The Story: The prosperous lifestyles of six megachurch pastors in California will be the subject of a new reality show, “Preachers of L.A.,” slated for the Oxygen network this fall.
The Background: “The Bible says I wish above all things that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. I believe that,” declares Bishop Clarence McClendon, in the show's trailer. When challenged about this prosperity gospel, McClendon replies, “there is no other kind of Gospel.” “P. Diddy, Jay-Z, they're not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses,” says cast member Bishop Ron Gibson, a former gang member who now ministers to 4,500 people each week at Life Church of God in Christ.
Why It Matters: The heretical gospel of “health and wealth” has been a staple of television for decades. But where it was once confined to obscure TV ministry channels like Trinity Broadcasting network, this new reality series will bring the prosperity gospel to a whole new audience.
While it's tempting to think these gold-chain wearing, luxury car driving preachers can be easily dismissed, we shouldn't underestimate the powerful appeal of their message. “It would be easy for young, theologically minded pastors to think of prosperity teaching as so obviously misguided that we don't consider it worthy of attention. This would be a terrible mistake, says Trevin Wax. “As pastors and church leaders, we have an obligation to preach the biblical gospel in a way that takes into consideration our current context, a setting that unfortunately is heavily influenced by the idea that God's blessing is financial and deserved.”
The new series may give us an opportunity, though, to explain the difference between this gospel-less gospel and the true good news of Christ. But to do so we need to be prepared to explain why focusing on material riches makes us spiritually poor. As Al Mohler has said, “In the end, the biggest problem with prosperity theology is not that it promises too much, but that it promises far too little.”