Thursday, August 6, 2009

Background on Word-Faith, Part I: Beginnings, Teachings, Resources

This post will provide a little background on the theology of Mac Hammond and the LWCC. think it’s relevant, because the "Word-Faith" or "Word of Faith" or “Prosperity Gospel” preached by Hammond may be related to the lavish financial rewards given to him by LWCC.

At the bottom of this post are links to the articles and websites from which the information is drawn.

Beginnings of Word-Faith and What it Teaches

E.W. Kenyon, 1865-1948, broke with his Pentecostal tradition when he started teaching that a new covenant with God had been attained. In the new covenant, he wrote, spiritual blessings would no longer be given to the faithful according to God’s will, but were now GUARANTEED. The traditional Pentecostal view was that although healing, blessings and miracles can occur, there was no guarantee from God that if you just believe well enough, you’ll be healthy and prosperous.

Kenyon’s ideas influenced Kenneth Hagin, 1917-2003. Hagin spread the doctrine and summarized it as “Say it, Do it, Receive it, Tell it.” There are many faith leaders who’ve been influenced by Hagin, including Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, and T.D. Jakes.

Pastor Mac Hammond also joined the Word-Faith movement, around the time he started LWCC. He considers Kenneth Copeland as “…kind of a spiritual mentor, a spiritual father, someone ahead of him on the path who has been a sounding board and provided guidance.” (Church cuts back article linked below)

The Word-Faith movement relies in part on language in Genesis (multiply thee) and Deuteronomy (verses on blessings of the covenant). They also point to Isaiah: “We ARE healed” (present tense), meaning God has already given us health, and illness is Satan trying to rob us of our divine right. Word-Faith preachers teach that God wants us to be prosperous in health, relationships and finances, but the emphasis is almost always on finances. One current leader, Creflo Dollar, says that Jesus himself was rich (Creflo Dollar article linked below).

Hammond's "Winner's Way" Teachings

Mac Hammond calls his version of the Prosperity Gospel “The Winner’s Way.” He has said that if we have wealth and luxury, then we must be blessed by God and Walking the Winner’s Way. He has said:

“It is the will of God that you prosper.” (Church faces off article)

“Noah was the first investment banker.” (Kingdom and Power article)

Hammond says that financial resources are required for Christians to have impact on the world, so the church using its tithes and other funds to lease a 9-seater private plane from him is okay as long as it’s used in the service of God. In a letter to supporters he said:

Our individual level of wealth, according to God (Eph. 3:20) can potentially exceed what we can even ask or think, limited only by the power of faith that works in us,” he said…(I)t is the will of God for us to prosper and the level of that prosperity [is] to be determined only by our faith…
(Minnesota Independent article)

My question: In other words, if something’s wrong in my life, it’s only because I don’t have enough faith?

From the Winner’s Minute website, linked below:

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, is famous for saying, "Winning isn't everything—it's the only thing."

But the truth is that God created you to win, not just spiritually but financially, professionally, relationally, and in every other area of life. In fact, if you're not at least in the process of becoming that kind of winner, you're not fulfilling God's whole purpose for your life...

My thought: This sounds very, very close to the teachings in Unity, part of the New Thought movement, which I attended about 10 years ago. I also wonder—since LWCC had financial shortfalls in 2008, and had to cut back on things, and Mac Hammond had to put his 9-seater plane up for sale--does that mean LWCC and/or Mac Hammond was deficient in faith? Source about the downturn is LWCC’s Rev. Brian Sullivan in the “Dealing with Less” article linked below.

Mac Hammond himself has noted that the Prosperity Gospel has its problems.

At Copeland's conference, which was broadcast live on the Internet, Hammond told other ministers that people "gradually become disillusioned" when their prayers are not met promptly or when promised riches don't come.

"They have needs to be met, and when they don't get it they leave," Hammond said. "They get their hands put on them, they don't get cured, then the disillusionment sets in."

(from “Dealing with less prosperity”)

Links to sources:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on Creflo Dollar “Was Jesus rich? Swanky messiah not far-fetched in Prosperity Gospel”

“Dealing with less prosperity, Mac Hammond's church cuts back” originally appeared in Star Tribune, Feb. ‘08

“Mac Hammond’s Living Word church faces off with the IRS” appeared in City Pages 10/08

“The Kingdom and Power of Mac Hammond” Interview & profile published in Star Tribune 11/07

Thorough Wikipedia article on "Word-Faith" gospel

“Hammond: IRS probe of church is politically motivated” Minnesota Independent article published 8/25/08

Winner's Minute introduction

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