Every now and then, people would approach me and ask about prosperity gospel. The questions come in different forms but the gist always boils down to this: are we preaching prosperity gospel in Victory?
My short answer is “no”. My long answer is “Noooooo!!!” We preach finance sermons from time to time because money is one of the common idols of our day and one biblical way to battle idolatry is to expose it in the light of the gospel.
In one Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper lists six keys in detecting prosperity gospel in a church: the absence of a serious doctrine of the Biblical necessity and normalcy of suffering; the absence of a clear and prominent doctrine of self-denial; the pastor keeps going back to his favorite texts without really doing some serious exposition of Scripture; the pastor doesn’t preach the tensions of Scripture but is happy to skip problematic verses; the pastor lives an exorbitant lifestyle; and the pastor’s wife, kids, and dogs are more prominent in his sermons than the greatness of God.
A Look at Our Past Sermon Series
Victory has never shied away from preaching the wide range of Biblical themes. We’ve had a series on pain and suffering (Hole-Hearted Series) and obedience and submission (I Wish Jesus Didn’t Say That Series). Every year we preach missions (Uncharted Series), discipleship (Radical Series), and compassion to the poor (Who Cares Series). We tackled sexual purity (Uncensored Series) and hard work (Thank God It’s Monday Series) too. And in recent years, we did some theological series like the holiness of God (Set Apart Series), the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, Christology (Past Perfect Series), Pneumatology (Behind the Seen Series), Eschatology (The End Series), and Spiritual Disciplines (Cross Training Series). (Edit: In 2017, we had a sixteen-week series on the Sermon on the Mount and two book studies on John and Malachi. In 2018 we preached on Bibliology, Soteriology, poverty and social responsibility, Biblical anthropology, and the Incarnation. In the last five months we preached a long series on faith from Hebrews 11, the cost of discipleship, and the messianic prophecies from Isaiah. You can listen to most of my podcasts here.)
The purveyors of prosperity gospel will never preach the doctrines of grace and Christ-centered sermons like these. Their teachings on health and prosperity clash with the reality of suffering which Jesus, Paul, Job, and Jeremiah endured. Their sermons always revolve around the power of man’s words: confess it, you’ll have it; command the blessings of God to go this way and that way; speak your destiny into existence; live your best life now; and call forth security, health, and success. They also teach that being poor is wrong and for God to bless you, you just need to buy this [overpriced] book, attend this [powerful] conference to unlock your destiny, or sow financial seeds into the pastor’s vision. These are empty promises. They sound nice to our ears, but they also cater to our greed and materialism.
The Fine Line series, for example, does the exact opposite of prosperity gospel preaching. The theme focuses on contentment, our true security in Christ, generosity, and looking at money through the lens of eternity. These are not get-rich-quick schemes and empty promises. These are gospel themes that come right out of the pages of the Bible.
On Naming Heretics and False Teachers
Despite these obvious indicators of balanced preaching, I’ve heard some people say that we endorse prosperity gospel. We don’t. Others venture to assert that we have false teachers in our ranks. That’s a charge that demands serious examination.
When you evaluate whether or not a ministry endorses prosperity gospel, you need to look at the wider sampling of its published books, manuals, training materials, and sermons covering a longer period of time, not just the two or three weeks that made you cringe. You can’t say that someone is a false teacher just because you heard him say something inaccurate. It’s worse if your source is just one photograph or a social media post without context. If you want to see the core doctrines of Victory, read the second semester manual of Leadership 113 (start with Week 10).
Justin Holcomb, in his book “Know the Heretics,” cautioned us against accusing a ministry of false teaching by the few times a pastor uttered a poorly worded sentence in a sermon. While the erring pastor needs correction (he certainly does) and further education (we have an ongoing, year-long supplementary theological trainings), we must also recognize that no preacher can articulate all the fine points of theology in a forty-five minute sermon. Even Jesus didn’t explore the nuances of grace in the Sermon on the Mount.
I say this because some people expect pastors to deliver well-nuanced, flawless theology all the time. But preachers grow in their theology too. Bavinck, Vanhoozer, Turretin, or Tim Keller didn’t become smart overnight. They grew over a period of many years. At one point of their ministerial careers they were immature too. How many times did Calvin edit the Institutes? Even C.S. Lewis, Augustine, William Barclay, Martin Luther, Billy Graham, and John Stott all died with their major theological flaws uncorrected and yet we embrace them. We just take the meat and throw away the bones from their works.
I am thankful to God for friends from other churches who raise questions about the sermons we preach in our pulpits. They help us see the theological content of our sermons more clearly and objectively. But allow me a few words of exhortation here.
Tucked away in Acts 18:24-28 is an interesting story of a preacher named Apollos. He preached accurate things about Jesus but he got some things wrong. Priscilla and Aquila did not right away organize a seminar to denounce Apollos. They “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
This, brothers and sisters, is the way of Christian charity. You don’t just ‘shoot now and ask questions later.’ You reach out first, you clarify, you go out of your way to help make things right. This is, after all, the body of Christ built on grace and truth. It’s not all grace. If it is, it will breed false unity. It’s not all truth. If it is, it fosters arrogance and leaves broken hearts in its wake. It has to be both grace and truth.
Calling someone a false teacher is a tricky business. You have to be absolutely sure you are right because you do not want to end up slandering a precious brother in the Lord and ruining the faith of many people. But if you must denounce someone as a false teacher, at least have the decency of alerting him of your accusations. Pick up your phone and call him. Send an email. Exhaust all possible means to give the other person a fair hearing. Secular journalists do this all the time. Even Arius the heretic was given the chance to defend himself. We must make sure that in our eagerness to defend the doctrines of grace, we do not end up becoming ungracious and unloving to the men and women who labor in the kingdom of God.
To all my friends who find something erroneous in my sermons, I look forward to receive a message from you as you take me aside to explain to me the ways of God more accurately. I’d be happy to have coffee with you if you are cool about associating with someone who says non-orthodox things from time to time.
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7 thoughts on “Are We Preaching Prosperity Gospel?”
Great post.. Thanks for sharing..
Thank you pastor. It was clearly illustrated the core value of our church. True, theology of the pastors grow as well. GOD Blessed ❤❤
Been ore than 20 years here and this is ery literal “PROPERITY GOSPEL.”
this church always preach wealth, good life and umbilical for they say don’t be contented for God wants to give you more so why settle for less? Lets be honest here. I lived all my life in this church but they always portray God is a wealthy God. So if you are poor it means you don’t tithe and if you won’t tithe then you robbed God. Wow! what a teaching? The bible is saying don’t give as an obligation or compulsion or reluctant this Every Nation church or victory Christian fellowship is teaching contrary to cheerful heart because for them you must follow the Jewish Law which is Give or be judge? Is this church from God?
HOW SATAN FORMULATED THE “PROSPERITY GOSPEL HERE AT EVERY NATION CHURCHES OR VICTORY CHRISTIAN CHURCH” AND TRANSFORMED THE PRACTICE OF CHRISTIANITY FROM THE WORSHIP OF GOD TO THE WORSHIP OF MEN AND MONEY –THIS BOOK DESCRIBES HOW CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIANS BECAME TRAPPED AND DECEIVED INTO PRACTICING A FALSE PAGAN RELIGION KNOWN AS THE “PROSPERITY GOSPEL”. CHRISTIANS WHO FOLLOW PROSPERITY PREACHERS HAVE UNKNOWINGLY SOLD THEIR SOULS TO SATAN. THEY HAVE BEEN BEWITCHED BY A SATANIC RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE THAT TEACHES MEN TO SEEK MATERIAL RICHES AS A “SIGN” OF GOD’S DIVINE ACCEPTANCE. THESE CHRISTIANS MUST UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SPIRITUAL GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE RELIGIOUS DOCTRINES OF MEN DECEPTIVELY CREATED BY A ROMAN GOVERNMENT NEARLY 2000 YEARS AGO. THIS BOOK EXPOSES THE INVALIDITY OF THE THEOLOGICAL CONSTRUCT OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL WHEN COMPARED TO SCRIPTURE. A MUST READ FOR BELIEVERS WHO WISH TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.–
To Steve Murrell and Joey Bonifacio, I have big and huge bad experience in your church In victory Christian Fellowship, this is my letter to warn the people in the Philippines against this church because your pastors is not acting like a servant but a celebrity. You are called to serve Jesus not pastors but your church instead of preaching and fishing the lost, you are fishing the Christians of another church which insults the dignity of other church. And your only purpose is to get the tithes and offering of the Christians from other church and this has happened all across the Philippines but started in the US where many church get angry with every nation for saving the save but just to get the money. Your god is money and your stomach. Shame on you all members and Pastors especially of Victory Christian fellowship or Every nation Ministry. You leaders and pastors are great gossipers and slanderers to your members so all members must beware against this cult church founded by Steve Murrell and Rice Brooks in manila in 1984 and now their wealth has reach billions of dollars and the church put up a billion pesos 6 story building in global city as the main headquarters of demons
I’ve been a member of vcf for almost 8 years and I can confirm that they are indeed a “prosperity gospel” church. Most of their pastors emphasize tithes and offering as practiced in the old testament – sow more, reap more principle. Most of the teaching focuses on what you can gain materially instead of spiritual blessings. As opposed to the teaching of Jesus in 1 John 2:15-16 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”