The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) founded by Paul and Jan Crouch in 1973, started small but is now seen around the world. Many cable companies throughout the country carry its programming 24 hours a day, and many other stations carry some of the programming originating from the network. For those who do not regularly attend church, the programming of TBN is their main view of just what Christianity is all about. However, it is a skewed view, as the programming on TBN is dominated by Third Wave and Word-Faith Charismatic teachings (see accompanying articles for explanation on this terminology).
In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the exposure of most TV viewers to "religion" was mostly limited to Billy Graham TV specials, and the Sunday morning preaching of individual televangelists such as Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller, or Garner Ted Armstrong. These programs had obvious Biblical content, and thus most folks with no particular interest in the Bible would likely watch for only a few moments and then move on to something more exciting.
But the advent of TBN has changed this scenario quite a bit. The network carries individual programs by a variety of Charismatic teachers, special events such as large national revival meetings, Christian "interview" shows, musical programs featuring top Christian performers with a variety of styles from old-time Southern Gospel quartets to popular "contemporary Christian" music, specialty programs on "natural health" and "alternative medicine" topics, and much more. Thus, if a person is "surfing" TV channels, they may well stop to see the music or the comments by a doctor on good nutrition, and stay on to see the next "Bible teaching" show. A person with no particular religious affiliation or background would have no way to evaluate the specific doctrinal slant of any of these teachers. Thus they might well assume that all Christians believe just like the people they see on TBN.
Most Charismatic teachers have learned not to alienate their audience by prominently displaying their most "unusual" doctrinal beliefs on their public programming. On the air, they usually preach very general messages about the Bible which are quite true, mixed in with their own specific doctrines which are less biblical. Audiences may be impressed with the amount of "joy" displayed by the preacher, his staff, and the folks in his audience. And thus they may seek out his latest book or attend a "revival" meeting in their area. With very little—or no—Bible knowledge with which to evaluate what they hear and read, such a person can be quite easily sold on Word-Faith teachings, totally unaware of the scriptures that would counter this material. Since TBN rarely if ever says "we represent only a small part of Christianity" and since their main speakers are all Charismatic, their teachings throughout the week and around the clock only serve to reinforce the false idea that "they are Christianity". —PD