AFRICANGLOBE – “Give and it will be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap (New International Version, Luke 6:38).” This is the refrain of the proponents of the prosperity theology, who also believe that the “The blessings of the Lord makes a person rich and he adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22).
The admonition to “Bring the whole tithes into the storehouse” has been sounded at the highest decibels, and we are challenged to “see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (New International Version, Malachi 3:10).
Like an over-aged axiom that must not be questioned, these divine proclamations are gulped down by innocent and troubled followers of apostolic preachers. In the midst of palpable misery, vulnerability and despondency, poor people are told to donate their last pennies to awaken God to their plight. It follows a clear and unmistakable business principle: The bigger the amount, the bigger your blessing.
Creflo Dollar, an Atlanta based televangelist with a 200,000 following, needed a private jet to enable him travel to the small corners of the world to preach the gospel. Commercial planes, as we know, are not very reliable and fly at very odd hours. There are heavy demands on the time of popular and anointed men of God, most of whom own their own private jets, multi-million dollar homes and luxury cars. In addition to several businesses, they are authors, motivational speakers and leadership consultants.
Creflo’s desire to acquire the $65Million jet was in obedience to the instructions of God. He tells his church: “If I want to believe God for a $65Million plane, you cannot stop me. You cannot stop me from dreaming. I’m gonna dream until Jesus comes.” However, instead of asking God to drop down a fine plane from the clouds for the evangelical business, Mr. Dollar decides to task his followers to finance the project. Each one of the 200,000 would pay $300 to procure the jet.
Steve Siebold, author and expert in critical thinking and mental toughness training, wonders: “I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that Creflo Dollar believes God spoke to him to buy this jet, or the fact that people are so gullible and delusional and are actually supporting this guy.” Siebold does not find it “surprising that people buy into this nonsense.”
After studying mental toughness alertness for 31 years, he believes “there is a pattern of people who are operating from a weak state of mind to be more vulnerable to the suspension of critical thinking and doing anything that makes them feel better.” Such people, he contends are “addicted to the emotion of hope.”
When you are sedated on hope, you hope against hope that a deus ex mahina could suddenly transform your circumstances from a hopeless one to a promising position. Creflo may well be celebrating his ‘press down and shaken together’ moments in the sky with a luxury private jet, but many of his followers will never experience that divine favour. With many of them scrapping by to provide food for their young and vulnerable families, their faith in a higher design has allowed these Bishops and prophets to press them down and run them over–with their greed and flamboyant lifestyle.
How do they manage to convince them? What adjectives and adverbs do they employ to appeal to the emotional side of gullible people and get them to work towards another person’s blessings before theirs? Well, Creflo doesn’t need to answer that. Neither does he have to convince anyone why he cannot fly on the same aircraft with commoners on a commercial airplane.
The Board of the World Changers International, which operates the Creflo Dollar Ministries, has ready answers: “We plan to acquire a Gulfstream G650 because it is the best, and it is the reflection of the level of excellence at which this organisation chooses to operate. A long range, high speed, intercontinental jet aircraft is a tool that is necessary in order to fulfill the mission of the ministry.”
Siebold makes an intriguing yet perplexing observation: “Do you think Jesus would have wanted his earthly representatives traveling the globe in luxurious accommodations? Or do you think Jesus would have wanted to see that $65Miillion used to feed the poor, help the homeless, improve education, or just make some kind of huge impact to help humanity?” He adds: “It’s time for people to wake up and stop being stupid.”
The charismatic evangelistic business is growing and multiplying like the sand of the sea, perhaps in fulfillment of God’s promises of innumerable blessings upon Abraham (Genesis 32:12). There has been an explosion of one man churches fronted by characters who apply crude and manipulative strategies to convince their congregation give their money to them. There are practical instances of church members giving away their transport fare and walking long distances to their homes.
Siebold calls it stupid. As the son of a minister of the gospel, I am mindful what I write about any religion, particularly Christianity, which is not a religion at all but a practical way of life. I feel guilty that most of my father’s congregation is quite poor. They walk long distances to church every Sunday and walk back to their houses.
From the depth of their poverty, they are ‘spiritually mandated’ to give good offerings and pay their tithes. They have done this for years and I have not seen any of them exhibiting any graceful life a million years close to the promise in Luke 6:38. My father, the spiritual shepherd, drives a Kia saloon car while my mum manages with an old Opel Kaddett.
Do I wish to see them in better cars? Aye, but I do not think it is right to task their poor members to contribute to buy them Mercedes Benz. What if a wealthy church member offers to buy them new cars for free? Well, I have seen people present goats and sheep to the family and we have enjoyed some good soup on their account. I don’t know what Siebold thinks about goats. They were not very big ones.
Are we against Creflo Dollar’s jet because of the cost involved or we are against the principle behind giving for the sake of the gospel? Assuredly, the gospel business of the days of old, when only the rich owned donkeys and the super-rich had chariots, belongs in the past. Today, church is business and runs like business. Churches have schools, universities, hospitals, charity foundations and many employment avenues. Soon, some churches will be manufacturing their own planes. So Creflo may well keep his jet and fly over our heads while the poor stand in the cold to catch a bus.
We in Ghana may soon emulate the ‘anti Pentecostal’ example of President Paul Biya of Cameroon, who has closed down more than a 100 churches who “misuse the name of Jesus Christ to fake miracles and kill citizens.” With Ghanaian pastors turning into snakes and tigers and dogs, we may need to start from the zoo or the abattoir.
By: Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin