'New' Jim Bakker Returns to Christian Television

Show started taping 16 years to the day of his last 'PTL Club' program

Charisma News Service/June 2, 2003

Though he once said he would never start another Christian TV ministry, televangelist Jim Bakker is back on the air. "The New Jim Bakker Show" debuted 16 years to the day of his last broadcast of the "PTL Club," the flagship of a ministry empire that crashed amid headlines about financial and sexual scandal, and saw its head jailed for five years.

Bakker's new show is taped at the former Cowboy Café-turned-Studio City Café in Branson, Mo. Guests since the January launch have included Rex Humbard, Tony Orlando and Gary Smalley.

Today, the talk-show program Bakker hosts with his second wife, Lori, is broadcast daily on more than 30 TV stations, 200 cable outlets and internationally through TCT Satellite Network of Worldwide Satellites.

When Bakker told CNN interviewer Larry King shortly after his release in 1994 -- the original sentence having been reduced -- that he would not do television again, "I meant what I said," Bakker said. "When you put your hand in a fire and get burned, the body reacts to that, and it remembers that. What I had been through had been so painful that I could not imagine doing it again."

He added: "For years I set about to do a number of other things, but I could not get away from what I feel God called me to do, anointed me to do, and that's Christian television."

"The New Jim Bakker Show" has been made possible largely due to one benefactor whose marriage was healed at Heritage USA -- Bakker's former Christian resort -- years ago. Dee and Jerry Crawford own the studio-café, the small hotel across the street and the home where the Bakkers live.

But there are still financial struggles. "I had hoped I could do this without raising money on the air, but airtime is so expensive," Bakker said. "Many stations gave us a few months for free or at a reduced rate to get us started, but now we have to generate the money needed to keep us on the air."

For former PTL producer Gene Bailey, a media consultant for the new show, "it's like going through a time warp. Everything that was good about the old 'PTL Club' is back -- without the hype and the glitz."

"He is gifted. You cannot sit in [the] studio and not see that. His natural ability to connect with the viewer one-on-one is a rare quality. Not everyone in Christian television has that talent."

For Bakker, the new show is a far cry from PTL, whose fall revealed the lavish lifestyle he and his ex-wife, Tammy Faye, enjoyed. "I have to die to the flesh," he said. "That's what old Jim Bakker has to do on the air every day. I have had the best of everything, 3,000 employees, the finest talent and equipment. Here I have an audio man who is learning, camera people who have never done this before, the copier is broken, and we don't even have phones yet.

"With all that, the most awesome thing happens here every day. The presence of the Lord comes into this place and people have been healed, depression lifted, and many come to know the Lord."

Bakker said he believed his return might give people "hope that the past can be the past, that God can use them no matter what they have been through. Lori and I are both broken vessels, but God is using us. He can use anybody -- no matter what."

He said he won't regret trying his hand at television again even if the show doesn't succeed. "If we don't make it, that's fine too," he said. "It would be easy to get a little house in the Ozarks and speak once in a while. But that is not my calling. I have to be true to what God has called me to do, and trust Him with the rest."

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