TV channel purchase gives evangelist a new platform

Posted by Joe Couto, Christian Week

July 2009, Volume 23, Number 7

ST. CATHARINES, ON – Swedish-born Canadian evangelist Peter Youngren has carved out a name for himself in Canada through his World Impact Ministries (WIM). While he may not ne as well-known as Billy Graham or Benny Hinn, that may about to change with WIM’s purchase of The Christian Channel, to be branded as Grace Television Network.

Youngren’s purchase gives him an important new platform to reach new viewers through this specialty digital channel.

“Our vision has remained consistent Gospel advanvement, and we will continue this through The Christian Channel”, says Youngren, already seen throughtout the United States, Canada and 40 other nations through WIM’s Celebrate Life with Jesus program.

“The media industry hasn’t always looked favourably on Christian TV. We hope to change that perception by programming that relates to the Canadian public. Our style will be the same friendship approach we have used in our Gospel Festivals in Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist nations”.

Youngren’s aggressive brand of evangelistic outreach – he’s held “Gospel Festivals” in more than 90 nations, established offices in nine countries, authored 16 books and study manuals, founded a Bible school and two mega churches in southern Ontario – faces a number of challanges in matching Youngren’s lofty objectives here in Canada.

One challenge he faces will be fitting into an evangelical community which differs significantly from evangelicalism south of the border where his charismatic approach would seem to have more appeal.

While 30 per cent of the U.S. population identifies itself as evangelical (roughly 90 million people), only 8 to 12 per cent of 33 million Canadians would be classified as evangelical.

Canadian evangelical leaders contacted by Christian Week for this story mostly declined comment on Youngren and his purchase, either saying they had little contact with WIM or Youngren or knew little about the acquisition.

However, Richard Landau, senior executive producer of Balanced Programming for Crossroads Television System (CTS), welcomed Youngren’s purchase, noting, “the more Christian programming [in Canada], the better”.

Landau suggests Youngren will be challanged to make the digital channel a business success. Unlike The Christian Channel, CTS is available over regular caple, making it more accessible to the general public.

Landau says CTS’s focus on, “shining a light on the path, not in the face of viewers” sees a broader range of programming for believers and non-believers alike. The Chrisitan Channel will have a loyal following, but the question will be whether Youngren can reach beyond a core group of viewers”, says Landau.

Youngren acknowledges making The Christian Channel a success will be a challenge.

“First we need to get a strong financial footing. The channel has been running a signigicant deficit since it started”, he says. “Our task is now to pay the purchase price and to make the operation viable”.

“We’ll be paying close attention to finances, looking to God’s love to touch people’s heart to become involved. Our initial phase also includes doubling the current reach to about 65 per cent of Canadian households, and to increase awareness of the channel”.