Thursday, November 5, 2020by Reverend Dan on November 5, 2020
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth ... But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven"
Today we’re going to look at some of the seminal names in the history of Prosperity Theology. We mentioned E.W. Kenyon as laying (albeit not purposely) the foundation of the movement, and we said that Oral Roberts is considered the movement’s modern-day father. After moving from healing tent revivals to television, Roberts also opened a university named after him, and at the height of his ministry, brought in over $110 million annually. At one point he told his viewers that if the ministry did not receive $8 million by the end of the month, God had told him he was going to die. The money was raised.
One disciple of Roberts was Kenneth Copeland. Copeland was a student at ORU who served as a pilot and chauffeur for Oral Roberts, and in time he went out on his own and became one of the most notorious (and wealthiest) of prosperity preachers. Today he’s worth over $300 million and promises his converts a “100-fold return on their gift”. He also promised that he could cure his followers of Covid-19 as long as they continued to send their tithes, even if they had lost their jobs.
When the television market proved a lucrative medium, many people whose names are (in)famous today made their mark preaching the Prosperity Gospel. Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were raking in millions promising their followers prosperity, until their fall from grace. Bakker disciple Benny Hinn did the same until U.S. Postal Service inspectors and IRS criminal investigators raided the offices of the faith healers business.
One of the more colorful Prosperity Preachers was “Reverend Ike” (Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter). Rev. Ike bought an old movie theater in New York City, and turned it into the base for his ministry. By the mid 1970’s, his weekly sermons were carried over 100 radio stations across the U.S. He was famous for his “Blessing Plan”, where radio listeners sent in money and in return, he blessed them. His favorite saying was, “You can’t lose with the stuff I use”, and his closing line was, “Close your eyes and see the green. Money up to your armpits and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool.” Rev. Ike dressed the part and acted the part, showing his followers what money could do. He was such a cultural phenomenon that he is on the Hank Williams Jr number one hit, “Mind Your Own Business”, and one night while listening to the broadcast, John Lennon heard Rev. Ike say, “Let me tell you guys, it doesn’t matter, it’s whatever gets you through the night.” Lennon then wrote the song, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”.
Pastors considered leaders in the Prosperity Movement today may surprise some people. Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Fred Price, Paul White, and T.D. Jakes are considered proponents of the movement. And scandals continue to follow the movement. In 2015, Creflo Dollar launched a fundraising campaign to replace a previous private jet with a $65 million Gulfstream G650. Other current pastors are being investigated for fraud and money crimes, and it seems the higher visibility they maintain regarding what has been called their “bling-bling” lifestyle (luxury clothes, big houses, high end cars, private planes, etc.), the more likely a scandal is to follow.
Tomorrow, we’ll end up our little study with a few final thoughts on the Prosperity Gospel.
“Father, Open our eyes to the true meaning of scripture. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”