal in the 70s and 80s trying to establish your name as a soloist (which she clearly was interested in doing even as she sang with the Nelons), then it’s a no-brainer. You go where the crowds and the cash are. And I assume that Janet Paschal’s return to sg, once Gaither provided a sustainable base from which soloists could work within the context of sg music, suggests that her move to Swaggart’s ministry was primarily a professional, business decision that had nothing to do with her commitment to sg as a musical form. What the trajectory of her career illustrates (what we can learn, that is, from the decisions that sg soloists have had to make) is how unfriendly sg infrastructure continues to be toward soloists and other performers who fall outside the “traditional” label.

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