He’s been likened to Dr. Phil.
He’s been in federal prison for insider trading.
A magazine said he could be “the Next Big Thing in mass-media religion.”
And, now, he’s about to hit the national scene with an interactive program trying to bring the message of God to the lost and downtrodden.
His name is Bill Keller, a businessman who has become a staple of late-night television across Florida, and, beginning in July, will appear nationally on the Pax TV network.
Keller is the founder of LivePrayer.com, an interactive website utilizing some 700 retired pastors to provide a 24-hour-a-day presence for those seeking help with spiritual matters. His PR firm calls it “the most successful online Christian outreach in history.”
In March 2003, the site launched an hour-long television program, pulling some 250,000 viewers per night in the Sunshine State alone. Keller is expecting 1 million to tune in when the program is broadcast nationwide and is optimistic that will double to 2 million within a year, putting him in the range between “Larry King Live” on the low end and “The O’Reilly Factor” on the high end.
The television show already is viewable online by accessing LivePrayer.com when the program is aired from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern Time.
On Monday night’s show, Keller acknowledged he’s had to deal with plenty of prank callers and people who made fun of his live, biblical format.
“I’ve had literally dozens of e-mails over these last three years from guys who had e-mailed me that said they first started watching the program because they just want to mock God, and they laughed and all that stuff. Some told me how they used to call with prank calls,” he said. “[Since then], I’ve had dozens of e-mails from those people asking forgiveness, telling me how one night God got hold of their life, how they’re Christians now … that’s the way it works, man.”
“The very reason I’m on,” he added, “is for exactly these people, ’cause these people aren’t going to church, they don’t read the Bible, they’re not believers. They’re just out there lost and really hurting; and the fact is by watching this program, regardless of what they think, God is speaking to their hearts, and seeds are being planted.”
The following night, Keller got a dramatic call from a viewer named Trudy in Palatka, Fla., who said she was caught in a war with the unseen forces of darkness.
Trudy: I need you to pray for me. I’ve been in the occult and I’m trying to change my life, and I want to do that, and the spirits are really strong.
Bill Keller: You ready to turn your back on Satan and accept Jesus?
Trudy: Yes, but they won’t let me.
Keller: Who won’t let you?
Trudy: The spirits.
Keller: Well, let me tell you something. The Spirit of the Living God says to turn from Satan right now and get on your knees and accept Jesus. … Are you ready to cast Satan out of your life and accept Jesus? … Pray with me right now, will you?
Trudy: I can’t.
Trudy’s phone line mysteriously went dead, and Keller immediately prayed for God to help the woman in turmoil.
“The Bible tells us that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but it’s a spiritual battle. You just heard the real-life manifestation of that battle,” Keller explained to his viewers. “There’s a battle going on right now for Trudy’s soul. Satan is holding on and doing everything he can to keep her from making that commitment to Christ. … You don’t usually hear that battle going on in real life. What you normally hear is people that have just given in to sin.”
Keller was raised in the United Methodist Church, and though he felt a call to serve God at an early age, he got sidetracked into business, and was arrested in 1989 on charges of insider trading on the stock market.
He was convicted and spent two and a half years at a federal prison he calls “Club Fed” in Pensacola.
Keller spent his time behind bars studying Scripture and worked his way to a degree in biblical studies from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He became a minister upon his release from prison in 1992.
Keller began his interactive prayer site in 1999 and says with the help of his volunteer pastors, the page has responded to over 60 million requests for prayer worldwide.