For about thirty years large and influential megachurch ministries have grown up all over America. Often these have been built around the strong personality of a radio or television minister. As these men age, retire and die some ministries are in for serious changes. The sad fact is that a large scale "systems failure" is likely to follow as these boomer leaders begin to fade away.
A friend recently informed me of one such ministry, with some rather valuable work going in the nation’s capitol. A group of full-time evangelists are now being laid-off because one such minister can no longer function in the way he once did. This means he cannot bring in the financial support needed to sustain this Washington work. Donations to ministries like these begin to decline when such a leader is laid aside or dies. Rarely does such a person-based ministry succeed when the leader is gone. Donors will not give to a legacy, only to a ministry being done by living people. The only exception I personally know to this is the radio ministry of the late J. Vernon McGee, which still seems to grow with his voice being the one still being aired long after his death. This may slow down in due time I would expect. Those media ministries that do make it replace the speaker with a new voice.
My friend suggests to me that this is the first wave of many coming layoffs as these big ministries begin to wind down, either by choice or by necessity. He writes that "an enormous ministry system that vitally depends upon personal empire building" will eventually not last. I think history bears out his comment. John Wesley’s influence continued in the development of the Methodist Church after his death. (He remained an Anglican until his last breath.) George Whitefield insisted that his movement die with him and it did. Today’s leaders are often different. I do not think the differences are healthy in the long run. Time will surely tell. Much good can be done by powerful media-driven works but one has to question if this is what will expand the kingdom in the bigger picture of things? Are we going to see many such ministries cut back drastically in coming days? It seems we will. Whether this is good or bad time will tell. I expect God to do something entirely different as a new generation arises that needs the gospel and the church.