What Is Your Style?

What Is Your Style?

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Above Image by Mircea – See my collections from Pixabay

I finished a book titled “Contagious Faith” by Mark Mittelberg where is explains five common or natural styles of evangelism Christians have. 

When I first heard of this book on a podcast, I immediately thought of Gary Chapmans 5 Love Languages. Though they don’t correlate in any way, the five styles of evangelism are our go-to natural ways of sharing our faith, just as the various love languages resonate with each of us and are the most natural way we feel loved and secure. 

For most Christians, sharing their faith is daunting, even if they are serious about their beliefs. Besides, churches are full of nominal Christians who, aside from any particular Sunday, never discuss their faith with others. Couple that with their lifestyles, and sometimes, you can’t tell the difference between Christians and non-Christians, myself included. 

Most of us can relate to doing things our own way without giving any consideration to God. Like everyone, I want to live my life my way. I think back 50 years to Frank Sinatra’s hit song, I Did It My Way. My rules, my exceptions to the rules, bend them or break them as needed. 

Thankfully God can use us where we are, new or old Christian, actively sinning or walking in His forgiveness. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to clean up your act before God can use you. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. You will never lead a perfect, sinless life this side of Heaven, and if you are waiting to arrive at that spiritual level of enlightenment before you share your faith, you will have a long wait. 

We all want to do things that count, to make a difference in this world. We want to matter to others and positively impact their lives. In that process of working toward doing things that ‘really’ matter, we often get caught up in the things of this world and forget that the car, boat, motorcycle, house, etc. can’t go with us. Mittelberg points out, “Deep down, we all want our lives to count for things that last. But think about this: the only things in this world that we can take with us into eternity are people.”1

With that in mind, it would be good to know your natural style of evangelism. Mittelberg covers five styles, and I will briefly touch on each one. 

Friendship-Building 

Friendship builders enjoy being around people and, as a rule of thumb, get along with almost everyone. They would much rather hang out with some friends having some coffee, tea, or lunch together than go on a hike by themselves or spend any time alone. 

Some may like large groups of people, mingling in and out of the clusters in a large party. Others who are friendship-builders may prefer a smaller setting and focus on one or two people at a time, but the common denominator is being around others. 

Mittelberg gives the example of Luke 5:29 when Levi held a large banquet for Jesus in his home. People don’t have parties or banquets unless they enjoy being around people. If you read the whole chapter, you will see Jesus calling his first disciples. Simon Peter caught more fish than his boat could hold; Jesus healed a man with leprosy and a paralyzed man. Miracles were happening, and no doubt word was getting out, so when Jesus called Levi to follow Him, Levi did just that. Then he threw a party. Colossians 4:5

Mittelberg encourages those who are friendship-builders to not only start new ones but work on the old ones, something friendship-builders may not do naturally. There is an old saying in teaching circles that says, ‘Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.’ A wise saying and applicable to this style of evangelism. In time as you develop a relationship, you can bridge the topics of conversations to spiritual ones.

Finally, I should point out you are not becoming someone’s friend so that you can share Jesus with them. Making friends is what this type does naturally. It is not forced, but they genuinely care about others and want to get to know them. Making friends is what they do naturally. 

Selfless-Serving

Those who have this natural style don’t like to be the center of attention, but they are tuned into the needs of others around them. Helping others feeds their soul much like friendship-builders are energized by being around people. Selfless servers are often working in the background and find joy and satisfaction in serving behind the scenes. Mittleberg puts it this way, “…because they are others-centered, they don’t mind serving without a spotlight or any kind of fanfare to keep them motivated. They find joy in simply serving…”2

Serving others and meeting their needs sends the message they are valuable and loved. Mittelberg shared the story of a wealthy Jewish man named Morris and his family that lost everything during Hurricane Harvey when it dropped about 60 inches of rain on Houston, Texas. A mother and her daughter named Grace reached out and began to help this Jewish family. Over the weeks and months, God’s love became evident through this woman and her daughter. The two families became close, and eventually, Morris and his family began to attend church with Grace and her mother and ultimately gave their lives to Christ. 

This kind of selfless serving often ministers to the hardest of hearts. Many of us sometimes serve with the hope of getting something in return, but those who serve selflessly and genuinely, serve others because it brings them joy and satisfaction. They set aside their concerns and worries about the world to help others. Mark 10:43 Philippians 2:3-4

A quality that is inherent to those who serve selflessly is empathy. They are sensitive to the needs of others and understand naturally what their needs may be. Over the years of teaching, I have met several teachers who would fall into this category, most of whom I have found in special education or working with special needs children. 

Often greatness is not measured in what you have but in what you give to others. 

Story-Sharing

Is it easy to share what is going on in your life with others? Do you look forward to telling someone about your day? Those with this style are good at telling stories. They generally are good at communicating and can share details and experiences with others and hold their interest. 

Many of us have a testimony, and Revelation 12:11 says that often spiritual battles are won because of our testimony. Testimonies are powerful, and I think of the 2017 movie, The Case for Christ where Lee Stroble, an atheist, came to believe in Christ due to his investigation of the claims that He rose from the dead.

J. Warner Wallace is another example of an atheist who shares his story in Cold-Case Christianity of being a cold-case homicide detective that decided to use the tools of his trade to bury the absurd claims of gospel accounts. 

Both of those men shared their stories and impacted millions with their experiences, which is one of the positives of the story-sharing approach. We live in a culture that often values experience or feelings over facts. Ben Shapiro wrote, Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings, a look at American politics and culture, but as our progressive culture evolves, and this is especially true in Gender Ideology, we are finding that feelings don’t care about the facts. 

Aside from the cultural shift, a scriptural example of the story-sharing style is found in John 9, when Jesus healed the blind man. The blind man, who had been healed by Jesus, was brought repeatedly before the religious leaders who did not believe him. He had already explained what happened twice, and even his parents were brought in to testify. He finally says, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” John 9:27 After that, the Jewish leaders just insulted him and accused him of being a follower of Jesus. The blind man shot back, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” John 9:30-33 

The Jewish leaders became angry, insulted him, said he was a sinner (my mom used to tell me once someone insults you, you have won the argument), and threw him out. 

Mittelberg points out that before any of this happened, Jesus’ disciples asked if the sin in the blind man’s life or the sin of his parents caused him to be blind. Back then, when someone was blind, it was believed to be due to sin in their life, but Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:3 Mittelberg writes, “I believe this included not just the restoration of his sight, but also the testimony this man would be to his fellow countrymen – especially to the religious leaders who were sure to take notice.”3

All of us have a story, a testimony we can share. If you are not a natural storyteller, you can use a simple three-part sequence to share yours. Think of your story in terms of what did you discover, what did you decide, and finally, what difference did that make in your life?

Reason-Giving

1 Peter 3:15 Is the apologists go to verse. People who fall into the reason-giving style of evangelism are often are more interested in what people think than what they feel about something. The montra, facts don’t care about your feelings resonates with the reason givers. Both Lee Strobel and J Warner Wallace are reason givers despite my example of their sharing their stories. So I will state the obvious, most of us will have more than one dominant style of evangelism. 

This is the style that suits me because when I have conversations with people, I always enjoy asking questions, and I am genuinely interested in what they know and why they believe it. 

The need for reason-giving is rising to new levels in our culture today. In 2011 David Kinnaman published You Lost Me looking at why Christians are leaving the church. He found that 59% of young adults leave the church and are no longer involved in any kind of Christian activities. Eight years later, after interviewing thousands, that rose to 64%.4

Another example can be found in the Pew Research Center. In 2012 75% of the U.S. population identified as Christian. Ten years later, 63% of Americans self-identify as Christian.((Smith, Gregory. “About Three-inTen U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated.” Pew Research Center, pewresearch.org, 14 December 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2021/12/14/about-three-in-ten-u-s-adults-are-now-religiously-unaffiliated/))

John Stonestreet points out in his book, A Practical Guide to Culture that kids today are growing up in an information overload environment. “Access and exposure to new ideas are just a billboard, commercial, song lyric, or mouse click away. A questioning and spiritually vulnerable child who might never have encountered atheistic arguments in another day and age may very well come across a Richard Dawkins video on Facebook feed… That’s why it’s more critical than ever that parents, church leaders, and mentors create an environment where kids can ask tough questions and wrestle with controversial topics.”5

Jesus suggested to those who did not believe him to look at His works, His evidence, as reasons to believe He was the Son of God. See John 10:37-38. In other words, believe in what they saw, the miracles that Jesus performed. There are multiple examples of Jesus giving examples and reasons for doubters to believe in Him. 

When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one or should John be looking for another. Jesus’ response was to perform miracles and give evidence to John’s disciples and then told them to go back to John and report what they had seen and heard. Matthew 11:3-6 

Just remember, the goal is to win people, not arguments. 

Truth Telling

Those who are truth-tellers are often bold, confident, and direct with those they encounter. More often than not, they enjoy the encounter and are not afraid of conflict. They don’t like small talk or beating around the bush but say what they have to say and wait for a reaction. 

Peter was a truth-teller and the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem is an excellent example. The Jews were questioning the wonders of God and recognized that something supernatural was taking place. Peter stood and addressed the crowd. He was bold and direct, pointing out the miracles Jesus performed and how Jesus was handed over to the leaders and then put to death by nailing Him to a cross. 

Peter went on to explain that death had no hold on Jesus and God raised Him from the dead after three days. Peter quoted Old Testament passages that were references to Jesus and that He was the Lord and Messiah they were all waiting for. Peter ended his message with, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Acts 2:36 

Scripture records that God used Peter’s bold truth telling to bring over 3000 to Christ.

Another example was in Acts 4, when Peter and John were brought before the Jewish leaders and told not to talk about Jesus. What was their response? They asked which was right, to do what God tells them or what they tell them? Peter and John explained they couldn’t help but talk about what they had seen and heard. Acts 4:18-20

Someone once said evangelism is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. Mittelberg writes, “It reminds us that we are not better or smarter or more deserving than the other person – we’re just fortunate enough to have received a great spiritual blessing, along with the privilege of sharing it with others.”((Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pg. 140))

Those with this style can make the mistake of encouraging others to be bold when talking to others when it would make them uncomfortable. Every style has strengths and tools that can be used depending on the individual they are engaging or the situation they encounter. 

Most Christians will gravitate toward one of the styles I mentioned above. Learn what your style is and look for opportunities to use it. Ephesians 3:20-21 Naturally, those will work best because it is the one you are most comfortable with and enjoy using. Would you like to take a quick assessment and see which one is yours? You can take the simple assessment here and see what style fits your personality. 

 

  1. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pg. 5 []
  2. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pg. 65 []
  3. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pgs. 84-86 []
  4. Kinnaman, David. “Church Dropouts Have Risen to 64% But What About Those Who Stay?” Barna, barna.com, 4 September 2019, https://www.barna.com/research/resilient-disciples/ []
  5. Stonestreet, John. Kunkle, Brett. “The Information Age.” A Practical Guide To Culture, David C Cook, 2017, pg. 82 []
Are All Thinking Men Atheists?

Are All Thinking Men Atheists?

Reading Time: 8 minutes

I think most of us know what a poster child is. A person who represents a cause, belief, or in some way exemplifies what one would expect concerning an organization or campaign. But in this day and age, what we come across on the Internet can be very deceiving. The above is one of the favorites that I have had hanging in my classroom for years.

Like the one with Abe Lincoln, many of these can bring a smile to our faces. But, after just a moment’s consideration, you realize President Lincoln was not alive when the Internet first sprang into being, so the quote, as wise and truthful as it is, obviously is false and misleading. 

Others are not so clearly false and misleading. For example, click on this poster: 

Who wouldn’t want such powerful, influential, and brilliant men in their corner? Are all these men atheists, as the poster suggests? 

Featured above:

Abraham Lincoln
Carl Sagan
Ben Franklin
Thomas Jefferson
Charles Darwin
Albert Einstein
Mark Twain
Ernest Hemingway

There is no denying that the world has produced brilliant men and women who are atheists. Still, the above poster is an absolute misrepresentation of believers in the ranks of atheism. When I saw this poster, I was more than surprised to see who was on it. So I began to look up quotes from a couple of the gentlemen, who, I was sure, were not atheists. 

Then after confirming my suspicions, I took the time to research everyone on the poster. I selected a few quotes from each one if only to make a point of their being manipulated to make a case for atheism. Some of these men may have been atheists, but most were not. At most, some could be called agnostic. [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agnostic] An agnostic does not know or can’t decide if there is a God or not. 

As you will see below, some of these historical figures painted as atheists took offense. Some of the quotes I put in to place a smile on your face; Mark Twain’s quote about the monkeys is one. Others quotes are significant because of their clear vision of the future and what we can expect from the world. For example, the letter by Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed is so right on 168 years later; it is chilling.

Most of the quotes below are from America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations. Others from, There Is A God by Anthony Flew, an atheist turned theist in the last years of his life. Most of these men were theists, some agnostic, but only one was truly an atheist.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) Our 16th president was nicknamed “Honest Abe.” He was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theater five days after the Civil War ended.

  • In 1846 Lincoln wrote this in response to a rumor that he was not a Christian, “That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures…”
  • In 1851 he wrote to his brother about their father’s illness, “I sincerely hope father may recover his health; but at all events tell him to remember to call upon and confide in our great and good and merciful Maker…”
  • In 1851 he wrote a letter to Joshua F. Speed, “How can anyone who abhors the oppression of Negroes be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ Now we practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics.”
  • When General Lee led an army of 76,000 men into Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. was panicking. Later, Lincoln related this to a wounded general in Gettysburg, “When everyone seemed panic-stricken..I went to my room…and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed…Soon a sweet comfort crept into my soul that God Almighty had taken the whole business into His own hands…”
  • On March 30th, 1863, President Lincoln issued a historic proclamation appointing a National Fast Day.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an astrophysicist, astronomer, author, and popular figure in science. He authored Contact, which was made into a popular movie in 1997, and narrated the television series Cosmos. In addition, he published hundreds of scientific papers and was a supporter of Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

  • He said, “An agnostic is somebody who doesn’t believe in something until there is evidence for it, so I’m agnostic.”
  • In his book, The Demon-Haunted World, he wrote, “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”
  • In 1980 he wrote, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
  • In 1981 he said, “An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence.”
  • In reply to a question in 1996 about his religious beliefs, Sagan answered, “I’m agnostic.”

Ben Franklin (1706-1790) was an author, scientist, printer, and one of our nation’s founding statesmen. He had an annual publication titled Poor Richard’s Almanac. In this, you would find the following:

  • God heals, and the doctor takes the fees.
  • God helps those who helps themselves. [commonly misquoted as actual scripture]
  • Work as if you were to live 100 years; pray as if you were to die tomorrow.
  • In 1748 as Pennsylvania’s Governor Franklin proposed that state’s first fast day. “It is the duty of mankind on all suitable occasions to acknowledge their dependence on the Divine Being…”
  • In 1753 he wrote a letter to Joseph Huey, “I can only show my gratitude for these mercies from God, by a readiness to help his other children and my brethren.”
  • Ben Franklin wrote in his autobiography this prayer which he prayed every day. “O powerful goodness! Bountiful Father! Merciful Guide! Increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest.”

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) He was an author, scientist, architect and the 3rd President of the United States.

  • In 1781 Jefferson made this statement, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
  • In a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, he wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
  • In 1801 he wrote to Moses Robinson, “The Christian Religion, when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of its benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind.”
  • In 1805 Jefferson wrote in a National Prayer for Peace, “Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; we humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will.”

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) Author of On the Origin of Species in 1859 and the theory of natural selection. He was one of the most influential scientists in history. He is buried in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton.

  • In 1873 Darwin wrote to a Dutch student, “I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.”
  • His son, Francis Darwin, shared in the book, The Life of Charles Darwin the following quote by his father, “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God.”
  • Reflecting on his work near the end of his life, he wrote, “I was a young man with uniformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything, and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion out of them.”
  • A few months before his death, Darwin was bedridden and often found reading. When one visitor asked what he was studying, he replied, “Hebrews, still Hebrews. The Royal Book, I call it.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Was a famous German-born American physicist who developed the Theory of Relativity, which led us into the atomic age. He received the Nobel Prize, and, I found out, he was offered the position of the President of Israel in 1952 but turned it down. Here are a few of his quotes. 

  • There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.
  • Einstein always protested against being regarded as an atheist. In a conversation with Prince Hubertus of Lowenstein, he declared, “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”
  • In the book Einstein and Religion, by one of Einstein’s friends Max Jammer, Einstein said, “I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910) His given name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but he came to be known as Mark Twain. Author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince, and the Pauper, and Joan of Arc. He was not an atheist, but there is no question he despised organized religion.

  • In 1869 Twain wrote Innocents Abroad, in which you could find the following, “It is hard to make a choice of the most beautiful passage in a book which is so gemmed with beautiful passages as the Bible…”
  • Mark Twain wrote, “I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed with the monkey.”
  • He also wrote, “One of the most astonishing things that has yet fallen under our observation is the exceedingly small portion of the earth from which sprang the new flourishing plant of Christianity. The longest journey our Savior ever performed was from here to Jerusalem, about one hundred to one hundred and twenty miles… Leaving out two or three short journeys, He spent his Life preaching His Gospel, and performing His miracles, within a compass no larger than an ordinary county of the United States…”

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American author of several classic American novels and honestly the only atheist in the above poster. He was seriously wounded as an ambulance driver in WWI and served in the Spanish Civil War. He authored For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He drank heavily and was married four times. 

In 1952 Hemingway was on a safari to Africa and was in two successive plane crashes that almost took his life. In 1961 after a long illness, he loaded his favorite shotgun, placed the barrel in his mouth, and blew his brains out. Hemingway is credited with the famous statement, “All thinking men are atheists.”

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is not God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. – Thomas Nagel, a professor at the New York University

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Are All Thinking Men and Women Atheists? by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Your Best Life Now – Part III

Your Best Life Now – Part III

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Part I   Part II

In his best-selling book, ‘Your Best Life Now,’ Joel Osteen addressed the necessity of faith to prosper. He shared that one fellow told him that God will bless who He wants to bless. Osteen wrote, “Unfortunately, that’s just the opposite of how God operates. God works by faith. You must believe first, then you’ll receive. Maybe you’ve been waiting on God to make a move, but God is waiting on you to stretch your faith. Make room in your own thinking, and then you’ll start to experience some of His supernatural increase.”1 In the context of needing faith to prosper, I have some scripture to consider. Remember when Jesus told Peter to go fishing to get the temple tax? Did Peter need faith for that? Matthew 17:24-27 Or the man lowered through the roof by his friends. There was no mention of his faith healing him. Luke 5:17-26 One more example is the man healed by the pool of Bethesda, and he did not even know who Jesus was. John 5:1-15

The prosperity gospel is a theodicy. What is a theodicy? It is an explanation for the problem of evil. Why are a few wildly wealthy, and the rest are poor or drone through life in a middle-income bracket? Because the rest don’t give enough, trusting in God. Why are some stuck working at McDonald’s and not C.O.’s at large cooperations making a six-figure income? Because they lack obedience. Why do some have infants die in their cribs, and others seem to lead blessed lives without a loss, struggle, or illness in their family? They don’t express a Godly joy in all circumstances or have hidden sin that hinders healing in their family.

The prosperity gospel takes a snapshot of the world and draws lines to the hardships, illnesses, deaths, tragedies, and losses we experience. Connecting on the other end of those lines is lack of faith, greed, disobedience, and lack of joy. Those lacks are on our backs; they are our fault because an all-loving God would not want any to suffer. We don’t have because we don’t do; that’s what the prosperity gospel teaches. For example, verses like Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (NIV) at face value seem to support prosperity teaching. But John makes it clear, 1John 5:14-15 if we ask according to His will, He will hear us. According to His will, not ours.

We don’t dictate to God how he is to manage His creation. In Prosperity Theology, the created become the creators. They create health, wealth, and prosperity according to their desires with no thought to God’s sovereign will. Paul recognized this, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Nevertheless, these preachers pluck scripture out of context and manipulate others to become rich or influential. 

Theologians and biblical scholars practice exegesis, which means drawing meaning from the text. Scholars look at the context, who it is written to, and the author’s intent. On the other hand, prosperity gospel preachers perform eisegesis; they don’t draw out meaning but draw in meaning using their own subjective sense completely unsupported by the text.

The Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, Prosperity Gospel preachers all promise God’s generosity benevolence and here and now. They say God does not want us to be broke, ill, or experience suffering. John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” is another verse they will use to support their teachings. But if you read John 10 Jesus is talking about being a gate, a good shepherd, and laying down his life so his followers will have everlasting life. It is not about gaining wealth here on earth. One blogger wrote, “Jesus did say, ‘I came so that they may have life and have it in abundance’ John 10:10. In context, though, Jesus is contrasting himself with false teachers who are like a thief who ‘comes only to steal and to kill and destroy.’ If we take this literally, Jesus is saying that instead of taking from our homes and treasuries, he will fill them with abundance. However, should we read this verse literally? Is it possible Jesus is using figurative language to communicate spiritual truth?” It should be obvious Jesus is not talking about prosperity here and now.2

James 4:2 is a common verse used by the Name It and Claim It crowd. “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (NIV) Of course, they leave out the first half of the verse, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” What I have NEVER heard any word of faith believer is the next verse, James 4:3. The very next verse places a condition on what we ask for. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Jeremiah 29:11 is probably the most misapplied verse I hear Christians toss out to those struggling. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Well-meaning Christians use it to encourage, promise that good news is around the corner and that everything will work out. Just a little exegesis and you will see that this was a letter to the exiles in Babylon, and it would be another 70 years before they would return home to Israel.

Malachi 3:10 “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 there will not be room enough to store it.” Whoot! What a promise! Again, read that in context. Who was the author, who was he writing or speaking to, and why? This historical situation had to do with the Israelites not giving enough to the national storehouses, which were used to feed the priests of Israel. Because the priests were lacking, they had to take up farming instead of performing their priestly duties. Nehemia 13:10-13 So God was encouraging the Israelites to test Him by giving.

In a TIME poll, nearly 20% of Christians consider themselves part of the prosperity gospel movement. Over 60% believe that God wants you to be wealthy. And sadly, almost 1/3 of Christians polled believe if you give your money to God, He will bless you with more money.3 As John Piper put it, the prosperity gospel “elevates the gifts above the Giver.” He went on to say, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him, in the midst of loss, not prosperity.”4

Did Paul ever name it and claim it? Show me one, just one verse that Paul tells us to use to become wealthy or change our circumstances. What Paul did was pray and ask for prayer. Paul asked every single church he planted for prayer. He suffered physically throughout his ministry and was imprisoned multiple times, 2 Corinthians 11:22-28, yet he recognized the value of what he was doing reached beyond any earthy material gain or wealth. Philippians 3:4-8 As my pastor Mike Torok said one Sunday morning, “God does not just open us up and pour in spiritual maturity. Rather He works it in, like molding clay.”

In fact, Paul did not want to be identified as someone who did not work for his own provision. He provided for his own needs and did not expect others to provide for them. 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9

The prosperity gospel is not something Christians can just disagree on; it would not fall into an ‘in-house debate.’ Instead, the prosperity gospel undermines and compromises the Gospel, which is the reason Jesus came, to let us know He has a rescue plan. He did not come to make us happy and healthy, to remove all the burdens and tragedies of the life we experience here on earth; he came to save us because we are incapable of saving ourselves.

I see the prosperity gospel as cancer or a virus, and the preachers who promote it are super spreaders. People want to believe it’s true because it is a convenient formula. Or they find themselves in desperate situations and give their money away to these impostors who pose as men of God who hear from God regularly in dreams, visions, or the Holy Spirit moves them to speak.

I think of the Hindu beliefs of reincarnation. Suppose you were born into a poor family with no hope to rise out of your desperate circumstances; Hindus believe it’s because you were a horrible person in your previous life. The prosperity gospel has a similar theme but removes the boundary of various lives in the Hindu religion. If you are poor or suffering, it is because, right now, you don’t have enough faith, obedience, trust, or joy. Your misery is on you because you are not doing what these pastors tell you to do.

In the final chapter of Hebrews, the author sums up his council, Hebrews 13:5-6 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (NIV) It is crystal clear wealth is not inherently evil unless you pursue it and make it a priority. In Matthew 6:24, He explains, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (NIV)

Finally, in Mark 10:17-25, Jesus speaks with a rich young ruler who desires eternal life. Jesus lists the commandments and the man proudly announces he has kept them all since he was young. Jesus recognized what was hindering this young ruler and called him out. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” The young man walked away disheartened because of his love of money. How many prosperity gospel teachers would walk away from Jesus as this young man did?

God will never owe us because we fill our heavenly bank accounts with faith. Unfortunately, the prosperity gospel leads many Christians to a spiritual entitlement mentality. Our gratitude, joy, and thankfulness should be grounded in the person of Christ and what He has done for us, not in a change of circumstances we dictate to God.

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Your Best Life Now – Part III by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Osteen, Joel. “God Has More Instore” Your Best Life Now, Warner Faith, 2004, p33 []
  2. Tamfu, Dieudonne. “The Gods of the Prosperity Gospel.” Desiring God, desiringgod.org, 4 Feb. 2020, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-gods-of-the-prosperity-gospel []
  3. Van Biema, David. Chu, Jeff. “Does God Want You To Be Rich?” Time Magazine, content.time.com, Sept. 10, 2006, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448-2,00.html []
  4. Piper, John. MatthiasLot, “John Piper and the Prosperity Gospel” Online video clip. Youtube, 5 Dec. 2007. Web. 16. Oct. 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTc_FoELt8s []
The Secret Life of Walter

The Secret Life of Walter

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I heard about Walter from Russ Peters. It is a story I will never forget and one I wanted to share with my readers how it represents sustaining grace and forgiveness.

After World War II, Russ and Alva Peters moved up into Twain Harte, California. They began to work with and alongside Pastor Calahan in the Twain Harte and Sonora area, and once a week they would go to the poor farm, which was found on the top story of the old Tuolumne hospital. The poor farm was a place for the homeless and discarded. As Russ put it, “A place to farm out the unwanted relatives.”

There was a large room lined with beds that held the broken, elderly, sickly, and often unloved members of our community. Today many would be homeless, but in the 1940s, they were cared for by the community hospital. Once a week, Pastor Calahan would visit the poor farm and minister to the broken. As they would sing old hymns, Russ noted how many would open their eyes and even sing themselves, recalling the old melodies from earlier, happier years. They seemed unaware of the mediocre voices of Pastor Callahan, Russ, and whoever else was with them on any particular Monday. Over time Russ observed this was the most animated they would see the residents of the poor farm.

After a time Russ discovered Walter. Walter was not with the rest of the poor farm residents. Walter was down a hallway in a room all by himself.

As a young man, Walter “catted around,” as Russ put it. In other words, he spent time chasing women, and consequently, he contracted syphilis. There was no cure for syphilis back then, and it attacked Walter with a vengeance. It seemed to focus on his legs and caused Walter great pain and anguish. Eventually, it twisted his feet backward 180 degrees, and they were amputated. The disease did not stop there but continued to attack his body. They amputated again at his knees and finally all the way to his hips. Walter also lost the use of his left arm completely, and in his right arm he was only able to move a single finger and thumb. If you placed a spoon between his finger and thumb, added a bit of food, Walter could slowly feed himself. Walter was completely dependent on others for survival. He wore a diaper and had no mobility. 

The loss of critical functions does not determine our personhood. If it did, then as we all age or suffer from chronic debilitating diseases, we would be losing our personhood along with the advancement of the illness or disability. Stott Rae, during a lecture on Bioethics said, “Being a person has nothing to do with the functions a person can perform.”((Rae, Scott. “Answers to Bioethical Challenges.” Apologetic Lecture Series. Biola University, La Mirada. n.d. Lecture)) If functions or ability did determine our personhood, then infants or the unborn would not be persons. If that were true, then the elderly would be on the downside of the bell curve in the loss of their personhood.

The disease destroyed Walter’s body, but not his mind. He was highly intelligent and did not lose his speech or ability to communicate with others.

Russ was unsure when Walter became a Christian, but he was confident it was due to pastor Calahan and the gentle service provided over the years to Walter and the other patients in the poor farm. Pastor Calahan was not a bible-thumping fire and brimstone evangelist but rather a servant who lets his actions minister to those he loved.

When Walter was saved, it was evident to everyone. His newfound faith completely transformed him from a wretched, despondent human being, to someone who became intimately involved in the lives of everyone he met. Walter began to pray for them. He would remember everyone he met and ask them questions about their life. He would recall what they shared and pray for them, and the next time he saw them, Walter would inquire about their husband, wife, children, extended family, and follow up with questions about the prior circumstances and if anything had changed. Russ said Walter had a very sharp mind and would even remember chapter and verse of where they left off in the Bible reading from week to week.

Over time, Russ realized that Walter was ministering to them (the Monday night troop) more than they were to him. Walter impacted those around him, and Russ shared that few people in his life had quite influenced Russ as Walter had. This was because Walter was experiencing what Louie Giglio calls ‘sustaining grace.’

In his book, The Comeback, Louie Giglio explains three categories of grace we can encounter. First and foremost is saving grace, the grace we experience when we allow Christ into our lives and trust in His ability to be made alive again. The second kind of grace he calls ‘transforming grace’ which covers us each time we fail and have to get up again. This grace works daily and sometimes hourly instead of saving grace, which is a single decision and experience. Finally, Giglio talks about sustaining grace. “This grace is specific. Timely. Personal. This is the type of grace that God gives you when you get a phone call that changes your life forever. The shock of the blow hits you so hard, and your mind is a jumbled mess of questions. Where do I go now? What do I do? Who do I call? God gives you sustaining grace for that moment. This is the type of grace that God gives you when you walk down a hospital corridor and know that behind the door is the body of someone you love. Nothing can prepare you for this moment. There’s no textbook for this.”((Giglio, Louie. “Jesus is Enough” The Comeback, Passion Publishing, 2015, p148.))

  • This grace is found when you are on the floor completely broken.
  • This grace is found when your father dies.
  • This grace is found when your mother dies.
  • This grace is found when your child dies.
  • This grace is found when dreams hoped for will never come to pass.
  • This grace is found when life changes direction down an unwanted path.
  • This grace is found only in the hope of Christ because there is nothing else to hope for.
  • This grace could be found in Walter.

Our Sunday morning men’s group is reading a book in a study led by Zach Nye. The book’s author is Steven Mansfield, and he wrote, “I don’t care about your appearance. Manliness, in my view, is about doing. It doesn’t matter what you look like. I’m neither put off by nor in awe of the physical. I’ve known great men who are three and a half feet tall. I know an awe-inspiring man who has not arms or legs. I’ve known powerful, dynamic men who looked like women from a distance…It is the doing, the deeds, the actions that make a male a man.”((Mansfield, Stephen. “Gentlemen, We Begin…” Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men, Nelson Books, 2013, p11.))

What could Walter do? Clearly, he had enormous limitations on his life. Walter could not go next door to help an elderly woman with some plumbing. Walter could not mow the lawn of a disabled gentleman who was bound to a wheelchair. Walter could not serve the homeless at a Thanksgiving dinner downtown on a cold November night. Walter could not volunteer at schools and read books to small children. Walter could not own any pets because he could not care for them, let alone care for himself. Walter could not even own a fish. Walter wore a diaper and could not clean himself.

Over the years Russ shared he never heard Walter complain. On occasion, Walter would lament that the nurses would have to clean him and change his diaper, but their response was one of mercy, kindness, sincerity, and love. They would tell Walter how they loved him, enjoyed him, and would take pleasure in helping him as much as they could.

Despite these tremendous barriers, Walter impacted the world for Christ. When Walter passed on, the nurses at the hospital said the light of the hospital had gone out.

I never met Walter, he died before I was born, but I meet with Russ, a man who knew Walter, ministered to Walter, and was ministered to by Walter. The secret life of Walter impacted my life and has touched the lives of several I have shared his story with.

Walter’s life permeated forgiveness. Why do I say that? How could anyone not only survive such limitations but thrive? Who could Walter blame for his condition? He could blame the women in his past life. He could blame himself. Or he could blame God. Those who blame never move beyond their suffering and pain. They never rise above their circumstances to see what God has in store for their lives or what great work He is accomplishing for their character and spirit.

As I moved beyond blaming myself for difficult circumstances, blaming others for my pain, blaming God for my grief, and allowing forgiveness to flow, I am beginning to see clearly how He works in my life. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV) This verse does not promise that all things, taken individually, are good. Rather it means that God will work all events together for good. Undoubtedly, some events are evil, but we don’t see and often don’t understand the big picture.

With this understanding of events working together for good, coupled with forgiveness, we can learn to be content even in the most challenging and painful circumstances. Philippians 4:11 I pray I am never tested like Walter, none of us would want that, but no matter what you have endured in your life, realizing what Christ has done for you and how much He loves you is a life changer. It certainly was for Walter.

This story is not complete because you can share this story of Walter with others. You can encourage and love others who may be coping with overwhelming circumstances in their life that have left them devastated. But this story is also not complete without knowing that Walter lived in that room for nearly 40 years, ministering to everyone who walked into that room and in his presence. Walter was not only a light for the hospital but a light to the Gospel and who Christ was. Walter reflected what Christ can do for the broken, the unwanted, the unloved, and discarded. In the words of Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future. – Bernard Meltzer

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The Secret Life of Walter by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Your Best Life Now – Part II

Your Best Life Now – Part II

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Part I   Part III

Rick Warren, a prominent pastor in Southern California thinks the prosperity gospel is rubbish. He understands being a Christian means sacrifice and recognizes the prosperity gospel preachers for what they are. “This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?” he snorts. “There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?”1 No question Rick Warren is wealthy, but unlike other mainstream pastors of large churches, he donates 90% of his income to other charities. This leaves him with just 10% of his income, still plenty to live comfortably. The names I listed in Part I certainly don’t donate most of their income but keep it to purchase Gulfstream jets, yachts, and multiple homes all over the world.

The prosperity gospel has done enormous damage to the economic well-being of thousands of American’s. In addition, it has negatively impacted millions who have had to help carry the burden of friends and family that have unwisely donated to the prosperity gospel teachers. All the while, the popular preachers of this false doctrine rake in millions, year after year.

Some of these pastors at the Trinity Broadcasting Network have challenged people to donate by maxing out their credit cards. Then they promised listeners God would honor this step of faith and pay off the credit charges at the end of the month.2 So how do you recognize this false gospel when presented to you? On the surface, it can be hard to spot because it is often slipped in a message that otherwise holds truth and wisdom. There are some key phrases or words that might tip you off. For example, abundant living, hearing from God, blessings moving or gravitating in your direction, joy, wealth, health. Claims that your life moves from poverty to prosperity, sickness to health, supernatural increase, and debts disappearing. All under the guise of following Christ. Yet scripture is clear that we will experience suffering. Romans 8:8John 16:33Philippians 1:29

Let’s look at some of the statements and see if you can recognize truth and error.

Creflo Dollar, a popular prosperity gospel preacher, wrote, “One way to gain access to the financial blessing that are found in the Bible is to begin tithing, or giving 10 percent of your gross income to the Lord as well as giving offerings… I have discovered that tithing allows you to hear from God more clearly about what you need to do to prosper in your specific situation. God knows a million ways to get you out of debt and into abundant living…”3

So there it is; if you tithe more, you will hear from God more clearly. Where does scripture teach that if you tithe, you can hear God more clearly? It doesn’t. Deuteronomy chapter 4 talks about hearing His voice, but it has to do with idolatry, not tithing. Deuteronomy 4:35-36 I would add concerning the title of Creflo Dollar’s #10 reason, is false. Scripture does not teach that money is the root of all evil. It teaches the love of money is the root of all evil1Timothy 6:9-11 This is commonly taught with prosperity gospel preachers, that money is the root of all evil, yet they continue to roll in the dough that people send into their ministry. Creflo Dollar has an F rating with Ministry Watch and just a few years ago launched a campaign to raise funds for a 65 million dollar jet he wanted to use to travel the world sharing the gospel. He would not answer why his efforts could not be accomplished flying coach with United or American Airlines.

Benny Hinn, who has made hundreds of millions preaching a prosperity gospel, wrote, “That’s how our Father in heaven operates. He will satisfy our desires when we obey Him…This is just how our loving heavenly Father relates to us. We read in Scripture: Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Ps. 37:44

Does God give us anything we want? Obviously not, but when He becomes the priority in our life, our desires for earthy pleasures move to the back burner. One commentator wrote, “He will give us our desires when they first are shaped by a delight in the Lord. To receive this promise, we must first meet the conditions attached to it: By loving God above all else, our desires will become what he desires for us. Then our greatest longing will be to conform our lives to his will.”5

Benny Hinn uses Psalm 37:4 to tell us if we obey God, He will satisfy our desires. But, I have to ask, how did that work out for the disciples? Does Hinn question how much they loved Jesus and obeyed their Lord? Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, was beheaded after being imprisoned in a Roman dungeon. Peter was crucified upside down, and the Roman historian Josephus wrote that James was stoned and beat to death. All of them but John suffered the death of a martyr. I personally know many Godly men and women who have suffered greatly.

Robert Heidler and Chuck Pierce wrote a book titled Following The Laws of Giving and Multiplication. Both are prosperity gospel preachers who claim the more you give, the more you will receive. Robert Heidler wrote about Church Pierce, “Over the years, I have seen what Chuck does when he is faced with financial lack. He gets out his checkbook and starts writing checks! He begins giving money to people. He says, ‘Lord, who should I give to? Who’s in need?’ He will give until his bank account is empty. But he knows that the next day, money will start to come in, and it always does.”6

I would have two questions for Chuck. Why stop giving? If the funds are simply replaced and even multiplied by God, why would you stop giving? Or what caused the financial lack? Following their principle of ‘multiplication Through Giving,’ did Chuck stop giving? Is that what caused the financial lack? It should be easy to spot the absurdity Pierce and Heidler are promoting. If we multiply our finances through giving, why would anyone ever stop giving and experience financial lack? The absurdity of this would be obvious to 5th grader.

Jesus gave us the absolute best investment strategies when he advised us to store up treasures in heaven where nothing can destroy it, and it will never lose its value. Matthew 6:19-21 

Fred Benzel, a pastor in Lincoln, California, wrote in his book, The Force of Joy, “Unless your hands and feet are in stocks and your mouth is taped shut, you too possess the power to unleash incredible miracles to flood into your life. Your outlook can change toward a peaceful and overcoming lifestyle. Wealth and health can be in your house. Your marriage and family life can be blessed. All these blessings and more will gravitate in your direction if you will learn to exercise this wonderful truth of joy through rejoicing.”7 Benzel tells us if you “practice unleashing this powerful force”7 You will experience respect, admiration, healing, and wealth filling your bank accounts. But, again, I would ask, where does scripture teach this? Where is an attitude of joy a power we can generate and use to control our wealth? Certainly, scripture teaches us to be joyful or thankful in all circumstances, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Romans 14:17 Hebrews 12:28 but that is to reflect a Christ-like heart, not gain financial wealth. Nowhere in scripture does it teach that having joy is a formula to fill our bank accounts.

Jesse Duplantis was participating in a ‘Victorython’ ( code word for a fundraiser) for Kenneth Coplan’s ministry, said, “The reason Jesus hasn’t come is because people are not giving the way God told them to give.”8There you have it. Duplantis informs us Christ has not returned because we are not giving enough to their ministries. Where in scripture does it even suggest God’s people must give more of their finances to expedite the return of Christ? This kind of teaching is not only heretical but ludicrous!

Gloria Copeland, the wife of Kenneth Copeland, wrote in her book, God’s Master Plan for Your Life, “If you research God’s Word, believe it, and obey it, it will totally revolutionize your life from the inside out. It will take you from poverty to prosperity, from sickness to health. It will take you from failure to success in every area of life.”9 It is true, of course, believing in God’s word can revolutionize your life, but the truth of that statement takes a sudden left turn when promises of prosperity appear.

Another example in reference to being obedient comes from a popular local Facebook Christian who wrote, “Then all of the sudden things shift! Unfavorable circumstances change to favorable, debts disappear, peoples unfavorable views of you shift, judgments against your life are wiped out, desperate financial circumstances change and disease vanishes!”10 It is incredible what people claim and others embrace as truth. Despite asking numerous people for proof of healing, for evidence of debts disappearing, I have yet to find even one. James 1:26 This is rubbish, and people lap it up like a hungry kitten given a bowl of milk.

To be clear, I am not a cessationist. I believe in miracles; I believe that God can heal miraculously and turn around the lives of those who find themselves in difficult financial situations. However, I don’t believe there is any formula that forces God to act. We can’t manipulate God to bless us in any realm. Be aware of those who self-talk. They share visions, dreams, and experiences that can’t be confirmed but often suggest future changes and blessings will flow your way if you do x, y, or z.

There is a subtle yet significant difference between shameless desire and shameful desire. C.S. Lewis helps us clarify the difference. He wrote, “There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by its very nature, seeks to enjoy its object.”11 How does financial gain, debts disappearing, and healing demonstrate our love of God? What is their object? Their focus? Christ or gain? Christ is simply a means to an end; their ‘object,’ as C.S. Lewis puts it, is increase.

Joel Osteen wrote concerning giving even when it is difficult, “He’ll start increasing your supply in supernatural ways. God will take that 90 percent you have leftover, and He’ll cause it to go further than the 100 percent with which you started…That means He’ll keep the enemy off your money, off your crop, off your children, and away from your home. He’ll make sure you get promoted. He’ll cause you to get the best deals in life. Sometimes, he’ll keep you from sickness, accidents, and harm that might cause other unnecessary expenses. All kinds of blessings come your way when you honor God in the area of your finances.”12

All of the examples I used above are patiently prosperity gospel examples. Does that mean everything they have taught or written should be dismissed? No, having listened to sermons and read their books, you can find truth, wisdom, and solid biblical advice, but you should be on guard and look for the feel-good gospel they all embrace to some degree. Any time a teacher or preacher says, ‘if you do this, God will do that,’ the alarms should be blaring in your head.

The prosperity gospel steals from many who are desperate for answers or are in dire circumstances and are frantic for a miracle in their life. Mother Teresa is the antithesis of Olsteen, Copeland, Dollar, and many others. She worked in the filthiest slums of Calcutta with Matthew 25:40 on her mind. Those she helped were Jesus in disguise.13

How revealing it is that Joel Olsteen named the title of his book “Your Best Life Now.” My best life will not be what I am experiencing on this earth but in the life to come. No amount of money, material wealth, or admiration from those around me will change that truth. Jesus came to earth for spiritual reasons, not for material reasons. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Part III will take a closer look at some of the common scripture they use to support their teachings.

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Your Best Life Now – Part II by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Sources:

  1. Anderson, David. “Does God want you to be rich?”, Religion News Blog, religionnewsblog.com, 11 Sept. 2006, Web. https://www.religionnewsblog.com/15897/does-god-want-you-to-be-rich []
  2. Editorial, “The Prosperity Gospel Preys on Poverty” New University, newuniversity.org, 23 Nov. 2009, https://www.newuniversity.org/2009/11/23/the-prosperity-gospel-preys-on-poverty/ []
  3. Dollar, Creflo. Reason #10: Religion Teaches That Money Is The Root of All Evil. Why I Hate Religion, Faith Words, 2015, pgs. 10-11 []
  4. Hinn, Benny. The Loving Giving Father, The Biblical Road To Blessing, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997, p. 22 []
  5. Zondervan, “Psalms” Quest Bible Study Notes. Shelley, Marshall; Elshof, Phyllis Ten, Zondervan, 2011, p.781 []
  6. Pierce, Chuck. Heidler, Robert. “Following The Laws of Giving and Multiplication” A Time To Prosper, Chosen, 2013, p. 222 []
  7. Benzel, Fred, “The Force of Joy” The Force of Joy, Tate Publishing and Enterprises, 2011, p. 12 [] []
  8. Klett, Leah MarieAnn. “Kenneth Copeland Advises Ministries to Find Other Ways to Travel to Avoid Airline Vaccine Mandates: ‘Mark of the Beast’.” The Christian Post, 24 Sept. 2021, https://www.christianpost.com/news/kenneth-copeland-asks-for-money-for-private-jet.html. []
  9. Copeland, Gloria. “Seek And You Will Find” God’s Master Plan For Your Life, Putnam Praise, 2008, p. 56 []
  10. Pontious, Daniel. Prosperity Through Obedience, Facebook. 2018. Nov. 20, 2020 []
  11. Lewis, C.S. Harper One, “Heaven” The Problem of Pain, Harper One, 1940, p.100 []
  12. Osteen, Joel. “The Seed Must Lead” Your Best Life Now, Warner Faith, 2004, p256 []
  13. Towey, Jim. author’s interview with Mother Teresa’s attorney, published as “Jesus in His Distressing Disguise,” Charlotte World, 6 May 2005 []
Your Best Life Now – Part I

Your Best Life Now – Part I

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Part II   Part III

Christianity Today featured Costi Hinn’s conversion story in 2017. After that, Costi Hinn began to receive hundreds of e-mails from people who had suffered at the hands of his uncle’s (Benny Hinn) ministry. Hinn recalls one man and his wife who were childless but were told to sow a seed of faith in the ministry of Benny Hinn. They began to give to Hinn’s ministry, but nothing happened. They continued to give, each time praying this was the step of faith needed to start their family. In the end, they gave all they had to Benny Hinn and were left penniless and childless.1

This is one brief example of what the prosperity gospel does, but Costi Hinn goes on to tell other heart-wrenching stories in his book that exposes his uncle’s false ministry. Yet Benny Hinn is just one of the hundreds of prosperity gospel preachers who have become millionaires from the pockets of their followers.

What is the prosperity gospel? The prosperity gospel, also known as prosperity theology, word of faith movement, or name it and claim it movement is a belief among some Christians that God will increase their material wealth, physical health, and well-being if they give financially, speak positively, or behave in a particular way.

Should we give to our church? Of course! That is not what I am saying, but we don’t give attaching an expectation that God will somehow give it back to us tenfold or bless us in some way. 1Timothy 3:2-3 Nor am I saying there is anything wrong with being wealthy, but contrary to what prosperity gospel teaches, it is not God’s desire for all of us to be rich. 1Timothy 6:10 Remember, the only disciple who was overly concerned with wealth and money was Judas. Luke 12:15

It should be noted the giving emphasized by preachers of this false gospel stress the offering to be monetary. You don’t hear them emphasize how God will bless them financially if they teach a Sunday school class, serve as an usher, volunteer in child care, clean up after lunch at a church function, or give to other charities. Instead, it is almost always in terms of money donated to preachers specific church or ministry, having greater faith, or changing your attitude.

In the prosperity gospel, you will find two lines of thought. One is if you pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ, you will be blessed financially. The other is struggles with pain and sin in our lives will fade and will see difficult times turn into joy, delight, satisfaction, and pleasure. 

Unfortunately, those who embrace this kind of teaching are inevitably disappointed and find their faith wounded because the sugar daddy in the sky did not deliver. Paul tells us we will suffer, but from that, we will develop our character, becoming more Christ-like. Romans 5:2-5

Scripture is filled with Godly characters who suffered. Remember the poor widow who put in her last two small copper coins? Mark 12:41-44. Nothing more was said of her. Nor does scripture imply that her life suddenly turned around and she lived in great abundance. She gave all she had, not because she expected a ten-fold return but because it would honor God. You see, God measures our gifts not by the amount given, but by the amount kept coupled with the attitude in our hearts. 2Corinthians 9:7 1Chronicles 29:14

In Part II of this blog, I will look at some prosperity gospel preachers and then examine what they are saying. Just remember, when you place yourself under someone who you hope will lead you in your spiritual walk and efforts to become more Christ-like, ask the following question: Where is that in scripture? Don’t just assume it is there. If it is in scripture, is it out of context? Do they talk about how difficult the Christian walk can be, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, or do they preach joy, wealth, abundance, and your life overflowing with God’s blessings? Do they continually toss out words of victory, expansion, and promotion, and all of it is just around the corner? Do they teach lifting each other up, meeting the needs of others, supporting one another in times of trials, Galatians 6:2, or do they focus on how you can turn your sorrow into joy and your debt into wealth? Do they teach how suffering enables us to minister to others, 2 Corinthians 1:4, or just focus on ways of ending your suffering, your trials, and your tribulations?

Keep in mind the prosperity gospel is often laced with truth and scripture. Preachers of this heresy often have wise words, truth, scripture, and common sense advice that would benefit many. Yet all of them also preach a false gospel. A gospel that proposes that God will bless you financially if you behave a certain way and do certain things.

It is essential to recognize the prosperity gospel because it is unbiblical and ultimately steals from tens of thousands who don’t know any better. Here are a few names you may recognize as prosperity preachers: Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, Kenneth Copland, Benny Hinn, and Robert Heidler.

Ministry Watch is an organization that reviews Christian ministries based on their financial accountability and transparency. Ministry Watch awarded Creflo Dollar Ministries an F rating and has added it to their Donor Alert listing. What constitutes an ‘F’ grade from Ministry Watch? Their failure to comply with three requirements.

  1. Public form 990 – which highlights revenue, expenses, executive salaries, etc. All self-reported.
  2. Public financial statements – These are created by an independent accounting firm which gives greater assurance that the dollars reported are accurate and true.
  3. They are members of ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability).

Failure in all three standards results in a transparency grade of F. Below is a list of some, but not all. I included the governing board size that should add some accountability to any organization. According to Amy Guettler, who writes for small business’ chronicled, “Nonprofits endeavor to represent the public’s best interests, and whether they focus on issues such as health, education, social welfare or global humanitarian outreach, the primary purposes of the board of directors is to ensure the organization is on track with regard to meeting its goals, as well as to craft policies in support of those goals.”((Guettler, Amy, Purpose of a Board of Directors for Nonprofit Organizations, Small Business Chronicled, smallbusiness.chron.com N.D. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/purpose-board-directors-nonprofit-organizations-18782.html)) I would be suspect of any nonprofit that did not have a governing board to aid in accountability. Nevertheless, having an overseeing board does not guarantee a passing grade with Ministry Watch. All those below received an F.

Benny Hinn Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

Creflo Dollar Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

John Hagee Ministries – Overseeing board size – 4

Kenneth Hagin Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

Kenneth Copeland Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

TD Jakes Ministries/Potters House – Overseeing board size – 5

Joel Osteen/Lakewood Church – Overseeing board size – 0

Gospel for Asia – Overseeing board size – 72

Those who fall for the promise of a better life are ultimately disappointed by the lies they believe, but many give away all they have for healing and are left in financial ruin. Unfortunately, this false teaching is prevalent in the U.S. and has millions of followers. But so much more can be lost than a life savings.

Wesley Parker was an active 11-year-old boy who had diabetes and had to take daily insulin shots. His parents, Larry and Alice Parker, heard a word of faith preacher and were told to claim, confess, and trust in his healing. Three days later, their boy was dead because they withheld his insulin and blindly trusted in his recovery. They were instructed not to make any negative confession but proclaim Wesley’s healing. After Wesley fell into a diabetic coma and then died, they believed their son would be resurrected and held a resurrection service instead of a funeral.

“Promised a Miracle” is a true story. The Parkers threw Wesley’s insulin away and were eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter and felony child abuse.3 The damage is not limited to financial ruin but can destroy lives and families.

Wesley’s father, Larry, was committed to the healing and trusted what he was told and that God would not have a choice. That in itself should raise a huge red flag for anyone following the prosperity gospel. Taking actions, adopting a certain behavior or attitude will cause God to do something for you. Ministry Magazine published an article about the Parkers and what the father, Larry, believed. “That’s why Larry said, ‘We’re gonna believe this all the way.’ He was going to fast, read his Bible, and pray until he felt he had the right to force God to heal his son. On one occasion Larry said, ‘The Scriptures promise healing. God has to stand on His Word.’4 

Where in the scriptures does it promise that we can demand healing and force God to do what we want? It doesn’t unless someone is using a verse out of context.

Remember, the symbol of Christianity is the cross, not a feather bed.

Creative Commons License
Your Best Life Now – Part I by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

  1. Hinn, Costi, A Dangerously Abusive Theology, God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel, Zondervan, 2019, p. 150 []
  2. Smith, Warren. “Ministries With an ‘F’ Transparency Grade” Ministry Watch. Ministrywatch.com. 3, May, 2021, https://ministrywatch.com/ministries-with-an-f-transparency-grade/ []
  3. Mills, Nancy. “The Promise of ‘Miracle,’ a Tragic Tale of Faith Healing.” Los Angeles Times, latimes.com, May 17, 1988, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-05-17-ca-2829-story.html []
  4. Marshal, David. “Promised A Miracle,” Ministry Magazine, ministrymagazine.org, 2001, https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2001/02/promised-a-miracle.html []

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