When I went to Africa a few years ago my expectations were simple. I just wanted to encourage a few pastors, help deliver food to orphanages and come back with a greater passion for helping orphans and getting the gospel into hard to reach places.
All of those things happened but something else happened to me as well. I became angry. And I still am, almost two years later. It’s all because of something I heard just before leaving that beautiful continent.
“We are very blessed by the Bible teachers in your country,” a young Christian teacher told me.
And then he proceeded to name those American Bible teachers that were such a blessing.
And other TV preachers who beg for money while promising big returns from God.
A few years later, this time in my own community, a woman would tell me something equally as disturbing.
“I’m having a hard time paying my bills but I’m trusting God to provide since I’ve faithfully been sending my money to Kenneth Copeland every month.”
Sadly, this kind of teaching is probably America’s number one religious export. In it, we are presented with a god who works like an ATM, passing out extravagant gifts to those in need as well as those in want. We are told that if we just sow a seed we can become healthy and wealthy. Give us this day our daily Mercedes.
In reality, like some Ponzi scheme, the receiving of gifts is usually enjoyed by the man at the top of the pyramid, in this case the preacher, at the expense of the poor.
I used to watch the crazy TV preachers that ask for money, not because I believed them but because I thought they were funny. Their gimmick seemed so over the top that I was convinced that nobody was buying what they were selling. I’ve since learned how wrong I was. And now it’s not funny anymore. It’s not funny because a lot of people are buying.
Young leaders in Africa who are doing good to get one meal a day are buying.
Single moms in my town who can’t pay their bills are buying.
The sales pitch was even given to my own mother once. She had just gotten sick from the disease that would eventually take her life when a faith healer came to preach at the church where she was working as a secretary. The faith healer found out about her sickness the Monday morning after he spoke at the church and asked if he could pray for her. She agreed.
After he said amen, he asked her if she felt any different.
“No,” she replied.
“Well, I guess you just don’t have enough faith.”
She laughed it off when she told me about it that day but I could tell that it bothered her.
As followers of Christ, this kind of perversion of the gospel should anger us. But our anger is not enough. We have to remember that theology matters. There are plenty of theological issues that good Christians disagree on but there are also those issues where we can easily come together. Calvinists and Arminians, Post-tribbers and Pre-tribbers, nouthetic counselors and psychologists can at least agree that Jesus cannot be bought.
Maybe, just maybe we can set aside our secondary differences long enough to let the world know that the greatest blessing God ever gave was his only Son. And maybe then the world will turn a deaf ear to the next silver-tongued preacher trying to sell what was already bought for us at the cross.
“Well the God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister.” Bullet the Blue Sky