Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," declares the Lord. "They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least," declares the Lord. - Jeremiah 23: 32 (NIV)
New Light Christian Center Church (NLCCC) has six campuses in the Houston Texas area. There are 28,000 members who attend every Sunday. There are 8,000 people alone who attend the main campus. That venue was purchased from Joel Osteen when his church moved into the old Houston Rockets arena. Hallelujah! Pass the offering plate! I open with the statistics of this church to highlight the depth of the continuing poison running through the Body of Christ, that is prosperity doctrine. Because the lead pastor of this mega church is yet another false prophet fleecing the church for his own material benefit. Another wolf in sheep's clothing devouring people who desperately need Jesus.
"Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? - Matthew 7: 15-16 (NLT)
So what is the fruit of Pastor I.V. Hilliard; the senior pastor of NLCCC? His sprawling mansion covers 24,000 square feet and the property boasts 30 bedrooms, 36 baths, as well as guest houses, which cover 3500 square feet each. He also has his own private plane and in 2011 gave his wife a $398,000 Rolls Royce Phantom for Mother's Day. Now, it is usually at this point that some Christians and Christian leaders ask if I am against making money and the answer is no. I do think however that we use that to excuse away what is exorbitant and excessive displays of wealth. At some point you cross a line if you are supposed to be serving God. In 2009 Houston had 28% of its people were living below the poverty line yet the wife of Pastor Hilliard is known for hosting her own lavish birthday parties where she charges $100 to attend and recommends designer bags and gift cards from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue as presents. The first gift recommendation however is money. This is an actual excerpt from the invitation:
"Don't be afraid to give cash, that's why we put it at the top of the list and if you're giving a designer handbag, no knock-offs. Pastor Bridget deserves genuine Gucci. We'll be checking for authenticity and we wouldn't want to embarrass you in front of all the other church members"
Pastor Bridget deserves actual Gucci? If you give a knock off you will get embarrassed in front of all the other church members? You just cannot make this stuff up beloved. And remember that 28,000 people attend this place every week! I refuse to call it a church because it is not. It is a wolves den filled with the most reprehensible of characters milking money from poor people and corrupting the Body of Christ. For a $50 activation fee and $100 annual membership fee, Pastor Hilliard will serve as a "father" for up and coming pastors. While that sounds absurdly ridiculous there are over 1200 such pastoral members. For another $200 per month you can be part of Hilliard's "Wisdom Connection." This gives you access to his sermon notes, audio and video of his sermons, and VIP access to notes from any classes he might teach.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. - James 1: 5 (NIV)
God gives generously but Hilliard charges $200 per month. This charlatan couple came to my attention however because according to Pastor Hilliard, God spoke to him and wants him to upgrade his helicopter. Having no apparent intention of paying for it himself, Hilliard sent a letter to membership in which he stated that he uses a biblical principle of sowing financial seed into a ministry area that he has a personal need in his life. So, the letter is asking people if they have a "transportation need" they are relying on God for. This includes repairing or replacing a current vehicle or chasing your dream luxury vehicle. Hilliard claims the Holy Spirit told him to have people sow a $52 "transportation favor seed" and within 52 days or 52 weeks, they should expect their transportation need to be met! Hallelujah! Send your offering in! Of course God said no such thing to this false prophet. Maybe he can convince himself that the "Holy Spirit" told him to steal money from the poor in order to replace the blades on his helicopter but that is patently ridiculous.
I can hear well intended Christian leaders objecting already. God doesn't want us to be poor! We need to realize as leaders that this is a distortion at worst and at best it is a straw man argument. The teachings from Jesus cannot be any clearer. We are not supposed to be chasing the things of this world; especially money. The love of money is the root of all evil. Prosperity hucksters are so absorbed in selling you earthly riches they will stop at nothing, including the integrity of Scripture, to get your money. In his letter, Hilliard references Mark 10: 27-30:
Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God." Then Peter began to speak up. "We've given up everything to follow you," he said. "Yes," Jesus replied, "and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property--along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. - Mark 10: 27-30 (NLT)
This is what hucksters routinely do. They take a smattering a verses here or there that prop up their false doctrine and leave out the context. These verses come right after the story of the rich young ruler. These verses are right in the middle of the lessons Jesus was teaching on the dangers of money. In fact, the verse immediately preceding this was where Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven! That is what is "impossible." Only a lying shill like Hilliard can use the teachings of Jesus against money to ask you for money! What did the Apostle Paul teach us?
You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ's authority, knowing that God is watching us. - 2Corinthians 2: 17 (NLT)
There is nothing sincere about a millionaire pastor asking poor people to "sow" $52 to replace the blades on his personal helicopter. He does not speak with any authority, which is why he tries to alter the clear meaning of Scripture. Sadly, the likes of Mr. Hilliard have no fear of the Lord in them. They do not operate as if God is watching. They will have much to answer for. I do not think we properly count the cost of this type of leaven spreading through the church. I think we turn a blind eye to it or like the 28,000 plus, we buy into it because we want a god who is going to bless us with our luxury automobile for $52. We want the god Joel Osteen serves; who wants everyone to have this year be their year of supernatural blessing. We want the seeker friendly-purpose driven god who requires nothing from us. We want the grace-alone god who tells us not to worry about sin anymore. Hilliard is successful because he has created a god that sells really well to the poor; just like the lottery does. But none of these are the real God and that should be the point. I was watching a secular debate show this week where the commentators were espousing that churches need to come into "modernity" if they are going to survive. Translation is that churches need to compromise the God they believe in because society wants the sins they want. The problem of course is not that the Gospel is insufficient. It is that the Gospel not being preached. It is being replaced by seeker friendly wolves. It is being replaced by purpose driven wolves. It is being replaced by prosperity hucksters such as I.V. Hilliard, who claims God told him, a millionaire, to get the money to fix his helicopter from the sheep he is supposed to shepherding.
The key verse today forces us to count the cost. The statement right up front should be crystal clear. The Lord declares that He is against those who prophesy false dreams. You know, those people who tell you that God told them to allow you to sow money into their helicopter fund. Those people who insist that church is a business. Those people who are more interested in the unchurched instead of the unsaved. Why is God so against this? The same reason we should be! There are three reasons given in this key verse. First of all, they are leading people astray with their lies. The dictionary defines astray as "away from what is right." This is no minor matter beloved and there are two different things for us to consider. First is that the elect of God are led astray. That means that people who are genuinely saved are no longer on the correct path God has for them. Remember, there were 1200 pastoral members who paid to have Hilliard be their "father." Dear Lord. Most of the modern churches now have fully embraced the seeker friendly and purpose driven models of church growth. This false gospel has now been widely accepted as gospel truth. What happens when the elect are led astray?
For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. - Ephesians 2: 10 (NLT)