Not Exactly a “Prosperity Gospel” Church

I visited another church last Sunday.  I got up early, and I figured that I might as well attend the church’s early service, since I had a lot to do that day and I wanted to free up more time in the afternoon.

I have visited this church before.  Usually on this blog, I have called it the “Word of Faith church.”  That is not its official title, but the reason that I have called it that is that I have heard Word of Faith or prosperity-like teaching from its pulpit.  A guest preacher there actually referred positively to Kenneth Hagin as he talked about the power of words, so I placed the church in the “Word of Faith” box.

After visiting the church last Sunday, though, I question my assessment that the church preaches the prosperity Gospel.  I heard the opposite, actually.  The pastor was saying that our lives become a testimony when we are moving upstream.  He said in his opening prayer that God has redeemed us from a world of always wanting our own way and having our own god.  He criticized those whose primary goal is a prosperous retirement, where they relax and play golf; as far as he is concerned, our vision for life should be so much larger than that.  He stressed eternal riches.  Preaching through the Book of Joshua, he noted the repeated statement that the Levites will not get land because God is their inheritance, and he said that the reason this statement was continually repeated was that God was reminding the Israelites that, ultimately, God was their inheritance, too, not just the inheritance of the Levites.  Preaching about the story of Dan’s idolatry in Judges 18, the pastor said that idolatry competes for our devotion, and he mentioned aspects of a comfortable middle-class lifestyle as examples of that.

The pastor’s daughter went up to speak near the end of the service, and she was saying that it is difficult for her to tithe.  Her family tithes, and she compares their financial situation with that of her friends from work, who do not tithe.  Her friends have such luxuries as boats and big campers.  She believes, however, that tithing is importance because it allows her to be part of what God is doing.  Her testimony differed from the prosperity narrative of “I tithed, and God provided me with more money!”

On what exactly they believe that God is doing, they were not overly specific.  The pastor said, though, that our life should include working with other people in God’s work.  Another speaker mentioned people associated with the church who were assisting Syrian refugees.  I needed to be reminded of that basic Christian truth: to provide for people who are in desperate need.  I am not endorsing a specific political stance in this post on President Trump’s policy regarding the Syrian refugees, but it is easy for me to become so preoccupied with political debates and the political figures I like and dislike, that I can forget or compromise basic Christianity.

I am not saying that prosperity preachers cannot assert the sorts of sentiments that I heard at church yesterday.  But they do focus a lot on God prospering people materially, or God helping people to actualize their dreams and hopes.  The focus was different at the church that I attended yesterday.

NOTE: I’m shutting down comments for this post because I don’t want comments on the Trump policy.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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