Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen and the Prosperity Gospel

While some churches preach that money is the root of all evil, there has been a movement in the past 60 years – led by people like Creflo A. Dollar, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts and Joel Osteen – that embraces money and prosperity, even proclaiming that money tithed will be returned many times over to parishioners by God.

prosperity gospel TBN Headquarters

Trinity Broadcasting Network Headquarters: Costa Mesa, CA. Used under CC Public Domain License via Wikimedia Commons

God wants us to prosper, they say, not only because it makes us happy, but because prosperous people are comfortable enough to be in a position to help others.

Called prosperity theology or prosperity Gospel, the movement stresses personal achievement and development as a way to achieve the Christian God’s dominion over society. The movement gained steam in the 1950s and 1960s as Americans began to achieve postwar prosperity and grow their families.

 

Creflo Dollar: Religious Baller

According to Wikipedia, “The Neo-Pentecostal movement has been characterized in part by an emphasis on prosperity theology, which gained greater acceptance within charismatic Christianity during the late 1990s. By 2006, three of the four largest congregations in the United States were teaching prosperity theology, and Joel Osteen has been credited with spreading it outside of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement through his books, which have sold over 4 million copies.”

Because most prosperity churches are non-denominational and eschew traditional Presbyterian polity and church hierarchies, where the pastor or preacher is accountable to a council of elders or an otherwise higher church authority, this allows prosperity churches to make their charismatic pastors the sole authority and the one person between parishioners and God.

This attribute of most prosperity churches has led to controversy, as some prominent ministers like Creflo Dollar openly flaunt their religiously-acquired wealth. Dollar, founder and head of the World Changers Church International, reportedly owns a few Rolls Royces, private jets, a million dollar home in Atlanta and a $2.5 million home in New York City. This seems only to affirm the power of the teachings, resulting in a flood of donations. From the New York Times: “According to church officials, the New York church collects an average of $345,000 a month, which works out to more than $4 million annually; the Atlanta church’s operating budget is $80 million a year.”

 

Why Is the Prosperity Gospel Popular?

It is fairly easy to see why the prosperity gospel has grown so popular: take charismatic and optimistic leaders like Creflo Dollar, combined with a message that God will make you rich if you support them and give money to the church, and you have a recipe for success.

These messages of affirmation clash strongly with most traditional religious teachings around money, which fail to embrace it as a positive thing, instead making it the “root of all evil.” Further, many preachers like Joel Osteen openly admit to avoiding talking much about sin and reminding believers that they are sinners in a constant quest for forgiveness.

Because prosperity gospel preachers cite the Bible, specifically the Book of Malachi, there is a sense of credibility conferred. In Malachi 3:10 (KJV), it is stated: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”

Another factor explaining its increased popularity is televangelism. These ministers pioneered the shift from church pew to couch, allowing their message to spread far and wide, bringing in new adherents and more importantly, more donations and tithes.

 

Criticism Despite Popularity

Despite the fact that the most popular ministers and churches in America preach some type of prosperity gospel, critics abound.

At the National Baptist Convention in 2006, Friendship West Baptist Church pastor Frederick Haynes said, “Black communities are suffering, while this prosperity-pimping gospel is emotionally charging people who are watching their communities just literally dissolve.”

For a higher profile critic, we only need to look to Rick Warren, the only pastor of the “top four” who does not preach prosperity theology. He said, “”This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?”

In 2009, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley began an investigation into six prosperity gospel churches: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Creflo Dollar Ministries, Benny Hinn Ministries, Bishop Eddie Long Ministries, Joyce Meyer Ministries, and Paula White Ministries. His interest is focused on how these churches use their donations and whether they should maintain their IRS tax exempt status.

 

My Thoughts, Share Yours

When I was younger and in college, there is no question that I would have had strong negative things to say about the blatant mixing of money and religion.

Now, I just don’t care.

This is not a movement that is duping its adherents. On the contrary, it is pretty straightforward and open. Those who choose to believe have the right to do whatever they want with their money, and in the debate over whether religion should focus on others or ourselves, they have a right to choose themselves. They choose to view the Bible as a guidebook for personal success and achievement.

Despite the loud calls for accountability, these organizations should only be as accountable as their adherents demand. If Creflo Dollar (his real name) wants you to hold up an envelope of cash above your head so it can be blessed, and then used to help pad his lavish lifestyle, so be it.

Creflo Dollar and the prosperity gospel are a very American form of religion, mixing the two things Americans hold most dear. Further, it is a way to explain capitalism in a time when it seems abused and maligned.

While most denominations preach that Jesus said “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” there are millions finding comfort knowing that their prosperity is something of which to be proud.

READERS: What do you think about prosperity theology, Creflo Dollar, and religion and money in general?

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33 Comments
  1. I can’t tell from the way you’ve written this… you know the verse is “THE LOVE OF money is the root of all evil,” right? Personally I haven’t heard anyone preach on money itself being evil, although perhaps there are some.

    I do believe that we show our love for God through generosity with our money, including tithing to our local church. However, I don’t believe that we can control God or that he owes us anything for our actions. The good works that Christians do are in response to the fact that Jesus has given us his perfect sinless record and taken the punishment for our sins before God – NOT to earn that record or forgiveness.

    Probably some of these prosperity Gospel preachers honestly believe they are teaching the truth and some of them are taking advantage of people. Anything having to do with money – the love of it or being rewarded with it – should never become the central message of a Bible teacher. As you mentioned, Jesus spoke about money plenty, and most of it is warnings against loving money more than God. Some Christians have lots of money and some have little – as long as they are practicing generosity with it I have no quibble with either.
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted..May 2012 Month in Review: MoneyMy Profile

  2. Well, the major issue is understanding what the Bible says and realize what God believes on the matter.

    People like Osteen and these other crazies have fabricated their own beliefs and created a cult. What they preach is not found anywhere in God’s word.

    Anyway, the whole ‘camel through the eye…rich man entering the kingdom of God,’ that’s simply in reference to how much we LOVE money (which is undeniable).

    Mark 10:17-25 clearly shows a great example of this. If the rich are willing to give up their riches to follow God then they won’t have to worry about any difficulties getting into heaven . However, most become so attached to their belongings and wealth that they couldn’t possibly fathom giving it up (the point is understanding where you ultimately place your value: in stuff or in God).

    Rick Warren is a pretty awesome guy and he’s done some amazing things with the money he’s been blessed with. He’s the only guy out of those top 4 that preaches legitimate Biblical-based stuff.
    Jason recently posted..Blog Income and Site Statistics May 2012My Profile

  3. First off, I am in no way, shape or form religious. To me the whole prosperity gospel is little more than a scam to take advantage of people’s fears to further their own personal wealth. If these guys were legit at all, they wouldn’t be splurging on their own luxuries when there are so many people in need. Sure people have the right to believe whatever they want, but this is just dirty to me. If there is a god, I’m sure he wouldn’t be too happy about someone encouraging greed in his name.
    Modest Money recently posted..Overcoming Unemployment ChallengesMy Profile

  4. This is a first world discussion that most 2nd and 3rd world (Christian or other faiths) would find absurd. God doesn’t owe us anything or is obligated to give us more based on our actions. The central concept of Christian stewardship is that God owns it all.

    Context- When using the Bible or other sacred writings it is important to understand them in context. Find the message to the original audience. Picking random sentences and applying to your current issues, without knowing the context is a dangerous and misleading practice. (I’m not accusing writer or above comments of this–just a guide since sacred writings are being used)
    Brent Pittman recently posted..Passionate Dreamers and Disciplined RobotsMy Profile

  5. Its not just about prosperity from a financial perspective, but also property from health, wellness, and safety which is also false doctrine.
    Jake recently posted..Net Worth Update (-2.1%)My Profile

  6. My parents are a perfect example of this sort of thing. They give more than 10% (the typical tithe) if their gross income to their church. Yet they have some $10,000 in credit card debt, no savings, nothing toward retirement, and scrape by every month to pay the bills. They truly believe that God is going to change their financial situation, and have been saying that for as long as I can remember.

    I’m not attacking giving to your church, but people should realize that financial success is not simply achieved from giving money. It comes from being a good financial steward of what you have and making good decisions.

  7. I think Matt Chandler said it best, “All of those things are good things, biblical things. But to make any of them the center of the Christian faith, the grounds of our hope, is to disregard the only power of salvation – the message of the cross”.

    The bible also gives us instructions on how to live our lives daily. To only take one part and ignore the rest is dangerous. Tithing but then disobeying in every other area, like someone mentioned being a good steward, isn’t what it’s telling us to do. Bottom line, God loves us all equally and salvation is for everyone. How we choose to lives our life after that is up to us. But normally those that are really pursuing God gladly want to obey because we love Him.
    John recently posted..Work and Life Balance – Create More Time for Your LifeMy Profile

  8. I don’t think God thinks I’m evil for wanting desperately to get out of debt and to be able to afford a good life for my family. I do think there are some people who are cursed with an addiction to money and those that are tempted to make immoral choices just to make some dough, but not everyone who works hard or has a lot of money is inherently a bad person. I do think that those that are able to afford to do more for others definitely should! But those that don’t have much and can’t afford to give 20% to the church shouldn’t feel bad about it either.
    Michelle recently posted..Take That, Debt Monster!My Profile

  9. I think that it is important that we give and understand giving for what it is supposed to be. Giving is supposed to help others that are in need. This need could be financial but it also could be emotional, physical or many other ways. Giving is not a bartering tool to help us get ahead and it does not buy our way into salvation.

    When we give, we should have an intrinsic value that comes from gifting money, time or other resources. By giving we help others see the importance of giving by way of what it has done for them and open up the window of communication to spread the word of our religion as well as simply helping out our fellow man (or woman). It is however our duty to make sure that the gifts we give is used for the purposes in which they are given.
    Shawn @ Managing The Money Wars recently posted..How Do I Find My Passion?My Profile

  10. Very good thoughts. People have the right to choose. Honestly, I’m not that religious, as long as I’m not hurting other people and I give without expecting anything in return, that’s fine by me.
    Gail recently posted..kids bean bagsMy Profile

  11. I have visited Houston a few times and about 2 years ago, I went to Joel Osteen’s church. It was quite the experience. It wasn’t very church like at all. It was held in the former Rockets’ arena and it was just a strange feel. You could only sit in certain sections to ensure the television viewers saw a “full arena” which it was not.

    I have read his books which aren’t all that bad. The one thing I don’t agree with is the idea of “increasing in God’s favor.” I think it gives the idea that we all deserve great things therefore they will happen; rather than working hard for what you want.
    funancials recently posted..Future Of Funancials: June Blog UpdateMy Profile

  12. Looks like everyone else has this covered. Basically Olsteen and the like created their own version of what the WANT the Bible to say and are cashing in on it. Good call on the Chandler quote, he is spot on. Mark Driscoll also says “when you make a GOOD thing a GOD thing, that’s a BAD thing. The LOVE of money is what leads people astray, not money itself. People that choose to worship money over God have already tossed aside the real message of the Bible, that Jesus is way to salvation and all who have sinned (that includes everyone who has ever breathed) need a savior, namely Jesus.

    The reason people call these false preachers to accountability is that they are misleading people and doing it on the back of the most important topic there has ever been, namely the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. Trying to overshadow the earth-shattering truths of the Bible with a simple “get rich because you deserve it” scheme is spitting in the face of the God they claim to be blessed by.
    Jacob @ iHeartBudgets recently posted..How To Save Money: Building a FenceMy Profile

  13. The proponants of the prosperity gospel makes me cringe. It’s no different than any other type of scam and I don’t like the fact that they use the name of God to pad their own lifestyles while at the same time duping thousands of people out of their hard earned money. The Bible calls Christians to give to the poor, not to rich preachers.

    You definitely made a good point. It’s a free country and people are free to give their money to whoever they want, even Creflo Dollar. I don’t think that those organizations should have a tax exempt status though.
    LifeInTransition recently posted..Quarterly Financial Update-June 2012My Profile

  14. Quite frankly, we prosperity haters are hypocrits. Millions in the world live in mud huts with no indoor plumbing, no air conditioning or heat, no iPads or cell phones and no automobile. Yet we who criticize the prosperity gospel have all those things. In fact, we not only have a house to live in, but we have a house for a car as well. We tell our brothers about the speck in their eye, when we have a log in our own. Wake up folks! Everyone of you who commented here, as well as the writer of this piece, is RICH! Oh… by the way, Rick Warren has a 3-car garage.

    • I am part of the 1% and in no way attribute my wealth as something that should’ve been expected because of my Christian faith. It is not hypocritical to say that the basis of Christianity is salvation from sin and an eternal life through Jesus Christ and that belief in Christ doesn’t result in prosperity. Jesus’ disciples were killed, mostly beheaded…not very prosperous.

      The prosperity gospel is truly a scam.
      I Am 1 Percent recently posted..Net Worth Update (-2.1%)My Profile

    • I like prosperity as much as the next gal. But prosperity is not the goal. I don’t know why some have and some don’t but I know why Creflo has. He has because needy or Greedy people had it over to him in the hope that God is an ATM and will hand it back double fold. This is twisted.

  15. If the prosperity gospel was real, it would work for the poor Christians in third world countries–and it doesn’t. It’s clearly a scam perpetrated on gullible people. Let’s remember that Jesus was dirt poor in his own ministry in Israel. The Jews had a hard time believing him to be the Messiah because of his poverty (where did he get money to pay taxes, but through a miracle of a fish’s mouth). Jesus never had more than he needed at the moment–quite a different story from these shysters.

  16. Um, yes they ARE duping the sheep, (followers) by telling them they will be rich if they give money to their ‘churches’. Did you somehow miss that? And of course there needs to be accountability in the form of how much money collected, how much redistributed to the poor, etc, and then there needs to be PROSECUTION for fraud!

  17. You should check out the new book by Debra Mumford titled “Exploring Prosperity Preaching: Biblical Health, Wealth, and Wisdom.” If you’d like to possibly review it in a follow-up post to this one, I’d be glad to send you a complimentary copy.

  18. The reason false teachers and money grubbers like Dollar and Osteen have been able to deceive and extort money from people for so long is because the church in America has failed to teach is members the Bible.

    If people were reading their Bible and the church teaching it we would see that the prosperity gospel, as it is called, has noting to do with the word of God.

  19. I am confused as to your point in this essay. It is an odd way to justify capitalism and I think of myself as a capitalist. Prosperity gospel seems to exploit desperate people or even greedy people. Money is never the goal. Not in the Christian walk. Not sure where you are coming from.

  20. please read your bibles and stop critisizing. i dont think God can create a human being for him or her to suffer in this world

  21. “i dont think God can create a human being for him or her to suffer in this world”

    Job suffered several terrible calamities, just to name one example. As for “critisizing”, Jesus himself was very harsh in his criticisms of the Pharisees and their religious hypocrisy. You should read *your* Bible…

  22. Osteen is a crazy?? Really? For what? For doing more in the community than YOU ever have? For NOT filling people with fear? Yeah, thats nuts. And stop it with this crap that he is a prosperity teacher. He’s not.

    Damn you guys hate him…..envy is a pretty bad sin too, no?? Didn’t Paul list that as a new testament commandment?? Envy?? Jealousy?
    Fits you to the t.

  23. I used to attend the church of one of the pastors mentioned above. The Lord recently opened my eyes to the deception being spread throughout America and it’s truly unfortunate. There is a dying world out there and the best mainstream pastor’s have to offer is this pumped up, overly confident stuff they refer to as gospel.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am still a Christian, but God showed me that if I truly wanted a lasting relationship with Him that church was not the place to stay. After a while you grow numb from the pristine perfection that covers up lies and deceit, the perfume that covers up the funk. I feel for those of my friends that still attend this particular church. I remember us having the children “declare” that they were “rich” and “wealthy” and “money cometh to me now”. As we would have the children recite these things I would feel wrong but I mean… it’s what I had to do. Now that I look back on it I am slightly disgusted that we were leading children down such a broad and dangerous path.

    Prosperity teaching is of the devil. Prosperity theology keeps people in a perpetual path of wanting more, declaring emptiness, and a practice of manipulating God. It’s sad because there are people that really love the Lord in these churches but are being led astray.

    Have these pastors done a lot for other people? Oh yes, they have and those people have benefitted greatly from those gifts. HOWEVER, Jesus Himself said 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’’.

    If you are attending the church led by one of the pastors mentioned above, or if you believe your church may be a “prosperity” church, I STRONGLY urge you to pray about what God would want you to do about your membership or attendance there. Ask The Lord to show you His will for your church life and to make it clear if tat is the church for you. Don’t hesitate to follow where He may be leading you.

    Also, if you don’t the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you’ve doubted Him for any reason, I encourage to explore the Bible with an open heart and open mind. Let what you read weigh on your heart and pray openly to God about your hurt, your pain, your questions, your doubts. Let it out. Ask the Lord to Ask Jesus to come into your heart as the Lord and Savior of your heart. Ask Him to show you the true nature and condition of your heart and humbly allow Him to come in and clean you up. I pray that you find Jesus in your need. God bless you all!! :-)

  24. I didn’t mean to write “Ask the Lord to ask Jesus” oopsy lol

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