So, I must admit that there is something intriguing about watching the train wreck that is TBN. I know people that have either worked for this television network or have appeared on various programs they broadcast and many of them are great people and are there for the right reasons. Unfortunately, several, are there for the wrong reasons and are doing more harm to the advancement of the Kingdom than satan himself.
Hearing of the stories of various “preachers” spreading the prosperity gospel is not only disheartening, but in most cases it is down right sad. These “evangelists” are preying on the people hit hard by the economy and those living in lower income levels. They are convincing those that have little to nothing to give and they will receive back one hundred fold from God. They have presented God as some sort of slot machine that kicks out higher payouts the more you give. They follow that up with the lesson that if you give and don’t receive you are either lacking in faith, or you have not trusted the truths of God. This prosperity gospel is totally destructive and is in my opinion criminal as these con artists continue to prey on those less fortunate.
Recently, a group of these prosperity preachers held a convention in Fort Worth. They paraded out on their stages and spoke of how God has blessed them with huge houses, expensive cars, planes and tremendous wealth because of their faithfulness to him. They spoke of diamond rings with emeralds embedded and how God has given to them because they have been faithful. Stories of supporters giving them motorcycles and other gifts because God had spoken to them to bless the preacher. The wife of this preacher and apparently a “preacher” in her own right, also spoke of her designer handbags and designer wardrobe. She mentioned how God used to whisper to her when they were poor that one day she would have all of this stuff and how she would be so blessed by staying faithful to his ways.
It is always a different variation on the same theme, but these con-artists are preaching a gospel that essentially says, “go ahead, twist God’s arm! Force him into a corner and make him bless you with tremendous monetary and material things.” Whether through malicious intent or true misunderstanding of Scripture, these men and women are going to be held accountable for every dime they’ve collected and for every life they have misled.
The Bible contains a litany of individuals who were closer to God than these so-called Prosperity Preachers, none of them received earthly riches in return for their devotion to God. The Bible is full of stories where placing value on the things of this earth are faulty and like the man who built his house upon the sand. It always perishes in the end and has no lasting value.
We are instructed in scripture to trust in God and not in our money and selves. This prosperity gospel is focused on our comfort and ourselves more than on God. It says that our comfort is at the very core of God’s plan. It is wrong and absolutely against the real teachings of Christ.
Christ taught us that in His economy, we are to put value on seeing the Kingdom of God advanced. Scripture does tell us that give and we will receive, but it balances that in saying that the reward is based on the condition of our heart. To give and expect to receive is the wrong motive. God does not bless those that are giving solely as an attempt to bless themselves or receive credit from man. The Bible is exceedingly clear that those that give to be seen or receive have already received their reward. Many times we see in scripture that things done in private and with the right heart motive are blessed beyond measure.
The economy of God is at the core of the issue. His economy says that giving our tithes and offerings to the storehouse leads to his blessing our gifts and efforts. His economy focuses on the heart and not the gift.
His economy focuses on the lives changed and blessed and not the materials received or given. His economy says bless those around you and you too will be blessed. His economy says, that God Himself takes care of the birds of the air, the lilies of the field and if they are so well taken care of, how much more do you think God is taking care of us?
So, you see it is the economy stupid; the economy of God. The promises of God are not to make you richer than your wildest dreams. God does not care about how comfortable you are. He cares about your heart.
When your heart is in the right place, the blessing of God flow in multiple ways. You will find peace that only he can give. Peace that is greater than any monetary means. Peace that resides even when times are tough and life is hard. Peace that is stronger than anything you are going through and peace that always points to the hope that is found in Him. That is the greatest gift; the greatest blessing, and the greatest comfort in this life.
Excerpt from the New York Times, August 15, 2009
FORT WORTH — Onstage before thousands of believers weighed down by debt and economic insecurity, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and their all-star lineup of “prosperity gospel” preachers delighted the crowd with anecdotes about the luxurious lives they had attained by following the Word of God.
Private airplanes and boats. A motorcycle sent by an anonymous supporter. Vacations in Hawaii and cruises in Alaska. Designer handbags. A ring of emeralds and diamonds.
“God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get the money to you,” preached Mrs. Copeland, dressed in a crisp pants ensemble like those worn by C.E.O.’s.
Even in an economic downturn, preachers in the “prosperity gospel” movement are drawing sizable, adoring audiences. Their message — that if you have sufficient faith in God and the Bible and donate generously, God will multiply your offerings a hundredfold — is reassuring to many in hard times.
The preachers barely acknowledged the recession, though they did say it was no excuse to curtail giving. “Fear will make you stingy,” Mr. Copeland said.
But the offering buckets came up emptier than in some previous years, said those who have attended before.
Many in this flock do not trust banks, the news media or Washington, where the Senate Finance Committee is investigating whether the Copelands and other prosperity evangelists used donations to enrich themselves and abused their tax-exempt status. But they trust the Copelands, the movement’s current patriarch and matriarch, who seem to embody prosperity with their robust health and abundance of children and grandchildren who have followed them into the ministry.
“If God did it for them, he will do it for us,” said Edwige Ndoudi, who traveled with her husband and three children from Canada for the Southwest Believers’ Convention this month, where the Copelands and three of their friends took turns preaching for five days, 10 hours a day at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
The crowd of more than 9,000 was multiracial, from 48 states and 27 countries. There was no fee to attend. There were bikers in leather vests, pastors, blue-collar workers, professionals and plenty of families with children.
A large contingent came in wheelchairs, hoping for miraculous healings. The audience sat with Bibles open, flipping to passages cited by the preachers, taking notes on pads and laptop computers.
“The folks who are coming aren’t poor,” said Jonathan L. Walton, a professor of religion at the University of California, Riverside, who has written about the movement and was there doing research. “They reside in that nebulous category between the working and the middle class.”
Sitting in Section 316, eight rows up, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on a Bible at lunch time, was a family who could explain the enduring loyalty the prosperity preachers inspire.
Stephen Biellier, a long-distance trucker from Mount Vernon, Mo., said he and his wife, Millie, came to the convention praying that this would be “the overcoming year.” They are $102,000 in debt, and the bank has cut off their credit line, Mrs. Biellier said.
They say the Copelands rescued them from financial failure 23 years ago, when they bought their first truck at 22 percent interest and had to rebuild the engine twice in a year.
Around that time, Mrs. Biellier first saw Mr. Copeland on television and began sending him 50 cents a week.
Others who bought trucks from the same dealer in Joplin that year went under, the Bielliers said, but they did not.
“We would have failed if Copeland hadn’t been praying for us every day,” Mrs. Biellier said.
The Bielliers are now among 386,000 people worldwide whom the Copelands call their “partners,” most of whom send regular contributions and merit special prayers from the Copelands.
A call center at the ministry’s 481-employee headquarters in Newark, Tex., takes in 60,000 prayer requests a month, a publicist said.
The Copelands’ broadcast reaches 134 countries, and the ministry’s income is about $100 million annually.
The Bielliers were at the convention a few years ago when a supporter made a pitch for people to join an “Elite CX Team” to raise money to buy the ministry a Citation X airplane. (Mr. Copeland is an airplane aficionado who got his start in ministry as a pilot for Oral Roberts.) At that moment, Mrs. Biellier said she heard the voice of the Holy Spirit telling her, “You were born to support this man.”
She gave $2,000 for the plane, and recently sent $1,800 for the team’s latest project: buying high-definition television equipment to upgrade the ministry’s international broadcasts.
Mrs. Biellier said some friends and relatives would say the preacher just wanted their money. She explained that the Copelands did not need the money for themselves; it is for their ministry. And besides, even “trashy people like Hugh Hefner” have private airplanes.
“I remember Copeland had to once fly halfway around the world to talk to one person,” she said. “Because we’re partners with Kenneth Copeland, for every soul that gets saved, we get credit for that in heaven.”
But while a band primed the crowd, Professor Walton called the prosperity preachers “spiritual pickpockets.”
>“To dismiss and ignore the harsh realities of this economic crisis,” he said. “is beyond irresponsible, to the point of reprehensible.”
The Copelands refused an interview request, but one of their daughters, Kellie Copeland Swisher, and her husband, Steve Swisher, who both work in the ministry, spoke for them.
Mrs. Swisher said the ministry gave away “a minimum of 10 percent of what comes in” to other charities. Her father’s current favorite, she said, is a Roman Catholic orphanage in Mexico.
The ministry has resisted providing the Senate investigation with all the documents requested, she said, because the Copelands did not want to publicly reveal the names of the “partners.” The investigation, which could result in new laws, is continuing, a committee spokeswoman said. Among those being investigated is Creflo Dollar, one of the ministers at the Copelands’ convention.
Mr. Swisher said that even in the economic downturn, the ministry’s income going into the convention was up 3 percent over last year. Asked if they had adjusted the message for the economy, Mrs. Swisher patted the worn Bible in her lap and said: “The message they preach is the Word of God. The Word doesn’t change.”
At the convention, the preachers — who also included Jesse Duplantis and Jerry Savelle — sprinkled their sermons with put-downs of the government, an overhaul of health care, public schools, the news media and other churches, many of which condemn prosperity preaching.
But mostly the preachers were working mightily to remind the crowd that they are God’s elect. “While everybody else is having a famine,” said Mr. Savelle, a Texas televangelist, “his covenant people will be having the best of times.”
“Any time a worried thought about money pops up in your mind,” Mr. Savelle continued, “the next thing you do is sow”: drop money, like seeds, in “good ground” like the preachers’ ministries. “Stop worrying, start sowing,” he added, his voice rising. “That’s God’s stimulus package for you.”
At that, hundreds streamed down the aisles to the stage, laying envelopes, cash and coins on the carpeted steps.