3 Dangers of Churches Promising a Blessed Life Over the Gospel
Pastors / Leadership
By Alicia Searl, Crosswalk.com
It’s not hard to see that many of our modern-day churches are missing the mark when it comes to sharing the gospel.
As pastors stand before massive congregations with winning smiles and egotistical sermons, doing their best to relate to the people by getting in tune with the current culture, they are ultimately crippling believers and sending mixed messages. In all frankness, their sermons are misleading, causing many to walk away from the faith.
The truth of the matter is that people crave to know the truth. God designed us to yearn for it (1 John 1:8). Our minds were created to glorify God with the truth found in His Word (John 17:4-5). And we are well-equipped to handle the truth (Ephesians 614).
Yet, absolute truth has gotten lost in the shuffle of pride, feelings, and phrases such as “you do you.” We’ve begun to look inward and grab for our own truths that will satisfy our own needs or benefit us rather than digging into the gospel to gain understanding and wisdom.
What Is the Prosperity Gospel?
The Prosperity Gospel, often referred to as the “wealth and health” or the “name it and claim it” gospel, has become a widespread movement sweeping across the nation, given by charismatic and motivational speaker-style pastors.
Often found in Protestant Christian congregations, they pride themselves on leading their church members to believe that God wants us ultimately to be happy. Furthermore, that God’s will is done based on our outer declarations, positive thinking, and financial giving.
The Prosperity Gospel began to take traction back in the early 19th century, as it was delivered in the Pentecostal churches shortly after World War II. During this time, people were searching for hope and healing.
Revivals began sparking across the nation, and with that came a rise in delivering a message that promised blessings of wealth, health, and good fortune if one spoke it into existence (and maybe added a small financial contribution).
As churches began to grow and many “mega-churches” were born in the late 20th century, many senior pastors were gaining fame (and wealth) with their sermons on “the prosperity gospel.”
This led many to believe if they gave enough and just thought positively, they, too, could be abundantly blessed.
What Are the Dangers of Preaching the Prosperity Gospel?
While God does offer us many promises throughout His Word, there is absolutely no guarantee of a rich and blessed life free from strife if we merely pray enough, think it enough, or give enough financially. This is a dangerous and flawed way of interpreting God’s promises.
In fact, Jesus claims otherwise, telling us that in this life, we will encounter trouble. In John 16:33, Jesus tells His followers, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
This beloved verse captures the essence of what Christianity is all about. We will suffer in this life, it is certain, but the hope we have is found in what Jesus did on the cross and knowing that in the end, the victory is His alone!
Another hope we can cling to is that our salvation will never be stripped from us. We cannot earn salvation, nor can we lose it. That should be comforting and give us peace, but we still have to make the choice to accept Christ.
By placing our trust in God, abiding in Him, standing firm in our faith, and seeking the real Truth, then (and only then) can we fulfill God’s ultimate will for our lives.
So, what makes the prosperity gospel so harmful to our faith? Here are three main dangers of the prosperity gospel and what you need to be aware of:
1. The Prosperity Gospel Links Wealth and Health to Holiness
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
This verse has been used as a means to say that God will give you whatever you ask, especially if you are a “good person.”
But in all truth, there is nowhere in Scripture that says God promises us wealth or physical health by just asking for it or that it is based on our “good deeds” or “holiness.”
There is no link between what we own or possess to our holiness. Recall the story of Job (Job 31:24-28). Job was loyal to God. He had everything from wealth, to health, and family, but he was still stripped of everything.
While this was a test of his faith, Job remained focused on the Lord. Job’s story is contradictory to the prosperity gospel and one of many stories where we see that God is the only One that can give and take away.
In other words, we can’t merely speak our wealth and health into existence. That would, in essence, be making God more like a genie and disrespecting Who He is.
We are actually called to honor God with our finances (Proverbs 3:9) and treat our bodies like a holy temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Lastly, let’s not be so concerned about storing up wealth in this life but striving to live with an eternal perspective by storing up “treasures in heaven” (Mark 10:21).
2. The Prosperity Gospel Makes Faith Self-Regulated
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast(Ephesians 2:8-9).
When we begin to place too much belief in ourselves, over time, we have no reason to need God. This is a very dangerous place to be as we can slowly become our own gods. When we make ourselves big, we fail to see the amazing vastness of our very huge and incredible God.
Faith is a choice. Yes, it is our choice to follow Jesus and accept Him into our lives. But, when we shift our focus off Christ and place it into our own hands, we fail to see the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross — for us all.
We must see that our faith is a gift from God. It is not a spiritual force that we possess where we demand and declare things of God.
It isn’t a manipulative tool to ask God for things and expect Him to fulfill them because we have the faith within us to do so. That line of thinking is indeed very dangerous and fails to acknowledge the Trinity (John 14:26).
3. The Prosperity Gospel Uses Prayer and Praise with Selfish Intent
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
When we pray for what “we” want rather than seeking God’s will, we will find that we are being led by our wants and desires rather than the Holy Spirit. Our flesh will get in the way if we let it — every single time.
That’s not to say we can’t ask for things, but rather be purposeful with our praise and prayers. Prayer is our lifeline, and we should see it as such. It is through our prayers and praises that we connect deeply to God. In time, we begin to yearn for what He wants and for His will to be done.
When we go to God with a pure heart, opening up to Him in a way that shows reverence and admiration for Him, we put our pride and selfish ways aside.
We can hand over our lives and let God have complete control, giving us a sense of peace no matter what situations we encounter in this life.
What Should You Look for in a Church?
Attending a church that promises a blessed life or wealth and richness all by thinking it into existence or giving financially enough to be given back tenfold is purely not based on truth.
God never promises us a blessed life based on what we give or the power of our thinking. In fact, that places too much power in “us.” Instead, we should place our sights on our Creator as the sustainer of our lives and the One to place our trust in all because of Who He is!
Here are five things to look for when searching for a church that preaches the truth of the gospel:
- Teach directly from God’s Word with truth and grace.
- There is a clear vision to love to lead all people to Christ.
- The mission team strives to make disciples.
- They foster fellowship to grow and hold one another accountable.
- The children’s ministry is lively, fun, and impactful.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (Timothy 3:16).
For further reading:
Does the Prosperity Gospel Seek God or Money?
Is 'God Will Give You Desires of Your Heart' Prosperity Gospel?
What Are the Signs of a Healthy Church?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Wirestock
Alicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy. Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at aliciasearl.com and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.