It was announced yesterday that Paul Crouch, Sr. died. He was the televangelist-founder of the largest Christian (that term is used loosely here) broadcast network in the world—Trinity Broadcast Network, which is estimated to be worth more than $800 million, with 84 satellite channels, more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates as well as a Christian amusement park (seriously?) in Orlando. He is survived by his “ministry” partner, Jan and their two sons, Matthew and Paul Jr.
I am sure his family mourns his loss, but for my part, I struggle with how to respond. What to feel. And what I will share I know will be interpreted by some as mean, cold and heartless. And probably un-Christian.
I admit that I was not a fan of him nor his ministry. I see him as a charlatan and a con man. He represented (in my opinion) the worst example of what it means to be a minister of Christ. His excessive, self-indulgent lifestyle, which included 13 mansions and private jets is an affront to Christ’s message. (Their dog’s house was valued at $100,000!)
Throughout his “ministry,” there were problems which should not be ignored, even in the wake of his death. He settled out of court with one male staff member who alleged that he was forced to have sex with Paul. His granddaughter, who served as director of finance and human resources for the organization, filed a lawsuit claiming financial improprieties by Paul and Jan. The granddaughter claims that more than $50 million of ministry funds was spent on their extravagant lifestyle of Paul and lavish gifts to loyal directors. (She was fired!)
Perhaps he did help some folks, as some will attest in rebuttal. However, in the process, I think he bilked many, many more…so I fail to see the balance. He built an opulent empire off the hard-earned money of ordinary believers. He preached a false gospel of health and prosperity which always seems to benefit the preacher more than the giver—a message that has more to do with Western capitalism and carnal materialism than it does with any concept of Biblical faith.
Please don’t think I am disparaging those in the ministry. Every week, there are men and women throughout this country fulfilling their divine calling, often with little or no salary. Many work full-time jobs so they can serve their congregations. Daily they see the needs of the real people who come to them. Yes, I do value those who do the work of the ministry, I just don’t put Paul in that category. Maybe at one time he understood, but in the end, he was as disconnected to the average person as darkness is from light.
So I will leave it to others to debate his accomplishments, both temporal and eternal. For me, as harsh as it sounds, I am a bit relieved that we have one less swindler besmirching the cause of Christ and perpetuating the caricature stereotype of God’s ministers.