Worse Preaching Than the Prosperity Gospel?

Oct 03, 2022

You and I both know the dangers of the prosperity gospel.

Instead of God being the ultimate object of people’s worship, He is turned into a being to please in order to get what they ultimately want—health, wealth, and happiness. 

But in order to receive health, wealth, and happiness, the right kind of faith and actions make up the equation to correctly calculate. Your faith is the key to unlocking God's willingness to give you what you most deeply desire. And if you experience struggle and hardship, the reason being? You must not have enough faith.

That’s what some have called the hard prosperity gospel.

However, in the 21st Century, we have seen the rise of a new version of the prosperity gospel—what some have called, the soft prosperity gospel. 

David Schrock, writing for 9Marks, outlined 5 Trademarks of the Soft Prosperity Gospel.

  1. Soft prosperity elevates “blessings” over the blessed God.
  2. Soft prosperity detaches verses from the redemptive framework of the Bible.
  3. Soft prosperity diminishes the curse that Christ bore and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Soft prosperity relies on pastor-prescribed therapeutic techniques.
  5. Soft prosperity largely addresses first world, middle class problems.

The preaching of the prosperity gospel in all its forms is an affront to the true gospel of Jesus.

But is there a version of preaching that is worse than the prosperity gospel in all its forms?

Preaching That is Worse Than the Prosperity Gospel?

I know what you’re thinking: what could be worse than the prosperity gospel? (Unless that’s your cup of tea, of course.)

Well, you see, there is a type of preaching that is insidious but well-meaning. And while I may concede that it’s not worse than the kind of preaching you get with the prosperity gospel, I do think it could be just as bad. 

Because while prosperity gospel preaching might be theologically twisted and biblically anemic, there is another type of preaching that is harmful too. 

What am I getting at? I’m glad you asked.

When a preacher stands up to preach and they preach a theologically true message that is disconnected to life…

That is preaching that is just as bad as the loatheful messages of the TV preacher who promises material blessings if you donate to their latest private jet fund.

Howard G. Hendricks had many quippy statements for his seminary students but one that might rise above the rest is when he said, “It’s a sin to bore people with the Bible.”

And, unfortunately, this kind of preaching that is theologically true but disconnected to life doesn’t just make for bored people but it also leaves people wondering whether or not the Bible has anything relevant to say to them.

The Stakes Are Too High

This past week, it happened again. I sat down with someone who told me a similar story and it, once again, broke my heart. 

They told me how for the longest time, whenever they went to church, the preaching was extremely boring and hard to follow. And they weren’t saying this to be mean to whomever preached those messages. In fact, they said it in a quiet, hush tone as if they were ashamed to admit it.

Now, I want to give all preachers the benefit of the doubt. Especially ones who seek to do the hard work of preaching the truth. But I’ve got to be honest… it saddens me to depths of my heart.

Because I remember what it was like to walk through life without Jesus as my King. I remember what it was like to live life apart from God and without hope.

And I know there are people like the old me in your community just like there are in my community too. I know that every now and then those people will find themselves in a sanctuary listening to you or me.

And, friend, what they don’t need is to be confused by a preacher’s use of theologically complex words or ideas devoid of definitions and explanations and showing how that is at all relevant to their life.

It's a tragedy if an unbeliever walks into a worship service only to walk away at the end with deep confusion and thoughts of how irrelevant it all seems to life today.

They need to hear the gospel in ways that they can receive. Yes, the Holy Spirit has to open hearts and minds. But we must do our part as well.

But I don’t only think of the nonbeliever, here. My concern is just as much for the saints.

Those faithful saints who sit under my preaching and those who sit under your preaching need us to do the hard work of not only preaching the truth, but communicating to how the Lord is speaking to them in their situation and what this means for Monday, not just for an hour on Sunday.

But in order to do this, we must not only exegete the Scriptures, we must exegete our people and connect dots for them from the truth of the text to the relevance it has to their lives.

People are hurting and they need gospel-anchored hope.

Do the Hard Work

To preach biblical messages that are connected to people’s lives takes hard work and it requires more time than just preparing a running commentary on a passage.

It takes hard work and it requires more than simply scouring commentaries and chocking your message full of quotes from scholars.

It requires you do deep biblical study and then follow that up with deep meditation and reflection on how the text connects to life.

Friend, let’s do the hard work.

You can preach biblical, relevant messages that pierce people’s hearts.

Grow in Your Preaching

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