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.

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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.

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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. guyFromVA

    "3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." 2 Timothy 4:3

    June 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  2. kindness

    I Follow Christ . I never wanted proof. I just had faith.

    HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness,” says the Lord (John 8:12). By these words
    of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and
    free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus
    The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who
    has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often
    but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand
    fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.

    What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you
    displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous
    life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it.
    For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the
    philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity,
    except to love God and serve Him alone.

    This is the greatest wisdom—to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the
    world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court
    honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire
    things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and
    to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and
    not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not
    to look ahead where eternal joy abides.
    Often recall the proverb: “The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with
    hearing.”1 Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring
    yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences
    and lose the grace of God.

    See for yourself. You will be on a battlefield for christ

    June 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      it is vanity to purport to know the mind of god

      June 19, 2012 at 6:16 am |
  3. acura2010

    It's having a personal relationship with Christ, not the greedy preachers. These greedy preachers sitting on piles of wealth while the parishoners are strugging.

    June 18, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Jeannie

      I have been saying the same thing for years. Why people continue to give to these so called men of God, while they themselves are struggling, is a mystery to me. I am no longer in the business of giving to people who are rich and have more money than I can dream about. They can pretend all they want that they are using the money do the work and will of God. They are also using the money to live extremely large (i.e. mansions, planes, yachts). This checkbook is closed to the megachurches.

      June 19, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  4. Denise Fitzpatrick

    The question to me is not whether Creflo Dollar lied or the daughters lied about the situation, it is about whether Creflo Dollar's message is in accordance with the bible. When CNN asked Dollar to respond on the rich man asking Jesus what he must do to be saved, Jesus told him to give up his riches and give to the poor. Creflo said that if you read a little further, you will see that Jesus blessed the rich man with more riches. That is simply NOT TRUE. The rich man became grieved and walked away. Here Creflo Dollar simply lied as though no one knew that scripture. If riches mattered to God, then he would let would let one take the riches with them when they died. I have never seen a U-Haul truck behind a hurst!! God looks at the heart, not the wallet or the pocketbook. Creflo Dollar should read about King Solomon and how he talks about his riches being mere vanity and the chasing after the wind. When Satan tempted Jesus telling him that he would give hinm all the riches of the world if Jesus would fall down and do an act of worship to him. Jesus said it is written that thou shall worship my father and only him shall thou give sacred service.

    June 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  5. Nick

    In every sermon I have heard from this Pastor, he preaches from the word. In the instances he has mentioned the material items, he denounces the notion that the material items should be your motivation. The prosperity he preaches comes from within, greater understanding, peace, etc......not material. Clearly, some of you enjoy bashing preachers instead of actually listening to the words which are being preached. Pick up your bible, pray for wisdom and understanding, study it carefully and then listen to a sermon or two. Only then would you be able to discuss intelligently.

    June 18, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • John

      I agree with you Nick, I have heard Pastor Dollar also on his program and James Robison. The accuser of the brethren are of those in and out of the BOC. Shame on them both and the Lord will give them space to repent. If they don't they'll be removed. Once again thank you.

      June 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Kenneth

      Hello Melissa Gray, CNN correspondent. It seems that CNN has no bigger fish to fry than to dedicate this much negative coverage on Pastor Dollar. I don't see this same level of editorial prosecution on any of the other major news sources. I wonder why this particular writer feel so angered about Pastor Dollar. Could there be a little jealousy or envy working here? Hold to the views and opinions that can be substantiated in the word of God and stop spewing words like "megachurch" to rally the unlearned to your cause.

      June 18, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • jim

      Haha! Nick is still sending him more money!

      June 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  6. TC

    The rewards are the fruits of the Holy Spirit – mainly peace and joy in one's life regardless of financial status or material possesions. Low, middle and high income people alike experience the fruits of HS.

    June 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  7. carm

    Creflo "send me your" Dollar.

    June 18, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  8. Roger

    The way I see it, all things that's done in the dark will come to the light! Most lawyers keep there household private which is what creflo wants to do and it gives the impression that they have the best families. This is true because they shower the kids and wives with everything they want. This is to buy cooperation. But reality shows that pastors kids are the worst kids. They spend all there time running around the world preaching the word, trying to make all the money in the world, saying this is what god wants for them and the kids are being raised by the streets. You have to remember, kids want to see both sides before they truly make a decision about what they want to do. You can imagine growing up in a pastors house has to be tough. And when they get old enough, they're gona act out . But pastors become targets because they demand that you do what they say and want you to bel
    ieve that because of there strong Christian beliefs, my house is under contol but they cannot control there own kids. I know pastors with churches and there kids go to other churches. Make you wonder! Tell these pastors to stop worrying about how much money they can raise and how well god want to live and do what god call you to do. Save souls and bring them to Christ!

    June 18, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  9. kevindonaghue

    all you have to do is read the story in luke ch. 16 vs.19-31

    June 17, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      no, we don't

      June 18, 2012 at 5:42 am |
  10. Jack

    Happy "Father" Day ...Everyone is welcome to visit thestarofkaduri.com

    June 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  11. Randy

    this man is all about money using God's name to hustle his money look at the life he lives his poor weak members keeping him living rich, how blind do u have to be to see that this man is all about making big money, these are the last days and mr dollar is the type of person the bible was talking about that will be deceiving people thinking he is a Godly man when he is really about making big dollars to suppose his life style of high living, he will have to answer to God when its all said in done for ripping off all these blind people.

    June 17, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  12. Can't get a Amen!

    To KUNST, lif you have an ear to hear and a loving heart to recieve and truly understand the the word of God, only then can you be rewarded when you trust in his word, which is the revelation of living rich in this world and richer in the next (heaven) but you must pray that he comes into your heart, make him your Saviour, read your bible, learn to live for him. You will recieve a job, promotion, money in the mail, through telephone calls, you will even find it in the street, God love you.

    June 17, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  13. toops

    A mouthy 15 year old women can me a handful- Daddy watching his baby leave him for the world. I' will pray for you as only a former mouthy 15 year old woman could. Peac to your heart Crefflo the Lord is allowing suffering for a season so you grow.

    June 17, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • HURLCO

      Did you get choked or hit with a shoe for being a mouthy broad?

      June 19, 2012 at 4:49 am |
  14. Stanley

    Some of these preachers have such great ministies because of their great understanding of the Word of God. Even if Dr.dollars wealth were taken away,it is faith that would keep him preaching the word to those who have an ear to hear the Word of God. I see even greater revelations of the Word of God coming from this pastor.

    June 17, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • sam stone

      Some of these preachers have great ministers because they are great speakers and they know how to reach the emotional buttons of those who already believe.

      June 18, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • sam stone

      ministers = ministries

      June 18, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • carm

      You've been drinking his Kool-Aid, I see.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  15. Solo

    This is the man who (along with his wife) instructs people to send in money even if they cannot afford it – because God will find a way to get the money replaced for them. This is not Christianity, let alone sanity, but they have people who "go to the phones" as they are asked to do, and send those checks in!

    June 16, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      True, but if the chumps keep on sending them money, are they supposed to reject it?

      June 17, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  16. Kunst

    Jesus taught to get wealthy? I don't think so.

    June 16, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Can't get a Amen!

      Give and it will be given unto you.....praying for your understanding in the word. Like Creflo says...don just read, read and pray for an understanding....God will reveal....but it starts with your stony heart (unbelieving) being changed first.

      June 17, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  17. Solo

    Lots of awful churches masking themselves as Christian in the Atlanta area.
    Church of Christ is probably one of the worst offenders – part of the Boston Church of Christ and cited as a cult.
    These people should be ashamed of themselves.


    June 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  18. Felix M

    "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away." Thats what it truly says in God's perfect word, the KJB. Dane Beasley has a good point too, if you'e material things were taken away, would you still love God? God does desire us to prosper, but He wants us to do what He asks of us. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15

    June 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • sam stone

      So, the KJB is the perfect word? What are the others? Satanic?

      June 17, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • JWT

      The satanic bible makes a lot more sense sam.

      June 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  19. Jack

    God is good – his love endures forever. Everyone is welcome to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    June 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  20. Dane Beasley

    Regardless of denomination, preacher or non preacher, church goer or non church goer-one thing must remain constant. Your own relationship with Christ. The shiny materials are nice, don't get me wrong, but if all those things are taken away, then where does your faith lay at? I sure hope its in Christ. Truth is we must love God regardless of the material things that he blesses you with. You have to be content before, after, and during the blessing. God knows our hearts!

    June 16, 2012 at 11:52 am |
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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.