"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Prosperity Gospel's Fundamental Flaw Is Its Faith in Faith

 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.

Control.

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."

21 comments:

Tanya Kennedy said...

Hmmmmmmm!!!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. How prevalent do you think this theology is within SBC ranks?

wadeburleson.org said...

Anonymous,

Not sure. I don't hear much about the prosperity gospel in the SBC, but that's not to say some don't espouse it. I just don't know.

Anonymous said...

My family has found ourselves in a precarious situation. My wife, a secretary for a local church, is faced with a choice of honesty or her job.
After discussion and prayer, we came to the conclusion it would be better for her to be unemployed for standing for truth.

In part of our prayer, we acknowledged that what happens is beyond our control and in His hands. We thanked God for the good years of work He gave her, and, if need be, we will thank Him for the season she may become a stay at home mom. We asked that if that day comes God grants us wisdom in our stewardship and acknowledged He can supply our needs if this day comes.

Were we right in praying this?

wadeburleson.org said...

Anonymous,

I would prefer to answer your question "Were we right in praying this?" as follows:

"You seem Spirit-filled when you prayed that prayer."

Right makes me look for a law somewhere. Spirit-filled causes me to reflect on a relationship.

Hope that answers your question. And, I also know that every need you have will be met by Him.

Timothy Snider said...

Well-articulated post.

I immediately thought of the Kenneth Copeland phrase 'force of faith.' Having Googled it, I found he even wrote a book of the same title.

http://www.amazon.com/Force-Faith-Kenneth-Copeland/dp/0938458140

Faith in faith? The faith is a force? May the force be with you?

Jennifer McSparin said...

Regarding FBC: Keep an eye on Steven Furtick, who has relationships with TD Jakes, David Crank, Joyce Meyer, and Hillsong-all prosperity teachers. His messages, blogs, and tweets have prosperity sprinkled in them-and at an increasing rate. I expect him to have his own TBN show eventually (seriously). He's been a guest on there already.

Alan Cross said...

Great post, Wade. As to the question, "Is this in the SBC?" I would answer that we are eaten up with it. It just manifests in a different way. We teach that if we follow certain principles, then we will have a good life, a good marriage, a good family, and a good church/ministry. If we do one thing, then God is obligated to do another. It is the same basic perspective as the Word/Faith heresy, but it just might not be as blatantly materialistic. Still, though, we are trying to be in control.

Skye Jethani, editor of Leadership Journal, has a great new book out called "With" that approaches this from a more evangelical perspective.

Tyson Wynn said...

Re: whether it's in the SBC, that depends on where. SBC leadership, I don't think we're seeing it hugely manifest. Pulpits, it depends on where pastors look for their influences and research. As for the pew, when I was a pastor, I was utterly amazed at the number of people who considered it appropriate for Christians to listen to ONLY Christian radio and television. In most markets, that means they listened to/watched the Word of Faith/prosperity folks. A LOT. I'm trying to remember the source, but I'm almost certain that I read somewhere that the movement itself gave up the notion of being its own "church" for the strategy of infiltrating (for lack of a better word) existing churches. A good pastor can dedicate himself to preaching the truth of the Gospel each Sunday, but he has an uphill battle if church members spend the rest of the week, a lot more time relatively, marinating in the false Gospel of the prosperity preachers. I have been further shocked by members of my extended family, otherwise very conservative, who are members of seemingly orthodox churches, mentioning certain prosperity preachers positively in conversations at family gatherings. They may have been attracted by a teaching on another issue, say eschatology, but they end up becoming ensnared in everything else they prattle on about. It's pervasive, and it's like leaven. Brings 2 Tim. 3 to mind: "1But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men."

As ever, we must be diligent with the truth.

wadeburleson.org said...

Good points Alan and Tyson.

Gave me food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Great post. With all those links I can keep guard against the evil preachers of today. Why not put up some links to the evil mega-pastors in the SBC. That way prospective church members and non-believers would know who to watch out for.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the article. I have a chronic medical condition and occasionally a friend will encourage me to pray for healing. I have never done so because I believe God knows what is best for me and I trust him to take care of me. I get the best medical treatment available but I praise God for the health I do have in spite of my medical condition.
Though your article was about the prosperity gospel, it sure applied to my condition. Thank you for the encouragement to trust God and him alone.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the article. I have a chronic medical condition and occasionally a friend will encourage me to pray for healing. I have never done so because I believe God knows what is best for me and I trust him to take care of me. I get the best medical treatment available but I praise God for the health I do have in spite of my medical condition.
Though your article was about the prosperity gospel, it sure applied to my condition. Thank you for the encouragement to trust God and him alone.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous...maybe you have not because you ask not? Even Jesus asked the Father to take the cup from Him, a prayer which the Father did not grant (but He asked)...)

Anonymous said...

So, is Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch a prosperity preacher? I have never heard him personally but have noticed a large exiting of traditional "church" people leaving their churches to attend his. Most have never even met him. I know one instance when one of his members met him at his book signing, got a picture with him and posted it on facebook as if he were a celebrity instead of her pastor. But, I guess that would be another blog entirely.

David said...

Anonymous said...
Great post. With all those links I can keep guard against the evil preachers of today. Why not put up some links to the evil mega-pastors in the SBC. That way prospective church members and non-believers would know who to watch out for.

Thu Nov 17, 09:44:00 AM 2011

Great idea Anon. However, in the spirit of fairness, let's also put up a list of evil and corrupt church members so prospective pastors can know about who they are dealing with as well.

Anonymous said...

Is it in the SBC?

Locally I would say yes, but NOT from the pulpit.

Rather, it is the praise team feeding us this drivel.

I remember when songs were carefully scrutinized and the writer's theology considered before going in the hymnal. And surprise--there might be some differences between songs at Baptist and non Baptist churches.

Now we just sing whatever the top five songs on the current CCM playlist are.

UH,HELLO, GATEKEEPING PASTORS: Please insist on advance lyrics. Pay attention to what they say, and check out the writers. Protect your sheep from oneness pentecostal songs, and from prosperity gospel songs.

I'm not talking style--this applies to hymns, CCM, southern gospel, rap, whatever style your church does.

We need to sing the truth as well as teach and preach it.

Linda

Mark B said...

Dear Anonymous talking about Lifechurch.tv

I've met Craig and am apart of the church. I would say no to that. Because some leave "traditional" church to attend LC.tv doesn't make it anything other than another church. What matters is what is taught and lead from the church. Craig and staff are very passionate about teaching the Gospel and how Christ came to save and redeem us. No matter which denomination, sect, etc, I'll support that!

On your second statement, I'm sure some of the congregation of Emmanuel have had their picture with Pastor Wade too, certainly doesn't make him a celebrity. True the setup of LifeChurch.tv is vastly different than a "traditional" church but we still feel Craig is our pastor as well as the local campus Pastor who gets to focus on ministering to the needs of the community and congregation

Anonymous said...

Excellent and spot-on post.

One thing I do is sometimes to turn on these programs - defined loosely - and turn the volume down and off.

Just look at their facial expressions and contortions - without volume -and just on the surface of, I see phonies and the like. I see hatred. I see intimidation. I see insincerity. I would not want even to meet them as their grimaces are so off-putting.

The final joke - if you will - shall be on their shameful and dishonest lot.

Anonymous said...

What we have here is another case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. ... an article against prosperity for God's people that makes not a mention of the scores of Scripture promises of prosperity and blessing.

Wade, I love most of your writing, but you are out of balance here.

3 John 2 NKJV Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

Ps 35:27 KJV 27 Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.

It takes money to send the everlasting gospel to every tongue, tribe and nation, and taking a “vow of poverty” won’t enable you to support a missionary in Nepal, nor will it feed and clothe the children in a missions orphanage in India.

Poverty is a curse. If God loved poverty so much, He would have blessed Abraham with it, but, alas, He did not, … rather, He blessed Abraham with abundance.

Christians should trust God for His blessings and then use that abundance to spread the gosopel.

Let's speak against the abuse, greed, excess, and lavish lifestyles, but celebrate God's grace and power for living.

PS: For Anonomous with the medical condition, ... waiting on God to do what is best for you won't get you healed, nor will it get you saved if you are lost. You have to call on the Lord with an active faith to receive both. He gave direction for the sick in James 5:14-16, saying to call for leaders in the church to pray for healing.

Eagle said...

One of the bigger flaws of the Prosperity Gospel is how it plays out in the world. How people confuse it for Christianity and how people get it mistaken for faith.

I read this book in a Borders in the Washington, D.C. area a couple years back. I couldn't put it down... Its a book by the former Religion editor for the Los Angeles Times. In it he chronicles his journey through Christianity into atheism. Its called "Losing My Religion" and watching how the Christian community fails to condemn prosperity theology plays a part in that....

http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jul/21/local/me-lostfaith21