The widespread preaching and teaching of ‘prosperity gospel’ around the world raises significant concerns. We define prosperity gospel as the teaching that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the ‘sowing of seeds’ through financial or material gifts. Prosperity teaching is a phenomenon that cuts across many denominations in all continents.
We affirm the miraculous grace and power of God, and we welcome the growth of churches and ministries that lead people to exercise expectant faith in the living God and his supernatural power. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. However, we deny that God’s miraculous power can be treated as automatic, or at the disposal of human techniques, or manipulated by human words, actions, gifts, objects, or rituals.
We affirm that there is a biblical vision of human prospering, and that the Bible includes material welfare (both health and wealth) within its teaching about the blessing of God. However, we deny as unbiblical the teaching that spiritual welfare can be measured in terms of material welfare, or that wealth is always a sign of God’s blessing. The Bible shows that wealth can often be obtained by oppression, deceit or corruption. We also deny that poverty, illness or early death are always a sign of God’s curse, or evidence of lack of faith, or the result of human curses, since the Bible rejects such simplistic explanations
We accept that it is good to exalt the power and victory of God. But we believe that the teachings of many who vigorously promote the prosperity gospel seriously distort the Bible; that their practices and lifestyle are often unethical and un-Christlike; that they commonly replace genuine evangelism with miracle-seeking, and replace the call to repentance with the call to give money to the preacher’s organization. We grieve that the impact of this teaching on many Churches is pastorally damaging and spiritually unhealthy. We gladly and strongly affirm every initiative in Christ’s name that seeks to bring healing to the sick, or lasting deliverance from poverty and suffering. The prosperity gospel offers no lasting solution to poverty, and can deflect people from the true message and means of eternal salvation. For these reasons it can be soberly described as a false gospel. We therefore reject the excesses of prosperity teaching as incompatible with balanced biblical Christianity.
A) We urgently encourage church and mission leaders in contexts where the prosperity gospel is popular to test its teaching with careful attention to the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. Particularly, we all need to interpret and teach those Bible texts that are commonly used to support the prosperity gospel in their full biblical context and proper balance. Where prosperity teaching happens in the context of poverty, we must counter it with authentic compassion and action to bring justice and lasting transformation for the poor. Above all we must replace self-interest and greed with the biblical teaching on self-sacrifice and generous giving as the marks of true discipleship to Christ. We affirm Lausanne's historic call for simpler lifestyles.
From the Cape Town Commitment - Part 2, Section IIE, 5