TV evangelist and TBN founder Paul Crouch dies at 79

Michelle Clancy | 03-12-2013

Evangelical mega-preacher and founder of the Trinity Broadcast Network Paul Crouch has died at the age of 79 after a decade battling chronic heart problems.

"Dr Paul F Crouch passed into the presence of the Lord on 30 November 2013," reads a statement posted on the evangelist's website. "We are grateful for the life of this amazing servant of God. Please pray for the Crouch family during this time."

In October, Crouch was hospitalised in Dallas while visiting one of his many television stations due to shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Crouch was often seen as a pioneer of televangelism, a tradition that includes contemporaries like Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson. The new generation that includes Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, have continued the tradition.

"Paul Crouch changed the course of Christian history by building a Christian network that spreads that Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations of the world every day," said John Hagee, founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. "Our deepest sympathies for his loved ones today."

Born in St Joseph on 30 March 1934, Crouch grew up with Pentecostal missionary parents. He graduated from the Central Bible Institute and Seminary in Springfield in 1955 with a degree in theology. There, he worked with other students to build the campus radio station. After graduating, he managed the television and film unit for the Assemblies of God church, which is based in Springfield. Crouch went on to found TBN with his wife, Janice, expanding it from one station in Southern California to 84 satellite channels and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates. Crouch also hosted a show called Behind the Scenes.

The network also owns the Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando.

Crouch is survived by his wife, Janice, and sons Paul Crouch, Jr and Matthew Crouch, who has since been named as the new president of TBN. Funeral arrangements are pending.