Creflo Dollar is the senior pastor of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta. The church claims 30,000 members and meets in an $18 million, 8,500-seat sanctuary. Critics point to his lavish lifestyle—he owns two rolls-Royces, a private jet, a million dollar home in Atlanta and a $2.5 million home in Manhattan. Supporters view his material possessions as proof of God’s blessing on his message and ministry.
On Friday, he was arrested on allegations that he choked and punched his 15-year-old daughter. After deputies photographed a scratch on her neck, they arrested her father. Yesterday morning Rev. Dollar told his congregation, “A family conversation with our youngest daughter got emotional. Things escalated from there.” But he stated, “She was not choked. She was not punched.” He said the mark on his daughter’s neck is more than 10 years old and resulted from eczema. “Anything else is exaggeration and sensationalism,” he assured them.
This is not Rev. Dollar’s first time to make headlines. He is famous for what is often called the “prosperity gospel”—the promise that God will reward us with financial and spiritual gifts if we have enough faith. His theology is captured in his book titles, such as: “8 Steps to Create the Life You Want,” “Love, Live, and Enjoy Life,” and “Claim Your Victory Today.”
Many of America’s largest churches and ministries are led by prosperity preachers such as Joel Osteen, T. D. Jakes and Kenneth Copeland. What does the popularity of their message say about our consumer society? Transactional religion is part of our cultural DNA—from the ancient Greeks who sacrificed to the gods so the gods would bless their crops, to today’s health-and-wealth churches. “Give the people what they want” is effective marketing, on Sunday as well as Monday.
In evaluating any minister today, I would urge you to ask these questions: in their message, is God your servant or your king? Is he an indulgent Father who gives you whatever you want, or a loving Lord who gives you what you need (Philippians 4:19)? Is he preparing you for reward on earth or in heaven (John 14:2)?
Now let’s ask ourselves: do we want a servant or a king? An indulgent Father or a loving Lord? Reward on earth or in paradise? If you were in worship yesterday, how did you evaluate the experience: by what you got out of the service, or by what you gave to God in praise and commitment?
Many of God’s greatest servants “faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:36-38). But heaven is.