A few months ago Nine Marks ministries released an e-journal on the subject of the “prosperity gospel.” In that journal, I wrote about something that I have seen in ministry, what Kate Bowler has labeled the “soft prosperity gospel.” In my article, I listed five ways of detecting this form of the prosperity gospel. They are
- Soft prosperity elevates “blessings” over the blessed God.
- Soft prosperity detaches verses from the redemptive framework of the Bible.
- Soft prosperity diminishes the curse that Christ bore and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
- Soft prosperity relies on pastor-prescribed therapeutic techniques.
- Soft prosperity largely addresses first-world, middle-class problems.
Today, on his daily Q & A program, Ask Pastor John, John Piper lists six more ways to detect the softer prosperity gospel. In order they are, in question form:
- Does the preacher deal honestly with the biblical doctrine of suffering?
- Does the preacher speak about the need for self-denial?
- Does the preacher preach expository sermons, where the shape and content of the Bible forms the shape and content of the sermon?
- Does the preacher wrestle with tensions in the biblical text?
- Does the preacher live a lavish lifestyle that elevates him over most of the people in his church?
- Does the preacher elevate self and minimize the greatness of the glory of God?
If the answer to any or many of these questions is “yes,” then there is or is beginning to emerge in that church a message of prosperity preaching.
Sadly, the softer form of the prosperity gospel is rife within evangelical churches. We need to be aware of it, repent of it, and pray that God would give us grace to combat it in our churches and in the corridors of our own hearts. Knowing the signs of the soft prosperity gospel is a beginning place to address the problem.
To hear John Piper’s answer in full, check out his podcast “Six Keys to Detecting the ‘Prosperity Gospel.'” You can also read his thoughts about developing a philosophy of ministry that does not move towards the prosperity gospel: “Prosperity Gospel: Deceitful and Deadly.” For the whole 9Marks journal, visit here.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss