In an article from Time magazine, dated Oct 3rd, it is suggested that Pentecostals have something to do with our current economic crunch.
The author of this article, David Van Biema, suggests that the fastest growing brand of Pentecostalism is a prosperity or prosperity lite gospel. First of all, I disagree with such a broad statement. Mr. Van Biema offers no facts to back that statement up and I would find it quite difficult to believe it. In another article he wrote about the prosperity message. He says that 3 out of the 4 top megachurches in this country are prosperity message churches. Again he is wrong. Number #1, number #10 and that's it. I question whether or not you can call them all out prosperity churches.
Another thing also. I've read these articles and no where does Mr. Van Biema even begin to define what prosperity preaching is. So let's understand what it is. God will make you prosperous if you will bless this ministry or ministry endeavor. First of all, what's the goal? Prosperity or blessing? There is a difference in this context. God will bless people for an attitude of faith that results is appropriate actions as led by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. (James 2:26) But to say God will "make you rich" is way out of bounds. I know millionaires who are Christians and not a one of them woke up one morning with a million dollars in their lap just because they gave in an offering. All of them are good stewards of what God has blessed them with. They don't believe for one moment that any of it is theirs to own, but that God has entrusted them with it. They even believe that if God asked for all of it in one moment that they would be obligated to give it - after all it's all His anyway. (Ps 24:1) Yes, they will tell you they have experienced financial miracles and blessings in their life.
But Mr. Van Biema would argue that they were the recipient of bad banking policies not God's provision. Now just so that everyone understands, I don't preach a prosperity gospel. I do believe that God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory. (Phil 4:19) I do preach that God will never allow His children be found begging for bread. (Ps 37:25) I do preach that God desires for us to be good stewards of what He has given us and that God blesses (or not) those who practice good stewardship. (Matthew 25:13-15) That the principles of stewardship not only include how God will take care of me, but how we are to take care of His church. (For those of you who don't know here is a definition for the church: "The church is people, equipped to serve, meeting needs every where in Jesus Name." Jerry Cook) I'm not talking about the institution of the church, I am talking about the body of Christ. (1 Cor 12:27)
So what is my biggest problem with the prosperity gospel? The Sovereignty of God, or the lack thereof. No one can make God do anything on command. Now before you start writing an email to me about the promises in the Bible, I believe in them - I agree with you wholeheartedly. The Bible says that I will be healed - it's up to God on how and when He is going to do that. That is God's Sovereignty. The Bible says I will be blessed - it's up to God on how and when that blessing will take place. Again, His Sovereignty. I have seen people who were in dire financial straits who gave money to some televangelist, believing their promises for prosperity, then have to file bankruptcy. I have also seen people in those same financial situations begin to apply Biblical principles of good stewardship into their lives and recover from the brink of a financial disaster.
Something that Mr. Van Biema points out which I think has some merit is that the prosperity message got a boost from the bad banking policies that allowed people to get more than they could afford. Understand that what has been happening started as far back as Carter administration and in the 90's started to spiral out of control. For years I have heard Christian economists say that our economy is overextended and someday it will have to correct itself. Well someday arrived. Now we as Christians have to quit looking to God as our "golden bank" and start acknowledging Him as our provider of everything we have and are. This will require good stewardship that stems from our faith in Him.
I will take to task something Mr. Van Biema says in the last paragraph of his article. He concludes with an illustration from Brownsville Assembly of God. First of all he says that the church " ...relies more on the anointing of its pastors than on Scriptural promises of God." The Scriptural promises of God are the reason why people, including pastors, have an anointing in the first place. You cannot separate the two. Secondly he points out how someone came to the pastor and his wife for prayer because he was receiving foreclosure documents. Mr. Van Biema called this, "magical thinking". No Mr. Van Biema it wasn't magical, this one was all God. As I understand it, once you start receiving foreclosure docs, your done! The lawyers are on task and there is no turning back. To imply that this person is practicing a prosperity message is way out of line. The fact that this man received a call from the mortgage company reducing his payment from $1020 dollars to $200 for three months is a miracle.
So if I understand Mr. Van Biemas article correctly, all the prosperity message pastors and televangelists led their people to take out bad loans at the bank, all in the name of God. That the subprime market fell apart because these specific Christians couldn't make the payments and that caused the whole system to fall apart. Sorry, I'm not buying this for a moment. The number of people that it would take to make this conspiracy theory work is more than the number of people that we are talking about here.
Let me close with this. I am praying for Mr. Van Biema and I would ask you to also. He obviously doesn't get it and I am praying that he does!