Trust me. This video will be hard to watch. But maybe it’s necessary.
As the guys at Relevant Magazine said, “John Oliver issued another one of his signature takedowns on last night’s edition of his HBO comedy news show Last Week Tonight . This time, he targeted televangelists who preach the prosperity Gospel. (Just a heads up, the segment does contain some strong language and jokes some Christians might find offensive.)”
Watch the video above and get back to me.
The church needs to wake up and realize how much damage we are doing to our message by preaching the wrong message.
I’m not saying John Oliver is right in all his assumptions and conclusions. He’s missing thousands of stories of people who have been healed, who God have prospered and who (independently of the televangelist’s integrity) were honored for their faithfulness.
Still, I understand how ridiculous it all seems.
And I want to judge the different televangelists in the video.
I read some comments from non-believers who are appalled at these fund-raising campaigns and I agree with them. I have a strong desire to join their choir of criticism and say, “You are a charlatans!”
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7
Last year, Creflo Dollar’s private jet ran off the runway while landing in a UK airport. Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt. But to replace the old jet, Dollar launched a fundraising campaign to get his followers to pay approximately $60,000,000 for a new Gulfstream G650 jet. He suggested they commit to giving “$300 or more.” The jet he wants is the “fastest plane ever built in civilian aviation.” But after receiving immediate and intense backlash, Dollar ended his fundraising campaign.
Unfortunately, the church is seriously hurt.
According to a recent Atlanta Blackstar report, Dollar has an estimated net worth of $27 million—200 times more than the $29,640 average annual income in College Park, Ga., where his ministry is located. And as all this information came out to the public, people were flocking to social media to criticise and accuse.
It’s happening again with the video above.
I can admit that I don’t agree with Mr. Dollar’s methods. I’m not a follower of his teachings or reader of his books. Nevertheless, it would be unfair of me to assume that all that he has done is bad; to write him off as evil or fraudulent.
Because it’s very, very possible that he was won more people to Christ than me. I have no doubts that his ministry has created more jobs than I have with mine. His messages have inspired and encouraged hundreds of thousands, possibly millions across the globe. And while researching I discovered that his ministry has donated way more than 60 million dollars to help the poor at home and abroad.
But I still want to judge him (and I have Bible verses to support those judgments.)
Yet, to judge him is to bring judgement on myself.
Oh yes I want to ask all these televangelists to stop asking for so much money. I want them to move out of their million dollar mansions and turn them into shelters for the homeless. I wish they would sell their fancy cars and give the money to the widows and the orphans in his own congregation. And I want them to stop promoting the message of prosperity which makes us look so cheap.
But maybe it is I who should stop.
Instead of demanding that they give more to the poor, I should give more of myself.
I don’t have a mansion, but I do have food on my table. So even thou I can’t feed hundreds, I could probably feed a few.
When I get invited to preach and travel and an honorarium comes my way, maybe I should ask Jesus if I can give it back to the needy in whichever city I am in, instead of spending half of it in the layover airport on the way back home.
You see, the problem is not wealth. The problem is the love of money.
And I love money. So I have a problem with wealth.
“We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” David Platt in Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
It might sound ridiculous that Creflo “needs” a 65 million dollar airplane to preach the gospel. But it might also seem ridiculous to a father of 12 in Niger that I would “need” an iPad to preach my sermons, or an iMac to write my blog, or shoes to go for a walk.
There is nothing wrong with growing your finances. It’s great when Christians are rich (because that should mean more money to fund the mission of Christ.)
Nevertheless, there is a line to how much money we as leaders should spend on ourselves. I don’t know where the line is, but it might be somewhere between people going to bed hungry and pastors going to bed inside their own aeroplanes.
I honestly don’t know.
My wife and I believe in giving and tithing and prospering and having nice things. God has been good to us and we are extremely grateful. I just hope that one day soon we learn to be more than that. #Disciples
Yes, it is difficult to “defend” our faith when stories like these go viral. But maybe we need to not focus on how these ministers spend their money but instead focus on Jesus’ invitation to us:
“You lack one thing. Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
These words haunt my selfish soul. They were spoken by Jesus to a rich young ruler. And the Bible says that Jesus loved that rich young ruler. America is a rich young nation. And Jesus loves this rich young nation.
Jesus then said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:17-27
What is this “With people it is impossible” that becomes, “possible with God?”
It’s not, “I can have whatever I want!” (Because for God nothing is impossible.)
Quite the contrary actually.
The context (and the heart of Jesus) is for us to be able to say, “I can give away everything!”
“Yes, it is impossible for me, but not impossible for God.”
This impossibility is that a rich man, a rich society, a rich country would give all to the poor, and follow Jesus.
There are countless Bible verses to prove that God wants to bless us, prosper us, empower us and make us a success. But we choose in Christ, to give it away.
We choose the true gospel. And in that gospel we don’t accuse our rich brothers. In that gospel we serve our needy neighbours. In that gospel we surrender our possessions. Because there is no such thing as a “prosperity gospel”. There is only ONE Gospel, and that’s the good news of Jesus Christ for all… the poor, the rich, the broken, the cheater, the televangelists, and John Oliver, and you and me.
I’ll finish with the words of prophet/comedian/next-host-of-the-Late-Show-on-CBS, Stephen Colbert:
“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”
I admit that most of the time I don’t want to do it. But I want to change; so I start with forgiveness. I forgive every church leader who has asked for millions of dollars to expand their personal kingdoms. And I forgive myself for pretending like I wouldn’t do the same.
Also, David Ruis wrote an incredible short book called, The Justice God Is Seeking (The Worship Series) – Give it a chance, you’re Christianity will be grateful.
As always, feel free to Comment and Share.