home
RSS
Creflo Dollar's Prosperity Gospel finds followers and critics
June 10th, 2012
07:22 AM ET

Creflo Dollar's Prosperity Gospel finds followers and critics

By Melissa Gray, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) – The arrest of Georgia megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar brought renewed attention to his message of the Prosperity Gospel, controversial to some and faith-fulfilling to its followers.

Dollar, who was arrested last week after allegedly assaulting his teenage daughter, is the founder and pastor of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta.

It claims about 30,000 members and has a multimillion-dollar sanctuary that resembles a golden-domed spaceship atop a hill.

Dollar said in a statement he would never harm his children and that the facts in the case would be handled privately.

Prosperity ministers preach that God rewards the faithful with wealth and spiritual gifts. Pastors such as T.D. Jakes, Dollar, and Joel Osteen have become the Prosperity Gospel's most well known preachers, building megachurches and business empires with a message equating piety with prosperity.

CNN's Belief Blog: the faith angles behind the big stories

While popular in the black church, it is not a solely black phenomenon, as seen in the ministry of Osteen, a best-selling author and megapastor at Lakewood Church in Houston. The church website says it is considered to be the largest church in America, with more than 38,000 attendees.

The Prosperity Gospel is a form of evangelical Christianity that largely grew out of the booming economy of postwar America, says Jonathan Walton, a professor of Christian Morals at Harvard and author of "Watch This! Televangelism and African American Religious Culture."

The theology's emphasis is on God's promised generosity in this life and the ability of believers to claim it for themselves. If God loves us, it teaches, then God will reward us with a new home, a good job, or good health, Walton says. God wants us to be prosperous.

Megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar on his daughter: 'She was not punched'

One of the problems that conservatives tend to have with prosperity theology is its focus on material prosperity, says Ben Phillips, a theology professor at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Houston.

"The Prosperity Gospel tends to mask the greatest need that any individual has, and that's to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ," Phillips says.

"The point is that God is the ultimate good," he continues. "Knowing Him, being in a relationship with Him ... in which He is God and we are His creatures, that is where joy is found."

Believers may argue, however, that material wealth is evidence of being in covenant with God, says Michael Long, a teacher of religious studies at Elizabethtown College and editor of the book, "I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin's Life in Letters."

Those believers might say material goods are a side effect of believing in God and Christ, he says. "The focus is on getting right with God, but you know that when you get right with God, you're going to get something for it."

While the theology may attract more followers in a time of economic boom, the fact that it focuses so much on the individual and controlling one's own heart is a comfort in tough economic times as well, Long says.

Tom Brown, senior pastor of the Word of Life Church in El Paso, Texas, says wealth and prosperity are what God desires for us.

"Just as any parent enjoys watching their kids have fun, God delights in watching His children enjoy what money can buy," Brown writes on the website for his ministry. "I believe God is love and He desires the best life we can have."

Believers must then use their wealth to help others, Brown says - and that to have money for its own sake is pointless.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

Phillips says it's true that the Bible teaches Christians to care for the poor, sick and needy, "but the Bible also teaches that God uses and permits suffering in the lives of people for His own ends and purposes."

He points to the Book of James, which says we must value the trials in our life because they shape our character.

"Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation - since they will pass away like a wild flower," it says in James 1:9-10.

Critics may say prosperity followers are wrong, but believers say they are sincere, Walton says. The pastors may be pop culture celebrities, but it doesn't mean their congregations don't find fulfillment in the message.

The pastors' wealth, derided by some as evidence of hypocrisy, could also simply be seen as evidence of their faith, Walton says.

"The wealth is part of their authority," he says.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (598 Responses)
  1. Dyana

    This is why I like British preaps more than American preaps. The British preaps don't hide their partisanship it's very obvious, for example, that the Guardian is leftist and the London Times is conservative. Expecting preaps to be objective is unrealistic, in my mind. Even a list of facts and statements in the passive voice is going to have bias. Even pure statistics can have a bias. I think its more honest to let that bias show than to pretend it isn't there. The NYT and the Washington Times, for example, both pretend that they're objective, and everyone knows it's bogus. Their partisanship is like the elephant in the room.Personally, I like to read the economist. I also get my news from the NYT, the WashPo, and whatever comes up on google news (even the Boston Globe!).I'm interested in the update on what both preaps say about the Romney thing.

    November 10, 2012 at 2:35 am |
  2. embutidos de la mancha

    Excellent post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I'm inspired! Extremely useful info specially the remaining part :) I handle such info much. I was looking for this certain information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

    September 15, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  3. socalgal

    Prosperity means far more than just money! It is literally "Shalom". Well being in every area of life. That is what God brings to the believer. His life, His peace, His joy, His provision. There are challenges that come to all people (James 1), but as a believer I can be joyful in the middle of it because God is with me and will bring me out of it.

    I don't live in fear because I have Prosperity and I know that God will provide for me. My purpose on this earth is to live to give....helping others. That is the purpose of my prosperity! That is the real joy in living. Has God blessed me with "stuff"..yes...but, my heart isn't on it. It is on Him and on others.

    Some people have the "Prosperity Gospel" all mixed up. I consider myself as one who believes it. My focus is just on people and not things!

    September 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  4. Don

    Kids are recorders and mirror these men. You see a show on Sunday, but they live with it 24/7 and see the real father. I have heard this song before.

    June 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  5. J. Adkins

    *their = they're in first paragraph. Forgive any other typos! Running to lunch, so am typing in a flurry. hah

    June 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  6. nu2thisnva

    Alot of people truly don't understand prosperity christianity. It's not about becoming super wealthy; it's about improving your status. Prosperity could be the ability to buy your first car, your ability to buy your first home, or having the ability to help others financially. Somebody that's always depended on public transportation will feel prosperous when they're able to buy their own car. Someone that always rented will feel prosperous once they're able to own their own home. That's prosperity. What's wrong with having people believe that if their life lines up with GOD's principles and you have faith, that your life can't be better?

    June 19, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  7. M

    Guys like Dollar (wow what a name) are too prideful to be led. They have to do all the leading. That is why they are not Catholic. The Catholic Church is and has been the Biblical teaching authority for ALL Christians for 2000+ years and will continue to be because Jesus said all the powers of hell (including propserity organizations operating under the pretext of Christianity) would NOT prevail against it. I want to see Dollar Bill Yall Creflo sit in a pew for an entire Catholic Mass and be a hublem follower, but I'll never see that Dollar aint humble, and he don't follow nothin but the almighty dollar. Seen his house and cars? Please.

    June 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • GERRIE

      It is funny when we discipline our kids, what if we are in the media eye we are wrong. Then we are judge by what we have has not merits on what happen between him and his daughter. I will say this, a disobedient child will live a short llife.
      I myself thank God that I am under grace, because of what Jesus done for me on the cross. When there was not grace and when the world was under the law, when there was as issue that God handle he had no mercy on us, we he instructed David to go and kill everything man women and children and including animals don't leave anything alive. God meant every word he said. When he destroyed sodom and gommorrah God did not care who was there he destroyed every thing and same thing he did with Noel and his family he spared them and everyone else was killed by a flood. As far as prosperity each his own, God also stated the wealth of the wicked it laid up for the just. For I know the plans for you to prosper you and not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future thus sayth the Lord of Host. I do not judge anyone for their wealth or riches. I know that Jesus paid it all on the cross for me, eternal life as well as abundant life..What ever God has for me through his son Jesus Chris I will not refuse my blessings including healing, I will not get caught up in legalism, nor in religious ruddick...

      June 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • LT

      I beg to differ with you GREATLY concerning the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Your doctrines are absolutely false. The Pope is NOT the vicar of Christ and the crusaders that history speaks of were NOT real Christians. The Pope is the teaching the doctrines of the Anti-Christ.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  8. Eugenia

    Judge not, lest ye be judged. What a travesty. If more parents corralled their wayward children, there wouldn't be so much helter skelter in the streets!!!

    If God has blessed Pastor Creflo Dollar, then he certainly should tell of God's goodness, and teach others how they can be in place to receive such blessings.

    June 19, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  9. c

    Old Creflo ain't the only "er" church into prosperity gospel. Of course the LDS are clean living white church goer's and it doesn't seem to vex the news media;even when one of their High Priest may become the next Prez.
    Deseret Management Corporation
    Beneficial Financial Group
    Bonneville International
    Bonneville Communications
    Bonneville Interactive Services
    Bonneville Satellite
    35 Radio Stations
    1 Television Station (KSL)
    Deseret Book
    Excel Entertainment
    Deseret Morning News
    Hawaii Reserves
    Polynesian Cultural Center
    La'ie Shopping Center
    La'ie Park
    La'ie Cemetary
    Hukilau Beach Park
    La'ie Water Company
    La'ie Treatment Works (sewer)
    Mstar.net
    Temple Square Hospitality
    Weddings (JSMB and Lion House)
    The Inn at Temple Square
    Lion House Pantry
    The Roof Restaurant
    The Garden Restaurant
    Passages Restaurant
    Zions Securities Corporation
    Farm Management Corporation (commericial farms and agricultural properties)
    Deseret Land and Livestock
    200,000 acres of land in Rich, Morgan and Weber counties (Utah)
    Sun Ranch (Martin's Cove)
    Deseret Ranches of Florida (Orlando) (largest ranch in Florida)
    Deseret Farms of California
    Rolling Hills (Idaho)
    West Hills Orchards (Elberta, Utah)
    These are the corporations that I know of or could find. Add more if you know more!
    Deseret Management Corporation
    Beneficial Financial Group
    Bonneville International
    Bonneville Communications
    Bonneville Interactive Services
    Bonneville Satellite
    35 Radio Stations
    1 Television Station (KSL)
    Deseret Book
    Excel Entertainment
    Deseret Morning News
    Hawaii Reserves
    Polynesian Cultural Center
    La'ie Shopping Center
    La'ie Park
    La'ie Cemetary
    Hukilau Beach Park
    La'ie Water Company
    La'ie Treatment Works (sewer)
    Mstar.net
    Temple Square Hospitality
    Weddings (JSMB and Lion House)
    The Inn at Temple Square
    Lion House Pantry
    The Roof Restaurant
    The Garden Restaurant
    Passages Restaurant
    Zions Securities Corporation
    Farm Management Corporation (commericial farms and agricultural properties)
    Deseret Land and Livestock
    200,000 acres of land in Rich, Morgan and Weber counties (Utah)
    Sun Ranch (Martin's Cove)
    Deseret Ranches of Florida (Orlando) (largest ranch in Florida)
    Deseret Farms of California
    Rolling Hills (Idaho)
    West Hills Orchards (Elberta, Utah)
    Cactus Lane Ranch (Arizona)
    Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CPB)
    Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    Deseret Trust Company
    LDS Family Services
    Property Reserves Inc. (PRI)
    Ensign Peak Advisors –
    Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA)

    This is just the US.

    June 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • c

      Oh I left out Clear Channel obtained for the LDS by The Ensign Peak Advisors. the LDS has owned some of these companies before and since the 1980's, when Mitt Romney was at Bain Capital. The LLDs are very clever church folk;with their highly secretive intricate web of tax dodging. The only country which openly taxes the LDS is Britain. Is this a church or what ?

      June 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  10. MNTaxpayer

    It's interesting to read these comments. It's apparently no longer good enough to follow the teachings of Christ, now it has to be a 'personal relationship' with Christ, like he is some kind of guy you go to the movies with. Don't you see how egotistical and self important that sounds?

    June 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • guyFromVA

      There must be a personal relationship in order to be saved:
      "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." John 10:14

      June 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • guyFromVA

      All of Jesus's sheep know him personally.

      June 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • MNTaxpayer

      Interesting interpretation. I'm not a theologian not have I studied the bible. Does it speak of a personal relationship? Does it describe at all, what that relationship would be like?

      June 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • MNTaxpayer

      guyFromVA
      Here is another interpretation:
      To make clear that being a Christian truly involves communion with the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity within the household of God, one ought to use biblical and patristic terms. Thus one should say that one is a child of God, a disciple of Jesus Christ, a member of the Body of Christ, a soldier in the army of the Lord, a patient in Christ’s hospital, a lamb in the flock of Christ the Shepherd, a friend of God, a brother of Jesus Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a servant in God’s household, and so on. One can say with the apostle Paul, “I know in whom I have believed,” and one can say with the apostle John, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son.” What one cannot claim is an individualistic relationship with either the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit or with the Three in One.

      Read more: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=11-05-013-v#ixzz1yGdBotkI

      June 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • J. Adkins

      Personal relationship: This is actually essential to the message of Jesus. When one becomes "born-again," the Scripture says their enslaved to sin, separated from God spirit literally is renewed unto life and relationship with God – as Adam's was in the Garden of Eden. In fact, Jesus is called the "second Adam" in Romans to make the point of our relationship reconciliation to God even more clear. Jesus made our relationship with God clear in many, many places. Here are a few:

      John 17:3 – "This is eternal life, that they may KNOW You [God] and the One whom you sent."

      John 15:5, 15 – "I am the vine and you are the branches. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, I will cause you to bear much fruit. For apart from Me, you can do nothing. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you"

      Jesus also refers to His body as His bride, using parables and analogies of wedding banquets and feasts between Himself and His people – even a literal "marriage supper of the Lamb" that will occur in heaven. :)

      Read the book of Acts. It's the historical account of the New Testament church after Christ ascended. The "relationship" with Christ came through the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised the Father would send. The Holy Spirit is directly mentioned in regards to fellowship (literal communication), power, relationship, etc., over 50 times in the book of Acts alone.

      The point of the gospel is not merely to save us from hell (as indescribably HUGE as that is), but that we'd be reconciled to God on earth, in the spiritual and communicative relationship He originally intended with Adam. That theme is from Matthew – Revelation (really Genesis – Revelation). God desires relationship with us. He loves us so much He died for us, so we could have Him.

      So, to be saved, is to KNOW Him in relationship. You can't separate the two without getting into dead, lifeless religion. :)

      "Prosperity: I am personally disappointed with the extremes that seem to take place on both ends. Here are the facts of Scripture. God's first priority for us is not to make us financially rich, but spiritually rich in Jesus. He did not save us to lavish us in materialism here on earth. HOWEVER, there are literally hundreds of Scriptures in the Old and New Testament which promise God's provision and even abundant financial provision for those who "seek first the kingdom of God" (Matt 6:33) and those who "give." God's #1 purpose in giving financial blessing is so that we'd be a blessing to others first, us second. Sadly, many have reversed this order and live in selfish, materialism.

      Nevertheless, biblical prosperity (far more accurate term than "prosperity gospel") is with merit and present in the Scripture. You can't give what you don't have – and certainly can't give abundantly. It's important to keep in mind though, in the book of Timothy, Paul makes clear that financial richness is not required for God's seal of approval. In fact, he warns to retreat from those who'd teach that. Rather, as he states in 2 Cor 8 & 9, prosperity is a TOOL for the believer. Yes, God doesn't mind us having some things and even in abundance. But the one in abundance is supposed to be an abundant giver!! In addition, nearly every believer and follower of God (OT or NT) whom the Lord abundantly blessed, also went through seasons of trial and lack. Joseph, Moses, David, Jesus, Paul, the list goes on and on.

      Hope that makes sense and helps some ppl find true biblical balance, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater concerning God's will to prosper his people. :) Expect abundant blessings from the Lord, be a giver, but don't serve Him to seek riches.

      June 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.