A lot has been written about Bethel Church’s disturbing 7 Mountains Mandate, and its outsized – and growing – local influence and control. However, not as much has been said about the fact that Bethel is virtually a textbook example of a prosperity gospel church. For those who aren’t familiar with the prosperity gospel, it’s based on the claim that if congregants donate extravagantly enough to the church (and to the lavish lifestyles of church leaders) God will reward them with wealth of their own. If that doesn’t happen, it’s supposedly because the person isn’t “obedient” enough in other areas of their life.
According to this theology the poor and otherwise afflicted are conveniently viewed as being out of favor with God, and their suffering is God’s punishment for living a sinful life. On the other hand, the well-off are ostensibly being rewarded for their godliness and virtue. How else could prosperity gospel preachers justify their obvious wealth, and the luxurious trappings they surround themselves with?
Bethel leaders urge their followers to literally donate more than they can afford (beyond the cutomary 10 percent, and even before paying their rent or buying groceries) because not donating generously enough is considered “robbery” by God, and proves they don’t trust God to meet their needs. If congregants can’t pay the church first and still have enough left over to pay their rent, they are advised to move to cheaper housing or work two jobs.
In addition, giving generously to the church before paying off debt will supposedly inspire God to help them pay their debt off faster. Any money the person can beg from family members or on GoFundMe pages (heavily used by Bethel followers) to avert a financial crisis is deceptively labeled a “miracle from God” by Bethel leaders.
And according to Bethel CEO Bill Johnson’s “Ten Points on Tithing”, the tithe and any additional money is for the “priests” to do with as they please. Congregants are given no say in how their money is spent.
Amazingly most Bethel followers don’t seem to realize that Bethel is – in every way – a prosperity gospel church. I hope they catch on soon, for the sake of their financial well-being.
Green Valley, Arizona
(former 40-year Redding resident)