I was recently blessed to be called on to join a blog tour and review Rev. Dr. Debra J. Mumford’s new book on prosperity preaching, a subject that always sets my heart on fire! And I don’t mean in a good way, as you all know, because my blood boils when I think about the manipulations, trickery and emotional oppression that goes into most prosperity preaching. I happen to view the bulk of these preachers as greed filled hypocritical materialists, unfazed by the things of God or God’s sovereignty, even as they boldly twist the Word of God to suit their bottomless lust for riches and power. Anyway, after reading Dr. Mumford’s balanced view of this controversial subject, I was left with a new and expanded outlook on it all.
In her book, Dr. Mumford objectively looks at and weighs the negatives and positives of the prosperity gospel. Now I must admit that I was intrigued when I was told that this book would look objectively at the pros and cons of this subject. I had no understanding that there WERE any pros. Well, we live and learn daily! If we pay attention, God will teach us something from a subject or situation that all we could do was disdain as beneath us. With disdain as my foundation, and not realizing what blessings would come to me, I started reading “Exploring Prosperity Preaching” to see what Sister Debra would say about it.
Lo and behold, my sister had quite a bit to say, and in a very straightforward and concise way. I especially liked her chapter breakdowns, in which she uses a popular catchphrase of the prosperity gospel movement for each chapter title. For example:
Chapter 2: The Word Of God Means Exactly What It Says.
Chapter 3: The World’s Economy Is Not Your Economy.
Chapter 4: Poverty Is A Curse And Jesus Was Not Poor.
Chapter 5: God Is Your Source.
She starts off the Chapters by highlighting a particular Prosperity Preacher and his style of interpreting certain scriptures for his congregation. She gives a bit of background in how the preacher comes to his understanding of the particular scripture, showing the plausibility of his interpretation. She brings history into the mix to show the forefathers – the ones who originally put forth the scripture’s understanding into place. Also within each chapter is the “Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff” section, my favorite aspect. Here is where Dr. Mumford exegetes the text, which is what we all should do. She examines the text more closely – comparing and contrasting the prosperity preacher’s interpretation with other interpretations. Basically she questions the conclusion that the particular pastor arrives at in informing his position.
To be sure, none of us has to be a biblical scholar to “exegete” which simply means to study a particular passage of scripture from different angles. We have to be willing to study the bible for ourselves first of all, then to approach our study with a certain amount of openness. We need to have a spirit of receptiveness to a new point of view so we can draw Godly conclusions. We need this, because we don’t want to fall into dogma, which is dangerous. As we know, the bible has been interpreted in all kinds of false ways in order to justify all kinds of evil.
In separating the wheat from the chaff, Rev. Debra illuminates the good aspects of the prosperity gospel, which is its strong belief in God’s sovereign power in our lives. She points out the prosperity gospel’s unshakeable faith in God’s ability to change our circumstances. The Prosperity Gospel is nothing if it isn’t about having faith in God. When I thought about this fact, I had to admit it and say, “yes, it is so”. That realization expanded my mind. And that is what’s so wonderful about this small, but heavy book, Exploring Prosperity Preaching, Biblical Health, Wealth and Wisdom. I appreciate that it showed me something of value in the prosperity gospel that I never would have found otherwise. The Word of God is so big, that it is more than able to meet anyone on any level of their Christian walk, even if it’s in a pit of disdainfulness. Debra’s book reminds me, and all of us with an ear to hear, just how powerful and wonderful God is. There are lessons that can bless us, even in dry and desolate places.
What stands out for me is that Dr Mumford gets right to the crux of her subject matter. She’s not wasting words saying more than what needs to be said to teach the lesson. Exploring Prosperity Preaching is laid out in a very reader friendly manner, clearly and succinctly making its points. I highly recommend this book for your library.