Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
The Prosperity and Word of Faith Doctrines


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Chapter I - Introduction To The Prosperity Doctrine and The Word of Faith Movement

Carol Brooks

    Index To All Chapters


    The Prosperity Gospel
    In Jesus' day, many believed that wealth was clear evidence of God's blessing and that the wealthy would automatically be in the kingdom. By implication this meant that the poor were either doing something wrong and/or were being punished for sin. Note: Luke 16:14 says the Pharisees, who certainly looked down on the less fortunate, were lovers of money.

    And, in some churches, nothing has changed. The Prosperity Doctrine is the belief subscribed to by millions of Christians, that although Christians should keep one eye on Heaven, God doesn't want His people to wait until then have the best of everything including good health and material possessions in the here and now. "God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy" [01] in this life.

    They imply that the right technique and an adequate amount of faith is a binding mandate on God requiring Him to act. This, in effect, means that He has surrendered His sovereignty and the believer is calling the shots.

    The prosperity gospel was popularized by Oral Roberts when one day he randomly opened his Bible to John's third Epistle, and the words "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2 NASB)" jumped out at him. He and his wife were greatly excited by this verse and he claimed that it opened his mind. The Lord also allegedly told Roberts that he was commissioned to build a university based on the Lord's authority and on the Holy Spirit.

    Roberts did found the university, but soon developed his famous concept of seed faith, still popular today. He taught that donations made to to his organization were "seeds" that would thrive and grow, and that God would multiply what ever was given and return times more to the donor. It is easy to see why this would appeal to the less fortunate however, in reality, this was nothing but a get-rich-quick scheme. An article on Grace to You says,

     It generated untold millions for Roberts's empire and was quickly adopted by a host of similarly-oriented Pentecostal and Charismatic media ministries. The Seed-Faith principle is the main cash-cow that built and has supported vast networks of televangelists who barter for their viewers' money with fervent promises of "miracles" - invariably described in terms of material blessings, mainly money. [02]

    Also See Tithing - God's Plan or Man’s Design?
    Many believers have been taught that tithing is a command of God for Christians today. Were one to ask most teachers of tithing to cite a passage of Scripture supporting the practice, a few verses - I like to call them "the usual suspects" - can be rounded up. Frequently, only parts of Scripture passages are cited, and they are usually rendered out of context. Also Note that the Apostle Paul never once appealed to tithing even though he obviously often suffered financial difficulties. However, he wrote rather a lot about FREELY giving financial support where one is able. (In-depth Article)

    Salvation For a Buck:
    Note that when tele-evangelists make extravagant promises about God repaying the "offerings" 100 fold, not only are they making fraudulent promises but, in effect, they are signing promissory notes on God's behalf (Promissory notes are a written promise to pay a stated sum to a specified person by a specified date).

    The tele-evangelical community is doing today exactly what the Catholic Church was in the 16th century - running a business in the name of God's blessings - the practice that sparked the reformation. The original story about Martin Luther posting his thesis on the door of Wittenberg castle is more the stuff of legend than historical accuracy (See Martin Luther) however, if he were alive today I can imagine he would probably be very tempted to post a thesis on the doors of The Trinity Broadcasting Network in protest of the principle of salvation for a buck.

    The Word-Faith Movement.
    However, while they trundle along on parallel tracks, the point has to be made that the prosperity gospel is not necessarily synonymous with the Word-Faith doctrine. The latter has taken the Prosperity doctrine to an entirely new level.

    Word of Faith teachers do not refer to faith as a person's belief in - and reliance on - the power of God who alone can move mountains, but teach that the words themselves have creative "power" thus what a person believes and says determines his future. This boils down to having faith in faith.

    In a comment on Mark 11:23 ("Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.), Andrew Wommack Ministries says,  (Emphasis Added)

      faith is released by speaking words. Notice that speaking is emphasized three times in this one verse, and the Lord commands us to believe that what we say will come to pass. We are to believe in the power of our words. [03]

    Joel Osteen claims the same thing, (Emphasis Added)

      Words are similar to seeds. By speaking them aloud, they are planted in our subconscious minds, and they take on a life of their own; they take root, grow, and produce fruit of the same kind. If we speak positive words, our lives will move in that direction. Similarly, negative words will produce poor results. We can't speak words of defeat and failure yet expect to live in victory. .. When you say something often enough, with enthusiasm and passion, before long your subconscious mind begins to act on what you are saying, doing whatever is necessary to bring those thoughts and words to pass. [04]

    Word of Faith teachers instruct believers to start believing and confessing that they already have whatever it is they want. If a person wants money, he is to confess that he has money even if he is as poor as the proverbial church mouse. If he wants healing he has to confess that he is already healed even though he may yet be unable to get out of his wheelchair. On the other hand, the believer who lacks faith and acknowledges the negative is guilty of a self-fulfilling prophecy - He will stay sick if he confesses he is sick, and will stay poor if he confesses he is poor.

    Time Magazine's Devastating Statistics

    The sheer number of churches preaching the Prosperity doctrine, and the size of some of those involved, drew the attention of Time Magazine not so long ago. Their September 2006 cover story called Does God Want You to Be Rich? was described by Albert Mohler (ninth president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky) as "fair, balanced, and devastating".

    They stated that according to their own poll (Emphasis Added]

      17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31%--a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America--agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money. [05]

    In the article, Joyce Meyer was quoted as asking,

      "Who would want to get in on something where you're miserable, poor, broke and ugly and you just have to muddle through until you get to heaven?" [06]

    Well actually Joyce.. anyone with half a brain in their heads and a smidgeon of common sense, which should tell them that that the hope of the Gospel is life everlasting, not the drop in a bucket seventy odd years that we have in this life. But perhaps that is a bit too much to hope for from this 'Gimme Generation" that wants everything and wants it now. And, why does there seem not to be any middle ground between "miserable, poor, broke and ugly" and palatial homes, classic automobiles, expensive works of art and a fat bank account.

    An Example of How It Works
    Time Magazine's write-up began with a story about one George Adams who lost his job at an Ohio tile factory in October of 2005. Upon which "the most practical thing he did" was "go to a new church", moving his family including four preteen boys to a suburb of Houston from where he attended Joel Osteen's mega-church in Lakewood.

    Inspired by the preacher's insistence that one of God's top priorities is to shower blessings on Christians and that one of the worst things a person can do is to expect anything less, Adams marched into Gullo Ford in Conroe looking for work. To cut a long story short, it wasn't long before Adams was on his way to a six-figure income. The sales commission helped pay the rent, but as the story went, (Emphasis Added)

      Adams hates renting. Once that six-figure income has been rolling in for a while, he will buy his dream house: "Twenty-five acres," he says. "And three bedrooms. We're going to have a schoolhouse (his children are home schooled). We want horses and ponies for the boys, so a horse barn. And a pond. And maybe some cattle." [07]

    However, George Adams is not the only kind of believer in the Prosperity Doctrine....

    Some Seek Wealth. But Others Just Want Reassurance.

    All too often those that buy into these promises do so out of desperation. Kate Bowler, assistant professor at Duke Divinity School, recently diagnosed with cancer, hit the nail on the head when she wrote (Emphasis Added)

      It is true that the prosperity gospel encourages people — especially its leaders — to revel in private jets and multimillion-dollar homes as evidence of God's love. But among the less well-heeled believers, I sensed a different kind of yearning, one that wasn't entirely materialistic. Believers wanted an escape: from poverty, failing health, and the feeling that their lives were leaky buckets.

      Some people wanted Bentleys, but more wanted relief from the wounds of their past and the pain of their present. People wanted salvation from bleak medical diagnoses; they wanted to see God rescue their broken teenagers or their misfiring marriages. They wanted talismans to ward off the things that go bump in the night. They wanted an iota of power over the things that ripped their lives apart at the seams.

      What they wanted was reassurance: that if they prayed, and believed, and lived righteously, they would be rewarded with some measure of comfort...

      The prosperity gospel looks at the world as it is and promises a solution. It guarantees that faith will always make a way. If you believe, and you leap, you will land on your feet. If you believe, you will be healed. [08]

    Universal Application?
    One factor that seems to have not to be taken into consideration is that the prosperity doctrine is usually preached to Christians living in an affluent, or at least a comfortable society.

    However, any Biblical doctrine has to have universal application... whether the believer lives in a grass hut in the jungle, or shops on Main Street. It has to be as effective in the slums as it is in the suburbs. It has to work in third world countries as much as it does in the west. As asked by the Assemblies of God...

      Does the teaching have meaning only for those living in an affluent society? Or does it also work among the refugees of the world? What application does the teaching have for believers imprisoned for their faith by atheistic governments? Are those believers substandard who suffer martyrdom or grave physical injury at the hands of cruel, ruthless dictators. [09]

    The New Generation of Celebrity/Prosperity Teachers
    Most of the 'ministries' commonly associated with the Prosperity Doctrine are one-man shows - named after their founder. As of writing Kenneth Copeland is over 80, as is John Avanzini. Fred Price and Marilyn Hickey both have a few years on them, and Jesse Duplantis is close to seventy.  Whether their 'ministries' will continue after the death of said founder is up in the air.

    However, the Prosperity Doctrine mantle has been assumed by a different breed of cat that may not make any really stupid statements like the ones made by Copeland, Duplantis, Dollar etc. (see next page), but are prosperity teachers nonetheless. The pitch hasn't changed, but has simply been worded differently - "Success", "God's Favor" and "dreaming bigger" seem to be the new buzzwords.

    The degree of shamelessness and Scriptural manipulation remains the same.

    Kevin Gerald
    founder and Senior Pastor of one of the largest non-denominational congregations in the Pacific Northwest - a church that used to be called Covenant Celebration Church but is now, believe it or not re-named "Champions Centre". His book Pardon Me, I'm Prospering says,

      Have you ever felt like you needed to apologize for having or wanting a blessed, prosperous life? This book reminds us that prosperity is a Bible word and is not something to be ashamed of in our lives.

    The same old story told in a slightly different way.

    Steven Furtick
    is an outstanding example of the new breed of celebrity prosperity preachers. 38 years old, he is pastor of 'Elevation Church' - a Southern Baptist multi-site church based in a suburb of Charlotte NC. The church currently has 17 locations - 9 of which are in the Charlotte area. In Charlotte Observer article entitled A Cool Pastor, And A Hot Church, the Rev. David Chadwick is quoted as saying "They really are the major show in town for (those) 20 to 32,” [10] (Emphasis Added.)

    The Church has made Fortune magazine's list of 100 best places to work for millennials in 2017 saying

      Their "on-site services include, haircuts by professional stylists, car detailing, alterations, discounted movie tickets, oil changes, and financial planning services." [11]

    Although Furtick is said to have a Masters of Divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary [09l], it didn't take long for him to make the transition to the Prosperity doctrine to Dominion theology. For example, he

      has preached at T.D. Jakes' church giving Jakes $35,000 dollar gift to honor his "ministry." [12]

      was one of the speakers at Rod Parsley at Parsley’s Dominion Camp Meeting 2018.  [13]

      calls Joel Osteen a great and humble "man of God"

      preached on TBN. In their words, "Beginning on Tuesday evenings at 6:30pm, in February (2014,), Steven Furtick, a young, dynamic pastor, will bless and revive our TBN viewers with his energizing ministry of the Word of God." (Emphasis Theirs) [14]

    And in the true tradition of the Prosperity Gospel, he is unapologetic about his $1.7 million 16,000 sq. ft home (8,400 sq. ft, heated) he and his wife had built on 19 acres in Weddington NC.- which he told his congregation was a 'gift from God. Furtick has stated that his home was paid for with money from his book sales and publisher advances, rather than his salary from Elevation Church

    Celebrity Status
    A 2013 article entitled On God's Stage: Elevation Church says (Emphasis Added)

      Furtick does give critics who call him vain some material to work with. He autographs Bibles and likes to mention that Carolina Panther Steve Smith is a friend (Furtick recently preached while wearing Smith's jersey). Elevation's website specifies that being part of the church means believing "Elevation is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will aggressively defend our unity and that vision.” [15]

    Presbyterian-raised Tonia Bendickson, a member of the church and who oversees the outreach program believes that "Pastor Steven is anointed by God". [16] I guess others must believe that as well. The church also produced an infographic that stated among other things

      •We serve a Lead Pastor who seeks and hears from God.

      •We serve a Lead Pastor we can trust.

      •We serve a Lead Pastor who goes first.

    A church that states that they serve a lead pastor?

    Silly me!

    All this time I was under the impression that it was God that we were supposed to be serving. Also see Elevation's Sunday School coloring book in Footnote I.

    Elevation has neither deacons nor elders. Furtick's salary, that he wont divulge, is set by a Board of Overseers made up of five out-of-town megachurch pastors he chose including Kevin Gerald from Washington state.

    Casey Treat
    is founder and senior pastor of Christian Faith Center, a multi-campus, multi-cultural church in the Seattle area. The foreword to his book The 3 Essentials: All You Need for Success in Life, was written by Creflo Dollar (Publisher: Berkley; Original edition (September 6, 2011). It says in part

      "By activating the three essentials, you will be in the perfect position to rise above average and achieve the abundant life He has designed for you to live"

    In the Introduction, Casey Treat writes (Emphasis Added)

      You were created in the likeness and image of God, and every aspect in your life can reflect the abundance and creativity of our amazing Lord... Faith causes us to see good things in the future and because of this we develop vision of success and prosperity in life..

    (Note the word "sin" doesn't exist in the book).

    In Chapter 1, Treat says that he and his wife Wendy were in their third year of Bible college when they first heard a Fred Price television broadcast in which Price was speaking about Christians being able to use faith to actually initiate the change they wanted. Treat also mentions that Price had a revelation that faith was not just a wish for God's promises to come to pass, but it was a tangible force to make dynamic things happen in our lives.

    And as he also says, Fred Price set a course for their future in ministry. They devoured every book and tape by Price that they could get a hold of and began Christian Faith center the next year in 1980.

    Continue On To Chapter 2
    Alleged Biblical Support For The Prosperity Doctrine.
    if you claim to be a Christian, the very least you have to do is try and show that what you are teaching is Biblically based. Prosperity teachers commonly make the claim that Jesus was a rich man therefore His followers are are entitled to the good things in life. Additionally, they use Biblical terminology that lulls believers into a false sense of security and appeal to a number of Biblical passages that convince many that their teachings come straight from the mouth of God Himself. But was Jesus a rich man, and do the Bible passages they quote prove that God wants us to be rich? HERE

    Footnote Ii
    One page of a Sunday school coloring book that Elevation produced for its children's ministry depicts Furtick with the caption, "Elevation Church is built on the vision God gave pastor Steven. We will protect our unity in supporting his vision.” As so rightly said,

      "Indoctrinating kids with images and messages that discourage dissent and encourage the, ahem, elevation of a religious leader is problematic on many levels. [17]

    See picture of coloring book [https://cpyu.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/furtick-coloring-book.jpg]


    End Notes - Chapter 1
    [01] David W. Jones. 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-errors-of-the-prosperity-gospel/

    [02] Grace to You. Measuring Oral Roberts's Influence. https://www.gty.org/library/Print/Blog/B091218

    [03] Andrew Wommack Ministries. Commentary on Mark 11:23. http://www.awmi.net/bible/mar_11_23

    [04] Joel Osteen. Your Best Life Now. 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential. Pg. 122. FaithWords (August 20, 2007)

    [05] Time Magazine. Does God Want You To Be Rich? David Van Biema And Jeff Chu Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006. Part 2 of 8.

    [06] Time Magazine. Does God Want You To Be Rich? David Van Biema And Jeff Chu Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006. Part 3 of 8. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448-3,00.html

    [07] Time Magazine. Does God Want You To Be Rich? David Van Biema And Jeff Chu Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006. Part 1 of 8. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448,00.html

    [08] Kate Bowler. I'm a scholar of the "prosperity gospel." It took cancer to show me I was in its grip.

    [09] The Assemblies of God Statement on The Believer and Positive Confession

    [10] Tim Funk. A cool pastor, and a hot church. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/article9008744.html#storylink=cpy

    [11] Leonardo Blair, Christian Post Reporter | Jun 29, 2017. Elevation Church Makes Fortune's 2017 National List of 100 Best Places to Work for Millennials.

    [12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-LJmJCkdMg&feature=youtu.be

    [13] https://www.rodparsley.com/pages/247-dominion-camp-meeting-2018

    [14] Face book. TBN and Church Channel: Experiencing exponential growth!

    [15] Emily Harris. On God's Stage: Elevation Church

    [16] ibid.

    [17] Jonathan Merritt. Why won’t Steven Furtick answer tough questions about his ministry?
    https://religionnews.com/2016/05/11/why-pastor-steven-furtick-skirts-scandalous-questions/ May 11, 2016


    Index To The Prosperity Doctrine
    And The Word Faith Movement