As China has become more prosperous, it has also become more open to outside influences. This is true of the church as well. In recent years prosperity theology has been gaining influence, mainly through the translated books and resources of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen. In the article below, originally published in Gospel Times, the author (a pastor) reflects on why this teaching is attractive to many in China.
Reasons Why Prosperity Theology Is Flooding China
The prosperity gospel is currently gaining popularity in mainland churches. Its purpose is to pursue earthly success. It weakens and even denies the noble characteristics of Christianity such as suffering for God, being content, devotion, and sacrifice. It is a threat to the church and the spiritual life of Christians. This article is a simple observation on why the prosperity gospel is popular.
The Utilitarian Belief Mindset
Chinese churches are deeply influenced by folk beliefs, which are extremely utilitarian. Many people believe in God not for eternity, the thirst of eternal life, or truth, but out of a desire to meet earthly needs. The prosperity gospel satisfies those people. They preach that God is all powerful and will grant whatever is requested. Whenever you pray to God, he will satisfy your needs in life. Many believers with this utilitarian mindset pursue faith in order to receive material gain and end up being ensnared.
The Social Morality of Worshiping Money
China's economy has developed rapidly since the reform and opening policy. However, it has led to a prevailing trend of money-worship. In a world full of material desires, evaluating people has become more simplified. People have come to believe that success is based on how much material wealth a person has. Because of this social environment, Christians find it difficult to avoid the influence of worshiping money. Many people just go along, agreeing with these values and making wealth the ultimate goal and measure of a successful life. The prosperity gospel claims that earthly success is a basic feature of God's blessings; this caters to the current ideological trends. It also provides an important theological basis for Christians who indulge themselves in the pursuit of fame and fortune, and it colors these false values with an appearance of "holiness."
The Phenomenon of Churches Favoring "Successful People"
A sister once told me that her husband hadn’t read the Bible for a long time, nor did he pray. He went to church every week and he was a deacon of the church because he donated the most. This is not an isolated case. This phenomenon exists in many mainland churches. When electing elders or deacons, social status rather than spiritual life has become the standard. This has resulted in many faithful believers with good faith being excluded from church administration. Aside from favoring successful people in positions of power, many testimony meetings are filled with praise for "how successful their businesses are.” This greatly influences the values of believers.
Moreover, some church pastoral workers have a very obvious bias in how they treat people. For example, they greet rich people solicitously, while they greet normal people perfunctorily; during fellowship discussions, the words of "successful people" carry a lot of weight, while no one pays attention to the "grassroots group." They also ignore the validity of the information being discussed, and have double standards for dealing with conflicts in the church. In the same way, they are lenient with the ones in high places and judge ordinary people strictly.
The tendency of the church to favor successful people has fostered the spread of the prosperity gospel. The evaluative standard in a group always determines the value of the general public. With the exception of those who think for themselves, most people follow the current in the "conformity" value system. When churches start to see earthly success as a "glorious testimony" and a significant characteristic, it results in Christians acknowledging the same values. In this way, the prosperity gospel has naturally taken root among the people.
In current society, some churches have widely adopted the prosperity gospel. Hopefully, brothers and sisters will understand that "if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men," (NIV 1 Cor: 15:19) and remember "when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." (NIV Eph: 2:2)
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