MORE ON THE GRASSLEY 6: BITTER, But Over Prosperity Teachings?

by MullOverThis

Someone sent me the following article a few weeks ago.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/LIVING/wayoflife/12/27/prosperity.preachers.ap/index.html?iref=newssearch

Before we delve into the crux of the article, three true stories come to mind.  First, I remember years ago when the HSN first came on television and it was so unconventional to have round-the-clock shopping, and without leaving home. From the convenience of a family room, I clicked the remote control for a console 25 inch television and ordered my first gold link bracelet for $108 dollars.  It was  8 inches in length and 14kt Italian gold.  When I received the bracelet delivered to my front door, I was so excited.  I opened the packaging and thought it was a prank. The bracelet was so tiny, I was livid.  The bracelet was precisely what the network advertised, I just didn’t pay attention to the weight and the width of the bracelet.  There really was no bargain at all and I learned a crucial lesson:  pay attention to detail and some consumptions are best made in person where I can inspect the product.

Second, last year an on-line news journal headlined a NJ family who lost their home because the bank foreclosed on the property. After dancing through an illustrious tale of re-finance after re-finance and the increasing inability to pay the note and living off of the equity in the home, the family had to deal with the embarrassing reality of losing their suburban life.  The slant on the article was to capture a look at the ills of the sub-prime mortgage industry.  So an unethical broker who kept urging them to re-finance became the scapegoat.  The homeowners talked about the pressure they were under to keep re-financing.  The truth is they had thousands of dollars in consumer debt, did renovations and improvements that they could not afford, and paid maintenance bills with proceeds from re-financing, while having more children.  They made horrible choices living beyond their means, and wanted to blame the broker and the bank for making them sign hundreds of signatures, over and over again.  This is a prime example of bad habits and the blame game.

Third, there was a single mother in her late twenties who owned her own business and missed a couple of months in her apartment rent payments.  One day she went to church and the pastor made the statement, “you ought to live where you pay rent” (this was in reference to young men should pay their bills and be stable in their decisions, then God will allow them to be stewards over more, and become homeowners).  A number of months later, I drove this young lady and her child home, and she asked me to drop her at her place of business.  I told her I would wait to take her home, because it was extremely late and in a questionable neighborhood.  She explained that she moved into her place of business with her child, because God spoke to her through the same statement the pastor made months before, which she took completely out of context.  Since she did not make her apartment rent payments and kept the business lease payments up to date, God, in her mind, was speaking to her situation.  She made a major life decision and credited the pastor for giving her those asinine directives.  This woman who was responsible for the life of another human being, heard what she wanted to hear.

So when I read this article, I realized that there has to be some sob stories to make these televangelists be the super rich preying on the innocent poor as they’ve been dubbed.  Again, it is difficult to forgo common sense to end up putting these televangelists on the dartboard and piercing their images with each dart that hits the bulls-eye. 

Now, Ms. Bitter over Prosperity Preachings is an accountant who gave a substantial amount of money to the three televangelist ministries, and ended up borrowing money for food from her friends and using payday loans to survive when the blessings she was looking for did not come.  Accountant and payday loans do not work in the same equation unless there is a ‘”not equal to” sign involved.  Although we don’t have the full story, there has to be some fiscal insanity irrespective of any wooing these televangelists could have done to get this poor woman’s money.  As a member of the finance community, she would have been better off going to file an emergency claim with a social service agency, an  independent Charity, or knocking on a church door for some help.

According to the AP, Ms. Fleenor, the “victim” said, “I wanted to believe God wanted to do something great with me like he was doing with them…I’m angry and bitter about it. Right now, I don’t watch anyone on TV hardly.”  What was Ms. Fleenor’s perception of what God was doing with the televangelists?  They wrote checks to God and woke up a few weeks, months, even three years later and “blew up”?  That she would give to God and take the time, dedication, and diligence to build the families, churches, communities and works as the have? None of those ministries she contributed to, or any who are under the microscopic eye of Senator Grassley and his committee, are people who got Rolls Royces, private jets, mansions, face-lifts, image consultants, or millions of viewers overnight.  All of these ministries were built over at least fifteen plus years of  faithfulness to ministry.  What was God doing in them? He was and is prospering them for obeying the principles of the Word of God that do not gravitate towards a personality.  They work according to our faith, but faith without works is dead.  In other words, we must put our faith in action.  That does not simply mean to write a check because I want God to give me X or make me like Y. God is not a genie or Santa Claus. We all have our own paths in life.

Just to begin to tackle some of the principles in giving and receiving, the Kingdom of God pretty much works like the laws of agriculture.  In order to get a harvest, a farmer must have seeds and plant them.  This takes work to prepare the ground so that it is good and involves pruning, watering and oversight. When a harvest comes, a farmer does not give all of his harvest away. If he does, he will not eat, or cry after getting payday loans.  He must preserve some for his own table, and plant seed into his own ground again  so that he will produce a harvest in due season.  Next, a farmer may desire a harvest in crops that he does not plant.  He may sow, or exchange goods into another farmer’s land, and WHEN there is a harvest in another farmer’s crops, expect a return–not when they get tired of waiting.  One of the number one mistakes entrepreneurs make is they give up right before the new business turns a profit. One reaps what one sows.  This principle cannot be limited to giving, but certainly applies here. 

The article further purports, “The message flickered into Cindy Fleenor’s living room each night: Be faithful in how you live and how you give, the television preachers said, and God will shower you with material riches.”  That’s funny, because I have never gotten this message in isolation flickering into my television night after night. And I don’t suffer from the requisite delusions or paranoia to believe that “the man” or the televangelist division of the  FBI superimposes my television programming with Creflo, Copeland, Meyer, White, and Long teaching, or Ms. Fleenor’s with “give me money and you’ll get or become whatever is running through your mind when you think it should get to your front door”.  Nor do I believe they strategize to be aired in poverty-stricken markets so they can get money.  This thinking presumes that poor people are idiots, and fails to take into account that poor people are the ones WITHOUT MONEY to make greedy fat cats richer.  Everybody needs the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom and how to live as God intended his children to until Jesus comes again.

Now, we have no way of knowing what this message Ms. Fleenor received meant to her. But principles of multiplication and productivity (what people are calling prosperity gospel) are based upon what our priorities are (seek ye first the Kingdom of God), our faith,  our faithfulness as good stewards over finances (in paying bills, paying them on time, owing no man [not having debt], no usury, no unjust weights and balances, no unjust motives or practices), and, our stewardship over all things pertaining to life and ministry (our families, properties, businesses, education, works for the Kingdom of God). 

At least five of these ministries under fire teach extensively about the Kingdom of God and giving. They would all be well-advised to start using more of this teaching when making on-air requests for partners and offerings to defray duplicitous branding, because there are the “Ms. Fleenors” out there watching.  This situation is also a textbook case for the need for all believers to have a local church home. No one should be sitting at home waiting for some overnight fix to issues we’ve worked lifetimes getting ourselves into–in many circumstances–through writing a check.  If we do donate, it should be to perpetuate the works the ministries are doing all over the world while we WAIT PATIENTLY on God to bless us for meeting the needs of the Kingdom of God, LIVING AS FAITHFUL STEWARDS. 

Now it would not make sense to watch a weight loss program, buy the product, eat the food according to plan, work out, and then get mad at the weight loss company because your waist is expanding instead of shrinking.  If you know you have a fibroid tumor but didn’t know the diet food is what makes fibroids grow, your weight loss program is not going to give you the visual benefits you might expect until you get rid of the fibroid tumor that went from a small pea to a watermelon on the diet.  The weight loss program might not make disclaimers for such interferences because to some degree, folks expect folks to know their own situations and make decisions accordingly, and cannot account for such peculiar circumstances.  So, Ms. Fleenor may be bitter, but there would have to be a whole lot more information to pin the tail on the prosperity donkeys or guinea pigs. 

Moderator’s note:  I hope that Ms. Fleenor has a loving church family, or finds one.  Good pastors and elders help to prevent these types of experiences, because they are able to provide sound teaching and counsel believers according to the Word of God and their personal situations.

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10 Comments to “MORE ON THE GRASSLEY 6: BITTER, But Over Prosperity Teachings?”

  1. This is such a sticky topic because on the one hand you have preachers who believe they are teaching something that will truly help the people. On the other hand, you have those who are expected to be accountable for not only what they believe, but HOW they believe. I would say that both sides err and the blame game can be well played.
    Ding……in this corner we have the evangelist who applies scriptures that may or may not apply to material wealth. These ideas give disenfranchised, frustrated, or just plain Jesus loving people, hope that they can experience a material heaven in the here and now. It’s beautiful to let people know they can live a good life, but I have seen with my own eyes the imbalance that comes with that type of teaching. I’ve seen people pay for blessings and prophecies, told to give all of their money for a special offering and believe God to pay their bills (that special offering WAS their bill money!), etc. etc. What do you do in cases where you sow and sow and sow and are being taught you are doing the right thing, that your harvest will come year after year, and if you stop believing, you forfeit it?
    Ding….in this corner we have the unsuspecting sheep. Now, everyone does not fit that category. Some congregants are in the know. But what about the ones who are gullible, really want to please God, have been taught false doctrine to make them think God will strike them dead if they have no money for the special offering, etc. I think guilt is a huge weapon in the church. People have been guilted into a lot of things that wreak havoc in their personal lives. People who may have never been raised in church, have no one to iron out the kinks at home, and whose first induction into Christianity was radical error? These are the people I am concerned with.
    Let me stop before I ramble. Common sense should take over any situation we find ourselves in. But very often in the name of the Lord it is suspended for fear of not employing one’s faith. Charismatic/Pentecostal churches often place so much emphasis on the supernatural that its members are often ill-equipped to make sound, real-life decisions. Why? Because it is often taught that our faith should supercede the laws of the natural world. Yes, sometimes, but you still have to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Hmmmm, who said that??
    Lastly, our preachers are richer than they have ever been in the history of this country, have more Bibles and schools, etc, and this country is in the worst shape it’s been in in modern times. Bin Laden is richer than all of these prosperity teachers and he has no Bible. You have Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who don’t even take up an offering in church but have the expectation that their congregants will give, and they do. In Mormon churches if you come and feel you are not properly dressed for the service, there is a clothes bank to loan you a dress or a suit!! They even have employment placement!! This is right here where I live, so I’m an eye witness. The head of the church comes to service in a car, no one begs for money or talks about sowing financial seeds for blessings. They talk about right living and service to God. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…….
    This prosperity stuff does not impress me, but rather a lifestyle does, one that causes change in others. If people were taught how to live in the here in now FOR REAL, we wouldn’t have to keep telling people to give give give. We can tell them to live live live.

  2. Nik, again thanks for your commentary. No one can query true experiences which often FORMS one’s perspectives towards life. Much of what you have shared and even the person featured in the original article is not specific to prosperity teachings/gospel. Erroneous teaching, living in the clouds (everything is in the air, atmosphere and supernatural), and lack of knowledge has no doctrinal/denominational/belief system bounds. THE EMPHASIS I WOULD LIKE TO LEAVE WITH EVERYONE WHO VISITS THIS BLOG IS TO DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD FOR HIM/HERSELF. READ AND STUDY THE WORD OF GOD. Find a good church home. We cannot expect the car to get us across country with the starter in the garage, and the battery in the trunk. People want all the results coming from the inspired messages but don’t always put all of the pieces together. We must follow the plan of God to get Godly results, and it is difficult once we have been wounded to accept responsibility for our own lives AND OUR OWN relationship with God. Our understanding of Who God is and how he works may begin with teachers/leaders, but it certainly does not remain there. GOD GAVE US COMMON SENSE FOR A REASON, TO USE IT.

  3. I agree with you that people have to take responsibility for what happens to them and that common sense is necessary. However, there is an “in the meantime” period where one has to obtain a certain level of knowledge in order to feel comfortable questioning what he or she has been taught. That’s partly why there are cults and people willing to drink Kool-Aid in the mountains of Guyana. And once those questions are asked, the person has to deal with possibly going against everything they knew and all of the connections they’ve formed within that particular spiritual environment. It can be a frightening and lonely experience. After overcoming the ostracism, the doubts, the anger at losing so many years of your life believing lies, etc, it’s freeing. Unfortunately, many people choose to stay where they are versus dealing with that process. It’s not the preachers fault, but it is what it is. And for the record, I’m sure it’s quite apparent that I am a staunch opponent of prosperity teaching (as I undersatnd it). I have an issue with God as Santa Claus. A serious one.

  4. I’m not sure that prosperity teachers introduce people to a God who mimicks Santa Claus. If we obey the Word of God, the promises of God given to every believer will bring forth a harvest in our lives. There is a huge gap between 1/2 hour of edited television programming and sitting and learning the principles of the Word of God. It is often misapplied not only because teachers aren’t able to reach the students, but also because students come with their own preconceived notions. Many people approach faith and relationship with God based upon “what I need…what I want…where I am in my life right now” and see God from an extremely self-absorbed and egotistical perspective. So teaching prosperity in all areas of our lives must be balanced with foundational teachings/doctrines of the church, so we don’t continue to get it twisted, so to speak.

  5. “I’m not sure that prosperity teachers introduce people to a God who mimicks Santa Claus.”

    But I’m sure!! I rarely watch church on TV. Rarely. But I’ve either been a part of or visited ministries where this error existed. And I left. Preaching about money every Sunday? Naming it and claiming it every Sunday? Paying for a word from the unHoly Ghost every other revival? I don’t think so.

    “It is often misapplied not only because teachers aren’t able to reach the students, but also because students come with their own preconceived notions.”

    True. And it is also mis-taught.

    “So teaching prosperity in all areas of our lives must be balanced with foundational teachings/doctrines of the church,”

    Absolutely, but unfortunately this is not always the case. That is my concern. For every Joyce Meyer teaching the whole Word, there’s a charlatan ready to dupe the people. And they often succeed. We call these people angels of light and in the last days even the very elect shall be fooled, right? So we are stuck with this. Let’s pray that as many people as possible get free and are able to enjoy God as Lord, Friend, Father, and Protector instead of just a Provider.

  6. Nik is just like Cindy Fleenor who hears what he wants to hear. God as Santa Clause ? where did you hear that.?Certainly not from these preachers

    Millions of people acoross the globe have heard the same preachers preach and didnt do what Ms Fleenor claims Furthermore I am amused at the AP statement on “how they flickered in from the TV”. I guess MS fleenor didnt pay for the TV and change the channels herself. The ministers in question automatically flickered in

    Bottom line is we are in the everybody is responsible but me generation. All my problems have to be someone elses fault. A supposed Accountant pledges 500 dollars a year to a ministry and then has to live off borrowed money ? But then again we do have people suing Macdonalds for making them fat and then we had a Judge suing a drycleaner for ridiculous money for losing his pants. That’s the kind of society we live in

    God gave you brains use it. If You feel you have parnered with these ministries in error then stop partnering it’s that simple. God bless you MULLOVERTHIS. Excellent article !

  7. Steve, with all due respect, apparently you are not a careful reader. As I’ve stated, I’ve LEFT those ministries. I have never partnered with any, and also, I am not speaking in reference to the Grassley 6 when I wrote about God as Santa Claus. The short time I spent in ministries that overemphasized prosperity, God has been presented in this manner. Since I was there, I would know. And surprise! I am a supporter of Joyce Meyer. Lastly, my observation of religious practices are not from a herd mentality perspective, but I study it for spiritual benefit and on an academic level. My area of research involves church abuse and false doctrine which is why I have a more holistic perspective on this issue versus approaching it in a self-righteous spirit and making the false assumption that everyone is born spiritually astute. That kind of pride is dangerous. Be careful. Again, this is why we have CULTS and a gazillion denominations under the umbrella of one God, because everyone is not always aware. The Bible would not talk about deception if it were not possible.

  8. Good article! People are not supposed to give to get. And the 7 don’t teach it. They teach giving is an obediance thing….recognizing that God’s word IS TRUE and to obey… blessings are not a thing you buy. We give because it’s a heart issue, not an investment as in a get rich quick scheme. I am a partner with Copelands and have watched them for 26 years. I give because they teach the Word of God uncompromised. When I give to them I support the Word they preach so others can find freedom in Christ Jesus. I also support Joyce Meyer and Crefflo Dollar…… they preach the Truth (Jesus).

  9. Thanks for this great post Im pretty sure that many people are searching informative post like yours .

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