ON THE RELIGION PAGE OF THE FRONTIERSMAN NEWSPAPER, 2.24.05
Time magazine recently included
prosperity preachers T.D. Jakes and Joyce Meyers in the list of the
25 most influential evangelicals in America. Their selection raises
the question of whether they should be models for the Christian faith
since they expound the belief that personal wealth can be attained through
a strong faith in God and a strict adherence to certain principles.
Both Jakes and Meyers have filled their own coffers with the gifts and
offerings of their followers.
The Rev. Jakes is the pastor of The
Potter's House, a 30,000 member Pentecostal church in Dallas with a
television and book ministry. A multimillionaire with a lavish lifestyle,
he drives a Mercedes, owns a Gulfstream jet, and lives in a home assessed
at $3.3 million. In response to criticism about his elegant mansion,
Jakes says, "Anybody who has sold eight million books shouldn't
have to justify why they live in a nice home." He believes his
wealth is a blessing from God (Dallas Morning News). To critics who
wonder how his personal wealth meshes with the Gospel, Jakes responds
that the myth of the poor Jesus needs to be destroyed.
The Rev. Joyce Meyers, a Pentecostal,
television pastor, heads the Joyce Meyers' Ministries in Fulton, Missouri.
Meyers speaks at conferences all over the United States, in other countries
and is seen and heard on hundreds of television and radio stations each
week. It is estimated her organization receives at least $8 million
per month. Time magazine says she "offers a gospel of prosperity
that promises God rewards tithing with his blessing."
She too lives lavishly. Besides her
$1 million home, she has built four homes for her children, valued at
$3 million. She owns a private jet, has a husband with a penchant for
expensive cars and a second home on the Lake of the Ozarks. According
to the St. Louis Dispatch, she defends her lavish living by saying that
God would not expect his people to endure squalor while the ungodly
enjoy wealth. She didn't explain, at least to the St. Louis Dispatch,
why millions of Christians around the world and in our own country live
Ministry Watch, a Christian financial
group (www.wallwatchers.org), believes that those who contribute to
any ministry should be able to know how gift income is spent. They chastise
both Jakes and Meyers for their failure to open financial records. Jakes
refuses because he believes his only responsibility is to comply with
the IRS while Meyers says she should not have to defend how she spends
her Ministries' funds.
A second problem of prosperity preachers
is their lack of education and particularly theological education. Jakes
has a high school GED and some correspondence courses beyond that. Meyers
only has a high school education. Dr. Gordon Fee, a Professor of Theology
at the evangelical, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts,
writes that prosperity preachers, cannot "possibly come to their
conclusions (about wealth) based on an accurate exegesis and historical
view of the Bible." That means their prosperity gospel is extra-biblical
and an accommodation to materialistic culture. It changes Jesus' words
from "life does not consist in the abundance of possessions"
to "life does consist in the abundance of possessions" (Luke
Jakes and Meyers would be better served
by modeling their lives and sermons after preachers like Billy Graham
and John Stotts. Graham, still this country's most respected pastor,
has always been transparent about his finances. He receives a salary
and the Billy Graham Association's financial records have always been
open for all the see. In addition, Graham lives a modest lifestyle.
John Stotts (according to Time), is
an evangelical Anglican from Great Britain who "practices a pious
austerity that, were he Catholic, might be called saintly. He plunges
the rich royalties of his more than 40 unassumingly, brilliant books
into a fund to educate pastors in the developing world. He lives in
a two room flat, except for four months a year spent writing in a Welsh
cottage that until 2001 was lit by gaslight."
The influence and following of the
prosperity preachers is increasing because they are blanketing television
with their message. They fit the description in Scripture which says
the time is coming when people will accumulate for themselves teachers
to suit their own desires and will turn away from listening to the truth...
(II Tim. 2:3-4).
It is time to de-televise these preachers
who have misread and misunderstood the Gospel. It can be accomplished
by turning to another channel and by withholding tithes, offerings,
and gifts. We might also ask for a miracle, praying that they will hear
a still, small voice asking them to sell all they have, give it to the
poor, and then go and follow Jesus (Mark 10:21-22).