Hank Hanegraaff, popularly known as the "Bible Answer Man," said that watching pastors who act more like entrepreneurs were part of the reason for his departure from evangelicalism.
In an interview with NPR's Charlotte affiliate WFAE on Wednesday, Hanegraaff said that people jumped to the wrong conclusions when he joined the St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox church in south Charlotte in April, with some suggesting that he "walked away from the faith."
The radio host said that was not the case at all, and he spoke about the type of "pastor-preneur" church leadership that he says made him uncomfortable.
"Where the pastor is like an entrepreneur, branding, formulaically getting people into seats — that became troubling to me and I decided I was going to explore," he said.
Hanegraaff, who is undergoing chemotherapy for a rare form of cancer called mantle cell lymphoma, had stated that he felt drawn to the days of the early Church after he witnessed the simplicity and passion of Chinese Christians. He went on to study the concept of theosis, which was a teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church regarding union with God. However, the radio host maintained his theological beliefs remain mostly unchanged.
Following his conversion, the Winston-Salem-based Truth Network and Bott Radio Network (BRN) pulled his radio broadcast from their stations.
"We want to make sure that our listeners know that the programming that we have on Bott Radio Network is thoroughly biblical," said BRN President Richard P. Bott II at the time.
The radio host said that he is not too concerned about the stations that have stopped broadcasting his show.
"I've seen over the years that God closes one door and He opens other doors. For example, we're now on the Orthodox Christian Network. For me this is not a popularity contest or the size of the platform; it is simply doing what God leads me to do. Let the chips fall where they may," he said.
Several prominent evangelical figures have expressed concerns about Hanegraaff's decision to join the Orthodox church.
R. Philip Roberts, director for international theological education with the Global Ministries Foundation in Tennessee, noted that the roots of Eastern Orthodox go back centuries. But he warned that there are problems with its teaching because there had been changes in its interpretations of biblical doctrines over the years.
He went on to explain that while it has roots in the ancient church, its ceremonies and theology have developed gradually throughout the centuries.
Roberts asserted that Hanegraaff likely accepted a Western version of Orthodoxy, interpreted through an evangelical lens. He added that he cannot understand how the radio host can endorse a denomination that currently teaches unbiblical doctrines and ceremonies, while also persecuting evangelicals in some places like Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.