Every now and then, people would come up to me and ask about prosperity gospel. That’s probably because from time to time Victory preaches a series on finance. The questions come in different forms but the gist always boils down to this: are we preaching prosperity gospel?
My short answer is no. My long answer is Noooooo!!! We preach finance sermons because money is the idolatry of our day and one biblical way to battle idolatry is to expose it in the light of the gospel.
There are two obvious signs that a church endorses prosperity gospel: (a) when it doesn’t have a serious teaching on the necessity and normalcy of suffering and self-denial (Acts 14:21; Romans 8:23; John 15:20; Romans 8:13; Phil. 3:8); and (b) when the sermons spotlight the pastor’s ‘blessed’ lifestyle while the glory of Christ is marginalized. John Piper lists at least six signs of prosperity gospel but I’d settle for two in this post.
A Look at Our Past Sermon Series
Victory has never shied away from preaching the wide range of Biblical themes. In the past few years, 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 the last three years alone, we did some theological series like the holiness of God (Set Apart Series), the Apostles’ Creed, and the Ten Commandments (Edit: in 2017, we have a sixteen-week series on the Sermon on the Mount). On top of that, we also tackled Christology (Past Perfect Series), Pneumatology (Behind the Seen Series), Eschatology (The End Series), and Spiritual Disciplines (Cross Training Series).
Identifying Prosperity Gospel
When you evaluate whether or not a ministry endorses prosperity gospel, you need to look at the wider sampling of its sermons over a longer period of time, not just the two or three weeks that made you squirm. You can’t accuse a ministry of heresy by the few times a pastor uttered a poorly worded sentence in a sermon. Time constraints usually force preachers to focus on a few doctrinal points while leaving some details unexplored. This is not wrong. This is time management. Even Jesus didn’t explore the nuances of grace in the Sermon on the Mount.
The purveyors of prosperity gospel wouldn’t preach Christ-centered sermons and the doctrines of grace. Their teachings on health and prosperity clash with the reality of suffering which Jesus, Paul, Job, and Jeremiah endured. Their sermons always revolves 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 sin 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 mesmerizing promises. They sound nice to our ears, but they also cater to our greed and materialism.
Our current preaching series, The Fine Line, does the exact opposite. 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.
The reason why we are so easily deceived by prosperity gospel is because it wears Bible verses while it pampers our greed. On the outside it sounds like truth but the core message is poisoned apple that is meant to steal, kill, and destroy. We can’t just stand around and let that false gospel go unchallenged. This is why we need to preach about money even if it makes us all squirm.