On the Sunday after Easter, famed Southern Baptist preacher Adrian Rogers appeared on Trinity Broadcasting Network, asking his congregation in suburban Memphis to turn to a passage of the Gospel of John.
"A Christian with a witness in his heart is never at the mercy of a man with an argument in his mouth," he said in the trademark deep voice that has been heard on TV and radio for 22 years. "Learn that, my friend."
Within hours, the Rev. D. James Kennedy was on Ion Television, comparing Americans who have drifted away from God to secular humanism to the New Testament's prodigal son.
Both evangelical preachers, along with radio broadcaster J. Vernon McGee, all have something in common. They all died years — and in McGee's case, decades — ago.
Yet their messages continue via TV, radio, and the Internet, even as some listeners probably don't even know they're long gone.
"McGee, of course, is king of the hill," said Frank Wright, president and CEO of the Virginia-based National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). "He is today the most widely listened-to Christian broadcaster anywhere in the world."
The three broadcasters, Wright said, remain on the airwaves because of their knack for telling "timeless stories" and their focus on the unchanging texts of the Bible.
When Wright worked at Kennedy's Center for Christian Statesmanship in Washington 14 years ago, he would listen to McGee on the radio as he drove to the commuter-train station.
"I listened to the guy for 3 1/2 years before I knew he was dead," Wright recalled. "I was captivated by his kind of homey preaching style and had no idea that he had gone on to be with the Lord."
Leo Karlyn, president of McGee's Thru the Bible Radio Network in Pasadena, Calif., said the ministry, ...