On The Prosperity Gospel

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Josh Styles, Lay Pastor

As mentioned in Sunday's sermon, we wanted to provide our church with some resources for understanding the prosperity gospel; specifically, we wanted to provide some articles, videos, and other resources to explain more fully why the prosperity gospel is a false gospel and why it is so very dangerous.  Perhaps more importantly, we want you all to be able to recognize prosperity teaching, especially the “softer” kind, as it has the ability to lead any of us away from Christ.  Finally, our hope in sharing these links is that you would also be equipped to help others escape the grasp of the prosperity gospel, as many of us likely have friends or family members who have been taken captive by this false teaching.  If you have questions or would like to talk further about the prosperity gospel or anything related to it, it would be my joy to talk with you.  Please reach out to me at josh@tcgreerstation.com.  It's a privilege to serve the Body of Christ here at TCGS.  


Resources on the Prosperity Gospel

  • First, here is a link to a short video that helpfully explains what the prosperity gospel is and why it is so dangerous.

  • Next, here is an article that explains some of the biblical and theological errors of the prosperity gospel.

  • The next article explains the “trademarks” of the soft prosperity gospel. This article has been one of the most helpful articles I have read that clearly and succinctly explains how to recognize a softer prosperity gospel that still leads people away from Christ.

  • Here is an article that has been personally convicting to me, as I often believe the prosperity gospel when I'm not even realizing it.

  • Here is an article that discusses how to help others escape the prosperity gospel.

Finally, here are 7 “keys” to detecting the prosperity gospel and other self-focused gospels that I derived from another article by John Piper (original article linked below):

  1. The absence of biblical teaching on suffering.  Does the pastor/teacher talk about suffering?  If he does, does he/she speak about it from the perspective of glorifying Christ in the midst of suffering, or is the focus on how God is going to do something better for you following or through the suffering?

  2.  The absence of a clear and prominent doctrine of self-denial.  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).  Does the pastor/teacher encourage self-denial, or self-indulgence?  Does what he/she teaches make us love Christ more for who He is, or does it encourage to seek after Christ for what we can get?

  3. The absence of clear and urgent teaching for believers to fight sin.  Does the pastor/teacher talk about sin?  Does he speak of how believers should hate sin and strive for personal holiness? Or is the emphasis on more generalized therapeutic methods that could make our lives and situations better?  

  4. The absence of serious exposition (explaining) of Scripture.Does the preacher/teacher take the Bible seriously by explaining what is really there in text? Does he/she work through passages of Scripture, explaining each passage in its proper context? Or does it feel like the pastor has his favorite topics, he circles around to them over and over making a few texts serve his purpose? 

  5. The absence of dealing with tensions in Scripture.  Does the preacher/teacher take into account passages that might seem to contradict what he/she is teaching?  Related to point 4 above, does he/she seek to be humble before the Word of God and to teach what the Scripture says, even if it contradicts a point he/she would like to make? 

  6. The minimization of Christ and the Gospel.  Does the pastor/teacher continually draw attention to himself/herself by the statements he makes, or does he/she continually point away from himself and to Christ and His Word? For example, does he/she make statements such as “I’m preaching good!” or “I can’t hear you!” in order to bring about a reaction from the audience?  And does the teaching/preaching ultimately cause the individual to look at Christ and His Word, or at the preacher and his methods?

  7.  And finally, related to all these points, what is the teaching or preaching ultimately encouraging people to love and treasure?  More specifically, does the sermon or teaching lead people to value Christ and His Word and to treasure the Gospel above all else, or does it result in people coming to Jesus because of what they can gain from Him (not simply material blessings but success, fame, vindication, health, etc.).  Any teaching that even inadvertently or unintentionally leads people to love money, possessions, success, or anything else more than Christ is extremely dangerous; as a result, pastors and teachers must be aware of how their teaching—even well-intentioned teaching—could lead people away from Christ.

 

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”    —1 Timothy 6:6-10

*Adapted from John Piper’s “Six Keys to Detecting the Prosperity Gospel.” 

Here We Come A Caroling

Trevor, Pastor of Teaching & Vision

I was reading and reflecting on the Psalms recently and Psalm 149 jumped out at me in particular. The psalmist writes in Psalm 149:

Sing to the LORD a new song!

God’s people are a singing people. It’s always been this way. Carols, hymns, poems, and psalms have irrepressibly been a part of the life of the saints.

The psalmist continues in verse 2-3:

Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!

Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

God’s people are a glad-hearted, rejoicing, praising, dancing, drum-and-guitar-playing people. Why?

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.

The Lord takes pleasure in His people. Take a moment to consider that. The Lord adorns the humble with salvation, like a husband adorning a bride with a ring. We sing of God’s steadfast love to us, given to us by His grace and compassion.

And where do we see this grace and compassion most clearly? The Incarnation. The ultimate act of condescension and humility. So we carol! We sing about this amazing grace! Christmas carols are a large part of what makes this time of year so special. We sing old and new songs about the miracle of God’s coming in Christ, the newborn king.

However, lest our caroling become sanitized, familiarized, and sentimentalized, we read v.6:

Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands

Let the high praises to God be in His people’s throats and hands. How are the songs in their hands? As two-edged swords. God’s people are warring people — who wage war by their singing.

The psalmist gives three purposes for the high praises to be as swords in the hands of his people in v.7-9:

to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,

to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,

to execute on them the judgment written!

Our songs praise the God of salvation and condemn His enemies. Our songs execute vengeance on the nations. They tell of a God who first came in meekness but ultimately comes in triumph over evil. “Joy to the world… let earth receive her King!” And woe to those who resist him.

Our songs bind kings and nobles. They put princes and powers and principalities in their place. “Hark!” we sing, “The King of kings is born.” You will not rule forever.

So we don’t just sing our songs — we wield our songs. Unsheathe your carols this Christmas. Carol with gusto. May the glinting steel of your songs weaken the knees of that Old Foe!

What are we reading?

Trevor, Pastor of Teaching & Vision

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Michael Kruger’s Christianity at the Crossroads. This book explores a tumultuous and formative era in church history, the 100s AD. It’s remarkable seeing the similarities between our time and theirs, in particular the struggles of the church in a society largely opposed to exclusive claims of Christ. It’s a joy to see the church being the church - praying, singing, reading the scriptures, discipling, caring for the needy - in much the same way we still do today. It’s a fascinating read.

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I’m also enjoying this little book, The Walk. It’s a biography of a discipling relationship written by would-be singer-songwriter, Michael Card, many years later. As an undergraduate student, a college professor invited Card to follow him as he follows Christ. The story is beautiful, informative, inspiring, and challenging. Highly recommended.