Prosperity Gospel gains acceptance among evangelical church goers: study

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


The prosperity gospel is gaining popularity in evangelical churches. According to a recent study from Lifeway Research, 52% of Protestant churchgoers said that they are taught from the pulpit that the more money they give to the church or charities, the more God will bless them.

Additionally, 76% of regular church attendees believe that God wants them to prosper financially, compared to 69% who said the same in a 2017. Nearly half (45%) believe that, in order to receive material blessings from God, they must give Him something in return – a quid pro quo theology that only 26% percent agreed with in 2017.

“In the last five years, far more churchgoers are reflecting prosperity gospel teachings, including the heretical belief that material blessings are earned from God,” Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a news release on the survey results. 

“It is possible the financial hits people have taken from inflation and the pandemic have triggered feelings of guilt for not serving God more. But Scripture does not teach that kind of direct connection,” he added.


According to a 2017 Gospel Coalition article, the prosperity gospel (also known as the “Word of Faith” movement and, somewhat less glowingly, as the “health and wealth” or “name-it and claim-it” gospel) originated as an “offshoot of Pentecostalism” in the U.S. following World War II. 

Originally isolated to local congregations and tent revivals, the movement gained prominence in the 1980s with the rise of televangelism.

David Jones, Christian ethics professor and Director of the Th.M. program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, credited Oral Roberts as the “father” of the modern “name-it and claim-it” prosperity gospel and the person who oversaw a ministry that, at the height of his influence, brought in $110 million in annual revenue. 

Jones wrote in a 2015 article titled “5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel” that Roberts’ protégé and former chauffeur Kenneth Copeland, founder of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, later became “one of the most notorious (and wealthiest) of prosperity preachers.” 

In her 2012 book, “God’s Will is Prosperity,” Copeland’s wife, Gloria Copeland, explained the key tenet of the prosperity movement, as follows: “Give $10 and receive $1,000; give $1,000 and receive $100,000. . . In short, Mark 10:30 is a very good deal.” 

Jones, however, pointed out that, in Luke 6:35, “Jesus taught his disciples to ‘give, hoping for nothing in return’ while prosperity theologians teach their disciples to give because they will get a great return.”


According to Jones, Copeland paved the way for future televangelists like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Benny Hinn, and Robert Tilton, among others.

Tilton once referred to the prosperity movement he preached as God’s “Law of Compensation,” interpreting Mark 10:30 to mean that – in Jones’s words – “Christians should give generously to others because when they do, God gives back more in return. This, in turn, leads to a cycle of ever-increasing prosperity.”

Guillermo Maldonado, Joel Osteen, and Paula White are among today’s most prominent “prosperity preachers,” according to Jones. 

Desiring God founder and Bethlehem College & Seminary Chancellor John Piper listed several characteristics of the prosperity gospel in a 2014 sermon. Among them is the absence of teaching about the “biblical normalcy of suffering” and “self-denial;” a lack of “serious exposition” of God’s word; preaching that emphasizes “self” while diluting the greatness of God; and church leaders who live extravagant lifestyles. 


In 2007, a Senate panel led by Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) launched a probe into six televangelists to determine if they were improperly using their tax-exempt status as churches to fund lavish lifestyles. Those ministries were led by Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, and Joyce Meyer.

The investigation ended three years later with no findings of wrongdoing and, therefore, no penalties for the pastors, though NBC News reported at the time that all six had “refused to cooperate” with congressional investigators.