Marsha West
August 4, 2008
Televangelists snicker all the way to the bank
By Marsha West

I detest the prosperity gospel. Ever noticed how the "name-it-and-claim-it" preachers are lining their own pockets but those who support their ministries can barely make ends meet? These smooth talking televangelists are adept at using psychological manipulation and peer pressure to persuade people to pull out their credit cards. (More on this later.)

Televangelists hold to Word-Faith beliefs that are both blasphemous and heretical. Faith preachers say, "Demand what you want by faith and you will receive it!" Moreover, they hold that Christ provided for physical healing at the cross. So not only are Christians saved from sin, they are promised a healthy life! You ask, "Is what they teach biblical?" Nope. Still, Faith teachers contend that their "enlightened" view of the Bible is the gospel truth. Read some of the blogs and you will discover that many in the Body of Christ find the radical beliefs and practices of the false prophets in the Charismatic movement deeply disturbing. Unfortunately much of their unscriptural teaching and ungodly behavior is posted on YouTube.com, GodTube.com, and shown on God TV.

Jesus did not mince words with this warning:

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves" (Mat. 7:15).

What I'm about to reveal illustrates the great lengths two false prophets have gone to to add to their own personal wealth.

In a recent article "God Bless Your Credit Card" [1] Rapport news describes what occurred in Johannesburg during televangelist Benny Hinn's Miracle Crusade. Around 18,000 people went to the Coca-Cola Dome in Randburg to hear Hinn's message of healing and miracles. What they heard was that God wants to make people rich. Pastor Todd Koontz, who accompanied Hinn, spoke about financial burdens. He told the receptive crowd that 500 audience members would receive "an exceptional blessing." He said the service would "yield millionaires and billionaires within 24 hours." The "exceptional blessing" rested on everyone donating up to $1,000. Here's the catch. To motivate people to part with their money the blessing would be poured out for only two minutes. That's right. Folks had only two minutes to receive God's "exceptional blessing." Credit-card machines were at the ready to accommodate those who were convinced that the "anointing" was flowing through to them.

Pay God for a blessing? Leave it to a sham artist to come up with something that preposterous.

But what about all the disabled who had come to Hinn for healing? Did Koontz really expect them to get to the stage in 2 minutes?

Pastor Tommie Ferreira was not happy with the underhanded way in which Koontz, on Hinn's behalf, squeezed money from the gullible sheep. He saw a large number of people push their way to the front. "Poor people, rich people, people from all sections of our society." So naturally he got to wondering if any of the people who donated $1,000 or more had become millionaires, as Koontz promised.

Later that week Rapport News spoke to a money counter in Hinn's South African office in Durban who admitted that after a week they were still raking in money. Which is not surprising at all considering that many people give to get and Koontz promised they'd get rich!

Something else the money counter told Rapport:

"'Americans always talk in dollars. If some of the churchgoers believed that they would not be blessed, then they should not have given their money.'"

And besides...

"'The church-goers did not have to give $1,000. If they couldn't afford it, then they could've given less. And, some of them did."

Does this not make your blood boil?

Ferreira assured Rapport that he wasn't attacking Hinn and Koontz. "It just20really gets my goat when people make unfounded claims and then they're off with these people's money."

At last, some good news! Someone at the event actually had the backbone to check up on Benny Hinn and put the facts out there!

If this kind of mind-manipulation weren't such a serious issue in the Church, it would be laughable. But it makes you want to cry. Even though people have been warned about televangelists they continue to contribute to their ministries!

Another televangelist who uses tactics similar to Benny Hinn's is John Avanzini. At his events a message is flashed across a large screen: INCREASE... INCREASE... INCREASE for the waiting audience to see. Some televangelists induce the "sheeple" to increase a ministries bank account by using psychological manipulation to get what they want.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Crosstalk Radio Talk Show host Ingrid Schlueter drove to Harvest Church in Tinley Park, Illinois to investigate the Inspiring Faith Conference. Ingrid tells us what happened after Avanzini finally arrived on stage: (All quotes by Ingrid are from "John Avanzini and His Talking Stones" 2)

"After a rambling, free-ranging talk about the worsening economy and the price of gas, he told us that he would give us all two things to help us get through perilous times. The first was a list of 7 Bible promises, as he called them, that he had printed up on a card. The mixture of truth and error was very evident here.

"The list...gave the following "seven anchors for these perilous times." Note that the word prosperity as he uses it is referring to material wealth. Spiritual wealth was never mentioned that night.

1. God has already made plans for your prosperity. Jeremiah 29:11

2. Everything you will need and want has already been provided for you by your great God. 2 Peter 1:3

3. God has already given you his best so there is no need to worry about him denying you anything else. Romans 8:32

4. God wants you to live with limitless supply. Judges 18:10

5. Your wealthy place is always on the other side of the perilous times you are facing.

6. It gives God great pleasure to prosper you in good times...in bad times..at all times. Psalms 35:27

7. In good times or in bad times, God is willing to make you rich. Proverbs 10:22

Ingrid describes how truth is mixed with error in the 7 Bible Promises:

"All of those Scripture verses given do talk about the prospering of God's people. The idea that this is always referring to physical wealth is patently absurd. Avanzini and all of his huckster compatriots only use Scripture as proof texts for their own ridiculous claims that God wants everyone wearing Brioni suits and Rolex watches."

Avanzini informs the crowd that to help them through "perilous times" he would give them a stone. Ingrid describes what the stone represents:

"He went through several Bible references where stones 'talked' in the Old Testament. Here Avanzini introduces the stone idea. He strolled down the aisles, his ring winking in the lights, and held out a shiny stone for a woman to hold. Avanzini told the assembled crowd of about 650 people that these stones should be rubbed whenever people faced rising prices or higher prices at the pump. The ushers went down the aisles with buckets of shiny, smooth stones and handed them out."

As I mentioned above, Avanzini uses psychological tactics on Christians who come to hear him speak. As soon as he had the Harvest Church audience in the palm of his hand, he conveyed his real message. Incredibly, he takes Bible stories out of context and misapplies the intended meaning to get people to buy what he's selling. For example, he used the story of Gideon found in the Old Testament book of Judges. Ingrid tells how he skillfully twisted the story to suit his purpose: (My comments in brackets.)

"His [Gideon's] offering of a goat [to God] was such a sacrifice for someone who lived in a cave. He [Avanzini] described how the angel of the Lord IGNITED the offering on the rock. We, who were in possession of the lucky rubbing stones, would need to ignite ours. I'll give you a guess how that should be done...[I]t turns out, Avanzini had a whole new doctrinal revelation to tell us about: the doctrine of reverse entrapment. If you've never heard of that before, that's because God just showed it to him right there. Reverse entrapment is when you put a gift to Avanzoni [sic] on a credit card and outsmart the lenders who are trying to get rich off your debt. When you put a gift on a credit card, I quote, 'something happens in the spirit world.' Here he tells everyone how to have a credit card breakthrough. Turns out Avanzini has a way for you to get rid of your mortgage debt. All you have to do is to give him a20gift the size of your house payment and God will see that your mortgage gets paid off right away. If you don't have a house, $500 will do nicely for future debt. Avanzini assured us that it worked for him.

"Perhaps the man sensed a few hostile vibes from the audience (from our row in particular) because he warned us not to let the devil keep us back from getting free from debt by putting a gift for his ministry on our credit card. The credit card 'invitation' began as the keyboardist began to noodle around with some mood music. Then Avanzini warned everyone again not to let the devil keep us away. The people streamed down to the stage area and wrote out their credit card numbers and house payment gifts and left them at the expensively shod feet of the speaker. While the people came down to the front to divest themselves of their money, Avanzini appropriately chose to tell an Al Capone joke. I doubt if one other person in the house recognized the irony.

"Avanzini then prayed an igniting prayer over the stones everyone was clutching. Presumably, we still have to ignite our own with a credit card gift, but maybe his igniting prayer was considered the first step. The entire thing was an unspeakable tragedy. These men target the poor in particular because they are the ones desperate enough to need a 'breakthrough.' That is the evil in all of this. The rich aren't stupid enough to give away their cash to the likes of Avanzini. It's the poor and the needy, the hurting and the ill who desperately need help who are vulnerable to these sharks."

Speaking of sharks. Did you know that God wants popular televangelist Joel Osteen to be rich? Portfolio.com repoted in "God Wants Me to Be Rich" [3] that in these troubled times "Reverend Feelgood" wants us to be rich, too.

"Joel feels our pain and has made himself wealthy (reportedly earning $13 million for his last book advance alone) and his church prosperous ($75 million and counting in annual revenue) by urging us to let go of it, to turn it over to God, to accept God's favor so that we may be as prosperous as Joel."

So, if we accept God's favor He will prospers us financially? Who knew? There is no biblical precedent whatsoever for what Osteen preaches. But that hasn't stopped the name-it-and-claim-it preachers from going all over the world preaching that God wants us to have a big house, drive expensive cars, even own yaughts and jet airplanes and many of them do!

More...

"Osteen is one of a new breed of televangelists Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and Creflo Dollar are also rising stars who are preaching a less sanctimonious, more inclusive message. His church is in that part of the economy that thrives in troubled times, that can count on full pews when wallets are empty and an ever more receptive audience if we do go into a full-on recession."

As noted above it would appear that Benny Hinn and John Avanzini are already making plans to see that they, or anyone close to them, won't suffer during a full-on recession.

Lately televangelists are receiving a huge amount of attention, even from the U.S. Senate. Six prosperity ministries are under Senate Finance Committee investigation because of "possible misuse of donations." The list includes Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long and Randy & Paula White. All of them have become filthy rich because of supporter's generous donations. For example, televangelist Kenneth Copeland's ministry (Eagle Mountain International Church of Newark Texas) owns a multi-million dollar Citation 10 and has a private airstrip capable of landing jets that cool their engines in a hangar. Brother Copeland personally owns three other aircraft. According to t he TimesOnline, Copeland told his congregation, "The Lord spoke to me and said 'you're gonna believe for a Citation 10, right now.'" He promised them that the jet "will never ever be used as for anything other than what is becoming of you Lord Jesus."

TimesOnline revealed that Copeland's ministry "leases land for Mr. Copeland's cattle and horses and also leases land to the family so that it can operate oil and gas wells." The ministry also owns a $6 million lakefront mansion. And that's not the half of it.

Copeland did not cotton to the Senate's investigation into his finances:

"In a television interview last month, Mr. Copeland's son John hit back at allegations of financial impropriety:

'The jet is a tool. It is just a tool to use in ministry. Where in the Bible does it say you should have watchdogs and judgment groups that watch over ministries?'"

Where in the Bible does it say Christians should be rich? My husband, a pilot, would relish owning Copeland's ministry "tool," as would most pilots. Christian pilots can "believe9 D for a Citation 10, but the chances of owning one is slim and none.

Certainly the Apostle Paul's life would have gone a whole lot smoother had he been the CEO of a tent company, instead of a humble tentmaker. As an itinerant preacher having money would have afforded him first class accommodations on luxury sailing vessels. But God did not open up the vault in the Bank of Heaven for his beloved apostles. To Paul he said, "'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Cor.12:9). This is authentic Christianity!

Please join me in "believing" that false prophets like Benny Hinn, John Avanzini, Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland will be exposed as frauds and go flat broke.

"Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work." 2 John 1: 9-11

NOTES:

[1]  God Bless Your Credit Card, By Marthinus van Vuuren, Rapport http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2360893,00.html


[3]  God Wants Me to Be Rich, By Karl Taro Greenfeld, Portfolio.com http://www.walletpop.com/article/_a/god-wants-me-to-be-rich/20080724133909990001

Additional Reading:

The Word-Faith Movement, By Gary Gilley
http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/char/more/w-f.htm

© Marsha West

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Marsha West

Marsha West is a religious/political writer and owner of EmailBrigade.com. She is also the founder and editor of the Email Brigade News Report, a biweekly news resource for people of faith that is chock-full of critical news and information. Marsha is dedicated to restoring a more common sense approach to our nation's governance by encouraging people to thoroughly understand the issues that impact American lives... (more)

Subscribe

Receive future articles by Marsha West: Click here

Latest articles