Peter Youngren buys Canada’s largest Christian TV channel

Vision doesn’t seem to include other Christian media voices

Posted by Mags Storey |  Ontario Correspondent (article from ChristianWeek – original article)

April 24, 2009

Peter Youngren’s World Impact Ministries is finalizing the purchase of The Christian Channel.

ST. CATHARINES, ON—Peter Youngren sees visions. He credits a five-hour vision in 1973 during a chapel service with inspiring him to found World Impact Ministries.

So when World Impact Ministries (WIM) was approached about purchasing The Christian Channel from S-VOX, Youngren understood this to be the voice of God.

The deal is still pending CRTC approval, but God’s leading is upon the transaction, according to WIM’s business administrator Nathan Thurber.

“Peter felt the interest came from the Lord’s direction,” Thurber says, “Peter has talked for years about the possibility of one day owning and operating a television station. He felt the Lord had put it on his heart some 20 years ago.

“The Christian Channel is currently reaching about a third of English speaking homes in Canada, and our first goal is to expand that—first in Canada and then around the world,” says Thurber.

WIM currently produces “Celebrating Life with Jesus,” which airs on The Christian Channel, Vision TV and stations in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Kenya and the United States.

A new 60-minute flagship variety show is in the works for the new station. Called “Encounter,” it will be hosted by Youngren and include interviews, debates, music, teaching and testimonies—all build on a foundation of “friendship and non-discrimination.”

Grace Television

The channel is to be rebranded as Grace Television Network. “Grace is a word that is important to our ministry,” says Thurber. “Our theme that we want to get across is God’s loving grace to people. Not a hard, condemning God, but a loving God who is full of grace and mercy.”

The name Grace is also important for their broader goal—to take the station international as “God’s Canadian voice” abroad.

“We want Canadians to get excited about building a Gospel voice to the world,” says Thurber, “something which has been unheard of here in Canada….As Canadians we import a lot of voices—we would like to export Canadian content, Canadian preachers… There have been many prophecies about Canada being a healing voice to the world.”

According to WIM’s website Youngren’s “unprecedented evangelistic efforts on every continent” have already led to thousands of miraculous healings, as well as “millions” receiving “Jesus and follow up material.”

In pursuit of an interview

I’ve been assigned to interview Youngren for ChristianWeek, but tracking him down proves more difficult than expected.

When I contact WIM, Thurber explains that Youngren is not available for interview personally as he is currently ministering in the U.S. I try again the following week, when he is in the office briefly, but Youngren is too busy with other obligations to take my call or respond to emailed questions. I try again, but the following week Youngren is off to Africa, where hundreds of thousands have attended his speaking events.

I find myself writing an article about a man’s personal vision without having discussed it with him personally—which is hard, considering Youngren’s vision is to impact Christians across the country and shape our spiritual message to the world.

So I call three others in the Canadian Christian media—explaining the breadth of Youngren’s vision and ask if they have interviewed him about it personally; none have. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has heard of Youngren’s ministry, but have no comment to make.

Thurber points me to an exclusive article that ran in in Maranatha News in March. In it Youngren offers written replies to a list of questions.

“I see television as a fantastic tool to reach every household,” Youngren tells Maranatha. “When the idea of Christian television was first introduced in the 1960s believers were so excited….We want to rekindle some of that.”

He adds the purchase of the station involves “several million dollars” to be financed though partners and donors. Youngren expects that “many believers across Canada will rally and want to support this venture when they hear our vision.

“First and foremost, we want to connect with believers across Canada, in an effort to see many Canadian Christians gain a sense of ownership,” he says. “One of the first tasks on my agenda is to call, or visit in person, a number of the Christian leaders across Canada. We are building Canada’s Gospel voice to the world, and our first task will be to have that voice strongly anchored in Canada.”

Wondering how broad those conversations have gone, I contact Karen Hamilton general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, whose 22 denominational members represent 85 per cent of Canadian Christians—including evangelicals, Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox.

Hamilton hasn’t heard about the new station. “I am a great supporter of bridge building, and I look forward to hearing from him,” she says.

She adds: “There is much that is already happening and God certainly speaks through many Canadian voices…I wonder what conversations have there been with these powerful voices who already have a strong presence in this country?

“I wonder what the perception would be of the United Church of Canada, which would consider itself a very Canadian church voice….The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is a very strong Canadian voice as well—witnessing to the reality of Jesus Christ in the world.

“I wonder what kind of conversations WIN has already had with Salt and Light—a huge Roman Catholic television station that is doing much through the world….The Mennonite church in Canada has a radio program, based in Winnipeg, that does a really good job of faithful witnessing. And those are just a few examples off the top of my head.

“So any kind of media conversation would need to take those examples and goodness knows how many others very seriously [or] they would be missing out on the richness and the unity in diversity that God calls us to.”

Message of grace

Thurber says that increasing the number of Canadian preachers on Grace TV is a priority. He adds that it’s important that preachers on the station embrace its grace-filled message.

“People with harsh, condemning messages don’t fit that and we are going to try to weed them out ,” Thurber says, “We are a ministry first and foremost—not a business.”

A joint press release issued from WIM and S-VOX states their overall goal is to establish the station “as an oasis of hope and faith for all Canadians.”

“It’s not just another television channel,” Thurber says, “We want it to be something which Canadians can be proud of—taking the Gospel to the world.”