Monday, November 06, 2006

The Prosperity Gospel

Last week's edition of the Western Recorder, the state newspaper of Kentucky Baptists, carried a front page story by Ken Camp of the Texas Baptist Standard entitled, "Baptist leaders Voice Concern About Prosperity Gospel's Influence."

His article provides a brief critique of the so-called "health, wealth, and prosperity gospel," otherwise known as the "name-it-and-claim-it gospel" and its supposed growing popularity in North America.

The article includes the view of the oft-maligned Joel Osteen, who wrote in his best-selling book, Your Best Life Now, "The Bible says, 'God takes pleasure in prospering His children.' As His children prosper spiritually, physically and materially, their increase brings pleasure to God."

His view is countered by Suzii Paynter, director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, who said, "...the prosperity doctrine ... limits God. It makes Him into a behavioral psychologist who resorts to external rewards to manipulate the rat-race human beings."

The possible impact of this "prosperity gospel" is something that I decided I had to learn more about. A church in a nearby community is in the process of planting a new "satellite" congregation in my community. I'll admit that I am no fan of the "franchising of the church" movement and multiple locations. I analyzed that in a previous post. But I am an advocate of church planting. There are plenty of unreached people in our community. A new church is welcome. But in seeking more information about the "home church," I found that the coming message series is entitled "King Solomon's Secrets of Success." A message series designed to unveil the secrets of a successful (and obviously wealthy) king sounds hauntingly like a "prosperity gospel" approach. Of that I am most suspicious.

Of course, this "health and wealth" phenomenon is nothing new. We all remember the "glory days" of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. So-called "evangelists" have been broadcasting "Jesus shows" and manipulating working people out of their hard-earned money for the past thirty years. But what is the current impact? What are the implications of this approach to spreading the gospel message? Is it, indeed, the true Gospel? Who actually responds to this message? What is the impact of this version of Christianity, if any, upon Church Planting?

I'll share my view and analysis of what I believe is the true nature of the "prosperity gospel" in my next post.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Geoff,
Two in a row on money issues! The prosperity gospel has been a much talked about topic in our area. KAIT, a local TV station in Jonesboro recently reported on this very issue. The report was very well done. The report showed clips of Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar espousing their message of prosperity. It didn't portray them in a bad light, but just sought to shed light on the issue. The report also included interviews with local pastors to get their thoughts on the topic. It was a very interesting report.

Jesus said, "the poor you will have with you always."(Mark 14:7) So how can it be His will for us to all be rich? I believe this message is very dangerous to the average person. First, not everyone is able to handle lots of money. The Bible also says, "the love of money is the root of all evil." (1 Tim. 6:10) Your previous blog entry is evidence that not everyone can handle large sums of money in a manner that honors God.

Secondly, some prosperity preachers goes so far as to say that the reason some Christians are not rich is because they lack faith in God. This is an evil teaching.

It seems to me that the more prosperous our nation becomes the less spiritual we become. As we become wealthy we began to believe we have no need for a God.

God's slave,
Paul from Jonesboro

12:07 AM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

Yes, Paul, two posts in a row about money issues. Important stuff.

You nailed it in your last paragraph. But I would change one word. The more prosperous we become, the less Biblical (I think we're still pretty spiritual ... just worshiping self and money) we become. Personal wealth does, indeed, lead to personal self-reliance.

That is why the so-called "prosperity gospel" preys upon the poor. I'll explain in my next post.

7:08 AM  

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