Prosperity gospel faces challenge: frugal savers

For 40 years, the Rev. Charles Cowan has been preaching that God wants Christians to prosper. So he’s not about to change the message, no matter how bad the economy looks.

That includes telling his followers that if they are faithful in giving to the church, God will reward them financially.

Money, Money, Money…
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, {4} he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions {5} and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. {6} But godliness with contentment is great gain. {7} For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. {8} But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. {9} People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. {10} For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
– The Bible, 1 Timothy 6:3-10 NIV

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“We want to be sure that we are taking care of honoring God, because his Word tells us that if we honor him, he will honor us,” said Cowan, pastor of nondenominational Faith is the Victory Church in Nashville.

Despite the economic downturn, the prosperity gospel remains alive and well. Pastors like Cowan or televangelists like the Rev. Creflo Dollar and the Rev. Kenneth Copeland continue to promise that financial blessings will follow donations to their ministries.

But it faces a challenge from a new austerity gospel, which says God blesses those who work hard, save their money and pay off their debts.

Believing in God’s provision is common to most Christians. What makes the prosperity gospel unique is the idea that God’s blessings can be triggered by donations known as seeds of faith.

That concept was taught by Cowan’s mentor, the late Rev. Kenneth Erwin Hagin, along with Hagin’s colleague, the Rev. Oral Roberts, two grandfathers of the prosperity gospel.

The idea works this way: A believer sows a financial seed of faith, giving it to a church or a preacher, and God rewards that seed with a monetary blessing.

The austerity gospel

The opposite of the prosperity gospel is the austerity gospel, promoted by radio host and author Dave Ramsey.

In his Financial Peace University program, Ramsey tells people to go back to making money the old-fashioned way — always pay cash, never spend more than you earn and avoid debt like the plague.

Dennis Decker, a missionary with Crown Financial Ministries, said he has seen a growing number of people who are disappointed with the prosperity gospel. Crown is a national group that runs financial classes at churches and offers volunteers who can teach budgeting one-on-one.

Decker says that Crown teaches people to handle money according to biblical principles. It’s similar to the approach that Ramsey teaches — especially in using a budget and avoiding debt. Like Ramsey, Crown also teaches the importance of using money in charitable ways to help others. But unlike Ramsey’s company, which is for-profit, Crown is a nonprofit Christian group.
[…Read the full article…]

– Source / Full Story: Prosperity gospel faces challenge: frugal savers, Bob Smietania, The Tennessean, Nov. 29, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday November 29, 2009.
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