DISCLAIMER: (THIS IS NOT A POST BASHING TELEVANGELIST, BUT THE ACTIONS OF A SELECT FEW. IT’S DESIGNED TO GET YOU TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK ON WHO YOU CHOSE AS A TEACHER. THERE ARE MANY GREAT TELEVANGELIST DON’T LET THE BAD APPLES RUIN YOU. HOWEVER, SOME ARE LET’S NOT LET THEM RUIN OUR SOULS.)
For those of you who are followers of this blog you know, I am an avid Simpsons fan, I love watching the show, let’s face it, it’s downright entertaining. Now no one in their right mind is going to the iconic show for theological advice nor are they going to most mainstream television shows. While in many of these shows we can connect the dots to theological value, we must be careful about the sources of information we receive. One of the biggest risks many Americans run is falling victim to following a heretic. One of the more religious-themed episodes of the Simpsons is an episode called Homer the Heretic. Rather than going to church on Sunday’s, Homer decides to spend his time loathing around the house, watching football, and skewing his theology. Homer was comfortable in his environment because that’s what the enemy wants you to believe. Many of us like Homer wouldn’t mind sleeping in and skipping a Sunday or two, but there is major risk in doing so. Homer was comfortable but by the end of the episode, he felt the fires. In fact, The Simpson residence caught fire and Homer’s life is on the line. He was saved by the volunteer fire department and was flung to safety by his neighborino Ned Flanders. Homer’s life was spared by the power of God sending these folks to his residence to save him. Homer’s actions were heretical and he is much like many of us. We are all like this in many ways. Heresy from Homer Simpson is excusable because he’s a fictional character. However, many of us like the messages of said televangelist, and unlike Homer Simpson who will never have to meet our God and account for his actions these ministers will.
James 3:1 provides a stark warning to those who become teachers that they will be judged in a harsher light. Not only are they responsible for the theology of themselves, but they are also in charge of the theology of hundreds to thousands of others. Between TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Creflo Dollar they reach about a quarter million people on a weekly basis between the three of them. Now do not get me wrong sometimes their message can be compelling and their message can have theological value, but we should be critically examining any message which we hear a decipher whether or not it is in accordance with the gospel.
What do Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Bill Hybels, and Brian McLaren all have in common besides being mega-church pastors? They never attended a seminary. Now many of you may be wondering what the issue is but if you are part of a major denominational body then your pastor has gone through at a minimum of a year in some of the intensive seminary program, most usually go through around three years if they are attending full-time. What seminary does is it challenges one’s faith. It is formative. I am currently going through seminary and one of the thing that pains me are these minister who takes short cuts. In the United States, there should be no reason why a senior pastor should not have seminary training. I understand other nations where it may not be available, but in the US there are 189 accredited seminaries. Let’s take some examples for instance if TD Jakes would have attended seminary there would be no debate on his view of the Trinity.
Not to mention there is a large amount of greed among many of these ministers. I would argue Creflo Dollar is the worst. For example, he was born Michael Smith, so right off the bat, I would argue he’s not even trying to hide it. I think among the televangelist Mr. Dollar may be the most dangerous one to follow. He is a man clearly not living by the gospel. He makes millions of dollars, and he is known for a number of controversial claims such as “God want’s him to have a private jet.” Not just a private jet, but one paid for by the church. He is known for living a lavish lifestyle. His teachings are blasphemous. His teachings are absolutely heretical. He’s a strong advocate of the prosperity theology. Let me make one thing clear that God does not once every promise our life on this planet will be perfect. Everything in the Bible points to living modestly and giving. Dollar owns a million dollar home, drives two Rolls-Royces, and yes has his precious private jet. He receives an F in terms of financial transparency by Ministry Watch. In 2010, Dollar and a number of prominent televangelists were investigated for receiving profit.
There are plenty of televangelist without formal seminary training Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, and Paula White to name a few more. A few of those names may be familiar the last one is the twice divorced, three times married, and active Donald Trump supporting televangelist Paula White. White, I’m sure you might have guessed it never attended seminary. Joyce Meyer may have a “degree”, but it is from an unaccredited school in Tampa. So likewise has had no formal seminary training. Copeland is notoriously known for having a “fake degree.”
If you want to know why seminary is so important, watch the interview between Joel Osteen and Larry King. Osteen put out a wide array of I don’t know to some basic questions. He was unable to explain why Christianity is the one true faith. While some of the messages Osteen puts out on a week to week basis have some value, he’s more of a spiritual motivational speaker. I understand he doesn’t take a salary from the church and much of his millions come from his books, but he has such a massive following and his teachings are generally theologically weak or lacking in doctrine. For example, he refuses to preach on hell. Well, I hate to point it out, but it’s a real place and all believers need to know about it. It’s a destination for everyone if they are not careful. If we didn’t need to know about it then it would not be in the Bible. His message is almost the same every week about how Great God is and how someone he knows triumphed because of God or being a member of Lakewood. It’s a watered down Gospel.