Recognizing And Successfully Averting The Word–Faith Threat To Evangelicalism -- By: Kirk R. MacGregor
CAJ 6:1 (Spring 2007) p. 53
Recognizing And Successfully Averting The Word–Faith Threat To Evangelicalism
Kirk R. MacGregor is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Northern Iowa.
Judging by its extraordinary success in both the religious and secular marketplaces, the Word–Faith Movement is one of the fastest–growing and most influential ideologies claiming allegiance to the Christian tradition. This fact is evidenced, for example, by Church Report’s 2006 list of “50 Most Influential Christians in America,” which includes a total of eleven Word–Faith leaders, four of whom (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T. D. Jakes, and Paul Crouch) rank among the top ten.1 It is also illustrated by Time Magazine’s 18 September 2006 cover story “Does God Want You To Be Rich?” focusing on the teachings of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, whom the piece identifies as “Protestant evangelists” and “within [the] ranks” of evangelicalism.2 At least three ostensibly Christian television networks – TBN, ISPN, and Daystar Television – devote over three–quarters of their airtime to
CAJ 6:1 (Spring 2007) p. 54
Faith programming. Moreover, some of these programs, especially Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life, Kenneth Copeland’s Believer’s Voice of Victory, and Benny Hinn’s This Is Your Day, comprise regular staples in the secular market. The popularity of the Faith Movement has also grown through its publications, which are prevalent (and sometimes dominant) in Christian bookstores as well as the inspirational racks of secular bookstores. Thus Joel Osteen, pastor of Houston’s Lakewood Church, boasting to be America’s largest congregation with an average of over 30,000 worshipers weekly, reached the top of the New York Times Bestseller List with his 2004 Your Best Life Now.3 This feat has been more than equaled by his prolific female counterpart Joyce Meyer, whom the Detroit News describes as “the country’s leading female evangelist” and “the top–selling female Christian author in America.”4
As a historian of Western religion in general and Christianity in particular, I find all of this quite disturbing, not so much for what is happening on the surface but what is happening below the surface. That is to say, as initially appalling as it may be, I am far less concerned with the “health and wealth” aspects of the movement, which historically are nothing new...
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