We're heading into the fall when for some reason preachers seem to think is the season for beating the sheep with abusive tithing messages. Go back and look at my blog articles in October 2010 for the worst of the worst - including Ed Young's infamous attempt to get checking account numbers, after telling everyone that if they don't "bring the tithe" they might as well stop coming to church and wasting his time (Ed's) and God's time.
So that brings me to right now, August 2013, in Jacksonville, Florida. The largest church in our city, Celebration Church, pastored by Stovall Weems, has been not just preaching the tithe as a requirement for Christians to be blessed by God and avoid calamity - which Stovall does preach - but they have moved now in the direction of "prosperity gospel" preaching.
The latest proof of this was on Sunday August 18th, when Stovall Weems introduced Robert Morris of Gateway Church to the Celebration congregation to preach a sermon on how to make a "Financial Comeback".
Morris' sermon wasn't just another of his pleas to tithe to avoid financial calamity - it went beyond that in being a plea to give money because Jesus is waiting for you to give it to him FIRST before even your family gets it, but that Jesus will mysteriously give it BACK to you later. Like in many of his sermons Morris purports to speak directly for God, telling people what God says.
But sadly, Stovall has taught the same prosperity gospel stuff as well, as I will show this week. And this is not the first time I've addressed the teachings of Robert Morris. He teaches tithing is a must to avoid divorce, and losing your job, losing your kids - and he checks tithing records of those who would date his daughter ("...why would I give my daughter to a thief?")
In the next posts I will put some video clips of this Morris sermon up he preached at Celebration, along with some clips of recent Stovall Weems sermons, to show that this church has now moved in the direction of prosperity gospel: that if you give money to the church, God will miraculously give it back to you.
What makes this so particularly sad in my city is that Celebration Church is filled with so many sincere - yet gullible - young Christians, listening to a handsome, hip preacher who has a gift for persuasive speaking. It is done in the venue of a rock concert, complete with fog, bright lights, and extremely loud music, and beautiful people on stage. My hope in shining a light on these teachings is to help these young Christians not be duped by a phony message wrapped in a beautiful, cool, hip package.
And it is a message that will hurt them financially, and ultimately hurt them spiritually when they realize they've been duped by a masterful marketing strategy.
I know members of Celebration Church will come here and tell me all the wonderful ministries of Celebration Church and who am I to criticize. I know, I get it. I'm not here to say Celebration is all bad.
But the truth must be told for the good of the people in the churches - not just the young people at Celebration, but young adults at OTHER churches in Jacksonville who will be drawn to Celebration's glitzy, rock-style venue and hip pastor. Pastors in this city, parents in this city: you need to know what is taught regarding finances and giving if your teens and young adults pick up and move to the "greener" pastures of Celebration Church.
And the Watchdog is only more than happy to help out, so stay tuned.
(below is the back drop of a tithing sermon preached by Josh Turner of Celebration Church to the college group this past July)