Jul

05

2013

Joe Carter|10:15 AM CT

'Preachers of L.A.' Brings the Prosperity Gospel to Reality TV

The Story: The prosperous lifestyles of six megachurch pastors in California will be the subject of a new reality show, "Preachers of L.A.," slated for the Oxygen network this fall.

The Background: "The Bible says I wish above all things that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. I believe that," declares Bishop Clarence McClendon, in the show's trailer. When challenged about this prosperity gospel, McClendon replies, "there is no other kind of Gospel."

"P. Diddy, Jay-Z, they're not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses," says cast member Bishop Ron Gibson, a former gang member who now ministers to 4,500 people each week at Life Church of God in Christ.

Why It Matters: The heretical gospel of "health and wealth" has been a staple of television for decades. But where it was once confined to obscure TV ministry channels like Trinity Broadcasting network, this new reality series will bring the prosperity gospel to a whole new audience.

While it's tempting to think these gold-chain wearing, luxury car driving preachers can be easily dismissed, we shouldn't underestimate the powerful appeal of their message. "It would be easy for young, theologically minded pastors to think of prosperity teaching as so obviously misguided that we don't consider it worthy of attention. This would be a terrible mistake, says Trevin Wax. "As pastors and church leaders, we have an obligation to preach the biblical gospel in a way that takes into consideration our current context, a setting that unfortunately is heavily influenced by the idea that God's blessing is financial and deserved."

The new series may give us an opportunity, though, to explain the difference between this gospel-less gospel and the true good news of Christ. But to do so we need to be prepared to explain why focusing on material riches makes us spiritually poor. As Al Mohler has said, "In the end, the biggest problem with prosperity theology is not that it promises too much, but that it promises far too little."

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

Categories: Arts and Culture
  • Shawn Timmons

    Thank you for making others aware of this dangerous and heretical "gospel" and for preparing others to get ready to confront this.

    • http://www.battle4freedom.com Watson

      Amen! It looks like a good series because it accurately reports the pimps in the pulpit! Keep it real!

  • http://outin2thedeep.wordpress.com Wesley

    Disgraceful! I'm sure in the face of all the debates going on today about abortion and same-sex unions, the TV gods would love nothing better than to sell to the masses the very picture of hypocrisy and paint us all with that brush. You feel that? And, it seems, these brothers (and i pray they truly are) seem cool with profiting from it all along the way. Zaccaeus a'in't dead people, and he needs a true encounter with Jesus.

  • http://www.lapetitefarm.blogspot.com Rhonda Lampton

    Yet another black eye for Christianity.

  • http://letmypeopleread.blogspot.com Frankfusion

    This is just sick.

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  • Rick

    A great great, in-depth resource on this is the multi-session seminar series on DVD "Biblical Discernment" by Justin Peters ( justinpeters.org ) Everything is documented with videos of the "preachers" saying things from their own mouths.

    Endorsed By MacArthur and many others. We just had Justin at our church and it was phenomenal!

    He has an updated DVD coming out in one month -- I think it is going to be called "Clouds Without Water", a reference to the Jude passage on false teachers.

    But even the 4 year old DVD is totally worth it!

  • colleen

    What does the phrase 'relative ghetto of tv ministry'mean and why did you use it?

    • Joe Carter

      It means that the prosperity gospel used to be relegated to ministry-oriented stations like the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

      • Phil

        To be honest, Joe, I wondered what you were intimating when you used that word, and why you might have used it. The term "ghetto" can be pretty loaded, especially given the racial component in play here.

        • Joe Carter

          The racial aspect didn't really cross my mind (when I hear the term "ghetto" I still tend to think of its Jewish connotation). Also, while this particular TV show seems to have a number of black pastors, most prosperity preachers I've known have been white. That's a heresy that crosses all racial lines.

          I changed that word, though, since it could be perceived to mean something that I definitely did not mean.

  • Phil

    The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about is that rebuking this movement and these men is loaded with ethnic and economic issues. The prosperity "gospel" (which is no Gospel at all) had it's strongest early growth as disproportionately African American, and then more recently into the Hispanic scene; almost entirely via the paralleled growth of charismatic/Pentecostalism. That combination (pagan-friendly practices of Pentecostalism and the false hope of prosperity) is why we see it exploding in Africa and South America. When African Americans and Hispanics see this, don't think for a moment that the connection with their home land is lost on them.

    Even so, we now have an especially virulent cultural narrative the says that anytime a white person attempts even the most reasonable criticism of anything or anyone non-white that criticism is (supposedly) rooted in seething racism. The narrative cuts both ways, as we see the most vitriolic treatment reserved for non-whites who voice criticism againt their own. These cultures have an entire vocabulary of stinging pejoratives reserved for those who do not stand with (or at least remain silent) their racial brethren, no matter the topic or rightness/wrongness. I'm convinced that the fear of stepping on this racial landmine has gagged many Bible-believing Christians, on both sides, both privately and in major media, more than we will ever know on this side of the grave.

    • http://theothoughts.com Lisa Robinson

      Phil, good insight and comment. I don't know if Bible-believing Christians are reticent to challenge these teachings so much as the push back that happens when there is challenge. There is a reason that this teaching attracts historically under-represented and disenfranchised groups. I think you are spot on in saying that coming against prosperity teaching can be construed as squashing advancement and maintaining oppression.

    • http://www.sbcfocus.net/ Chris Roberts

      Phil,

      Another side of this is showing up in corners of my denomination. The SBC is working hard to pursue racial unity - that is a very good thing. Our track record is obviously not a good one; we are working to be where we need to be in terms of being a denomination for people, not for white people or black people or hispanic people but for people.

      But the danger that creeps in anytime we seek inclusivity is the temptation to take the bathwater because the baby wants it. One group wants to work with Catholics on social issues, so they sign statements of mutual faith; another group wants to partner with Mormons, so they affirm each other's beliefs. In the SBC, there are those who are saying that if we want to increase ethnic participation, we must be willing to adopt - or at least accept - practices which in the past have been frowned upon or excluded from SBC life, practices such as speaking in tongues or women preachers. Those who oppose such practices are in turn accused of working against racial unity, of being agents of white oppression. Missing from the discussion is the fact that we hold these beliefs not because they are or are not identified with a particular race but because they are contained in the pages of Scripture.

    • http://www.battle4freedom.com Watson

      Well said! Too many people have set up these prosperity profits as their idols! Covetousness has been repackaged as prosperity and we wonder why thugism is rampant in this country!

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  • http://www.antiordinary74.blogspot.com Eric

    I like Bro. Carter's perspective. There is a definite opportunity for Christ-centered ministries to demonstrate the difference. Light is better appreciated with darkness for contrast.

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  • Paulo

    Are you kidding me? Unbelievable.

  • Martin

    And while we're at it, let's not forget about the Christian celebrities and networks peddling health products and "get ready for the apocalypse" goods. These products are not cheap and bring in a tidy sum to the networks sponsoring these programs. Yuck!

  • http://www.omcanada.org christoph

    I believe what that show will accomplish is that secular America will put all "Christian" in one pot. Much "American Christianity" is more a pretend church. The real thing happens OUTSIDE the USA

  • http://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/ SLIMJIM

    I think this will get a big viewing...but probably hurtful for the Gospel.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ the Old Adam

    The devil is surely at work in this.

    • http://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/ SLIMJIM

      I agree

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  • Barb

    That's a very troubling trailer. It's as though they never laid eyes on the pastoral epistles. They truly have no concept of what it is to be born again. Resurrection power creates a new heart, not this.

  • Mike

    Those who use that verse in this way are taking it WAY out of context. This verse was intended to be spoken by one man, John, and to only one man, Gaius, and not for everybody.

  • Mark

    An absolute embarrassment. Do these "pastors" actually read their bibles? They will have a lot to
    answer for.

  • http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/ Curt Day

    The health and wealth gospel challenges the New Testament teachings in at least two areas: that we should build our treasures here (Sermon on the Mount) and that we have a home here (Hebrews).

    But lest we become like the Pharisee who prayed that he was glad that he was not a sinner like the publican over there, there are many ways by which we struggle with keeping those two New Testament teachings despite our disdain for the message of the health and wealth preachers. I think that reveling in patriotism is one such way. But even if one is against patriotism, like myself, all of us will always struggle with not having treasures here on earth along with not regarding ourselves as wandering through the wilderness waiting for the Promised Land.

  • EC

    The Gospel has made cheap. Not only that, I'm truthfully saddened by it that it has affected some people that's we Christians are necessarily to be rich. Which I found very contradicting to what the Scripture says...

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  • John

    "Earth dwellers," comes to mind when I see the prosperity preachers. We are cautioned in the bible to be "content with what we have," and to "lay up treasures in heaven." Our short life here on earth is not what we are called to concern ourselves with. Rather we are to be sojourners here, passing through and not growing comfortable with the Enemy's Kingdom. These type of shows are designed to poke fun at Christianity and nothing else. The pastors perpetrating it are no more than carnival shills looking to enrich themselves and the sponsors of the television industry at the expense of the God they claim to be in love with. They may be looking at a most uncomfortable judgement day.

    Blessings!
    John

  • Jose L

    1 Timothy 3 (NLT)
    "This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” 2 So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. 3 He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. 4 He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. 5 For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?

  • Jose L

    Titus 1 (NLT)
    "5 I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. 6 An elder must live a blameless life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don’t have a reputation for being wild or rebellious. 7 An elder is a manager of God’s household, so he must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money.

    8 Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. 9 He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong."

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  • David Volsky

    I don't believe any godly and faithful pastor, being in a position of leadership within the church, would place himself in the position of being on a reality tv show to begin with--where reality is distorted, and truth and integrity are exchanged for drama and ratings. That in itself is telling. These men are there for self-glorification.

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  • William Simpsn

    For 20 years I was involved with the W.O.F. Prosperity cult believing that this was Christianity. I hosted meetings with the likes of Copeland, Duplantis, Savelle, Thompson, Jakes, Dollar, Brown, TBN, and the list go on and on... GOD graciously delivered me from this lie. I wrote a book a few years back that addressed the lies and deceptions of those who promote this trash as the Gospel. There is a free Kindle download to Kindle readers and the book is also in paper back. If any person wants to read it and doesn't have the money to buy it, I will happily give a link to a PDF copy of the book. When this ridiculous show comes out I will gladly rip their false theology to shreds! I despise these heretics and the apostasy they condemn the ignorant too. http://www.amazon.com/Living-Hope-Imagination-Compelling-Revelation/dp/088144488X

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  • mike simmons

    I noticed a commercial for this program today. They used the gospel coalition as an endorsement. It worried me a little not to the credibility of the blog, but to its perception to outsiders. Thoughts?
    Grace and Peace
    Mike

    • Niki

      Mike, I just got on here to see what was actually said about the program as I knew the comment, "Powerful" on the commercial must have been taken out of context. What a terrible misrepresentation of the intent of this post. Sad.

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