The Prosperity Gospel is on Skid Row

January 16, 2009 at 7:10 am 4 comments

Some of the high-flying icons of the prosperity gospel–the belief that God rewards signs of faith with wealth, health, and happiness–have run into financial turbulence.

Not all of their troubles can be blamed on the nation’s economic crisis, say critics of the name-it-and-claim-it theology found in some charismatic churches.
“I believe the charismatic movement, of which I am a part, is in the midst of a dramatic overhaul,” said J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine. “God is shaking us.” Grady predicts the movement will look much different in a few years as it refocuses on evangelism and overcoming what he calls the distraction of “materialism, flashy self-promotion, and foolish carnality.” But Scott Thumma, a Hartford Seminary sociologist who studies megachurches, is not so certain.
“Most clergy who preach a prosperity gospel would interpret for their congregation any conflict, scrutiny, or questioning as an attack of the Devil and proof that they are following God,” he said.
Among recent developments:
• In Fort Worth, Texas, a review board ruled December 7 that Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ $3.6 million jet did not have tax-exempt status. The ruling came after the ministry, whose 1,500-acre campus includes a $6 million church-owned lakefront mansion, refused to release the salaries of Copeland, his wife, and others.
• In suburban Atlanta, Georgia, a sheriff’s deputy served an eviction notice November 14 at Bishop Thomas Weeks III’s Global Destiny Church. Court documents indicate the bishop, the ex-husband of televangelist Juanita Bynum, owed half a million dollars in back rent. The church has lost roughly half of its 3,400 members since Weeks and Bynum’s 2007 fight in a hotel parking lot, in which Weeks was accused of pushing, choking, and beating his then-wife.
• In Tampa, Florida, Without Walls International Church–which once attracted 23,000 worshipers–has shrunk drastically after co-pastors Randy and Paula White announced in 2007 they were divorcing. The church faces an uncertain future after the Evangelical Christian Credit Union began foreclosure proceedings November 4 and demanded repayment of a $12 million loan on the church’s property.
• In suburban Minneapolis on November 18, Living Word Christian Center pastor Mac Hammond won the first stage of a court battle with the Internal Revenue Service to keep his salary private. Yet in 2008, he was forced to put his private jet up for sale and cut Living Word’s hour-long television show in half to save money amid falling contributions.
Meanwhile, Copeland and the Whites are among six televangelists whose large organizations have been targeted in a Senate Finance Committee investigation into allegations of questionable spending and lax financial accountability. All six preach some form of the prosperity gospel.
Could followers of the prosperity gospel–encouraged by pastors to “sow a seed” of faith by spending money, often in the form of a donation to the pastors’ ministries–be turned off by the recent turmoil?
Craig Blomberg, author of a 2001 study of prosperity theology, said he expects the movement to “take a small hit among those who recognize that it can’t deliver on what it promises.”
But many followers could view the financial difficulties as consequences for sin and personal failings–from Weeks’s assault conviction to the Whites’ divorce–and determine to try that much harder to please God and prosper themselves, he suggested.
“Some may well interpret this as judgment on the leaders who have abused their positions or proved immoral in other respects,” said Blomberg, a New Testament professor at Denver Seminary. “And many may simply assume this is the time to call others and themselves to an even truer faith so that the ‘system will work’ as it is supposed to in their minds.”
In Grady’s view, the notion that “God blesses us so we can be a blessing” is biblical. What is needed, he believes, is a shift to a more selfless movement where people “realize that God wants to bless us so that we can feed the poor, lift up the broken, and transform society.
“We need that kind of prosperity,” he said, “and I think that is where things are going.”
Source: Christianity Today

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Antonio L. Crawford  |  January 16, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    “What is needed, is a shift to a more selfless movement where people “realize that God wants to bless us so that we can feed the poor, lift up the broken, and transform society.”

    I agree. This is the heart what being a
    Christian is about…using your power, ability
    and wealth to bless others..

    The prosperity movement is not dead. I believe
    in the near future you will see people become
    wealthy who will, feed the poor, lift up
    the broken hearted and help change our society! Its about time…


  • 2. Elder Anthony D.Simmons  |  January 16, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    People need to repent,be baptized in water in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives them the utterance and live a lifestyle that conforms to the Word Of God and to stop all of this foolishness. Acts 2:38.
    Finally, Jesus never said that living this life would be a flowery bed of eaves. He said that if we suffer with him,we would reign with him. 2nd Timothy 2:12, also Titus 2:12. Jesus never had many worldly possessions. He had to depend on the charitableness of people,even the disciples who used their business ship to transport Christ to his next revival.
    Elder Anthony D.Simmons
    Overcoming Power Bibleway Church
    Cottage City Maryland

  • 3. Tim Kurtz  |  January 16, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I was once a follower of the ‘prosperity gospel’. I found it to be a ‘me-my’ philosphy shrouded with ‘religious’ terminology. The more I studied the Word of God, the less I could find this pseudo-christian system.

    Most of the prosperity preachers tout their wealth as a result of their ‘obedience to God’. I see it more as a result of their savvy and in some cases unsavory business accumen. The people they preach to give millions of dollars that end up in their pockets, while the same people they preach to suffer and live in financial distress.

    Scripture teaches that in the first century church, ‘no one lacked'(Acts 4:34). This was not a result of an apostolic prosperity message. Likewise, people gladly laid resources at the feet of the apostles who in turn saw that God’s people were taken care of (Acts 4:35. Today, people give money at the feet of the prosperity preachers who use it to buy their jets, mansions and lavish lifestyles. They are making merchadise of people (2 Peter 2:1-3).

    The prosperity message will soon face more shaking. Let us pray that the innocent victims will be spared the coming turmoil.

  • 4. Liz  |  January 17, 2009 at 10:49 am

    They have given the prosperity gospel a bad name!

    It is important to know and STAND ON THE TRUTH that JESUS DID COME TO GIVE US LIFE AND LIFE IN ABUNDANCE, and it is further written that JESUS WHO WAS RICH BECAME POOR SO THAT WE ARE ” BLOODY ” RICH as we say in the Uk.

    Dont throw your faith out : PROSPERITY IS FOR US even as we are the SEEDS OF ABRAHAM blessed according to the PROMISE!

    I have been hit a couple of times by the pastors mentioned in the investigations I asked for help to pay off a gas bill [despite the fact that I had been tithing faithfully and giving to these ministries] they wrote back and said NO they did not do that [help the Lord Jesus out]

    Yep it is true when they do it to the sheep they do it unto the Lord Jesus and change their resurrection dialogue with Him. [they will say to Him When was it that we saw you and said not to YOU LORD?]

    I for one am glad that they are being investigated and that KCM was found to not be tax exempt as they tell us that tithe is GODS money when GOds people want the money they say no actually it is my money and kick GOD OUT.
    They are no better than the banks that refuse to pass the bail out money on. Even kids when they play pass the parcel do not like it when other kids hog the parcel when the music has not stopped!

    NO beloved, God has given us wealth and we are to pass it on even as the believers did in ACTS 2 they passed it on so that everyone who had need benefitted from it. THE FACT IS these ministries have excess and even if people came to them for money GOD has already made that provision theer for them to meet it and for the ministry not to be without. I calculated pastors DOllars monies that he said he had coming in and found this to be true.


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