Its been six months since I wrote about Creflo Dollar not being welcome in Scotland – an article which is still being read by hundreds every week. https://theweeflea.com/2016/04/12/why-creflo-dollar-is-not-welcome-in-scotland/
There have been many questions asked since this event so its time to get a longer term view. What happened? What was the effect? Am I still opposed? If so why?
He came, he saw…he went away. Apparently he had a ‘significant word to impart’. This was a weekend, which was ‘without doubt to be nation changing’. There were a ‘number of decisions’ (68 in Glasgow), some people loved it, others did not, and the journalist said it was a great show. The promise that it was ‘nation changing’ was not fulfilled. All in all it was a bit of damp squib.
The visit caused dissension within the church in Scotland. There is no doubt that this is the case. I got it in the neck because I stated publicly what many people said privately. The Matthew 18 card was constantly played and I was told that I should have contacted Creflo and expressed my concerns to him first. When I suggested that this would be a waste of time I was told, how do you know? Have you tried? So I did. I wrote Creflo through a couple of different channels. Guess what? It was a waste of time. He had no concern for me. Or should I say, his corporation and his people had no concern. And I don’t believe they have any concern for the church in Scotland or the cause of the Gospel here. It was just another gig for the corporation. They didn’t respond and astonishingly the leadership in Destiny, having told me to contact him, then praised Creflo for NOT responding to the criticism about him – portraying this as some kind of wise humility. I call it arrogant disdain.
There were many Christians, including some in Destiny who were distressed by Creflo Dollar flying in to deliver his message. As regards the latter I know that there are people who left Destiny over this. Despite being told that there was only one disgruntled former Destiny member who was unhappy my postbag declared otherwise. The following is typical of some of the responses I received – “I wanted to write to you and thank you for your stance regarding the visit of Creflo Dollar. I attended a Destiny campus until fairly recently and the decision to invite the appropriately named Mr Dollar was part of my reasoning for leaving.”
Why am I Still Opposed?
Whilst I still think that his $27 million plus wealth, plus Rolls Royce and private jet, in an area where the average salary is $29,640, is sinful, the biggest problem is the theology that justifies and fuels this greed. It is a poison that does a great deal of harm.
“Jesus bled and died for us so that we can lay claim to the promise of financial prosperity.” (Tweet from Creflo Dollar).
Let me deal with one excuse which was made for this. ‘Yes Creflo has a lot of money – you should see what he does with it’ (apart from buying a private jet). He helps orphans. I’m sorry to be cynical but I know this game too well. If you want to raise money its one of the easiest tricks in the world to have a ‘child sponsorship’ scheme from which you then deduct ‘administrative’ expenses (in one case I know of – 70%!) which fund your organization. It’s a win/win for your charity/corporation. You get to pose with starving kids who you are helping (after flying in on your private jet) and your ministry also gets funded (thus enabling you to pay for the private jet).
And then this horrendous video from one of his sermons. The transcript is below.
Now, you know, we’re under the Blood of Jesus, so we can’t shoot and stone people like we used to. All we have to do is repent and God will forgive us and take us where we need to be. But I can tell you, man, if it wasn’t for the Blood, there’d be a whole lot of us being stoned and being in Hell right now over the tithe. But for [“if not for”?] the Blood of Jesus, we’d be doomed.
I mean, I thought about when we first built “The Dome,” I wanted to put some of those little moving bars and give everybody a little card. They’d stick it in a little computer slot. If they were tithing, beautiful music would go off and, you know, [Creflo sings] “Welcome, welcome, welcome to the World Dome.” [Congregation laughs.]
But…if they were non-tithers, the bar would lock up, the red and blue lights would start going, the siren would go off, and a voice would go out throughout the entire dome, “Crook, crook, crook, crook!” [Congregation laughs.] Security would go and apprehend them, and once we got them all together, we’d line them up in the front and pass out Uzis by the ushers and point our Uzis right at all those non-tithing members ’cause we want God to come to church, and at the count of three “Jesus”-es we’d shoot them all dead. And then we’d take them out the side door there, have a big hole, bury them, and then go ahead and have church and have the anointing. [Mostly silence in the congregation, but one or two still actually laugh.]
Aren’t you glad we’re under the Blood of Jesus? [“Yeah, yeah,” from the congregation.] Because if we were not under the Blood of Jesus, I would certainly try it.
His sermon was entitled ‘nothing or no-one is going to stop me preaching this gospel of grace” 2 Timothy 2:15. This is the gospel of grace? If it wasn’t for the blood of Jesus I would kill you all if you didn’t tithe to my church?
Contrast the money grabbing greed of Creflo Dollar with this from John Piper –
Why bother to raise this again?
Because I am concerned for the glory and honour of Jesus Christ. The notion that this type of teaching and practice is done in his name, and defended and promoted by some of his people in Scotland, is deeply distressing. Not only am I concerned about evangelism (‘the Lords name is blasphemed amongst the Gentiles because of you’) but I am also concerned about the Lord’s people being misled. I was recently reading in Revelation 2 about the church in Sardis, which was a great church and yet Jesus had something against them – they tolerated ‘that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols”. What struck me about that was that it was the Lord’s servants (not the devil’s) who were being misled. That can happen – and that is what I think is happening with Creflo Dollar.
I am concerned about church leadership in Scotland. On the one hand we face the dangers of those who would deny the teaching of the Scriptures by taking away from them (the liberals); on the other by those who add to them -the legalists and what I call the corporate charismatics. I have written many times before about the first two but I think it’s now time to say something about the latter.
What are the corporate charismatics? They are those who believe in the gifts of the Spirit being exercised today (nothing wrong with that) but who have a corporate model of church. They are concerned about numbers and figures. What percentage increase do they see? How much money is coming in? How many ‘decisions’? By those criteria the apostle Paul was a disaster and Jesus was a terrible preacher! They combine Latte Christianity with an entertainment culture, moralistic therapeutic deism and a corporate style church with a rigid hierarchical leadership. Coming to a city/town near you soon….
I am not anti-charismatic. I am not a cessasionist. How could I be? I believe that the Holy Spirit is sovereign and He distributes his gifts as He wills. I’m not going to tell Him what he can and cannot do! I love many charismatics and charismatic/Pentecostal churches. It’s been wonderful to have so many charismatics in St Peters. I think there is a lot we can learn from charismatic churches. But there are also questions that need to be asked.
Why are there so many charismatic causalities? Why so many walking wounded? A major reason is that there is a real tendency towards an unbiblical authoritarian leadership. I think one of the main reasons this occurs is that when you replace the authority of the Word of God with the authority of the self-styled prophet/pastor then it is very easy to end up with spiritual abuse (the same occurs in ‘liberal’ and legalistic churches). I remember listening to one charismatic church leader give a sermon in which he declared somewhat glibly that those who had committed adultery would be forgiven, but he then spent 25 minutes telling the congregation that if they committed the terrible sin of disagreeing with the anointed leadership of the congregation, the consequences would be terrible! It seemed as though disobeying the Word of the Lord was a minor infraction compared with disobeying the word of the pastor.
One charismatic who was coming to St Peters suddenly stopped. After a few weeks I contacted him to see if he was ok. He told me why he had stopped. He loved coming to the church but when I was preaching through the book of Revelation he found that he did not agree with something that was being said. I told him that it did not matter, that many people probably thought the same, and that it as a difficult passage to exegete and I could have got it wrong. But it was no reason for him to stay away. He was shocked. “You mean I don’t have to agree with you? I thought I had to be under the authority of the leadership and submit to it”. I told him that whilst in one sense that was true – it was not an absolute authority and that the Word of God must always be first. It’s ok to disagree. But when the Word of God is sidelined (whether in liberal or charismatic churches) then the leadership of the Church becomes THE authority.
I was reminded of that in listening to Creflo and how the Destiny leadership handled it. Whilst I appreciated a lot of what was said and found some to be gracious and gentle, I really did not appreciate the passive/aggressive and the aggressive/aggressive approach sometimes taken.
First and understandably the Destiny leadership wanted to portray themselves as innocent victims facing up to ungodly opposition from within the church. ‘People are jealous….they are determined to stand in your way…they just don’t want you to succeed. “ It’s a ridiculous charge. My opposition to Creflo does not come from some desire to prevent Destiny succeeding. Precisely the opposite. I want them to be a growing and thriving Gospel church – not one built upon the heresy of the Prosperity ‘gospel’, which is really no gospel at all!
The people attending the Creflo Dollar rally were told: “I just want to first say thank you to you as a church. You stood with us over these last few weeks, and these last few months, despite all that’s been said and all that’s been happening and you carried the good grace, with faith, refused to retaliate, prayed for those who said some things,” he said. “This is your moment,” he continued. “ (Report of the Dollar meeting in Glasgow in The National).
I find it interesting that my honest opposition on biblical grounds was portrayed as some kind of spiritual assault upon the Godly. As for the refusing to retaliate? I wish!
I was told by the Destiny leadership at a meeting on the 26th of April that they did not criticise people publicly and that this was a dreadful thing to do. The Matthew 18 card was played and the Destiny leadership declared that they talked to people not about them. And yet…..
Don’t Touch the Lord’s Anointed!
I was sent a copy of a sermon preached the previous week on April the 17th and another of a leadership meeting in which I was the subject of named and direct criticism. This is a very strange way to talk to people rather than about them! Anyone listening to these two talks would clearly have the impression that I was at best misguided and at worst someone who did not respect the anointed of the Lord and would face the consequences.
This ‘don’t touch the Lord’s anointed (by implication ‘us’) is a card that was played against me as a very young Christian. As a newly converted teenager I was returning from hitchhiking in Europe when I went with my unconverted friend to what turned out to be a charismatic house meeting in central London. It was babble. It got so bad, and I was so young and naïve, that I thought anyone could stand up and speak – so I did. Reading from the Sermon on the Mount – ‘and when you pray do not keep babbling like pagans!’ The stunned silence that followed ended with yours truly being surrounded by a squad of people who laid hands on me and prophesied that this thorn would turn into a rose. The next day the leader asked to meet with me and told me that I had blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. It cost me two years of doubt and misery.
I had that same feeling again this time. What if you are wrong? What if Creflo is the Lord’s anointed etc.? Thankfully the Lord answered my cries very quickly when I turned on my computer and lo and behold up came a talk from Creflo – which was pure heresy. Thank you Lord.
But the sermon on April the 17th was dreadful. It mentioned me by name before going on to give a series of stories about the consequences for those who go against the Lord’s anointed. The car salesman whose business was burned, the man in India who died after a theft etc. It was an explicit as well as an implicit threat. What astounded me even more was that this sermon was preached before myself and David Meredith met with the Destiny leaders. I regard it as hypocritical to sit and say you don’t criticize other Christian leaders in public a week after you have just preached a sermon implicitly warning they are going to be divinely punished if they dare criticize Creflo Dollar! The leader concerned was contacted in private several months ago and asked to apologise. So far, not a word.
I’m afraid this is the kind of spiritual abuse and authoritarianism that some in some charismatic churches have to face. If you begin to question the hyperbole, money and success focus, the questionable theology and practices, and you will soon find that you are ‘in rebellion’ against the Lord’s anointed. There are coded and not so coded warnings. For young and sensitive Christians it can be a powerful means of control. Especially when it is good people, whom you love and who have done you a great deal of good. It can be a faith shattering experience.
It is a form of spiritual manipulation – as was the attempt to silence me by saying that several ‘Free Church ministers’ had told them they did not agree with me. That may be true – (although not exactly fulfilling the Matthew 18 criteria so beloved of those who seek to silence criticism, as none of my brothers spoke to me about it), but the bad news is for those who seek to control in this way, I don’t care. If my criteria for speaking was whether Free Church ministers agreed with me or not, I would be silent forever!
Gospel-Plus and Grace
Another real problem is that the Corporate Charismatics promise a Gospel-plus and then justify it by a false application of the doctrine of grace. Take for example this reason given for coming to Creflo’s show.
6- You will be SO encouraged with Creflo’s ministry, as he unpacks dimensions of the gospel, that most people have never heard. Religion hates grace and fights it tooth and nail, grace responds with overwhelming love and leads you into another dimension of life as God intended.
‘Dimensions of the Gospel that most people have never heard’! That should set the alarm bells going straight away. I’m not sure I would be inviting someone to preach ‘dimensions of the gospel’ that my congregation have not heard! If your people have not heard ‘dimensions of the Gospel’ from you and you then have to import an American multi-millionaire evangelist to teach them – there is something wrong! It is true that Creflo ‘unpacks’ ‘dimensions of the gospel that most people have never heard’, but that is because they are not dimensions of the gospel – they are distortions of the gospel, rather than the hidden gnostic parts of it, which only he can unpack.
But again note the controlling aspect and manipulation. Using truth to manipulate people into your own point of view. It is true that religion hates grace (although surely not the religion that James speaks about? -James 1:27), but is Creflo Dollar preaching grace? Grace is meaningless without Christ. I don’t think Creflo Dollar preaches the grace of Christ – I think he misuses it as a way to manipulate, boost his corporate ministry and obtain wealth for himself.
One of the most important books that any Christian leader could read today is The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson – https://theweeflea.com/2016/03/29/the-whole-christ-the-best-theological-book-in-400-plus-years/ He sums up the grace thing superbly.
At one level the problem is indeed rejection of God’s law. But underneath lies a failure to understand grace and ultimately to understand God. True, his love for me is not based on my qualification or my preparation. But it is misleading to say that God accepts us the way we are. Rather he accepts us despite the way we are. He receives us only in Christ and for Christ’s sake. Nor does he mean to leave us the way he found us, but to transform us into the likeness of his son.
Grace does not mean we just accept what people do. It means we accept people despite what they do and seek that all would be transformed into the likeness of his son.
I have no desire to diss Destiny. I want them to grow, prosper and flourish – because Scotland needs more dynamic and growing churches. And that’s why I hope that instead of diverting people into the misleading teaching and corporate greed of Creflo Dollar, they will repent, disown their association with Creflo Dollar, and get on with the real work of the Gospel that God has called them to do. And I pray that the Lord will give me the strength to do the same.