Christianity Today featured Costi Hinn’s conversion story in 2017. After that, Costi Hinn began to receive hundreds of e-mails from people who had suffered at the hands of his uncle’s (Benny Hinn) ministry. Hinn recalls one man and his wife who were childless but were told to sow a seed of faith in the ministry of Benny Hinn. They began to give to Hinn’s ministry, but nothing happened. They continued to give, each time praying this was the step of faith needed to start their family. In the end, they gave all they had to Benny Hinn and were left penniless and childless. 1 

This is one brief example of what the prosperity gospel does, but Costi Hinn goes on to tell other heart-wrenching stories in his book that exposes his uncle’s false ministry. Yet Benny Hinn is just one of the hundreds of prosperity gospel preachers who have become millionaires from the pockets of their followers. 

What is the prosperity gospel? The prosperity gospel, also known as prosperity theology, word of faith movement, or name it and claim it movement is a belief among some Christians that God will increase their material wealth, physical health, and well-being if they give financially, speak positively, or behave in a particular way. 

Should we give to our church? Of course! That is not what I am saying, but we don’t give attaching an expectation that God will somehow give it back to us tenfold or bless us in some way. 1Timothy 3:2-3 Nor am I saying there is anything wrong with being wealthy, but contrary to what prosperity gospel teaches, it is not God’s desire for all of us to be rich. 1Timothy 6:10 Remember, the only disciple who was overly concerned with wealth and money was Judas. Luke 12:15 

It should be noted the giving emphasized by preachers of this false gospel stress the offering to be monetary. You don’t hear them emphasize how God will bless them financially if they teach a Sunday school class, serve as an usher, volunteer in child care, clean up after lunch at a church function, or give to other charities. Instead, it is almost always in terms of money donated to preachers specific church or ministry, having greater faith, or changing your attitude.  

In the prosperity gospel, you will find two lines of thought. One is if you pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ, you will be blessed financially. The other is struggles with pain and sin in our lives will fade and will see difficult times turn into joy, delight, satisfaction, and pleasure. Unfortunately, those who embrace this kind of teaching are inevitably disappointed and find their faith wounded because the sugar daddy in the sky did not deliver. Paul tells us we will suffer, but from that, we will develop our character, becoming more Christ-like. Romans 5:2-5

Scripture is filled with Godly characters who suffered. Remember the poor widow who put in her last two small copper coins? Mark 12:41-44. Nothing more was said of her. Nor does scripture imply that her life suddenly turned around and she lived in great abundance. She gave all she had, not because she expected a ten-fold return but because it would honor God. You see, God measures our gifts not by the amount given, but by the amount kept coupled with the attitude in our hearts. 2Corinthians 9:7 1Chronicles 29:14

In Part II of this blog, I will look at some prosperity gospel preachers and then examine what they are saying. Just remember, when you place yourself under someone who you hope will lead you in your spiritual walk and efforts to become more Christ-like, ask the following question: Where is that in scripture? Don’t just assume it is there. If it is in scripture, is it out of context? Do they talk about how difficult the Christian walk can be, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, or do they preach joy, wealth, abundance, and your life overflowing with God’s blessings? Do they continually toss out words of victory, expansion, and promotion, and all of it is just around the corner? Do they teach lifting each other up, meeting the needs of others, supporting one another in times of trials, Galatians 6:2, or do they focus on how you can turn your sorrow into joy and your debt into wealth? Do they teach how suffering enables us to minister to others, 2 Corinthians 1:4, or just focus on ways of ending your suffering, your trials, and your tribulations?

Keep in mind the prosperity gospel is often laced with truth and scripture. Preachers of this heresy often have wise words, truth, scripture, and common sense advice that would benefit many. Yet all of them also preach a false gospel. A gospel that proposes that God will bless you financially if you behave a certain way and do certain things. 

It is essential to recognize the prosperity gospel because it is unbiblical and ultimately steals from tens of thousands who don’t know any better. Here are a few names you may recognize as prosperity preachers: Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, Kenneth Copland, Benny Hinn, and Robert Heidler.  

Ministry Watch is an organization that reviews Christian ministries based on their financial accountability and transparency. Ministry Watch awarded Creflo Dollar Ministries an F rating and has added it to their Donor Alert listing.

What constitutes an ‘F’ grade from Ministry Watch? Their failure to comply with three requirements. 

  1. Public form 990 – which highlights revenue, expenses, executive salaries, etc. All self-reported. 
  2. Public financial statements – These are created by an independent accounting firm which gives greater assurance that the dollars reported are accurate and true. 
  3. They are members of ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). 

Failure in all three standards results in a transparency grade of F. Below is a list of some, but not all. I included the governing board size that should add some accountability to any organization. According to Amy Guettler, who writes for small business’ chronicled, “Nonprofits endeavor to represent the public’s best interests, and whether they focus on issues such as health, education, social welfare or global humanitarian outreach, the primary purposes of the board of directors is to ensure the organization is on track with regard to meeting its goals, as well as to craft policies in support of those goals.” 2 I would be suspect of any nonprofit that did not have a governing board to aid in accountability. Nevertheless, having an overseeing board does not guarantee a passing grade with Ministry Watch. All those below received an F.

Benny Hinn Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

Creflo Dollar Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

John Hagee Ministries – Overseeing board size – 4

Kenneth Hagin Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

Kenneth Copeland Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

TD Jakes Ministries/Potters House – Overseeing board size – 5

Joel Osteen/Lakewood Church – Overseeing board size – 0

Gospel for Asia – Overseeing board size – 7 3

Those who fall for the promise of a better life are ultimately disappointed by the lies they believe, but many give away all they have for healing and are left in financial ruin. Unfortunately, this false teaching is prevalent in the U.S. and has millions of followers. But so much more can be lost than a life savings.

Wesley Parker was an active 11-year-old boy who had diabetes and had to take daily insulin shots. His parents Larry and Alice Parker heard a word of faith preacher and were told to claim, confess, and trust in his healing. Three days later, their boy was dead because they withheld his insulin and blindly trusted in his recovery. They were instructed not to make any negative confession but proclaim Wesley’s healing. After Wesley fell into a diabetic coma and then died, they believed their son would be resurrected and held a resurrection service instead of a funeral.  

“Promised a Miracle” is a true story. The Parkers threw Wesley’s insulin away and were eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter and felony child abuse. 4 The damage is not limited to financial ruin but can destroy lives and families. 

Wesley’s father Larry was committed to the healing and trusted what he was told and that God would not have a choice. That in itself should raise a huge red flag for anyone following the prosperity gospel. Taking actions, adopting a certain behavior or attitude will cause God to do something for you. Ministry Magazine published an article about the Parkers and what the father, Larry believed. “That’s why Larry said, ‘We’re gonna believe this all the way.’ He was going to fast, read his Bible, and pray until he felt he had the right to force God to heal his son. On one occasion Larry said, ‘The Scriptures promise healing. God has to stand on His Word.'” 5 Where in the scriptures does it promise that we can demand healing and force God to do what we want? It doesn’t unless someone is using a verse out of context. 

Remember, the symbol of Christianity is the cross, not a feather bed. 

See Part II


Your Best Life Now – Part I by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.knowingforsure.com/.

Sources:
  1. Hinn, Costi, A Dangerously Abusive Theology, God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel, Zondervan, 2019, p. 150[]
  2. Guettler, Amy, Purpose of a Board of Directors for Nonprofit Organizations, Small Business Chronicled, smallbusiness.chron.com N.D. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/purpose-board-directors-nonprofit-organizations-18782.html[]
  3. Smith, Warren. “Ministries With an ‘F’ Transparency Grade” Ministry Watch. Ministrywatch.com. 3, May, 2021, https://ministrywatch.com/ministries-with-an-f-transparency-grade/[]
  4. Mills, Nancy. “The Promise of ‘Miracle,’ a Tragic Tale of Faith Healing.” Los Angeles Times, latimes.com, May 17, 1988, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-05-17-ca-2829-story.html[]
  5. Marshal, David. “Promised A Miracle,” Ministry Magazine, ministrymagazine.org, 2001, https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2001/02/promised-a-miracle.html[]
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