Sunday, 26 June 2016

The bottom line preachers of today.

"The bottom line is that the Holy Spirit never convicts you of your sins. He never comes to point out your faults." - Joseph Prince (“JP”)

A friend Joe posted that a few weeks ago and below was my comment:-

"Mm...there is something fundamentally wrong with that Prince's statement Joe. I don't know if his congregants noticed it. No, it's not about the Holy Spirit. It's not about whether He convicts you of your sins or not. It is not even about whether the HS comes to point out your faults or not. What is fundamentally wrong is captured in these two words "bottom line".

Those two words - spoken by a mortal man in smooth leather - spells finality. It connotes the ultimate. It is unappealable. It infers the buck stops with him. Needless to say, it implies the Prince knows best, and possibly knows everything there is to know about the subject matter, that is, the works of the eternal Holy Spirit. It is a bold, sweeping statement.

The "bottom line" bottoms out every discussion, every debate, every query. Whether it was intended or not, it implies the Prince is the final fount of authority on the matter. And anyone who disagrees disagrees not just with him, but with the Creator, the Alpha and the Omega, the "I am the I am", the Jehovah God. Imagine mortality making immortality almost superfluous.

That is what's fundamentally wrong with that statement. Not so much its content, but the attitude that precedes it. That's what worries me. Cheerz."


I did not think much about what I had written above until recently. When I surveyed the landscape of the megachurches and their leaders, I realized that JP is not the only preacher who had issued bottom line declarations. And by bottom line declarations, I mean the absolute certainty these preachers display over the pulpit on the unerring knowledge they possess about the god they profess to worship.

Just like JP, these preachers insist that they are the final authority when it comes to the interpretation of scriptures and the understanding of God’s will. And whether it is explicit or implied, anyone who disagrees with them is on the wrong side of the divinity’s divide. These bottom line declarations come in many hues and shades, with some bordering on the incredulous. But trust me, they don’t lack those who will faithfully endorse whatever they say and they come in tens of thousands.

Victoria Osteen has had her fair share here. She once told a congregation of thousands this: "...when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God… we’re doing it for ourselves. Do good for your own self. Do it because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God, really — you’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

In one sweeping statement, Mrs. Osteen demonstrated to her congregation that she had a firm grasp of the mind of God. Now that's what I call scrapping the bottom of the barrel of omnipotence, or bottoming out the inscrutable mystery of the divine. Recall making the immortal superfluous?

In fact prosperity preachers have been making bottom line declarations all the time to wow their congregation. Kenneth Copeland once said that "you don't have God living in you, you are god." One televangelist proudly said, "As you use your faith, God is going to wipeout your credit card debts." Todd Bentley once claimed that God told him to kick a woman in the face to heal her. These are declarations made by preachers who claim they know the mind of God better than anyone else. And since personal revelations are almost always subjective, there is just no way anyone can verify those declarations.

And our local Prince has made countless bottom line declarations not just about the works of the Holy Spirit, but about how God wants to make you rich, see you healed, promote you to high positions, deliver you from all debts, save your marriage, and cure you of smoking and gambling addictions. There seems to be no limit to his confidence and knowledge about what God wants to do in your life – and at any time in your life, regardless, in spite and notwithstanding. And if he is right about them, wouldn’t the world for believers be a very different place from what we are witnessing right now? Sometimes, what we really need is not to have more faith, but to make common sense more common.

Imagine a world where repentance after the altar call is made optional, even redundant; where all are declared righteous even when the declarant knows deep inside it just doesn't gel with the reality he or she is experiencing; where the Holy Spirit no longer chastises and disciples us for our growth and maturity; and where prosperity, good health and earthly successes are the inalienable and inevitable rewards of the believer even when life is often much richer, more resilient and meaningful in their absence.  

Let me end with a prayer offered by someone whom we know too well. She had kept it in her journal, hidden and held close to her heart, until her death. She wrote this:-

“Where is my faith? Even deep down…there is nothing but emptiness and darkness…If there be God – please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my soul…How painful in this unknown pain – I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal…What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”

The person above is Mother Teresa.

Alas, you will never catch any megachurch preacher admitting that they somehow identify with those words or conviction. Even Jesus agonized greatly before he confronted the Cross. But not these megachurch preachers of today. Mind you, they are not called “prosperity preachers” for nothing. And the fact that they are living large, enjoying the material blessings of a thousand-fold (thanks to the generosity of their members) and reveling in the adoration of tens of thousands have absolutely nothing to do with it – of course. Even the preachers of radical grace will tell you with a straight face that with abounding grace, everything is simply a triumphant declaration of a “yes and amen!But is it really so? Do we bottom out common sense when we make such statements?

If we are honest enough, and true to ourselves, we’ll have to admit that we are all like the blind men and the elephant, trying to figure out the object of our scrutiny from our own limited perspective. And the discovery is the journey - not the end-point, or destination. Our feel is therefore restricted to only a part of the great omnipotence, and say whatever we want to say about our Creator, we will never fully understand the mind of God - what's more issuing one-size-fits-all assurances that God works this-and-this or so-and-so in our life, regardless and unconditionally. And for this reason, what makes bottom line declarations dangerous is that we run the risk of creating God in our own image instead of submitting fully to Him so that He could mold us, like a Master Potter, into His own likeness. Cheerz.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, i see this verse quoted so many times. But I have to say that Joseph Prince is right. The Holy Spirit does not convict a believer of sins. Please read the verse again carefully to understand what the Lord explain point by point, starting with sin, then righteousness and finally judgement. Each of the 3 refers to a different group....unbelievers/the world, then believers and then Satan.