As I’ve previously ministered in other parts of the world, I’ve been alarmed at the growing influence of the so-called “prosperity gospel”.
The prosperity message is simply the latest incarnation of the historically persistent “gospel of self” that’s been a blight on the Church since the beginning. Going back to Simon the Samaritan in Acts 8, there’s always been those among us – with gifted personalities and beguiling, mesmerizing spirits of seeming sincerity – who pimp the gospel for personal gain.
Such God pimps – including John Hagee, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and their minions – are all over the airways peddling their seductive gospel of “self”.
For them, God’s highest purpose is to bless me by satisfying my carnal desires for wealth, health and power – but only if I bless Johnny, Kenny or Benny first. After all, they need to feed and maintain their own kingdoms of self – with their huge multimillion dollar estates, untold but vast personal wealth, growing family dynasties with wives and children moved into successor positions, and fleets of expensive cars and personal luxury jets.
These men are fakes. They aggressively promote themselves and deceive while deflecting attention from how they really live and act. Lately, I’ve been seeing how they entice local pastors who are desperate to feed their own growing kingdoms: just help promote me and my gospel of self and I’ll promote you in return.
After all, how better to build a Kingdom of Self – whether internationally or locally – except with a Gospel of Self?
While ministering at leadership conferences and the like, I’ve countered this gospel of self when possible and appropriate. It is a curse and a blight upon the Church and God’s people because it denies the power of the cross and tries to make God subservient to my will.
- The authentic gospel, instead, calls me to take up my cross with Jesus and to die — sometimes literally, if needed — to my own selfish desires and will.
- It calls me to the Kingdom of God, rather than the Kingdom of Self, by honoring the Father above my own interests and desires as I do his will – rather than my own – on earth as it is in heaven.
- It promises that as I do the Father’s will rather than my own will, He will supply my daily bread as He deems appropriate – rather than satisfy my own carnality or perceived needs and desires.
- It affirms that God is sovereign, and I’m not, and my life is not my own.
As a positive testimony, I tried as best I could in Sufficient Grace to convey something my own journey as I found the will of the Father and abiding faith even in adversity. On the flip side, I publicly confronted in Beware! a local church were the leadership is pimping God and exhibiting a warped attitude of entitlement (while, perhaps not surprisingly, embracing international deceivers like Hinn, Copeland and Hagee).
I was encouraged, therefore, with this video clip. In it, John Piper hits the nail on the head as he expresses his justified hate for the false, self-centered and self-serving gospel of self. I first saw it when a friend posted it on Facebook, and I highly recommend it . . .
I thank God for men who care enough to speak clearly and plainly and call us to the cross. May God bless John Piper for expressing the heart of God on this vital issue.
(c) Copyright 2009, Fulcrum Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
Whether or not you agree with any minister on TV or not, Christian prudence calls for us to identify the “problem” as we see but not drop names. In the past, I belonged to a Southern Baptist church. Our church didn’t believe in healing, the gifts of the Spirit, …you get the picture. I criticized such Crazymatics and the Pentecostals. But yet, I could never get over the fact that peoples’ lives were changed in those churches — family and marriages restored, people saved, addicts delivered and people healed. God was at work in something that I totally disagreed with according to my doctrinal views. I learned a valuable lesson. In other words, if God is moving within those ranks and people are getting saved, healed and delivered then God may not be as upset as you are. Besides, when you get to the other side, I’m sure the Master will tell you where heresy lies, too. Remember, love is the most important thing. We can teach about the dangers of excess on any doctrine, but never attack the people. God bless and thank you for your faithfulness.
Memo to Paul:
Paul, I know you wrote half the New Testament and are the greatest church planter and all around Apostle of all time. But what gives with all of those references in your Epistles, and in Acts, where you name names and call out believers who need to repent? Seems harsh, Paul. WWJD? After all, we are to love and not condemn or judge, right? So what gives?
A Concerned Brother
Memo to Jim and Paul:
I understand that Paul named names. However, my point is God moves despite our heresy. and if you are a student of church history, in every movement there are excesses but in the midst God is still moving. Sure there are people who are parts of cults and everything is rotten. So my question is: Is God as upset as you are with their doctrine? Have you examined those ministries to see if God is saving people or delivering them from their addictions? If you have not examined them or you can’t answer that question, it would probably be safe to criticize the doctrine and them but not to write them off as “fakes.” I’m sure if Spirit of God is moving in the aforementioned manner even in those places we don’t agree with them…And if God is using those ministries to meet people then again – maybe he’s not as upset as you are.
It is similar to what many conservative Christians speak about the President. I didn’t vote for him. My guy lost. However, the Bible says the powers that be are ordained by God (Romans, Daniel). The Bible also says in I Tim 2 — that the first we should do is give thanks and prayer for those God has placed in power. I’ve seen very little of thanks or prayer for those God has placed in power. Remember, God put President Obama’s hands on the bus’ steering wheel and we’re on the bus. Yet, I don’t see a Christ-like spirit in many Christian quarters – WWJD.
It was similar when Pres. Clinton was around. I didn’t vote for him. However, many Christians (even leaders) smiled with glee when he got in trouble with Monica Lewinski. They forgot that God is neither Republican or Democrat. Under the OT, the Republicans would be like the northern Kingdom that was socially unjust that got them into judgment. While some of the Democrats are some of the Canaanites – both received judgment.
So, Jim to sum it up. I appreciate your forum your provided here. I also appreciate your opinion. However, I know of people in Texas who were a mess and God delivered in some of those ministries. There are multitudes others like that as well. Again, is God as upset as you? I believe we should hate what God hates, etc. you get the picture.
So because God moves despite heresy, we should be gagged in confronting it?
And if God chooses to speak through a jack ass, I can’t point out that the jack ass in fact is a jack ass?
Yes, I have very closely watched and witnessed and studied the doctrines and practices of the “prosperity” camp. I have traveled to many places on this earth and seen up close and personal the bitter fruit they’ve borne in God’s people. I have seen whole nations destroyed by their doctrines, which rob God’s people of the power of the cross. And I’m quite willing to name names.
I guess Jesus, like Paul, also didn’t get the memo from his “make nice” PR department when he threw the money changers out of the temple and said some very nasty things about them.
Is the Bible in its account of Jesus’ response and anger a good enough source for knowing what his heart was (and is) when it comes to people pimping God? Or should I rely instead on my own subjective aversion to confronting predatory leaders, thus projecting my feelings onto Jesus and attributing my squeamishness to Jesus, rather than accepting Scripture and the Biblical account at face value?
In our day, the money changers in the temple, more often than not, are the self-serving and self promoting “prosperity” preachers. There is no reason to conclude that Jesus feels any different about these God pimps of today than he did about the God pimps of the first century.
And what about 1 Tim. 5:19-21? How does that fit in with your approach for dealing with abusive and predatory church “leaders”? Does their good justify silence or preferential treatment on the harm they do?
Just so I’m clear, today’s God pimps are jack asses in every metaphysical and metaphorical sense of that term — in addition to being heretics by any measure of historic, orthodox faith and doctrine. They need to be called out and purged from the Church if they refuse to turn from their evil. That, in fact, is the compassionate response because it shows concern for their victims and seeks to protect innocent people.
I just read this evening an excellent article in the current issue of Christianity Today exposing the beliefs and practices of the prosperity preachers in Ghana. I recommend it.
My co-worker’s son who is in college got a job working for Jim Bakker (yes, he’s still around unfortunately). He’s selling, if you can believe it, emergency food for “the rapture” (I guess it’s for those who are left behind? LOL!).
I cannot believe there are people actually buying this stuff. And people call in and they pray with them too (that’s nice to pray with people, but the people working the prayer line aren’t necessarily Believers).
My friend’s son says that he thinks Bakker is a total con artist, but he needs a job and it pays $10/hour. I asked her how can he in clear conscience work for him and he said that he needs the money and if people want to send lots of money to Bakker, that’s their right. He says that there are all these old people sending in lots of money every month and getting totally ripped off by this snake oil salesman (aka Jim Bakker).
This kind of stuff makes me really really angry!
You mean the good news is not about me? It’s not about having my best life now? LOL! Seriously; Piper does hit it right on the head; I also read Dave Wilkerson’s newsletters and I think you posted on of his videos where he makes quite a passionate plea for the Church to discern false teaching. You know some say people are being critical and judgmental, etc. But the motivation is not to criticize out of a heart of hatred or jealousy, but from hearts that are passionate for God and His truth and hearts of love for His Church.
As I said previously, when we get to the other side, I’m sure the Master will point out yours and my heresy as well. I know of no one who has it all right. Do you know of someone like that? Not on this planet.
Jim, I believe in the sovereignty of God. I also believe that God will purge his house from your so-called “jack asses” to those who believe they have it all right. We must stay in humility and on our knees. When you shout out loud from roof tops we must do everything in His Spirit, in His love and with His blessings. We should be praying for their deliverance. Have you been praying for your “jack asses” Suppose that maybe your prayer assignment. If and when we pray (that’s why I mentioned the two Democratic presidents- most conservative Christians are not praying), our spirit is in tune and God will hear from heaven and heal the house of God and our land. As you know, when prayer in particular areas is missing it potentially can muddy our testimony.
blessings (Again I enjoyed the exchange)
I appreciate what you are saying, but think you fall prey to a false dichotomy — because we should pray for even those who are heretical or pimping the gospel, we therefore can’t call them out and hold them to public account. But it’s not an either/or. Some, like probably you, may have a ministry and gift of mercy to pray for these predators on the Body of Christ. Others may have a responsibility to protect the Body of Christ from them.
I routinely pastor and mentor men in or from jail, where the prosperity gospel is very popular, and thus need to confront this influence in their lives head on because it is insidious in its effects. I likewise have ministered extensively overseas to help Christians rebuild nations and cultures that were wasted by communism, and the prosperity gospel is the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered to bringing the power of the cross and God’s precepts to bear on all aspects of life, culture and society.
Thus, I have a leadership obligation to protect others whereas you may have another duty that is equally valid but different, like quietly praying. Even so, however, we do have a standard for life, faith and belief called the Bible — the Word of God — and even prayer ministry must not ignore truth. See The Challenge of Intercession.
I can fully affirm your desire to pray for the prosperity preachers because I don’t see that as contradicting or detracting from the need to hold them to public account so that others are protected from them. And just because someone’s gift and ministry focus is different, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong — it just means that God brings different resources to bear on situations.
Regarding just some quick examples the weird beliefs and doctrines of the prosperity movement:
Copeland brashly pronounces God to be the greatest failure of all time, boldly proclaims that “Satan conquered Jesus on the Cross”, and describes Christ in hell as an “emaciated, poured out, little, wormy spirit.” In response, Benny Hinn ominously warned that “those who attack Kenneth Copeland are attacking the very presence of God!” Hinn routinely makes other wacko statements at odds with Scripture, like the time he says the Holy Spirit revealed to him that “women were originally designed to give birth out of their sides.”
(See Kenneth Copeland, Holy Bible: Kenneth Copeland Reference Edition p. 129; Kenneth Copeland, Believer’s Voice of Victory (television program), TBN, 21 April 1991; Benny Hinn (television program), TBN, 8 June 1992.; Benny Hinn, “Our Position In Christ #5 — An Heir of God”, audio tape #A031190-5, side 2).
The bottom line, however, is that these televangelists are pimping God and a false gospel that reduces God to my will — my perceived needs, my wants, my desires and my personal enrichment (after I give “seed faith” donations to them first!). They negate the Kingdom of God, which is rooted in “not my will, but thy will, be done” and rob believers of the power of the cross — which calls us to die to self and to decrease so God can increase. And worse of all, they do this for their own enrichment as they deceive believers for their own gains.
Yes, pray for them. But let’s also care enough about their victims to stop them. Those are not contradictory approaches, and I affirm your burden to pray while others call them out and hold them publicly accountable.
I am supralapsarian. I don’t believe in a general call or an age of accountatbility. However Calvin and the Reformation ignore and find no place for discussion about satan and his destruction of the Church. Harold Camping is ten times more of a cult God-pimp than Keneth Hagin ever was. B.B. Warfield was a Darwinist that never quoted Scripture. The Word-Of Faith preachers are preaching God. Their is no sin in God filling a need by faith and answering prayer. THERE IS NO SIN IN A LOVING GOD THAT ANSWERS PRAYER IF YOU HAVE EVER PRAYED TO HIM. I WAS HEALED OF INCURABLE BLOOD CANCER BY WORD OF FAITH CONFESSION. There are as many if not more false stoic reformers as there are false prosperity preachers. False Christianity is not as simple as accusing those who have faith that God answers prayer as for heretics.
I am also sickened by the excess in the prospertiy movement. Just last week, I was watching a ‘prophet’ from Jerusalem on one of the big Christian tv channels who was saying some very good things, until I heard him say that God told him that everone listening was to call and give 1900.00. Allegedly, God told him that 1900 was the majic number. When I saw this, I began to become sickened.
Here’s a thought: I truly believe that a good number of these people started off right. They truly had the annointing of the Spirit, the gifts working in their life. And, somewhere along the line, they began to see that their gifts can make them really rich if they played their cards right.
The gifts and the callings of God are without repentance. So, this being the case, they shifted their focus from glorifying God with their calling to fattening their bank accounts and living lavish life-syles.
I, for one believe in full sozo: salvation, healing, deliverance, restoration, and provision through the Person and work of Christ. My sister was healed of crippling arthritus at the age of 5. So, I know the power of the full implications of the good news of Jesus. Yet, like in any ‘enterprise’, corruption can set in, and it has throughout the church.
I believe the Lord is raising an army of warriors to demonstrate and proclaim the gospel, and the era of one man shows is coming to an end. These are they who desire to serve in Love and Power for the sheer joy of seeing the captives set free!! Count me in!
The Lausanne Theology Working Group, comprised of highly respected evangelical thinkers, theologians and leaders, has issued a statement on the prosperity gospel. Here’s a link to an article on their conclusions, which are very much in line with my own:
If we are truly changed by our Acceptance of Jesus, and our Lives change then, as a Quaker who believes that God speaks to us individually, I can not NOT speak when moved by the spirit. Calling out, naming names, is part of the accountable Christian life. The Authentic life, that is not easy, always warm and fuzzy. But always we are and those who we ‘call out’ are accessible to God’s amazing wasteful Grace.
As a professional fund raiser, it sickens me at times to see how rife with mis teaching, illegal and just plain huckster-ism that goes on in the body. In my professional capacity, I am, to always, always, make the donor my primary priority. It is my professional, and personal responsibility to make sure that the gift is appropriate, legitimate, used as it was promised. It is the same for God, for Church stewardship and I am saddened by this whole mess. More over I am outraged that innocent people are taken advantage of. Because those that can least afford to give always seem to give the most. Is this not causing people to stumble.
I say.. Go Jim..
Janny L Wright (no relation)
Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. We all wanted to believe it. It did tend to greediness. Giving to get. And as with anything, men twist and turn scripture to their own purposes. I don’t think you can throw all these men in the same bag and call them bad, as much as we want to. My Cadillac never appeared in the driveway, but I noticed one appeared in the pastor’s driveway, along with the payment book. All that glitters is not gold. The real gold was left in the pages of the bible. Go into all the world and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, baptizing and making disciples. We are warned that wolves would come. Sheep are so stupid and that is why they need the Great Shepherd Jesus, and his servants, watching over and caring for the sheep. The bad ones, well, the Great Shepherd will hold all accountable.
Great thoughts Jim! Glad to be acquainted with another ‘Piper-ite’. I believe, I have attended 9 or 10 of his ‘pastor conferences’ in Minnesota. Not really sure where that leaves me having experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit…Calvi-nostical?
I like John Piper, but have very different views on ecclesiology (see https://crossroadjunction.com/2009/09/17/table-church/) and also on the resistability of grace (see https://crossroadjunction.com/2009/01/19/essentially-reformed-or-hyper-calvinist/). Nonetheless, I have learned much from him and hold him in high esteem. And I also attended one of his pastor conferences in Minnesota years ago.