*Related Post: a lesser-read but important post abt church hopping can be found here.*
a special report abt megachurches in s’pore was featured in last last sat’s edition of The Straits Times. and i think i need to emphasise, it’s abt megachurches in Singapore, so i dunno if wad’s written in the article can be applied to megachurches elsewhere. while the article was objectively written in my opinion, i think its take on megachurches is abit generalised (cos most megachurches rly aren’t tt ‘controversial’), and i think its take is mostly based on the 3 megachurches which appear in the news most often — city harvest church + faith community baptist church + new creation church.
among the concerns raised abt megachurches, i think the one abt the prosperity gospel is most worrying.
“… many worry that the prosperity gospel preached by some megas – that God will make Christians rich, if only they have enough faith – will breed a generation of fair-weather Christians.
Sociologist Mathew Mathews notes: ‘… Traditional Christianity is equated with a life of spiritual disciplines – praying, reading the Bible, carrying one’s cross. You are freed from that, it’s liberation from ‘work’.’
In traditional Christianity, everything is invested in good works and the afterlife. One lives modestly and builds treasure in heaven. But some high-living mega leaders debunk all that.”
“debunk all tt”? how can u debunk all tt? some pple alr debunk the old testament (OT) + read only frm the new testament (NT) of the bible; now there r pple debunking Jesus’ teachings which were mentioned in the NT n calling tt “traditional.”
didn’t Jesus himself teach his disciples abt “praying, reading the Bible, carrying one’s cross”? he didn’t say tt it didn’t require discipline. in fact, he taught abt the cost of being a disciple (Lk. 14:25-33).
“To critics of this ‘feel-good theology,’ Deacon Jack Ho of New Creation counters: ‘Ask yourself, what is the gospel? It’s good news, and the good news makes you feel good, and the good news is Jesus.”
“gd news makes u feel gd.” hmm, now tt’s a dangerous statement to make, possibly a slippery slope argument too. tt’s not believing in the gospel. tt’s selective belief in the gospel (which is probably why it’s termed ‘prosperity gospel’ or ‘gospel of grace’ instead of jus terming it ‘gospel’). well, we’ve been warned of such a situation, in 2 Timothy.
“For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold.” – 2 Tim. 4:3 (AMP)
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Tim. 4:3 (NIV)
if gd news makes pple feel gd, why shld pple have to tolerate / put up with / endure the gd news? it’s bcos balanced / sound / wholesome teaching won’t necessarily make u ‘feel gd.’ one’s self-centred desires gta be replaced w/ God-centred desires, n most of the time, it doesn’t feel gd.
it’s interesting tt paul used the word ‘itching’ in his letter to timothy. that word ‘itching’ ain’t the same as ‘itchy’ yaknow. to have “itching ears” suggests a desire for sth pleasurable – one commentary says tt “itching ears” refer to ears which seek 2b tickled by some new sensation; ‘itchy’ jus suggests an unpleasant feeling which u wanna get rid of.
that said, i agree w/ dr bobby sng (president of the bible society of s’pore) on the need for “balanced teaching”:
“You may criticise the feel-good theology of Joseph Prince and the prosperity gospel. But some churches make you feel bad. They are all the time preaching brimstone and hellfire. We need balanced teaching from the pulpit.”
there needs 2b balanced teaching: OT and NT, gd friday + easter sunday, forgiveness of sin + consequences of sinning, ‘feel-bad’ of Jesus’ crucifixion + ‘feel-gd’ of Jesus’ resurrection, being against laxity (James 2:24) + being against legalism (Gal. 2:16).
there needs 2b more awareness of the dangers of being ‘prosperous.’
“Theologians have issues with the prosperity gospel, saying: Sure, it’s OK to be rich, but what about the dangers, which the Bible clearly warns about?
The trouble, says Dr Koh, is how to square such materialistic reasoning with the statement every church ultimately has to make, which is that ‘worth is not measured by the car you drive or the clothes you wear, but about who you are as someone loved by God, regardless of your status and possessions’.
He adds: ‘Of course you should be thankful if you are materially blessed. But the abundant life is a life of contentment, generosity and the cultivation of virtues.'”
in Deut. 6:10-13, it is written: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land … with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord.”
in Deut. 8, the pple are given the same warning: “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees … Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God … You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth …”
it ain’t a sin 2b rich. it isn’t always the case tt rich pple 4get God. it’s jus dangerous, so pple r told – again and again – 2b careful, 2b on their guard “against all kinds of greed; [for] a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Lk. 12:15).
“The idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? There is a word for that: baloney. it’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth.” – Rick Warren, pastor of a megachurch and author of Purpose-Driven Life