The prosperity gospel is a current popular thought in mainland churches. Its purpose is to pursue earthly success. It weakens and even denies the noble characters of Christianity such as suffering for God, being contented, and devotion and sacrifice. It also causes great danger for the church and the spiritual life of Christians. This article is a simple view on why the prosperity gospel is popular.
The utilitarian belief mindset:
Chinese churches are deeply influenced by folk beliefs, and the utilitarian belief is the important form. Many people believe in God not for eternity, the thirst of eternal life, or truth, but out of earthly needs. The prosperity gospel satisfies those people. They preach that God's omnipotent, that God will grant whatever is requested and that whenever you pray to God, he will satisfy your needs in life. Many believers with utilitarian purposes for faith go after it and end up in the wrong snare.
The social morality of worshiping money:
Since reform and opening, China's economy has developed rapidly. However, the prevailing money-worship also followed. In a world full of material desires, the evaluation of people has become more and more simplified. Success based on how much material wealth people have has influenced many people's thinking. Being in such a social environment it's hard for Christians to avoid the influence of worshiping money. Many people go with the stream and agree with such values and set wealth as the ultimate goal of a successful life. The prosperity gospel claims that earthly success is a basic feature to God's blessings, and it 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 the false values with "holiness."
The phenomenon of churches favoring "successful people":
A sister once told me that her husband didn'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 case was not the only one. In many mainland churches, this phenomenon exists. When electing elders or deacons, the standard is not according to the spiritual life, but the social status. They regard wealth as a standard, which resulted in many believers with good faith being excluded from church administration. Aside from favoring successful people in positions of power, in many testimony meetings they like to praise "how successful the business and what a testimony." That greatly influences the values of the 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, 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 they have double standards for dealing with conflicts in the church. For the same mistake, they make light with the ones in high places and judge the normal people strictly.
The tendency of the church favoring successful people has fostered the proliferation of the prosperity gospel. The evaluative standard in a group always determines the value of the general public. Except those who think for themselves, most people follow the current in the "conformity" value system. When the churches start to see earthly success as the "glorious testimony" as a significant characteristic, it results in Christians acknowledging the same value. By then the prosperity gospel has naturally become rooted among the people.
In the current society, even some churches have widely adopted the prosperity gospel. Hopefully, the brothers and sisters could understand "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (NIV 1 Cor: 15:19) also one can be wary of "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)
(Disclaimer: the author is a believer from Sanyi Church in Gulangyu.)