Health, Wealth, Prosperity, and the Gawdy Gospel

Last week it struck me that much of the illness that we see in evangelicalism is due to this lack of teaching all peoples everything that Jesus commanded. As I mentioned earlier, the preaching of Whitfield and Edwards is far away from filling out a card indicating that you “made a decision.”

I have no qualms with large group meetings. People decided to come and listen and ponder what is spoken. (Don’t worry, I will mention more on door-to-door issues). But for the sake of numbers and a feeling of accomplishing what we have been “called” to do, the message of repentance and solid faith in Jesus was neglected. Sure, we would like to put the tally up at a campaign that says 1,003 people prayed to receive Christ. But what kind of message did they receive? Insurance from Hell (definite play on words here), make me happy (meaning: I am still god and this message is meant to serve my needs), legalism (pat me on the back, I’m in the religious nut club!)…Or did they hear the robust message of God in the flesh, perfectly obedient, was crucified as a substitute, and risen for my justification?

The latter will produce a disciple. The former will feed an idolator.


The title of this post comes from my ponderings on the relationship between the stripped down gospel of revivalism and big tent meetings and that which we see in the health, wealth, prosperity (HWP) movement. What is the relationship? Well, both exalt the person as being the aim of the message. Secondly, if you do not have a robust theology that informs your decisions to follow Jesus, then you will fall back into your old way of thinking (not having your mind conformed; Rom 12.1-2). You will not be fighting resident sin, but will float along in the ocean like an empty bottle. What you need is an anchor to hold you firm.

Thirdly, in the HWP there is no thought of Jesus telling you to deny yourself and take up your death-knell. There is no call to sell all you have. There is no call to hate family, lands, prestige…Instead, coliseums are filled to capacity where the lion of the demanding Gospel is tamed and the ears are tickled with sugar plum dreams. “God wants you to be rich and healthy!” are the cries. But the soul needs a foundation to stand on when they just lost their job and their children are starving and their marriage is on the rocks and they just got diagnosed with a terminal illness. They won’t get that in a false hope of earthly treasures…Nor will they be comforted by the slogan, “Think positive.” What is needed is the Gospel. Does the health, wealth, prosperity movement know the gospel? Or has it dressed up a puppet in the garb of bigger barns and earthly crowns?

Comments 2

  1. Matt, you’ve probably already read this:

    from Dr. Dollar’s website (what an unfortunate name for a televangelist)…

    “We believe that God wants us to have a full life, free from poverty, sickness and disease. We believe that tithing represents our love for God and we strive to honor Him in everything we do.”

    these are the last two items in their statement of beliefs after a short list concerning the Trinity, the Bible, and salvation. there is no mention of living as Christ’s disciple with him as lord of your life. what do these two emphases tell us about Dr. Dollar’s ministry???

    i’ve been reading some Dallas Willard lately. in “The Spirit of the Disciplines” he emphasizes that salvation is a new life, not a one-moment decision that guarantees entrance into heaven. he exhorts the church to make its mission to form true disciples of Christ and not spend so much time and energy on mass evangelism. the church pays too much attention to the people outside their walls and ignores the people inside who have no idea how to be disciples. new converts, he says, will be a natural result of people coming into contact with true disciples of Christ.

  2. Farming teaches us something related to d’ship. That is, if your animals are sick and weak, then they ain’t going to be able to breed. Not only this, but look at horse racing. Who wants a stud who hasn’t won a single race and can’t even run. If the church wants to see growth in numbers, it needs to first make sure that its sheep are healthy.

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