Embattled Prosperity Gospel Preacher Eddie Long, of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, is coming under scrutiny for his involvement with self-proclaimed “Social Capitalist” Ephren Taylor, who is being sued by the SEC in federal court for running a multi-million dollar ponzi scheme that targeted churchgoers. Long’s New Birth Church, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church and other Church of Christ churches were targeted in what the SEC estimates to be an $11 Million dollar ponzi scheme:
Taylor, 29, a charismatic entrepreneur, speaker and former CEO of City Capital Corporation, and the company’s chief operating officer, Wendy Connor, were charged with soliciting the money from at least 350 people, SEC said. A great majority of these people had one thing in common – they were practicing Christians.
Taylor was targeting primarily church congregations, preying on their beliefs and emphasizing their common Christian heritage, appealing to their faith and convincing them that a portion of invested money would be spent on charitable causes and useful community projects, SEC believes. In fact, the money went into a grand pyramid scheme, as well as Taylor’s personal usage, the agency alleges.
The SEC believes the scheme to be a typical affinity fraud – a kind of investment fraud that preys upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities.
“This kind of schemes prey upon inherent trust,” David L. Peavler, Associate Regional Director at the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office, told CP. They are also particularly dangerous for potential victims because “if you’re an investor and someone comes to you and they profess to believe the same things you do, or have the same background that you do, you may be more trusting that they are telling you the truth; that they have your interest in mind. And you might be less willing to ask questions,” he said. (source)
Long’s congregants were exposed to the charismatic Taylor when he was invited by Long to speak at worship service. Taylor advertised his services specifically to churches with ads that read: “Will you continue to stand by and let your church drown financially?” the advertisement reads. “It’s time to take action now by hosting a financial empowerment seminar at YOUR CONGREGATION with Minister Ephren W. Taylor, II.” Once there Taylor, who received a full endorsement from Long at the pulpit, promised huge returns on investments for the church members, all the while using their money to promote his books and finance his lavish lifestyle. In the meantime, Long’s congregants suffered:
Lillian Wells told CNN that she decided to invest with Taylor because she was looking for extra income after she had been laid off her job and had gone into real estate, and Taylor had her convinced the investment was a “sure thing.” However, Wells lost at least $122,000 in retirement savings and two years later she has had to foreclose her house. “I’ve been hurt,” Wells told CNN. “I’m looking for resolution and restitution at this point, and I haven’t gotten that.” The lawsuit claims that that not only was Taylor not licensed to sell investments, but City Capital Corp. was bankrupt, information that both defendants should have known. (source)
Prosperity Gospel — Promoting The Love of Money
At this point is should be asked: why would a “financial guru” be invited to “preach” at a church service? There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that instructs a pastor to coach Christians on attaining financial success or “get rich quick” schemes. But for the heresy of the Prosperity Gospel, also known as Word of Faith or “name it and claim it” doctrine, which says that as a Christian, your faith entitles you to all sorts of worldly wealth and material gain, sermons on maximizing wealth are commonplace. This is not from the Bible and is nothing but a tool of Satan that is infiltrating the church. Jesus Christ preached against focusing on material wealth:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and [money].” – Matthew 6:19-24
The point Jesus was making is that Christians should not be focused on present-day, material wealth. Our focus and goals should be set on eternal life, which comes through faith in Jesus Christ, and Heavenly riches, which God bestows on all believers. If someone’s eye is focused on making money then it reveals where their heart’s desire is. The Prosperity Gospel encourages its followers to put all their focus on making money today. Wealth, good health, good looks and successful relationships are all available when you just call out for it in faith, plant a “seed” by sending money to the Pastor and wait for God to deliver the blessing (called the “name it and claim it” method). Eddie Long, TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, Paula White, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn are just a few of the big name, big money false prophets teaching this heretical doctrine.
Jesus Christ healed many people. Jesus Chris forgave sins. Jesus even raised people from the dead and never once charged anyone money nor asked for it. Money had absolutely nothing to do with His ministry nor did He ever teach His disciples to ask for money from people or to give money to receive a blessing. Yet so many pastors are doing this today. And they are quoting scripture to try to support their focus on material gain. Here is Long preaching the Prosperity Gospel:
Long bases his entire exhortation that “if you don’t tithe, you won’t get fed!” based on this verse:
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. – Malachi 3:810
This verse has been ripped from context to guilt many well-meaning Christians into turning over their money to pastors. The Prosperity Gospel teaches that giving money to the church/TV ministry is a demonstration of one’s faith, which God then rewards by giving you back even more money. Long not only turns this into some type of financial transaction with God (using terms like “10% of the gross”), he even compares it to going to a Las Vegas casino with The Lord, who is asking the believer to “take a risk with me.” This is blasphemous and a mishandling of the text. From the beginning of human civilization, God has wanted our love and obedience. Not our money. Faith, like love, is in the heart, not in what can be seen and given in the material world. The first thing to note about the above passage from Malachi is that the tithe in question was not money, it was food. Under God’s command, the tribe of Levi were chosen to work as priests in the Holy Temple and owned no land. Thus it was the responsibility of the other 11 tribes of Israel to support them.
The tithe in this passage was specifically a part of the law of Moses in the Old Testament for the ancient nation of Israel (as opposed to New Testament giving which is to be cheerful and done as the Spirit leads the individual to give). The money involved was used to purchase items for the operation of the temple for ritual sacrifices and worship. It had nothing to do with paying money to a priest. And there were certain priests responsible for taking part of the tithes and putting that in the “storehouse” for The Lord:
And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house. — Nehemiah 10:38.
The Hebrew word for “treasure house”, owtsar, is the same word translated as “storehouse” in the verse Eddie Long uses. So the priests themselves were required to tithe, giving portion of what they received in a special storehouse for God. And instead of putting their proper contributions into the storehouse, they were stealing it and thus “robbing God.” The passage in question is God scolding the priests for not acting Godly. But the Lord promises that if the sinful priests repented of their bad acts and started worshiping The Lord, He would then bless them. And 2,400 years later pastors are now misusing the verse to once again promote corruption in the Lord’s House.
The Prosperity Gospel Heresy – Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
When once questioned about his multi-million dollar earnings, Long responded:
“We’re not just a church, we’re an international corporation…We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I deal with the White House. I deal with Tony Blair. I deal with presidents around this world. I pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation.
“You’ve got to put me on a different scale than the little black preacher sitting over there that’s supposed to be just getting by because the people are suffering.” (source)
It is sad to see such arrogance, boasting and financial focus from someone who is supposed to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the Bible prophesied that as the End Times approached, false teachers would infiltrate the church, perverting the simple Gospel and bringing in sinful lusts into Christianity: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19)
The Apostle wrote about the false preachers who did not truly worship God but instead worshiped “their belly”, meaning they were focused on their desires and personal gain. Notice also the verse that their “glory is in their shame.” Prosperity preachers repeatedly brag about their outlandish wealth,powerful connections, luxury cars and designer clothes to their followers. And with a constant focus on money and wealth being tied to God’s blessing, they are stirring up the lusts in their congregations and making them vulnerable to financial scams and ponzi schemes like the one Ephren Taylor was running.
Eddie Long has already come under fire allegations of molesting four young men who were a part of his youth ministry (he reached an out of court settlement with them) and most recently for holding a bizarre ritual in which the Prosperity Gospel preacher was proclaimed “King” and hoisted up in the air in a throne by a Rabbi during church service (we covered the event here). Pray for Eddie Long, Taylor and all the promoters of the Prosperity Gospel heresy to repent of this false doctrine and realize that true prosperity comes in eternal life from faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible is clear that trying to use faith in God to gain wealth is not a part of God’s plan:
[The false teacher] is proud, knowing nothing… supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. – 1 Timothy 6:4-11.