The charismatic “prophetic” movement, stressing the second coming of Christ and the restoration of biblical forms of leadership, is finding a global audience through God TV, an international satellite network. Started in 1997 in England by Rory and Wendy Alec , the network beams its message of biblical prophecy and worldwide revival across Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Although borrowing techniques (including fund-raising) from American televangelists, such as the Trinity Broadcasting Network, God TV distances itself from the personalities and confines of American Pentecostalism to reach a younger and more sophisticated audience, according to an article by Sarah Posner writing on the online site Religion Dispatches.
There is also a different operating mentality between American televangelism and God TV. Televangelism started through buying up individual broadcast stations and then eventually expanding into the new technologies of cable and satellite. In contrast, God TV hit the airwaves worldwide much more quickly because the satellite technology was already in place.
At the same time, Word of Faith teachings, which hold that prosperity and healing are promised by God to Christians, are found among both U.S. televangelists and on God TV. Viewers of God TV are invited to send in their prayer petitions for miracles where they are placed at the altar in Jerusalem.
The satellite network functions as an actual network, with a group of self-“anointed” apostles and prophets, such as Mike Bickle, Lou Engle, and Cindy Jacobs, linking together their large followings into a global Christian media empire. The network also carries more established American charismatic broadcasters, such as Benny Hinn and John Hagee.
Stephen Hunt, a sociologist from the University of the West of England in the UK, told Religioscope that recent fund-raising efforts by the network for world evangelism “included many on the American scene, which suggests a good deal of overlap and networking.” The large amount of coverage God TV has given to a revival occurring in Florida also suggests the American influence.
Hunt added that “All in all, God TV seems to subscribe to the range of teaching and styles of the Americans. Also, it is very pro-Israel as are the Americans. Although not so politically orientated as, say Pat Robertson, it is conservative in its attitude. In a sense Rory and Alex have broken their monopoly but, on British Christian TV at least, this has already been challenged by the West African Churches,” Hunt said.
The roles of apostles and prophets have become increasingly common in charismatic Christianity. Proponents claim that as the second coming of Christ draws near, the biblical offices of prophet and apostles are being restored, eventually leading to worldwide revival, of which God TV will be an important instrument.
The role of God TV in spreading the word about charismatic revivals throughout the globe could be seen in mid-April when God TV began airing what has become known as the Lakeland healing revival in Florida live worldwide, “some people have jumped on planes bound for the Sunshine state to attend the services,” reports Charisma magazine.
In her article in Religion Dispatches, Posner reports that the particular teachings about Christ’s return, such as whether it will be before of after the millennium, which divide evangelical Christians, are “frequently blurred on God TV.” But the importance of Israel in prophecy is a common theme on the network, evident in God TV’s relocation to Jerusalem in 2002.
Just as there is a growing embrace of Hebraic Christianity in the prophetic movement, partly stemming from the belief that Israel plays a key role in biblical prophecy, God TV liberally draws on the trend of “getting back to your Jewish roots,” according to Posner.
Along with prophecy relating to Christ’s return, the Alec’s and others have not been hesitant to announce more topical prophecies. Wendy Alec recently claimed that Jesus told her in 2004 that even though “Satan has been trying to forward the end timeline of the destruction of the entire East Coast of America,” his plans could be thwarted through “enough radical prayer.” She predicted that such a huge revival was coming to the east coast of the United States and that in “less than a decade the East Coast will be called America’s Bible Belt.”
Richard Cimino is the founder and editor of Religion Watch, a newsletter monitoring trends in contemporary religion. Since January 2008, Religion Watch is published by Religioscope Institute. Website: www.religionwatch.com.