The Prosperity gospel comes to Chicago

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To his thousands of followers, Rev. Creflo Dollar preaches a powerful message that faith in God will yield spiritual and financial rewards. But, to some scholars and church leaders, Dollar's brand of prosperity gospel is an exploitative message that is damaging the legacy of the American black church.

On Friday night, Dollar -- yes, it's his real name -- brings his popular "Change 2007" convention to the UIC Pavilion. Promoters said more than 8,000 people have registered by phone and online to attend the free event.

Dollar says he wants to help people who feel like they are "stuck in a rut" to change their lifestyle and more fully embrace God.

"The message is that if you can change the way you think, then you can change your life ... and we'll be tying that in with what it means to really have faith and what it means to live by the word of God," Dollar said Thursday. "We take the word of God and bring it down on a practical level to let them see that it is relevant and can be applied in every area of life."

Yuck. Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomy* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

Posted August 18, 2007 at 9:38 am

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1. NancyNH wrote:

Yuck? I’ve watched Dollar’s show exactly once, while dialing around. In that show Dollar described how he turned to the Lord 24 hours a day for healing, listening to the Word all the time, and was ultimately healed through the doctors treating him.

Yuck? Do you really believe this reporter? In a world where evangelicals are attacked daily, I can think of worse people than Creflo Dollar. Dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of TEC members come to mind!

August 18, 9:55 am | [comment link]
2. Shirley wrote:

I did read it all.  From one who came to know God through Pat Robertson’s TV show, I don’t think we can be so quick to judge how people come to God, or how and when he draws them.  If you think this guy is a charlatan, maybe so, but this is sounds acceptable to me: 

Still, Dollar is unapologetic about his financial success. He said most of his wealth comes from businesses outside the church, including an investment firm and real estate company.

“When you look at my lifestyle, people just assume he’s taking that money out of the church. But nobody ever asks, ‘Maybe he’s an intelligent guy who owns his own business,’ which I do,” he said.

“It’s a religious belief that all preachers should live poor and be broke. But what [better] example could I be to the poor [than] to serve God, and show them how to get an education and how to prosper in life?”

Rev. James Meeks, pastor of Chicago’s Salem Baptist Church and a outspoken voice on community service, said Dollar should be free to interpret the Gospel as he chooses. The important thing, he said, is that people ultimately find God.

“We need to meet people at different points in life,” Meeks said. “Apparently, there are people who are drawn to his message. These are people that are down on their financial condition. So, if that’s the way he’s connecting people to God, I think that’s fine.”

Besides, what’s wrong with Joel Osteen, or Joyce Meyer?  I will take her message about Jesus over +KJS any day.  I have been an Episcopalian all my life, that’s been the church for me, but I know there are other expressions of real faith in Jesus Christ.

August 18, 10:16 am | [comment link]
3. Shirley wrote:

After a little reflection, Kendall, are you saying “Yuck” to the reporter or to Creflo Dollar?

August 18, 10:24 am | [comment link]
4. NancyNH wrote:

I had the same thought as Shirley. For the record, not everyone will get rich through prosperity gospel. But I thought Dollar was preaching the Word of the Lord. If I’m wrong, I apologize.

August 18, 11:07 am | [comment link]
5. Anonymous Layperson wrote:

Some gems of theology from Dollar:

“God wants you to tithe so he can love you, bless you and get the things you want in your life”

“God wants to cut a deal with you. When you bring your tithe then God can protect you.”

“Every time you tithe you should expect an anointing. Somebody says, “My marriage ain’t going right, I need to hurry up get to church to tithe.” Why? To get some anointing. You ought to be running here to give your tithe. Why? To get some anointing. That tithe replenishes that anointing. That tithe replenishes the anointing. It is an act of obedience which is an exchange for more power. . .”

“Tithing is our covenant connector.  Giving determines the amount of our increase.”

“Jesus died for your sins so that you can have the abundant life of prosperity and health!”

“That word ‘money cometh’ obligates Jesus the apostle and the high priest of our confession to oversee that word, I’m telling to ya right now . Money’s coming to you right now, don’t you be surprised when you get home.. the anointing has been released upon you right now.” We’re never going back to the wilderness were stuck in Canaan land. Now watch this Prov.13 v.22 this is something prophetic… it has already started … “the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just” he also adds “the wealth of that disobedient Christian” “I got money looking for me,… tracking me down like a hound dog, money is looking for me.”

August 18, 12:23 pm | [comment link]
6. RickW wrote:

What’s Yuck about God offering his people wealth in abundance?

The LORD has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys.
Genesis 24:34-36

The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you.
Deuteronomy 28:10-12

The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people and the LORD has blessed us abundantly.”
Joshua 17:13-15

Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.
Nehemiah 9:36-38

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.
Psalm 65:8-10

I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food.
Psalm 132:14-16

Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the LORD; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the LORD, for abundant food and fine clothes.
Isaiah 23:17-18

Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’
Jeremiah 33:8-10

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:16-18

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:13-15

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
John 1:15-17

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

A god who is impoverished, is not the God of the Bible.  A theology that preaches poverty and misery is not of the God of the Bible.

August 18, 12:39 pm | [comment link]
7. Shirley wrote:

You know, Anonymous Layperson, that isn’t my style either, nor my culture, so how he presents God’s word is between Creflo and God.  But God did say:

Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty. Mal 3:7-12


August 18, 12:45 pm | [comment link]
8. Words Matter wrote:

It’s historically verifiable that faith in God can well lead to material prosperity, by making us more industrious, prudent, and, yes, generous. God really does supply the needs of His people as they have an open heart and open hands. However, there is not a simple relationship of righteous/rich and poor/sinful. Some choose poverty (think St. Francis), some choose careers that don’t generate wealth, but do allow a reasonable level of comfort (that would be me) and some are simply not blessed with the smarts, or up-bringing, or opportunities to be rich. They struggle, just as some other folk struggle to be generous.

The problem with the prosperity gospel is the value system it reflects: we claim to follow the One who had not a place to lay His head. We claim to follow Him who flung away material - and even spiritual - comfort. He chose the opposite of the wealth-and-health values of the prosperity gospel.

What do we choose?

Words Matter

Reasonable people always fear nascent fascism.

August 18, 1:38 pm | [comment link]
9. RoyIII wrote:

I agree with Shirley and I will take Joel Osteen any day over most of what the ‘official’ Episcopal Church is touting. The reason I am still an Episcopalian is because I like my home church and my bishop.  Frankly. 815 and the like, and their tiffs over the Anglican Communion, really do not affect me and are more entertainment that I do not take seriously.  I do not look to TEC and for that matter a lot of the network types for guidance and leadership.  It’s a scarce commodity.  So I tend to look on comments like Kendall’s “yuck” and some of the other put downs by the ‘religion professionals’ on the web as professional jealousy.  I don’t see a thing wrong with the preachers like Dr. Dollar, Osteen, Joyce Meyer and many others if they are leading souls to Christ.  That’s more than the episcopal church can say, in my view.

August 18, 2:00 pm | [comment link]
10. Jim the Puritan wrote:

The reason it is “yuck” (and I am one that thinks the “Prosperity Gospel” is worse than what is going on with ECUSA), is that it reverses the role of God and humans.  The prosperity gospel teaches that if you give your tithe (to people like Dollar and his ilk), then God must bless you financially.  The formula is that God must return to us tenfold what we give to Him (through his emissaries like Dollar).  God becomes our puppet and servant.

That is totally idolatrous and false.  We give to God out of the gratefulness of our hearts, not because we expect anything out of Him.  Giving because you believe He must give you something in return is no different than what the Canaanites believed about the Ba’als, Molech, etc.

God is about what we are willing to sacrifice, not what we want to get.

Granted, following God (including tithing) will lead to blessings, but they won’t necessarily be worldly or financial.  In fact, Scripture teaches that you will have persecution and pain for following Him.  Jesus and the Apostles stated that repeatedly.

Why do I think the Prosperity Gospel is worse than the Inclusive Gospel of ECUSA?  Yes, both are heresies.  But at least the ECUSA gospel is built (although falsely constructed) on the truth that God does care for all people.  At its foundation, the Prosperity Gospel is built on greed and what I can get from God.

August 18, 2:47 pm | [comment link]
11. Philip Snyder wrote:

RickW (#6)

“Woe to you that are rich, for you have received you consolation.  Woe to you that are full not for you shall hunger.” (Luke 6:24-25)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on.” (Luke 12:22)

God does not give to us beause we give to Him.  God does not bless us materially because we tithe.  God does not want us to be right and have abundant wealth.  God wants us to be faithful to Him and to depend on Him, not to depend on our own wealth.

Phil Snyder

“I do not believe because I understand.  I believe in order that I might understand” - Anselm
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

August 18, 3:13 pm | [comment link]
12. Shirley wrote:

I guess it all depends on your perspective, Jim.

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Luke 12:32

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matt 11:28

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”  Rom 2:4

He is a good God.  He wants to bless us.  That’s the good news, but for some it is too good to be true.  It’s not about money, but it can be.  Jesus said, if your love your children and want them to have good things, how much more does God want to do for us.  I believe that.  It’s just that life is hard sometimes and so it is hard for us to believe it, but that still doesn’t mean it is not true.

August 18, 3:22 pm | [comment link]
13. Ross wrote:

I think there are two problems with the prosperity gospel:

One is the one that #10 Jim the Puritan highlighted: it makes Christian worship into a transaction.  Worship God, tithe to the church, why?... because you’ll get something back in return.  Not only is that not “worship,” it also means that if I’m happy with my current level of material wealth, the prosperity gospel gives me no reason to worship or tithe.  I already got mine, so what’s in it for me?

The second problem is that it makes a promise that just plain isn’t always true.  God does not always reward faithfulness with material wealth; I think we can all think of plenty of examples.  God may shower blessings on his faithful, but those blessings are by no means always material and sometimes they’re blessings that we didn’t even particularly want—like a call to leave our safe home and go do something difficult and dangerous for no earthly reward.

So what happens when somebody hears the prosperity gospel, turns to Jesus, tithes, and does everything a good Christian is supposed to do—and yet the Mercedes somehow never shows up in the driveway?  If the church promises wealth, and that promise turns out to be a crock, and the church also promises eternal life… what is a reasonable person going to conclude?

Who am I?  Visit my web page or my blog  to find out.

August 18, 4:10 pm | [comment link]
14. Milton wrote:

Thank you, #10, #11, and #13 for your comments.  It is no virtue to fall off of the wagon into the ditch by leaning too far right to avoid falling off by leaning too far left.  Folks, we can proof-text all day long, but Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar, among many others, are not preaching Jesus’ gospel, but simply idolatry of wealth.  Jesus did not call everyone to forsake material possessions for the greater treasure of eternal life.  But when He was sought out by the rich young ruler, He told him to sell all he had, and he would have treasure in Heaven!  When Jesus called for such a radical reordering of material priorities, even promising eternal life and a treasure that thieves could not break in and steal, that moths and rust could not consume, and that he would not have to leave behind at death, the man revealed his real god and left grieving.  Jesus also called for a radical reordering of our heart’s priorities and affections, saying that unless we love Him and “hate” (love for Him making other loves seem like hate by comparison, not actual hatred) our mother and father, then we cannot be His disciples.

In other words, the real gospel is, “He must increase and I must decrease”, and He will give us our relinquished self back cleansed, sanctified, transformed, and “a hundred times as much, houses, farms, fields, and persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life”.

August 18, 4:33 pm | [comment link]
15. Jim the Puritan wrote:

#11 Phil—I agree, and #12 Shirley, I agree with you also.  It’s just the way that God will bless us may not be what the world thinks of as blessings.  We have to depend on God each and every day.  If we follow Him each day, He will give us just what we need daily, not too much, and not too little.  Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread (i.e., the bread for each day), not riches.  When the Israelites were in the desert, if they tried to collect manna for more than the one day, it would spoil.

In my church, one thing we talk about is that God always answers prayer, but He frequently does not answer it in the manner and time in which we were expecting.  In fact, we often may be asked to give up something, not get something.  (For example, the Rich Young Ruler in the Gospels.) But He will only ask us to give up something if it is for our good.

My feeling is that if we are following God and we are blessed financially, it is not for us to keep beyond our actual needs, but to give back for the work of the Kingdom.  Essentially, in that circumstance God is using us as the engine to provide financial resources to further the Gospel among those less fortunate. ““The end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord and to comfort and increase the body of Christ . . . .”  (John Winthrop, a Puritan leader).

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”—Jesus (John 16:33)

August 18, 4:52 pm | [comment link]
16. Milton wrote:

A cross-post from a post that was quoted on StandFirm in Faith today that seems to sum up this issue better than anything I could say:

The reality is that we have needs (“petitions”) and that God has “merciful ears.”
But, our desperation sometimes corrupts our prayers. Our craving for something good, or at least relief from something bad, renders our prayers ineffective. We need God’s help to “ask such things as please” him.
Our prayers need fixin’ from time to time. We need to ask God to make the repairs. Jesus told Paul to stop praying for relief from a problem and start offering praise and thanks for the Lord’s power. Paul, problem and all, went forward in Christ’s strength to build up churches, raise up leaders, and write much of what is now our New Testament.

When I was younger, good looking and very available, I went through a lonely season. I did a lot of dating and had some “relationships”, pretty much all of them unsatisfying (and in some cases destructive). I kept asking God to take away the loneliness.

During this time, I took a trip to California’s central coast (that wonderful backdrop for the movie Sideways). I stopped in to pray at Mission San Buenaventura. The Calvary Shrine there is very brutal to behold. Jesus’ knees are scraped from his falls on the way to the cross. Every injury is detailed. As I prayed at the foot of the cross, I continued my desperate petition for relief from the loneliness.

Then the Holy Spirit took a wrench to my spirit. Without thought or intention on my part, my prayer changed. “Jesus, you understand suffering. Use my pain to change me.”

This new, Spirit-fixed prayer started a series of powerful changes in my life. God didn’t remove the loneliness, but helped me confess attitudes and repent of behaviors that were creating it. Within a year, I met my wife.

We need to stay alert for God’s desire (he loves us) and ability (he’s all powerful) to fix our prayers. He likes to reach in when our prayers are rattling and wheezing, tweak our spirit, and fix our words to give them new power.

One more example. I was praying in the car the other day. I was complaining and begging for relief from financial and church leadership problems. All of a sudden, the prayer changed to something like:

“Daddy, I know that you have a surprise for me. I know that you have it and I’m really wanting to open it up. I know that you love me and that you won’t keep it hidden too long. I’m so excited!”

I went from moaning to an obscure god to tugging gleefully on dad’s pant leg. That was the fix that my prayer needed - that was the fix that the Spirit made. And it is in joyful expectation that I am approaching life this week.

Ask God to fix your prayers. “Father, give me the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, fix my prayers so that they please the Father. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.”


What he said!

August 18, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
17. Shirley wrote:

#15 and #16.  Amen and amen!  What a gracious and loving father indeed, who knows our every need even before we speak.  Thanks be to God for those who can be excited about Him.  I love the story, Milton.  Thanks.

August 18, 8:53 pm | [comment link]
18. CharlesB wrote:

While I think it is wrong to preach that you give for the reason of expecting a financial return or blessing, from my personal experience, and I am 61 and have served as parish and diocesan treasurer, I cannot think of anyone who gave a tithe or more who suffered financially in the long run.  In fact, of those who I have known or believed to be tithers, all got on fairly well.  I think we all have some difficulties from time to time, but in the long run, I have seen many financial blessings come to pass for many people, myself included.  What I would like to add is that the preachers mentioned are giving God the credit.  Do we always do that, or do we explain our financial blessing as something we did or we are responsible for?  If we are not giving God the glory and thanking for what is a blessing in our life, financial or otherwise, how can we expect Him to continue to bless us?

August 19, 6:31 am | [comment link]
19. Dazzled wrote:

According to this gospel most of the Global South must be doing something very wrong or sinful. It is an abhorent heresy that makes ECUSA’s look slight. Prosperity *can* be financial but that’s not the only definition and it’s not always so - maybe less often than not. Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.

Here’s an example of someone who tithed or better and wasn’t well off: Luke 21:2-4. It’s a common occurence in crummy neighborhoods and I’m sure it is likewise in the Global South.

August 19, 2:20 pm | [comment link]
20. Larry Morse wrote:

The trouble with Dollar is that he is lying to his listeners. God is NOT going to bring you prosperity. If he were, we would all be rich and comfy. “Money’s coming to you right now…”  This is a patent lie; it is not coming to me or to you. And I might add that Jesus has a comment or two about the rich and needle’s eyes and that sort of thing. Besides, it what Dollar said is true, why wasn’t Jesus rich, setting a good example for the rest of the apostles?
I wonder if it occurred to Jesus that money was coming to him right now? 

  Dollar has made greed and crassness the agents of Christianity. How can you not be repelled by such a creature? LM

August 19, 7:58 pm | [comment link]
21. Sherri wrote:

So what happens when somebody hears the prosperity gospel, turns to Jesus, tithes, and does everything a good Christian is supposed to do—and yet the Mercedes somehow never shows up in the driveway?  If the church promises wealth, and that promise turns out to be a crock, and the church also promises eternal life… what is a reasonable person going to conclude?

Don’t you wonder how many people are driven away from Christianity like this? I am repelled at seeing God turned into a no more than a tool for achieving mere (yes, mere) material wealth.

August 20, 12:37 pm | [comment link]

© 2014 Kendall S. Harmon. All rights reserved.

For original material from Titusonenine (such as articles and commentary by Dr. Harmon) permission to copy and distribute free of charge is granted, provided this notice, the logo, and the web site address are visible on all copies. For permission for use in for-profit publications, please email KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com

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