The Pen is mightier than the sword, but the Pen must sometimes move the sword against corruption if the corrupt are not moved by the pen.. An idea without an implementer is useless. "The Rulers do not carry the sword in vain"Rom 13:4

Friday, November 22, 2013

Do you believe a "Prosperity" Gospel?

These days the Christian message is presented in many and various costumes. The gospel itself is always the same, because that never changes. "For God so love the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life"... John 3:16

We are surrounded by many competing voices, all calling out for us to "believe"...... but they differ in the content of 'what' they wish us to believe. We have the lonely grey "Gospel Mission" at the waterfront, ministering to the sailors and seamen and we have the "Mega" Churches like Lakewood and Joseph Prince ministries.  We have those like Joyce Meyer and Creflo Dollar (I just cannot get over the irony of that surname) and the Oral Roberts group.  These voices seem distributed between what can be understood best as "Pentecostal" types and then there are the more conservative, but also the highly popular David Jeremiah ("Turning Point") Then there are the Family type movements like James Dobson.  Chuck Swindol and Dr Charles Stanley also represent the conservative evangelicals.

In my own current place of worship, I find they are somewhere between the 'prosperity' group and the conservative group.  They have this pledge thing they recite just before the offering, which seems a bit like self hypnosis in style "We believe......   then a list of things which even includes
-cheques in the mail
-find money
-business deals

etc.   I tend to react rather negatively to that kind of approach, as it's like trying to persuade yourself that if you give more or a lot to the offering, these things will come your way.  I react equally negatively to what I'd describe as cheap psychological manipulation from the more conservative 'brands' where at one conference we were asked to sing "All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give" while the offering was being taken up. I don't think that was the intention at that particular conference, but it certainly had the 'look'.

You might be thinking by this point that this is just a bit of a whinge about Church life, but it's not, I have a definite goal in mind, and that is to draw your attention to a solid and Biblical view on how life can be when we have the best doctrine, the soundest theology and the most uplifting worship all in our being.
Paul is the case in point.  Consider his letter to the Colossian Christians.-  On the one hand he says things like....

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

But a bit later in the same letter he writes (about this Gospel)....

"so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

Chains?  Not exactly 'prosperity', certainly not like Joyce Meyer's mansion, or Creflo Dollar's for that matter.... nor the $500,000 that Joseph Prince was apparently paid up to 2009 in his "New Creation Church" in Singapore.  I hasten to add the Prince delivers a very sound Gospel, in a popular and contemporary way, and does not seem to overly emphasize 'prosperity'. He works as a volunteer for the Church, but also has his own Joseph Prince Ministries, and a thriving book and CD/DVD output that has world wide sales, and would deliver significant income.

Paul had learned the following 'secrets', i) Christ was real, and raised. ii) Contentment in all conditions. For this reason, and without the slightest hint of earthly or material abundance, he continued his letter  from his chained incarceration with:

4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

I consider this to be very wise and worthwhile advice. I'd better consider it so, as it's the Word of God!  These rich words of Pauls underline the focus of his life, which was the presentation and spread of the Gospel, even from his present limited circumstance. Paul always worked to support himself, (he was a tent-maker by trade) and ensured he was not a financial burden on any of the Churches he planted.  The only time he urged Christians to give financially was to help a suffering starving Church in Jerusalem during a famine. 

I hope and pray, that we will see through the illusive charade of 'contemporary/popular/trendy' Christianity to the urgent need for sure Biblical foundation for ourselves as individuals and for the fellowships we join. If not, we will see ministries like Joseph Prince grow like a well managed bubble of soapy water, that eventually bursts in a shattering scandal of   financial fiasco or moral malfeasance.

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