Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
The blaring headline from the Daily Beast last week, “Hipster Megachurch in Shambles Over Pastor’s Alleged Affair,” simultaneously caught my eye, made my heart sink, and got me angry. The anger part came as much from knowing what story behind the story I would likely find as much as from knowing what the main part of the story itself would be. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/venue-church-in-chattanooga-in-shambles-over-pastor-tavner-smiths-alleged-affair?ref=scroll&fbclid=IwAR246vOG2tTDYi_zs41nP0cNgkz3euAPNYZd_MqaKcBZVlqmezrSAzQzmb8)
Right up front, and emphasizing the word “if,” let me go on record as saying that if a preacher commits adultery, he does not just get to “fill up, spend some time with God, get some counseling,” and then bound back into the pulpit a few weeks later. If adultery occurs, it is utterly disqualifying. But be that as it may, it is, as I referenced above, the story behind the story that should have been recognized as the problem years ago…
I strongly suspected even before I read the column that I would find the utterly heretical prosperity gospel spoken of throughout it, and sure enough, that turned out to be the case. Just a few paragraphs in, I read, “The services at Venue are standard megachurch fare, where sermons are preceded by rock shows complete with strobe lights and fog machines, and the preaching is heavy on “prosperity gospel”—the idea that donating to the church will increase your own financial fortunes.” A couple of paragraphs later, “A child support worksheet in Smith’s divorce proceedings lists his monthly income as $16,666. According to other divorce records, Smith and his ex-wife owned three houses in and around Chattanooga worth $981,330 combined, and maintained a real estate investment account worth $20,000.” Then, “a church volunteer of more than seven years said Smith flaunted his growing wealth over the years through designer duds and new cars. After a while, Helton said, he stopped recognizing the church he had joined. ‘The whole church kinda turned into this kinda shoe and jersey fetish,’ he remarked.”
There is the problem.
For those who are blessed not to even know what the prosperity gospel is about, it is the all-too-common teaching that God expects His children to be wealthy and filled with material blessings in this life. Conveniently, the way to make that happen is by giving gigantic sums of your money away to a prosperity preacher, whom God so favors that he will then turn around and give you insane monetary returns on your “investment.” It is the Your Best Life Now, Jet For Jesus, Name It And Claim It doctrine that is utterly antithetical to everything the Bible actually teaches.
How can that in any way lend itself to unrepentant adultery, among many other sins? It’s pretty simple, really. If God intends for you to have all the best in this life, and some other woman is “better” than what you have, it must surely be God’s will for you to be happy by having that other woman.
This is not about one man and one ministry. This has happened too many times to too many men and too many ministries to even count by now. This is about the fact that the prosperity gospel itself is unbiblical, and therefore no one should have anything to do with anyone or anywhere that teaches it, even if the pastor is as pure as the wind-driven snow in all other areas.
In Matthew 8:20, Jesus, a pretty good authority, said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Apparently, he was plagued by a lack of faith, else he would not have been without so much as an inch of property to his name. That same Jesus told his men repeatedly that following him would require them denying themselves and taking up their cross daily. The only cross the prosperity gospel is interested in is the large gold one hanging on the 18k custom-made necklace clearly visible past the unbuttoned silk shirt.
Matthew 6:19-20 are the words of Jesus again, saying, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Proverbs 23:5 says, “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.”
I could fill this column up with verses a hundred times over driving home this point. While being rich is not a sin, the prosperity gospel itself is heresy. God never commanded that we focus on how well we can do in this sinful world; he commanded that we take the actual gospel and win lost souls out of this sinful world. By all means, work hard, save, invest, and enjoy the fruits of your labor, and by all means tithe to a Biblical, missions-minded church. But if a church is no more than a spiritual Ponzi scheme, enriching the leadership while impoverishing the laity and giving no more than occasional bare lip service to the Great Commission, it is no more of God than a cigarette wrapped in a joint dunked in a beer and served on a table covered in Playboy magazines.
Let you misunderstand my heart, I am genuinely praying for the man at the center of this particular fiasco and for the innocent sheep wounded by all of it. I do not delight in anyone’s fall. But going as far back as the PTL days, I have seen far too many good people ruined by pulpit prosperity pimps to sit back and be silent over it.
Any “gospel” that is about fattening your wallet is no gospel at all.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at email@example.com, and his books and other resources are available by clicking the “Store” link above.
Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner