Discuss: What the Prosperity Preachers Got Right!

Hi friends,

Here’s a video on what the prosperity preachers got right:

I’d love to discuss it with you! Some questions to get us started:

  1. Have you or someone you know been influenced by the prosperity gospel? What impact did it have on you (or them)?

  2. How does the emphasis on thriving or flourishing change your understanding of Jesus’ teachings?

  3. Are you comfortable with the idea that God wants to bless you? Why or why not?

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Hi @Carson, Thanks for helping us understand how we are to correctly understand God’s desire to bless us as flourishing in our spiritual life. I wish someone had shared this with me as a brand new believer.

I came to faith in Jesus through a charismatic church in India. My desire to worship the Creator rather than creation is what led me to be open to the gospel and to later accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. So when I came to the US, I sought similar charismatic churches to develop my faith.

I attended a small non-denominational church that was cautiously open to spiritual gifts. However, the church members who gave me a ride to church each sunday from my college campus also followed prosperity gospel teachers like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer. I had a chance to attend some of their conferences. I was awed by the crowds that they attracted and thought that was evidence enough of their faith in God. Though they thanked God for their material blessings, I was a suspicious about their prosperity teaching and doubted if God would want his children to live in luxury. However, at that point of my life, I was still getting some encouragement from Joyce Meyer’s teachings, about finding identity in Christ, about dying to sin and about holding our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. So I tried to take in teaching that made sense and ignored what didn’t, at least for the most part. The teachings were often a mix of truth and error.

These early exposures slowly led me to a Word of Faith church for a few years where I got introduced to teachings by Kenneth Hagin and Jesse Duplantis through books sold in the church’s bookstore. That is when I got confused about the relationship between faith in Jesus and answered prayers. I would pray to Christ for my needs but thought I also needed faith for a particular outcome to happen in my situation. In that church, Heb 11:1 was misinterpreted and misused in the prosperity gospel teachings. It was wrongly believed that faith is having confidence about things hoped for in prayer. There were false teachings on power of the spoken Word (rhema word). Because God spoke the world into existence and we humans are made in the image of God, it was claimed that speaking the promises of God out loud in faith for our situation would help receive answered prayers. When I didn’t receive answers, I was told I needed to pray without doubting while being quoted James 1:6. Sometimes I was simply told to pray more based on Luke 18:1. I also remember once yielding to a preacher’s call to donate to their ministry, out of desperation to see God work in my own life. Luke 6:38 was misused to suggest that God gives back to those who give to his kingdom building. At that time, I was new to the Christian faith and didn’t know enough of the bible to recognize that this verse was used in the bible in the context of not judging others. Some of the other teachings that I used to hear were that God wants to heal all our diseases citing Matt 8:16-17, Is 53:4. It was taught that its never God’s will for us to suffer. The church never tried to explain how the teaching didn’t match the experience of suffering of Jesus and the disciples!

It’s disheartening that those who claimed to believe in Jesus for their salvation frequently used bible verses out of context for their own gain. I was often discouraged that my faith was never good enough for God, leading me to doubt if God loved me. While in the Word of Faith church, though I was exposed to false teachings and struggled with doubt, I was encouraged to pray fervently, read the bible consistently, and serve the church. Somehow God helped me persevere in faith in Jesus even amidst unsound teaching and other life struggles.

Many of the churches that embraced the prosperity gospel taught salvation through Jesus alone, but the many false teachings stunted my understanding of the bible then. There was no careful exegesis of scripture, no clear theology of suffering, and no good answers for the questions posed by our culture. Slowly, as I got introduced to other denominations like the PCA, I began to appreciate the depth and richness of the Bible later.

I hope sharing my experience will help someone else in a similar situation. I am reminded of James 3:1. May we always be careful in how we teach others and do so after study and prayer.

I hope I have not unintentionally hurt someone by taking names of preachers they enjoy. They may have done some good but the false teachings have caused a lot of confusion in my own life. I want nothing more than the spiritual life of every believer to prosper. God bless.

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