I love watching America’s Got Talent.
We are spoilt for choice between ventriloquists, singers, choirs, walking dogs, magicians, dancers, acrobats, and whoever else one could think of.
The contestants obviously seek to outperform each other by being more entertaining, more appealing, and getting more Facebook likes.
A similar scenario was happening in the church in Corinth in the Apostle Paul’s day.
“You are a King’s Kid as a Christian, you are royalty! You shouldn’t settle for second best!”
“God favour should overflow into your life as you walk in God’s anointing and enjoy health and financial prosperity!”
“God hates poverty and illness, you should claim your victory!”
“If you’re not walking in full victory of sin, illness and financial difficulty, you either lack faith or have unconfessed sin. Jesus came to give us abundant life!”
This is the Prosperity Gospel.
The Prosperity Gospel (PG) is called so because it teaches that God desires all his people to be prosperous. Physically prosperous. Healthy and wealthy.
To put it simply, the PG is the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith.
The PG movement (according to Kate Bowler1, an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke University) has its roots in the late 1800’s in American tradition of New Thought. That is, that positive thoughts yield positive circumstances; and negative thoughts, negative circumstances.
The American New Thought movement took a Christian slant with a Pastor named EW Kenyon, who ministered in the US in the early 1900’s.
There are books written about spiritual breakthroughs:
“Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough”
“Praying the Lord’s Prayer for Spiritual Breakthrough”
“Prayer Walking for Spiritual Breakthroughs”
“How to be patient while waiting for a Spiritual Breakthrough”
You can even buy anointed water for a spiritual breakthrough.
“Spiritual breakthrough” is a term that seems to have more in common with animism and African Traditional Religion, than Christianity. ATR and animism teach that there are evil forces that constantly bind and oppose us and we need to break through these oppressive forces to access God’s favour.
I was visited recently by a lovely, Christian person who claimed to have received a message from God for me and our church.
The message was this,
“Your church will enter a time of unprecedented miracles, signs, wonders, blessings and conversions. However, you shouldn’t limit God. You need to open yourself to the work of the Spirit”
Apparently, the gospel about Jesus’ death and resurrection is good and essential, but it is not enough. Seemingly, we need demonstrations of God’s power (like healing, prophecy, words of knowledge and miracles) to show people that God is real and the gospel is true.
I tried to persuade the person that, according to the New Testament, the gospel is enough for Christian conversion, Christian growth and Christian life; but I did not convince the person – after all, God had given them a vision.
It’s interesting that throughout the letter of 1 John, the Apostle John warns his readers not to be deceived by those who would undermine the sufficiency and power of the apostolic gospel.
In our world and country, we are inundated with people who claim to speak on behalf of God – Angus Buchan being one of them – claiming all kinds of visions, messages, warnings and prophecies.
What are we to do? Fortunately, this is not a new phenomenon.