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WATCH: Pat Robertson was a trailblazer. In 1961, God told him to buy a TV station when he didn’t own a TV. Then he built a global media empire

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – Today, my dear friend, Michael Little, serves on the board of NEAR EAST MEDIA, the non-profit organization that runs ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS.

But for 47 years, Michael was a close friend and strategic ally of Pat Robertson, including as president of Pat’s Christian Broadcasting Network.

So, when the news broke on Thursday that the legendary broadcaster had been called home to heaven by the Lord, I immediately reached out to Michael to interview him.

Michael Little

I hope you’ll take the next 15 minutes or so to watch the conversation as Michael describes Pat as a “trailblazer” and a “pioneer” who spent every day reading the Word of God and asking God to speak to him and show him what to do next.

“In 1961,” Michael told me, Pat Robertson believed that he had “heard the voice of God calling him to buy a TV station” even though Pat himself “didn't have a TV set.

“With his first contribution of $3 – and with a lot of faith and boldness – he bought an off-the-air TV station and transformed that into what over 50 years later became a global media empire of influence for the name of Jesus,” Michael recalled.

Pat Robertson founded The Family Channel, which he later sold for $1.9 billion.

He founded Regent University.

He also founded a TV network in the Middle East.

And a Jerusalem bureau for CBN News.

And ran for president.

And on and on and on.

It is a remarkable and inspiring story of faith and courage and “serial entrepreneurship.”

Pat Robertson (Photo: CBN video screenshot)

Please watch and then share this story with family and friends on social media.
The following is the transcript of my conversation with Michael Little, lightly edited for clarity.

ROSENBERG: Hi, this is Joel Rosenberg, founder and editor in chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS, and our sister site, ALL ARAB NEWS, in Jerusalem with big news in the Christian world and really in the United States and around the world as one of the titans, one of the pioneers, of Christian broadcasting, Christian media, conservative Evangelical and Pentecostal politics and activism has gone home to be with the Lord. 

Pat Robertson has passed away at the age of 93. 

Joining us is one of our board members here at NEAR EAST MEDIA, the nonprofit ministry that runs ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS, and Michael Little was the president of the Christian Broadcasting Network. He worked for the very media ministry and massive operation that Pat Robertson founded back in 1960. Michael Little worked there, I think, for 42 years. 

Michael, it's great to see you. You're there in Virginia Beach at ground zero of where it all began.

MICHAEL LITTLE: Yes. Pat Robertson, the son of a United States Senator, a law school graduate in 1961, said he heard the voice of God calling him to buy a TV station, but he didn't have a TV set. 

With his first contribution of $3 – and with a lot of faith and boldness – he bought an off-the-air TV station and transformed that into what over 50 years later became a global media empire of influence for the name of Jesus.

ROSENBERG: It really is amazing. And what year did you start working for CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network?

MICHAEL LITTLE: Well, I first started in 1968, and we were still in the pioneer phase of one TV station and one radio station and was able to help him for 47 years. So, it's been great seeing how God has used a man who said, “I believe that I've heard the voice of God and this is what we should do.”

He was a trailblazer, a pioneer in many respects.

ROSENBERG: He was. And in many ways, he was a serial entrepreneur. Right? If he had only started that one TV station, and make it a Christian station, you know, wonderful. We say in Hebrew, dayenu, “this alone would have been enough. “But he built it into the Christian Broadcasting Network. And again, that was one of the most difficult things anyone had ever done – no one had ever done that before – not that type of scale. But he didn't stop there. Walk through – I mean, I could do it, but I'd rather have you do it – walk through just for a moment like five, six, eight, ten other organizations and ministries that he founded.

MICHAEL LITTLE: Well, he had a vision for first America and then the world. And he started in 1977 a national television network which became The Family Channel, which later was sold and now is owned by the Disney Corporation. But under Pat, it had 50 million viewers across America. And he started CBN International to over 50 languages of different types of programs. He started the animated Bible story, Superbook, initially to reach Japan, but it went global, and went all over Russia in the time. Then he started a university known as Regent University. And a ministry to the poor and hungry called, “Operation Blessing” feeding thousands of people – now, in current days – thousands of people every week. So, he was an innovator. And he kept following the voice of God, telling him to pioneer something new, not for pioneering sake, but because it was a frontier that had a need that needed to be met by the fruits of the gospel's impact.

ROSENBERG: And again, that alone – all that that you just said – is more than most mere mortals would even contemplate starting and running well. And they still run so effectively today. But that's not all – you're just scratching the surface. He ran for president in 1988 and even won Iowa, if I recall. 

MICHAEL LITTLE: Yes, he did.

ROSENBERG: He didn’t win the Republican nomination. But that race almost single handedly set into motion the rise of Christian – both Evangelical and Pentecostal – grassroots activism, to get involved, not just at the national level, but at the state level, at the local level, at the school board level. He created the Christian Coalition, which over the next ten years or so, maybe 15, was the preeminent mobilizer of Christian activists on policy and politics. Right? I mean its national conventions changed the course of American politics – I mean, helped win the Republican control of the House of Representatives in 1994 under Newt Gingrich. Really, that alone would have been enough. But we'll get into more in a moment. But he was also one of the founders of the Moral Majority early on to say, “Listen, Christians have to apply their biblical values to the attacks against those values in the public square.”

MICHAEL LITTLE: You're right, Joel. He had this vision of, “If God said that this needs to be done, and he's called a man to do it, then we need to be in the center of the will of God and not on the fringe. We need to be in the center of the flow of what God's Spirit is doing.”

He had a set of three-word guidelines. I'll describe them as guidelines or hallmarks – three words. Whatever we do, we should do it with EXCELLENCE. But we should be secondly, INNOVATIVE. And thirdly, what we do should be done with INTEGRITY.

Excellence, innovation, and integrity.

The hallmarks of the ministry in every particular dimension in which he has led CBN as the parent organization into doing.

ROSENBERG: Absolutely. Now, I want to get into a few other of those pieces, but let's focus for a moment, since this is ALL ISRAEL NEWS, on Israel. His love for Israel was, I would say, second to none of anybody in the Evangelical and Pentecostal space. I mean, he was certainly, you know, a champion of Israel, a true believer that the rebirth of Israel in 1948 – when he was only 18 years old – was prophecy coming to pass in his lifetime. And, you know, he’s up there with, I would say, Jerry Falwell. I can't think of two other people that had more influence in mobilizing Christians to support Israel from its earliest stages forward. But I think Pat Robertson had more influence than Jerry. And I knew them both. I considered both friends. But because of having the reach of Christian media, which Jerry didn't have in the same way – I mean, he could wind up on the cover of Time magazine, and he could go on the media – but Pat actually had a network. And a bureau in Israel, the first of any Christian [news] bureau that I'm aware of [in Israel], this put Pat Robertson in an entirely different category of influence. 

He became a friend – sometimes a challenging friend at times, right? he had dust ups with a number of prime ministers – but he was a friend and counselor to a dozen (that I'm aware of) Israeli prime ministers over the years. Interviewed them. And not all of them agreed [with him]. Some of them got very feisty with him. He got feisty with them. But, really, talk about his deep love for Israel.

MICHAEL LITTLE: That deep love that goes way back. I remember 1974. He was in Israel. I believe it was Yitzhak Rabin. He interviewed him and he came out of that interview and he said, “Regardless of what Israel does, we will always defend Israel, because that's what God has called the followers of Jesus to do, to be blessers of Israel.” He pioneered satellite delivery from Israel. On April 29th, 1977, we originated a broadcast on the Mount of Olives with our mutual friends Merv and Merle Watson. Pioneered that time, in 1977, broadcasting from the Mount of Olives and then now back to Israel through – a few years later – the Middle East Television Network, which Pat started in 1982. So, it's always been about, “We are called to be a blessing to Israel.” And his friendship, as you referred, especially to the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. They met together frequently when Pat would be there, or Bibi sometimes would be in the United States meeting with Pat.

Michael Little (Photo: CBN video screenshot)

ROSENBERG: Yes. And we reported in March when Pat turned 93, we reported that Netanyahu called him “the greatest friend of Israel.” And we've got that on ALL ISRAEL NEWS now. Look, I would love to go on and on. And we might do more next week. But, just in a few moments, I want to mention two things. 

First, I just want to say that I was a nobody. But Pat Robertson got interested in what I was doing as an author, as a Jewish follower of Jesus, somebody who loves Israel also. And he invited me to be on the flagship program of CBN, “The 700 Club,” back in 2003, for my second book. And annually he had me on for whatever book I was coming out with, non-fiction or fiction. I called it my “annual pilgrimage” to Virginia Beach. And that was just such a special friendship to me. He had always read the book. Most hosts don't have time to read the book. But he never interviewed me without knowing the book. And, I think, he would shock his own producers, as you know, it was like a seven-minute slot [to interview me], but he would go eight minutes, nine minutes, ten minutes – sometimes we went 12, 13, 14 minutes – he would just keep going. But it was his show and his network. So, I consider him just a dear friend, and a mentor. 

So, just close us, though, with a few thoughts. You were friends and worked with him for 47 years. Just tell us a few things about the man that most people don't know.

MICHAEL LITTLE: He was a man of deep Bible study every day, coming before the Lord in his quiet time with God, asking God for guidance for that day. Inspiration. He was dependent upon the wisdom of God, which he called, “Knowing what God is calling you to do and being willing to be obedient to do what He is called.” That was the driver – that connection with God's Spirit that he sought every day. And then he would come and as the leader of the organization and the fact that we did live television every day for an hour, we got constant daily leadership. God speaking to him. Pat, speaking to us about things to do with the ministry and how to be even more impactful around the world. That was the calling he had and the calling that he lived out.

ROSENBERG: Well, Michael, I appreciate your friendship with him. I appreciate what you did to connect me with him in all those years that you and I overlapped when you were leading CBN under his overall guidance. It meant so much to me. And now that you are bringing all that experience and passion to ALL ISRAEL NEWS. It means an enormous amount to me. We owe him a great deal, anybody in the Christian world, particularly in the Christian media world, and those who believe that we've got to advance our values in the public square and not just surrender on pro-life issues, or defense of marriage, biblical marriage, or all these other issues – defense of a man and a woman – and all these other issues. And certainly Israel. Many of us can trace some of those most important early fights to Pat Robertson, who has just passed away. He's in heaven. He's finished his race. He finished it well.

Look, when your job is to talk – with many words – you know, you can make some mistakes sometimes. Or say things you wish you hadn't. Or that other people wish you hadn't. But, wow, what a legacy. And what a friend. And he's home now, resting in heaven with his Savior. And I'm so grateful for your friendship with him and your friendship with me. 

For ALL ISRAEL NEWS in Jerusalem, I just want to say thank you to Pat Robertson and to Michael Little, and God bless you. 

Stay tuned to ALL ISRAEL NEWS for continuing breaking news and big picture coverage that you're not going to get anywhere else. God bless you.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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