Thirty-five thousand Baptists are visiting Dallas this week. They represent the nation’s largest African-American organization, the National Baptist Convention.
But while reviving their spirits, they are also taking on the thorny issue of preachers who claim that God wants His followers to be rich. It’s called “prosperity preaching,” but is it something Jesus would do?
New York televangelist Creflo Dollar is famous for his fleet of luxury Rolls Royce automobiles.
“When you understand what you have a right to, you won’t tolerate being broke, in debt, living in shortage,” Dollar recently told his TV audience.
It’s a philosophy that doesn’t ring true for Senior Pastor Frederick Haynes of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas.
“Black communities are suffering, while this prosperity-pimping gospel is emotionally charging people who are watching their communities just literally dissolve,” Dr. Haynes said.
When Haynes’ congregation built a large new facility, members turned the old location into an inner-city elementary school. They also “adopted” Carter High School, the public school across the street.
Haynes’ church has held summits, challenging black men to help black teens.
Haynes believes that’s what Jesus would do. “He spent most of his time hanging out with those who were forgotten, hungry, homeless,” Haynes said.
So rather than preaching about riches, the National Baptist Convention is also turning to people even it has shunned in the past—people living with AIDS.
“Pastors will be urged to take the HIV test themselves, and urging members to do so as well, so the scourge of that epidemic is not a thing that can spread undetected,” said Dr. William Shaw, National Baptist Convention president.
Taking on the AIDS issue is seen as the exact opposite of “prosperity preaching” — instead of worrying about what God will do for them, they are focusing on what they can do for others.