Last Friday night my wife Rachelle and I spent an evening with our friends Gary and Lanna Richardson at their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ole Anthony (pronounced Oh Lee), pictured to the left, was Gary's guest for the weekend. Gary and Lanna had arranged for several people to meet with Ole and find out more about the Trinity Foundation. The Trinity Foundation serves as a watchdog agency looking out for corrupt television evangelists. Ole is a retired Air Force investigator and a licensed private detective. Since 1987 he has been on a crusade to expose and legally punish the illicit activities and financial fraud of many well-known prosperity gospel televangelists. His first target was the Dallas ministry of Robert Tilton. Diane Sawyer of ABC News teamed with Ole Anthony to air an undercover investigation of Tilton. The program revealed many fraudulent and unethical activities of Tilton's ministry, and Tilton became furious as his annual income stream of $140 million dollars began to dry up. Tilton always played Jesus in his church's annual Christmas Pageant, and at the pageant after the ABC investigation aired, Tilton rode into his church on a donkey that he had named Ole. As Ole shared that story with us, he smiled and laughed a little, but the lines on his face show the angst of over two dozen lawsuits against Ole by the televangelists he has sought to expose as frauds. Ole is by no means a perfect man, and I don't agree with all his tactics, but you must admire any person who shares as powerful of a Christian conversion testimony as Ole. He walked away from a mult-million dollar business, vowed to live on $55 a week among the homeless in Dallas, and works every day to protect God's people from what he calls 'wolves in shepherd's clothing.'
We learned many things from Ole last Friday night. I specifically asked him if anything he shared was confidential, and he responded in precisely the same manner I would have responded. "If it were confidential, I would not have shared it." Many people don't like Ole. Television evangelists have named him "the Anti-Christ" and "Satan incarnate," and other wild names, but I like him. I like the fact that he says it like it is. Though he has taken a vow of poverty, he is comfortable having friends who have not. He also expresses a passion for knowing Jesus Christ and the gospel of God as revealed in the Scriptures. He is dedicated to exposing the false gospel that is often advocated on Christian television. Ole gave us many facts uncovered during his twenty-five years of investigations. Some of his information surprised us, like the factoid that the largest number of homosexual pick-up bars on a per capita basis exists in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Other information sickened us. What Ole has uncovered in his investigations of people like Richard Roberts, Benny Hinn, Mike Murdoch, Kenneth Copeland, Morris Cerullo, Jesse Duplantis, Daystar Network, Paul Crouch and TBN, and other prosperity gospel evangelist and networks is just plain sad. Were it common knowledge, it would damage all Christian ministries, even the good ones. I have no interest in repeating the details of what Ole told us Friday night, but it did lead Rachelle and me to discuss on our drive home what it was about the prosperity gospel that attracted so many Christian people to give large sums of money to people like those named above.
That's the operative word that describes what people want. We all want control. Christian people want to believe that if they just have enough faith, and then exercise that faith by planting a financial seed (to the televangelist's ministry of course), that they control their futures. They want prosperity, health, and happiness. Its the notion that they can control their future via their faith that drives them to give to the evangelists. Instead of singing "Have Faith in God" the donor should be singing "Have Faith in Faith." Faith, at least in the prosperity gospel, has taken the place of God. The negative effects of this distorted perspective on faith is seen in the teaching of Jesse Duplantis as he describes his confusion and hurt over his mother's continuing illness, even though he was praying she be healed.
"I was confused. I was hurt. I didn't know what else to do. That is when God spoke up, "Jesse, I have a covenant with you, yes. However, I have one with your mother as well. You are praying for her healing. She is praying in her heart for Me to take her home. Now, I will obey My Word. But you and your daddy are battling your mother's will. It is her life at stake. You have Me in a hard place, Jesse. Someone has got to give in. Get yourselves together and tell Me what I am to do! (Jesse Duplantis, "My Experience Doesn't’ Change God’s Word," Article C-Faith)Oh boy. God is in 'a hard place,' and He needs Jesse and Jesse's mom to 'tell Him what to do." How do you control your future of health? Exercise faith. How do you control your future of financial prosperity? Exercise faith. Faith in what? Faith in faith. Your faith controls God. Your faith controls your destiny. Your faith is the end all. Have faith in your faith.
However, one of these days the markets are going to collapse despite all the faith in the world. One of these days our national prosperity will be gone despite our faith. If that day doesn't come in our lifetimes, we will all come to the place where the world as we know it will be changed for us personally. Our careers will come to an end. Our loved ones will die. Our health will deteriorate. We are not in control of either the world or our lives. But we know the One who is. Your faith will always be weak and insufficient. Your faith will let you down. Thank God that it is not the amount or quality of your faith that controls your future. God does. It is not faith in faith that we need. It is faith in God. He is good, and He is in control.
I wonder how many people who possess the calm assurance that God is in complete control of their futures, regardless of the size or quality of their faith, actually give to televangelists? It's a question I suspect Ole might answer with two words: "Very few."