In all of our discussions, we might forget that the theology we’re debating has a human face.  On the other end of our words, our blogs, and our preaching are people.  Listening people.  People who believe and trust us.  People who–tremble at this–take our teaching seriously and act on it.  There may be only a few people in our homes that listen to us, or there may be several dozen in our churches, or there may be an untold number across the globe tuning in through some electronic media.  But make no mistake about it, if a tree falls in the woods it does make a sound even if you don’t immediately see anyone around to hear it.  They’re there and they’re listening.

A couple of days ago my wife posed a question to me.  Standing over the kitchen counter she asked, “Do you think anyone has really illustrated what the problem is with Jakes’ teaching?”  She explained that she was quite aware of the many theological discussions at work.  But she was looking for someone to actually illustrate the problems stemming from the teaching of Jakes and others like him.  I pondered that for a moment and realized she was correct.  We didn’t have a picture of Jakes’ effect on real lives.  That’s why I call her “Kristie the Wise.”

So, perhaps it would be wise for us to stop for a moment to remember the very real people who sit under the false teaching of people like T.D. Jakes.  We need to put a face on the destruction caused by heterodoxy (“prosperity gospel”) and heresy (modalism).  To that end, I want to share with you an email I received from a brother after ER2.  He wrote with a concern very similar to my wife’s.  He wanted to share his story as an illustration.  I offered to share it anonymously, but he wanted to leave his name in it–Sean.  In his words, he wanted to “put a face to it.”

Here’s Sean’s brief account:

I am, to be really honest here, very upset by the passé attitudes [towards Jakes] of these brothers (and pastors, I might add). I’m upset for a few reasons, but If I’m being honest, the main reason why I’m so disturbed by this is because the prosperity gospel nearly killed me. Literally. I was so sick I was on the verge of death. I was lying in a hot bath with a temperature of 96 degrees, way beyond dehydrated, and literally dying with mercury poisoning. My mother was crying over my naked body, begging me to go to the hospital for treatment. “NO!” I insisted. How could I put faith in a doctor? “God is my ultimate healer! In him alone will I place my faith!”

I did eventually receive treatment, but I was still being ravished by this heresy. When I married my beautiful wife, Amber, I taught her (with the Bible of course), that there would be no taking of medicine in MY HOUSE! We would be faithful. When we were dead broke I refused to get a job because “God had promised me (through Canton Jones, no less) that I would be a buisness CEO, fortune 500, of course. How could I not have faith in that word of prophesy?

And there were a hundred other things that nearly destroyed my life and marriage. Would you care to guess who my MAIN teacher was? Who I followed as if he himself were Jesus? Who I tithed to regularly? Who’s books I read faithfully? Who’s sermons I purchased? Who’s dress I imitated?

Yes, you guessed it. TD Jakes.

My brother, this man is not merely confused, he is a wolf. God’s gracious staff saved me from him.  But don’t get it twisted.  Under my fur I still bear many scars that he gave to me with his powerful bite.

Sean is a 20-something, tattooed, urban type.  He has a beautiful young family and wants to now devote his life to the mission field.  He’s sitting under sound teaching of God’s word, building community with others, and looking to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But he had to first escape Jakes and the prosperity movement before he could really come to build his life on and give his life to the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, not everyone has had the same experience as Sean and Amber.  And not everything in Sean’s experience can be attributed to the preacher.  But we can’t deny the connection between belief and behavior.  If the belief is faulty chances are the behavior will be faulty also.  Picture Sean.  Picture many more like Sean, falling into life-changing and sometimes life-threatening behaviors because they’ve believed a life-stealing teaching.  Now picture that teaching coming to an evangelical church near you.  Perhaps your own.  That’s the face we need to put on this destructive teaching.

Jakes’ false teaching has long been experienced in predominantly African-American and Hispanic-American communities.  His reach extends throughout the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa.  Recent events have given T.D. Jakes greater credibility in and access to communities that to this point were largely unaware of him.   In my opinion, that can’t be a good thing.

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Comments:


63 thoughts on “Putting a Face on Destruction”

  1. Taylor says:

    As a Dallasite with friends who have come out of Jakes’ movement, I really appreciate that you put a face to the issue. There are many more.

    Don’t diminish the force of the picture by ending with your opinion. Not when your opinion isn’t yours so much as it is the thinking set forth in the Epistles regarding false teachers.

  2. Daniel Lyle says:

    As a pastor I always have theses words in the back of my mind… “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,1 it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Helps me keep it real.

  3. Herbert Beck says:

    Thanks for sharing this account. I will share this on my Facebook page and without a doubt, one of my friends will harp on the fact that Sean is to blame for his calamity. The tragedy of this situation is that there are so many who are willfully oblivious to the obvious fallacies in the teaching under which they sit. They will go on and on about the “good” that T.D. Jakes, Eddie Long, etc have done and how we should “touch not God’s anointed.”

    Prosperity preaching and teaching is one of the most virulent forms of bondage foisted upon us by the enemy.

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      “I will share this on my Facebook page and without a doubt, one of my friends will harp on the fact that Sean is to blame for his calamity.”

      I think you’re probably right. Adherents to Jakes’ Charismatic Word-Faith Prosperity Gospel teaching will assign the fault to Sean for misunderstanding and misapplying Charismatic Word-Faith Prosperity Gospel teaching.

      1. laura grace says:

        Or, more likely, just not having enough faith, or the right kind, or having mis-sown his “seed gift” or some other such blasphemy. Because you know, if Paul had had enough faith, he wouldn’t have been flogged or shipwrecked or thrown in prison, he’d have been writing his letters from a gilded palace next to his swimming pool full of money.

  4. John says:

    This is a great article, brother. One thing that concerns me is the way in which Jakes’ teaching seems to take advantage of the socio-economic condition of black Americans in particular. Do you see this, or am I being too paranoid?

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi brother,
      Certainly prosperity theology preys upon materialism and greed, and the poor as well as the wealthy are subject to those weaknesses and sins. So, the theology plays well among folks wanting to escape poverty and wanting to believe a good God desires that for them. That’s the only thing I can imagine that helps to explain the success of the teaching in some of the most desperate Third World contexts on the planet! The teaching tickles human greed and poor persons can be as greedy as anyone else. It certainly affects African Americans, but it’s really fairly pervasive (White, Hispanic, Latin America, Caribbean, Africa, etc.). So I think the main factor is class/greed, not ethnicity.

      T-

      1. Sam says:

        Thank you for your stand and clarity on this issue Pastor Thabiti. I hope you don’t mind me weighing with my 2 cents on the motives/draw of the prosperity gospel. I think you are right on concerning the role of greed but there’s the subtle draw of pride in the mix as well. In the context where I serve there are a few wealthy people who subscribe to this hellish doctrine. In the word of faith movement it comes down to “having enough faith.” The person who’s been “blessed” with finances is the person who had the true faith. They have something to boast in other than the cross of Christ: their own faith. These same people are extra diligent to not utter any negative confessions lest they speak a curse into their lives. Again it’s by their diligence that they are avoiding some kind of calamity. Just a few observations from a guy who is distressed to see people believing the lie. Looking forward to hearing you and the rest of the gang at T4G!

  5. Dave. says:

    an interesting story to be sure. I find it interesting that you can post this, while speaking and freely associating with a pastor who has several websites dedicated to the lives destroyed under his pastoral leadership. why the difference?

  6. Jay Beerley says:

    Dave, I’m going to pray that you’re not trying to equate C.J. Mahaney and T.D. Jakes. If so, I pray you would think that through again in wisdom and understanding that comes from the Lord.

    One voice I can’t believe hasn’t earned a very large platform in all of this is Justin Peters. His “A Call to Discernment” ministry is top notch and I would love to see a guest post from him on TGC.

  7. Jason Woelm says:

    Brother Thabiti,

    Thank you for posting this brother’s story. It is always extremely helpful to put a human story out there to illustrate the danger of how false teachers and their teaching do create carnage. Being raised in an extreme charismatic background, I suffered a great deal under its aberrant teaching, and I try to illustrate many of its erroneous ways with Scriptural examination and my story. This post will remind me to do more of the same.

    Again, thank you!

  8. Christian says:

    Thank you so much for this pastor Thabiti!! I very much appreciate you being willing to post this as I believe it will really help people understand this whole ER2 situation a little bit better. It seems as if this whole drama is centered on the issue of whether or not TD Jakes is a modalist. And while modalism may be the most important theological and doctrinal issue at stake within this situation there is a doctrinal and theological issue with equal Biblical significance to take into consideration and that is his false WOF prosperity gospel. Even if the man were a Trinitarian I would still be just as upset about ER2 allowing him to be called “brother” and “solid”. That is not because I am not a loving person, it is because I love the people who’s lives he is destroying and I love the Gospel that he is distorting. I wish people would understand that we are not dealing with Calvinism vs Armenianism here (although I know the Biblical significance of that too) there is a much larger issue at stake here. I am glad you posted this mans testimony but that is just the tip of a massive iceberg. I could say more but I’ll leave it at that. Thanks again Thabiti for being faithful to the LORD throughout this situation your labor is NOT in vain.

  9. graham and nicola says:

    Thankyou
    Jakes teaching is more influential in the UK and Ireland than we would care to admit, through “The God Channel”. It causes untold harm.
    N&G

  10. paul says:

    Doesn’t it also seem that the “prosperity Gospel” isn’t so much outright false teaching as consistently “half teaching” (I know I’m splitting hairs a bit)…Jakes has grabbed half of the Gospel and teaches only that half.

    1. Jay Beerley says:

      Paul,
      Brother, you couldn’t be more wrong. It is DANGEROUS. Check out http://www.justinpeters.org for a man’s ministry that take great pains to point this out.

      1. paul says:

        Oh, I totally agree…Maybe I should have also added…”And half the Gospel might as well be no Gospel” :-)

        1. Jay Beerley says:

          Sorry for misreading you. Blessings!

  11. Michelle says:

    Thank you, Pastor Thabiti, for standing up for the sheep, for standing publicly against the destructive heresies being sold by these wolves, and for honouring the seriousness of this issue by being unwilling to let this furor pass too quickly.

  12. Prosperity Theology is so perverse, damaging, and heretical that we shouldn’t even associate the word gospel with it. That’s why I try to use Prosperity Theology or Word of Faith whenever talking about it.

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      Is Prosperity Theology or Word of Faith a part of Charismatic Pentecostalism? Or is it different from Charismatic Pentecostalism?

      1. Karen Butler says:

        It is different. We left our charismatic church when they made a slide towards Word of Faith teaching –they began to recommend the teachings of Benny Hinn,and the Lakeland Circus for example, and to teach that lack of healing/blessing is a lack of faith. I agree with Chris here,and would never label this heresy with “Gospel”

        Most of the leaders of The Assemblies of God have come out against it, and Dr. Gordon Fee,one of the translators of the NIV and a widely respected New Testament critic and an ordained minister of that denomination wrote an excellent book, “The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels” http://www.amazon.com/Disease-Health-Wealth-Gospels/dp/1573830666.

        1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

          Thanks Karen for the response. Another question in light of your response: How does a Christian distinguish or discern between these three churches?

          (1) A Word-Faith Prosperity Gospel Church.

          (2) A Charismatic/Pentecostal Church that has no Word-Faith Prosperity Gospel teaching.

          (3) A Charismatic/Pentecostal Church that allows/permits Word-Faith Prosperity Gospel teaching in their church.

          The overlap amongst all these 3 blur the lines.

          Another question. Who among these names are Word-Faith Prosperity Gospel teachers and should not be counted as Charismatics or as Pentecostals: TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Hagin, Hagee, C. Wagner, Todd Bentley, Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Pat Robertson, Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Jesse DuPlantis, Myles Munroe, Rick Joyner?

          There’s others, but these are the names that I’ve seen bandied about by charismatics.

          1. Thabiti says:

            Hi TUAD,

            Thanks for joining the conversation, brother. I’ve been grateful for comments I’ve seen you make here and on other blogs. And, again, I’m grateful for your hanging out here a bit.

            A couple thoughts to your very good questions. While I do think there can be considerable overlap between the three categories you mention, there are significant differences as I understand the groups. Let’s define them this way for discussion purposes:

            1. A WOF/Prosperity Gospel church is simply a church that teaches that a person’s faith effects changes in their lives and circumstances as they believe or speak those things into being. A ‘prosperity gospel’ church teaches that the gospel and salvation includes earthly prosperity, usually defined widely (health, peace, etc.) but definitely including financial wealth. Sometimes WOF and prosperity go together in this sense–your faith determines your prosperity. Much more could be said about Kenyon’s influence, New Age metaphysics, etc. (see Ken Jones’ chapter in Anthony Bradley’s new book, Keep Your Head Up).

            2. A charismatic/Pentecostal church without WOF/PG teaching is simply a church that believes the gifts of the Spirit all continue, with some Pentecostals placing particular emphasis on the gift of tongues. They’re varieties of continuationists who may hold a sound view of the gospel itself. So, someone can certainly be charismatic or Pentecostal and very far away from WoF/PG.

            3. A charismatic/Pentecostal church that permits WOF/PG teaching is a combination of 1 and 2 above (excepting the part about a sound view of the gospel in pt. 2). This is a group that believes in the continuation of the gifts as well as a gospel that includes the promise of prosperity.

            One of the difficulties, of course, is that most of these churches hold to a hodge-podge of doctrinal positions, usually depending upon the pastor’s emphasis. Each pastor has become pope speaking ex cathedra on doctrinal matters. That’s if there is any genuine doctrinal emphasis to begin with.

            Another difficulty, perhaps prompting your questions, is that WoF/PG/Pentecostal/charismatic has become a certain ethos pervading churches across the denominational continuum. That’s part of what makes this school so problematic. Their media prowess means they’re shaping ideas about ministry, preaching, and worship well beyond their official affiliations and theological boundaries. So, you find “Bapticostal” churches everywhere, for example. This is a new (30 years??) development in the church. Denominations that once rejected Pentecostalism both theologically and aesthetically now embrace it and imitate. Hence, the collapse of the categories you list.

            As for your list of names, is Osteen charismatic/Pentecostal? What about Robertson and Haggard? They may be; I’ve just never associated them with the others you list who pretty much all hold Pentecostal/charismania views.

            Does any of this make sense?
            T-

            1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

              Dear Pastor Thabiti,

              Yes, your reply makes a great deal of sense. And much thanks for the kind words. By way of background, I’m a Bible study small group leader for a large evangelical church. Personally, I’m a soft Reform guy (I’d subscribe to the LBCF of 1689) who occasionally gets his gander up at the 3 Ugly E’s (Errancy, Egalitarianism, Evolution) given the 3 Lovely C’s (Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Complementarianism, Creationism).

              The challenge I have is that our small group has folks coming from a wide range of backgrounds. Some of them come from charismatic/pentecostal backgrounds. They tell me to listen/read/see folks like TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers, Beth Moore, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, Myles Munroe, and my response thus far is to give a nod to acknowledge that I heard their enthusiastic recommendation of these folks.

              I don’t know if these aforementioned folks are standard Pentecostal/Charismatic big-names or Word-Faith Prosperity Gospel big-names that Pentecostal/Charismatics generally shun.

              Anyways, because of the enthusiasm by some of the folks in my small group about these big-names, I’ve never expressed the sentiment that they shouldn’t read/hear those folks because I fear that it’ll cause resentment, division, anger and charges of legalism, judgmentalism, and lovelessness. And yet at the same time, I don’t want to have leaven either.

              The Purity/Unity/Love tension is difficult to dissolve/resolve.

              Hence, my thinking is that if I could get a clear demarcation that so-and-so is a well-defined Prosperity Gospel teacher (and they themselves would own up to the “label”), then I could have meetings where everyone in my small group could understand what “Prosperity Gospel” teaching is, and then to disassociate themselves from all the teachers and purveyors of Prosperity Gospel teaching.

              One other thing that I have a feeling about, but maybe I’m wrong. It seems to me that if you critique a charismatic teacher, a charismatic will get defensive. They think that you’re critiquing them just because you’re not a charismatic yourself. I dunno, it just makes it hard to have a discernment conversation with a charismatic.

              I’ll ask the same thing you asked in return: Does any of this make sense? ;-)

          2. Karen Butler says:

            All the names you mentioned are considered charismatic WOF teachers; and Kenneth Hagin is considered the father of the movement. When I said that they are different, I should have noted that WOF sprang out of the Charismatic wing of Evangelicalism. I would say that the degree to which the Prosperity teaching influences any Charismatic church would be the Toronto Blessing Litmus test, because that would be when everything got mixed up. Before that time, Charismatic mainline teachers kept their distance from the likes of Rodney Howard Brown and Benny Hinn. So to me, that would be the shibbloleth — was Toronto a blessing or a curse? And the degree to which they acknowledge Toronto was a mistake would probably indicate the level of influence Prosperity doctrine has on that church.

            And the difference between Pentecostal and Charismatic is moot if they’ve mixed it up with WOF — I guess the emphasis on tongues being the sign that you’re filled with the Holy Spirit used to be the distinction, but to me it looks like the same chaotic mess–control behavior — little of it decent and in order.

            C. Peter Wagner is the WOF token intellectual; since leaving Fuller he has shed all pretense of mainline Evangelicalism, and has come out in unabashed promotion of WOF teachings. I haven’t read his book, The Church in the Workplace, http://www.amazon.com/Church-Workplace-People-Transform-Society/dp/0830739092, but in it he apparently makes clear his brand of Dominionist Prosperity Theology. He just puts a highbrow sheen to the whole nasty scheme, by citing research to back his points.

            Robertson is the marketing genius of the Charismatic church. He tries to mainstream the movement as well, but oh my goodness, he is really losing credibility even among his own of late.

            All the rest of the names you mention are the crassest sort of WOF vulgarians –blatantly manipulating Scriptures to fleece the sheep. Seed-faith teachers of the worst sort.

            I haven’t been to the Watchmen Blogs in a while, but I know Todd Friel regularly goes to this one http://slaughteringthesheep.wordpress.com/about/ to mine material for his show. Crystal is very balanced, and has MacArthur as a link to her blog so I guess she would be a safe place to study more about these issues if you are a committed cessationist.

            Hope that helps.

            1. Sonja says:

              It’s a sad commentary when blanket statements are made such as yours. Do you have dreams of helping the poor, blessing singles parents, providing money for orphanages, reaching out to the disenfranchised, helping with someone’s medical bills, buying a special gift for your pastors, surprising a foster care family with bikes for every child or simply rewarding a hard working employee with extravagant and uncommon generosity? I realize that not each person that preaches prosperity may have the purest motive, but it’s quite unreasonable, unfair and harsh to judge everyone that speaks of wanting to be financially independent of this broken world’s system in order to be a blessing. We certainly do not need to cast away our discernment, but rather embrace God’s wisdom which promises wealth in every given way!

            2. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

              “All the names you mentioned are considered charismatic WOF teachers; and Kenneth Hagin is considered the father of the movement.”

              Thanks Karen for replying and letting me know. Also, thanks for keying me in on the “Toronto Blessing” litmus test.

              With regards to C. Peter Wagner, what do you think of his book, “Discover Your Spiritual Gifts”?

              http://www.amazon.com/Discover-Your-Spiritual-Gifts-Easy-/dp/0830736786/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328731665&sr=8-1

              Do you think it’s balanced enough that it’s profitable, or at least okay, for evangelical Christians to go through it?

            3. Karen Butler says:

              First, I would like to apologize to Thabiti for inserting myself into this discussion–I have been convicted of presumption here– that I have a much too highly inflated opinion of my own usefulness, and I should have kept quiet and continued learning to respond in controversial matters with the gracious style this pastor models. I think I ramped up the emotions here in the discussion with my choice of adjectives. So after I address these comments and questions that seem directed to me, I will try my very best to go back to lurking.

              Sonja,
              I am weeping as I write this. I too have dreams of doing what you described –giving joyously and extravagantly for God’s kingdom purposes — but our finances have been bankrupted by the teachings of WOF. No, we weren’t ‘giving to get’ but we made extremely unwise decisions due to insufficient teaching regarding the sovereignty of God, and guided into believing that because we were doing Gods will with our money– that is, rescuing the perishing–He would miraculously provide while we maxed out our credit cards. Our intended rescue and our financial rescue from the Lord never happened. And we were made to feel a lower caste of believer because everything in our lives was imploding, and our story did not match the triumphalism one hears on “The 700 Club”, and none of i would have happened if we had enough faith. That kind of teaching guilts believers mercilessly, and shipwrecks faith.

              But as for embracing, “God’s wisdom which promises wealth in every given way!” that is much too difficult for me to do. I will no listen to those false teachers who rip the standard greeting of John for example, that “you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” from its context and make it the proof-text for promises Jesus never made.

              I follow the Jesus, who did not wear designer clothing or ride in limos, who had nowhere to lay his head. I follow the Jesus who promised me much trouble– even the trials of sickness and impoverishment– in this world he overcame, and His presence in the midst of it.

              TUAD,

              I note that the link you provided is to the revised edition, and so I haven’t seen it, and can’t really say how balanced or larded it is with the WOF perspective. But it seems this book has been one of the primary means of mainstreaming the fivefold gifts and ‘Bapticostal’ type ministry–the understanding that the 1st century office of apostles and prophets are for today– into mainstream churches, along with Wagner’s other Church Growth technologies, such as spiritual mapping and prayer walks.

              I am not very big on the idea of spitting out bones. The meat is sometimes so subtly laced with poison. And why enrich the butchers of Scripture by purchasing their books?

            4. mary says:

              Hi Karen,
              In response to Truth Unites.. question about who is a WOF teacher you responded “All the names you mentioned are WOF teachers.”

              Beth Moore’s name was included in that list. I just wanted to clarify if this is accurate. Thanks

            5. Karen Butler says:

              Mary,
              I don’t see WOF in Beth Moore, but some have faulted her for her associations with Contemplative teachers such as Richard Foster — I have a hard time with guilt by association charges. There would be no end to separations!

              When I was coming out of Charismania, a very broken person, I found Beth Moore’s teaching very helpful, and her book, “Praying God’s Word” a lifesaver. It taught me how to pray Scripture, instead of worrying out loud! But I have not revisited her ministry in depth for some time, as her radio program went off the air in my area, and her Bible studies are prohibitively expensive for me.

              I will confess that when I last heard her teach, fairly recently, I found it irritatingly dependent on personal illustration, emotions,and very light on exegesis. I am not such a needy person anymore, and really relish simple and deep Gospel teachers such as Alistair Begg. And his stuff is also free to listen to –it motivates me to want to support him madly in his extravagance of giving!

  13. Sean Nelson says:

    Pastor,

    Thank you for continuing to speak out on what a remarkably bad decision this whole mess was. Honestly, I wish more of the posts coming from the Coalition on this subject were as plainspoken. It seems like everyone is trying to tread lightly on this issue for some reason.

  14. Thank you so much for this. I have two couples (both Hispanic) in our church-plant who are former Oneness Pentecostals of the Jakes variety. I have a friend (a white guy) who used to be a Oneness pastor of the Jakes variety. These folks know first-hand where Jakes’ theology leads. FYI, I posted an interview with the former Oneness pastor here: http://grbcav.org/2012/01/er2-qa-with-a-former-oneness-pastor/ I think JT linked to it last week.

  15. Karen Butler says:

    One other aspect of the WOF teachings is the bad face it presents to the world. It has been linked to the subprime mortgage mess, as these lenders preyed on the false hopes of these believers, and unbelievably some of these lenders were pastors. Hannah Rosin of the Atlantic magazine wrote a piece about the connection between prosperity teachings and the collapse of the housing markets, here:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/did-christianity-cause-the-crash/7764/

    Here is the intro:

    America’s mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated—one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depression, it’s still going strong.”

    It not only damages individuals, but the Prosperity cult has wreaked its corrupting havoc on the economy on a massive scale.

  16. Henry says:

    Excellent post,

    It also makes apparent why it would have been much better for ER2 to first challenge Jakes’ on the prosperity gospel rather than his fuzziness on the Trinity.

  17. Daniel says:

    Thank you Mr. Anyabwile for posting this. sadly my background is also WOf, but thankfully God in his mercy saved me out of it. I know many others though who have been damaged by this toxic rubbish, and want nothing to do with God because of it. I know that is a strong statement, but I truly believe this teaching is false and ultimately damages those who embrace it. Thanks once again for sharing this.

  18. Jack Galloway says:

    I appreciated the putting of a face to this. Along with that, I want to thank you for this for the encouragement it provides! All too often I read articles linked from TGC, and get to thinking, pondering, or any number of intellectual responses and forget all of this relates to humanity.

    What a great story of God reclaiming and saving! Praise the Lord that Sean and his family have all come to delight in Christ … in Spirit and in Truth. How encouraging to see the fruits evidenced in their lives and their desire for missions. I certainly don’t want to diminish or gloss over the false teach of Jakes, as it is Sean’s point. All the while I don’t want to miss the excitement of seeing Christ’s light break through and bring Sean and his wife to delight in Christ, which I’m too often inclined to do … to almost take salvation for granted when someone recounts their salvation experience as opposed to being amazed and overjoyed, as if the salvation wasn’t a miracle by God Himself! We fight those who present a false gospel, but what a joy to be reminded that God also saves despite the false teachers. I am reminded to fight, and also reminded that God is more powerful than the charlatans who try to use Him for dishonest gain.

  19. Sonja says:

    It’s obvious that I will be considered of a different “stripe” in my response, but just wanted to register in. I am not quite sure how one can be so critical of a Biblical prosperity mandate when God Himself is in no way poor or impoverished on any level. Financial blessing is absolutely necessary to reach the nations of the world! I have been highly influenced by those who preach financial blessing, but I have not been corrupted by it. Quite the contrary, when increase comes my way, my first response is to find ways to express “generous gestures” for those who do not have. Time does not permit to trace every place in Scripture when God Himself champions wanting to bless His people in order that they may BE a blessing. THIS is at the heart of all those I have been influenced by. If it’s otherwise, I would have to say that the issue is not exclusively from the message of prosperity, but perhaps is coming through a broken filter of the listener.

    1. Daniel says:

      H Sonja,

      I think what you said here is most revealing “If it’s otherwise, I would have to say that the issue is not exclusively from the message of prosperity, but perhaps is coming through a broken filter of the listener” That kind of reminded me of when those that teach a prosperity message say that the reason for not reason receiving the blessing/healing was due to lack of faith on there part. In reality the only people gaining from this teaching are the one’s who promote it from the pulpit. They get rich not from Gods blessing of them, but through the people giving. And the people give because they believe the message and think God will bless them for giving. A vicious circle where only the preacher gets rich and the people go into debt/become poorer. I don’t say all this just from observing, I spent many years wrapped up in this stuff and thankfully by Gods grace saw the error of it.

    2. Douglas says:

      Sonja, please have a read of this Joel Osteen and The Prosperity Gospel and it is the same twisted gospel T. D. Jakes and many others proclaim today and it is very harmful, both physically and spiritually.

  20. paul says:

    it’s also the “broken clock is right twice a day” kinda teaching too….

  21. Stephen says:

    This is the most relevant article I’ve read on this controversy. Thanks for reminding us of what’s really at stake.

  22. It’s absolutely remarkable how deep the WOF/Pent/Prosperity message has permeated the church at large. This post and the repsonse is a perfect example.

    First Thabiti’s construct on the matter is excellent. It is so essential to establish a clear remdemptive and objective analysis of something so destructive.

    This allows for good and helpful dialogue.

    Unfortunately apart from the electing love of God in Christ, and His unfailing purpose to save chosen sinners, we would all be there in that darkness.

    He uses the truth to set us free! Let the truth be spoken and may more of them prove to be his elect.

    Keep talking.

  23. Seans illustration is at best a self evaluation of his own theology or lack thereof. I mean c’mon when did you ever hear Jakes say dont go to the hospital or dont take any medication? When did you ever hear him say dont get a job, when he (Jakes) worked for himself in a lawn business for years. If I am to preach the whole counsel of God’s word then I must preach that God wants to first save your soul and then save other areas of your life. If I am blessed which means (empowered to prosper and no I’m not a prosperity preacher) then I have a right to believe God for my health and the means to take care of my family and be a blessing to others who are less fortunate. Sean obviosuly has not followed Jakes’ ministry long enough to see the teachings on the Tabernacle and a liteny of other foundational christian teachings such as love, forgiveness, salvation just to name a few. Let the record show that Jakes didnt do that to Sean, Sean did that to himself because he had not studied fully to show himself approved. The motto of this story is that if you say you have a personal relationship with Christ you cannot blame anyone but yourself for your own spiritual condition.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Dear Waverly,

      Thanks for your comment and perspective.

      You wrote: “The motto of this story is that if you say you have a personal relationship with Christ you cannot blame anyone but yourself for your own spiritual condition.”

      Surely you don’t mean to suggest that people cannot be preyed upon, misled, or harmed by other Christians, including teachers. Sean would say he made some dreadful mistakes. In fact, throughout the narrative he seems to be saying he was foolish for the decisions he made. But, let’s be honest. His decisions followed his beliefs–belief taught by many a ‘prosperity preacher’ and false teacher. No one denies Sean’s culpability. But, we can’t excuse the guilty teachers who will face a stricter judgment. Jakes most certainly did this to Sean, along with a number of others who shaped his thinking and practice. Should Sean have known better? Perhaps. But should Sean have also been able to trust the teachers of God’s word? Yes, indeed. The fact that he couldn’t is the real moral to this story.

      Grace and peace,
      T-

  24. Christian says:

    I think I would agree with what Pastor Tahbiti is saying. I don’t think he is saying that it is no fault of Sean to have been misled. That is because we see clearly in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 Paul says, (Pay attention to caps)
    “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; REPROVE, REBUKE, EXHORT, with great patience and instruction. FOR the time will come when THEY WILL NOT ENDURE sound doctrine; but WANTING to have their ears tickled, THEY WILL ACCUMULATE FOR THEMSELVES TEACHERS IN ACCORDANCE TO THEIR OWN DESIRES, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
    It is the desire of men who have been swept away by the prosperity gospel to hear and embrace a prosperity gospel because of their own depraved desires. They do not want the truth and so they find a “truth” in which they can swim in idolatry and worldly pleasures and yet still sooth their religious conscience.
    Yet at the same time that does not stop Paul from urging Timothy within the same statement to “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; REPROVE, REBUKE, EXHORT, with great patience and instruction.” Just because man is depraved in this way it does not mean that we can neglect our role to preach and teach the truth AND expose the deceptions and lies. It is true that men desire the comfortable and worldly prosperity gospel that they hear but that does not imply that the false preachers and teachers deceiving them are not to be exposed. It seems contradictory to say, “these men accumulate for themselves these false teachings” but yet also say “these men have been deceived by a wolf that they thought was a sheep”. But nevertheless in one sense we see Biblically they want the wolf because sheep make them uncomfortable and in the other sense they didn’t know that it was a wolf they wanted a sheep. It seems confusing but don’t we also encounter this type of dilemma in the preaching of the Gospel? We are preaching to men who are dead and yet we bid them “come and live in Jesus Christ”. The fact that they are dead does not stop us from calling them to live. The fact that they hate God and love the world does not stop us from calling them to love God and forsake the world. In the same sense men accumulate teachers according to their own desires and yet that should not stop us Biblically from warning them that they have been deceived and exposing the deceivers themselves. I am not saying that someone caught up in the prosperity Gospel cannot be saved in spite of it, but the evidence of their conversion will be that they eventually walk away from it. So in essence what I am saying is the deceived and the deceivers are usually both opposed to the truth of God’s Word and both in need of reproof, rebuke, and exhortation for the sake of God, the Gospel, and the people of Jesus Christ.

  25. Leslie Wolf says:

    Good post. A few quick comments. First, theology is extremely important to the faith of individual believers, and we should never shrink from theological discussion. In particular, we should never hesitate to voice concern about theological mistakes, provided that we are sufficiently educated about the issue in question. However, we can and should voice our opposition respectfully and graciously, and in the spirit of Christian love, referring the discussion to the Bible. Instead of saying “I disagree”, or “I would argue”, we should say “I think that the Bible says” – the whole debate should be framed not in terms of individuals advancing their own private opinions, but about the community of believers helping one another to interpret Scripture as best as we can. Second, heresies will continue to prevent the advance of the Gospel unless pastors and other teachers in the church start providing their congregations with quality theological instruction, which won’t happen unless they themselves are both well educated and willing to teach.

  26. Angel (messenger of God) says:

    To “Kristie the Wise”,

    Amen sister! Thank you for lovingly and gently speaking up for the Lord.

    Since the ER2 epidemic God has SO humbled me. Through these trials HE revealed the sin in my own heart. By God’s grace I was able to get on my knees, repent, and be ready to listen to HIS voice. Jesus Christ has woken me out of a sound sleep ever since to show me the TRUTH in His Word. Jesus says, “A prosperity gospel message is NOT my message. That is a self-focused message and one that leaves people with heartache and hurt.”

    Jesus calls us to obey HIS commandments and obey HIS WORD. When we do that we will be able to hear the Holy Spirit speak to us. Can I tell you friends it is nothing short of AMAZING!!! God is stirring us up because we have been asleep in our faith far too long. Christ’s return is so soon and it’s time we get prepared for the return of our bridegroom.

    In the AMAZING LOVE of JEHOVAH JIREH,
    Angel ~ 1 Timothy 6:3-10

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  28. Christy says:

    Pastor Thabiti,
    I have just discovered your blog and am reading The Gospel for Muslims at the moment and really am appreciating them both! I was about to email a few people a question and decided I’d check your blog and found this post and decided to go ahead and ask you as well. How do you help someone get out of the prosperity gospel movement (who’s home church is teaching them false things, who’s heros are Osteen and other teachers like him) when you see it wrecking their life? I have a tendency to be a bit blunt and my non appreciation of their heros and concern in their teaching did not go over well. (I have a background of relatives involved in prosperity gospel churches that has ruined parts of my family and so I am a bit sensitive to it). How do you gently help someone see truth and still have their ear available to listen to you?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Christy,

      Thank you for such an important question. You really get to the pastoral issue/need in all of this: to teach and correct gently and patiently. That’s no easy thing to do when family is involved and past hurts swirl. I can’t answer your question definitively–if I could, I’d busily empty every prosperity “gospel” church I could find! But I can offer a couple thoughts that might give some principles, some of which you’ve already alluded to.

      1. Be very patient. Remember that you were once lost and you couldn’t see the truth either. You probably didn’t think of yourself as being rebellious against the truth or seeking to distort the gospel. That’s the case with your family and friends. So, pray for patience and tenderness.

      2. Let the word of God do the work. If you’re patient and loving, and if you live a faithful Christian life, sooner or later they’ll ask you questions or make comments that open discussion about the Bible. When that happens, don’t let “Christy” speak; let Jesus speak from the Bible. Open to relevant passages and have short impromptu Bible studies. Let the word get to the heart. When that happens, the changes will be lasting because they’re prompted by the word and the Spirit.

      3. Don’t be afraid to offer a word of correction when you see danger ahead. It’s not gentle to let folks drive off a cliff. Warn and exhort in such cases. But not everything is as dangerous as we’d imagine. Learn to distinguish between weakness and wickedness. Bind up the weak. Rebuke the wicked. Do both with the word. At the end of the day you want the family and friends to see you as someone they can trust with the word of God. When that happens, you’ll be a quietly trusted rival to the prosperity peddlers. You’ll have access to them that the prosperity preachers don’t have and you’ll be able to minister in the close-up situations.

      4. Recommend other teachers. There will be time when someone will ask you a question or have a need and the Lord will bring to mind a favorite teacher. Then you can recommend another preacher for them to listen to online or a book that’s been helpful. Probably not a good idea to start with a full frontal assault on what they believe. But recommend them to one of the many, many sound expositors who’ll rightly divide the word of God. Trust that the stead jackhammer of God’s word will break up the hard ground and that God will show them things through such teachers.

      5. Confess your sins to them. Sounds like you might have offended and sinned against at least some of your family and friends. If so, then humbly confess to them. Check out Peacemaker Ministries “7 A’s of confession;” it’s a good model for confessing our wrongs done to others. Try to begin again by openly repenting and asking for forgiveness. It’ll create opportunity to live freely before them and to reset the table.

      6. Pray. Can’t say this enough. Some things only come out by prayer and fasting. Pray for them in love.

      I’m not sure that’s what you’re looking for, but I hope something in this is helpful. As I hit “post comment” I’m praying for you, your family and friends, and a host of my own friends who are involved in word of faith and prosperity gospel churches. Until Christ is known to the fullest,

      Thabiti

  29. Christy says:

    Pastor Thabiti,
    Thank you SO much for your response. I settled into googling more tonight on “how to help someone pastorally involved in the prosperity movement” (okay so maybe too long of a google to find anything useful!!!) and anything I found just seemed to be tearing through the teachers and the lies they teach (I know the teaching is bad..it’s been all over my family for years… I just don’t know how to help my friends and family!) This was just what I needed to hear. I am copying your post to pray through it and see how the Lord will show me what to do next. This list is really helpful. And I appreciate your prayers for them and for me that I’d have a humble repentant approach.

    grace
    Christy

  30. Christy says:

    Hey Pastor Thabiti,
    I just wanted to email you a response to this set of comments we swapped months and months ago. Your advice was so encouraging and wise and just a God-send. I started to do some of the things you said.. I prayed, confessed, sin, drip fed good teaching to people I love. There are so many people in my extended family a part of this movement, and some friends as well but there were a few encouragements lately that I wanted to share with you.
    * the cousin I have been passing along books and resources to for ages and praying for.. I went to see her and upon going to her church, my heart SUNK.. it was connected with Joel Osteen’s church and that was exactly the kind of sermon it had.. I had no idea what to say (I had a few words of feist about it! but I wanted her to be able to receive them) I prayed silently on the way to the car.. she asked me what I thought.. and before I could answer.. she interrupted and started saying all the things she didn’t like about the sermon.. I was then able to gently point out she was right and why that teaching was so dangerous. Now.. 3 months later she has emailed me to ask for advice on a church in LA (I am thousands of miles away and have been to LA once!) because her and her boyfriend were not satisfied with the teaching and wanted to find a new one. SUCH an answer to prayer!
    * on the same trip another cousin I’d been praying for asked for church recommendations (a bit of a prodigal) whom I think has been affected by that teaching..
    * my mom had a bad day after a particularly indoctrinated prosperity relative was telling her she was demon possessed for being on medication. (this is where walking in the Spirit was not easy! I could have gone down there and smacked him in the head!) After figuring out THAT was what was setting her off.. we a good conversation about it and the Bible and my mom since has shot down his teaching as not being biblical and is settling down about her need for medication.

    Thank you so much for your prayers and wisdom.. this is only a few of many… but I am going to keep praying for them and seeing what and where i can share..

    Grace
    Christy

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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