Matthew 7:15 (NIV) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11: (NIV) “…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

2 Timothy 2:23 - 25 (NIV) - 23Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Celebration Church in Jacksonville Now Moving into Prosperity Gospel Teachings

As long-time readers of this blog know, I have written much about preachers misleading people about tithing and finances. I spoke up against my former pastor telling people that God would poke holes in their pocketbooks if they didn't tithe, they God would "blow it all away" if they didn't fork over 10% to their church, and that Americans  should get ready for God's judgment for all those pesky non-tithers sitting in pews.

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)


Anonymous said...

"It's all about the Benjamins"

Well at least they are being honest about it.

Victorious said...

I'm wondering if this "phase 2" or "plan B" method might be indicative of failing finances. The increased push may reflect a growing number of believers who are more knowledgeable about tithing and see this for what it is.

One can only hope. Keep up the good work, Watchdog! Expose the deception of the hirelings!

Bro.Rod said...

Dr.Dog this no surprise to me that Celebration has gone prosperity. Celebration was a seeker friendly church from the very beginning, and seeker-friendly churches always have a tendency to morph into the prosperity gospel format, because they are so closely related. The next churches that will morph will be the Image and 11-22 churches.
They begin with some christian orthdoxy to draw in people, then when they grow and become large and begin to branch out with the satellite churches the costs rises, now couple that with the pastors own greed and you must migrate to a format that encourages giving. Therefore the transformation is complete. "PROSPERITY DOCTRINE"!!!

Worse and Worse, Dr.Dog, Worse and Worse!!!

Ronnie said...

What a bunch of con men!

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say how refreshing it was at church today with Junior Hill preaching. It was nice to hear a salvation message instead of a History lesson. This reminded me of the way it use to be at our church. Instead of only singing one stanza like we normally sing then going home, we sang about 6 stanzas and people were still coming forward to be saved. It's sad to see what has happened to our church since the days of Homer Lindsay. We no longer have visitation on Tuesday nights and Training Union on Sunday Nights. We have now gotten use to having a preacher use the pulpit as a bully pulpit and get upset when he doesn't receive an "amen" during his sermon when he thinks there should be one. We have gone from having a humble pastor to having a pastor who is wanting to make a name for himself in Jacksonville. If you notice when the news media wants an opinion about something religious they use to ask Drs. Lindsay and Vines what they thought but now they don't bother asking the current pastor his opinion, instead they go to other churches and get their views on the subject. Sad how we never hear our pastor talking about himself going out on visitation. Dr. Lindsay would always tell the funniest stories about some of the experiences he had on visitation.

Anonymous said...

I am going to discuss with my co-host the money wants of today's ministers this Thursday evening on our radio show. We read a local minister's post that reminded his congregants that "tithe" money needs to stay at home, in other words, his offering plate rather than say a missionary or an orphanage....and we'll be discussing the pastor who asked for more money even thought the church who is losing members left and right still has 3 full time staff ( one of who is eligible to retire.).....the pastor will be eligible to retire in a couple of years and is in the as the Army calls it, R.O.A.D.....and letting the church fall apart.

Nicholas said...

All, check out the latest post by Christa Brown at StopBaptistPredators:

Anonymous said...

Watchdog, speaking of Robert Morris/Gateway Church, it sadly goes even deeper than the prosperity gospel.

This church recently created a deplorable, blasphemous "musical" as a bread and circus for the rich people in the congregation.

This cheap commercialization of the gospel is not cute or funny, it is a manipulative diatribe that, among other things, puts forth the idea of a "world religion" under the guise of a musical comedy. Take a look at the section "I am Jesus, too."

In this economy, at a time when so many people are suffering, it is reminiscent of the decadence shown by the church that offered cruises with the pastor, which you previously reported on.

This church resides in one of the richest communities in the nation which does virtually NO community outreach and when it does, it asks the congregation to pay for it, (back to school supplies, Christmas toys, ect).


FormerFellow said...

Anon 12:55...In your neighborhood there in Southlake is another great leader, Ed Young, whose Fellowship Church is reaching out to the rich and famous too, by opening up a 'satellite' church in, drum roll, Highland Park Village. Yes that Highland Park, even more money, real money, olllllddddd money in Highland Park, and it looks like good ol Ed is going after it.

Plus, he just moved out of his massive compound on Lake Grapevine, opting now to rub elbows with the young and restless in new house digs there in Highland Park.

I guess some preachers are just called to minister to the rich. Wonder when Fellowship or Gateway or any of the other of these cats will open a church in the more economically struggling areas of Dallas? Hmmm?

Anonymous said...


Yes, they are "called" to minister to the rich and to tell the poor people who dare to set foot in their church palaces that they will never get out of their circumstances unless they tithe. Highland Park is probably wealthier than Southlake. And it's "old" money.

Oh, ok. How about mentoring or looking to help unemployed people find work if they can pass a background check and meet the basic job skills.

These men have the love of money, not the love of Christ in them. That is evidenced by Watchdog's video of Ed Young and so many others that show so clearly the disdain they have for their congregations.

As we all know, Jesus said, 'Whatever you did the least of these, you also did for me.'

He didn't say whatever you do to the WEALTHIEST of these.

He even warned us about everything that's happening in the church right now, too...

Anonymous said...

Isn't preachers going after the wealthy sorta like doctors that like wealthy patients vs. dealing with the poor where it's probably a lot messier and more difficult or frustrating? Besides, dealing with the poor might make it more obvious that Jesus doesn't really solve your problems. Whereas with the wealthy, they don't need Jesus as much cause they have money, which truly does help solve problems.

Anonymous said...

And someone mentioned the economically-needy areas of Dallas. Isn't Dallas where that huge Baptist church built a palace with a fountain out front? If that doesn't tell you what modern Christianity is all about, I don't know what would. Just look at the picture of that church to see their priorities. No need to guess what they might be. Outsiders, especially, can see this.

Anonymous said...

That Sunday was my last service at that church, if I can call it that. To preach the law and suggest some magical return on your giving is absurd. I dont doubt God can and will bless you, but it may or may not be financial. They undermine the soveirngty of God and cannot promise a financial blessing. Tithes were never monetary, only from the land, from within the holy city, given to the Levitical priests. So much for Spirit-led giving and generosity to serve those truly in need. They cant argue that Abraham and Jacob gave, it was a one time occurance, and it was voluntary, and was never a command from God. Abraham gave 10% to God, and the other 90% to the king of Sodom!. Nowhere in the New testament did Jesus, Peter, or Paul advocate "tithing", and if it was some pre-law mandate, it would have be reitterated and commanded from the churches.

pogWo4life said...

Just for the record, Gateway does PLENTY of community outreach, I have been a part of it firsthand.

pogWo4life said...

"This church resides in one of the richest communities in the nation which does virtually NO community outreach and when it does, it asks the congregation to pay for it, (back to school supplies, Christmas toys, ect)."

First of all those are called DONATIONS in which our church body gladly and lovingly give with a cheerful heart.

You don't know what you are talking about.

William Quinn said...

I am pogWo4life, but from now on I am going to use my real name on here.

I want to share this and more than likely, it doesn't fit in with the subject at hand. doesn't bother me.

Before I went to Gateway Church, I was in a church that taught a religious system called Calvinism. The sad thing about it was that I was so blind to the system I did not know there was an actual term for it until I got to Gateway. At my old church I was trying to follow this system which I thought all of that time was Christianity. All I can say is that my last few years at my old church, I was miserable. I had no presence of the holy spirit there at my old church. When I got to Gateway it was a breath of fresh air for me. I was not there because I read the blessed life, but for the presence of the holy spirit which I was missing.

I am so greatful for the blessings that Gateway has given me, and it is not all because of my tithing (which I do with a cheerful is possible by the way) but because or heavenly father is a loving father who wants to take care of his children, and I firmly believe that him leading me to Gateway shows that he has the best in plans for me.

I am in the process of writing a book about my experiences and journey to where I am. Very excited about it.

Anonymous said...

Dear William,

Don't trivialize the gospel by claiming Jesus will only take care of His people if they give a money-grabbing church their money.

Jesus paid it all on the cross, not because you're paying money to Gateway Church. I didn't know I could "buy" my way into heaven, or buy God's favor.

Isn't it really true, that it is Gateway Church, that wants to decide who will or will not be "taken care of" by blocking job opportunities and saying bad things about people so they do not get hired by other businesses or religious groups? Especially if a person has the ability to point to things that would make the church look not so Godly, after all?

You're all a bunch of Pharisees.

It's about time you people are exposed for what you really are.

Anonymous said...

Forgot something. William is bluffing. Gateway does accept tithes, that is true. But the tithes are not used for community outreach. That is why the congregation is annually asked to buy Christmas gift cards, Thanksgiving groceries and little trinkets for the once-yearly trip to a homeless shelter in Dallas.


Anonymous said...

I went to Celebration from 2010-2011 and it was promoting the prosperity gospel then. In the small groups, blatant Word of Faith teachings were promoted (i.e., Joseph Prince). Recently, Stovall Weems and other WoF proponents participated in a revival at another relevant, up-and-coming church here in Jax. The prosperity gospel is definitely finding its way into churches everywhere.

William Quinn said...

"Don't trivialize the gospel by claiming Jesus will only take care of His people if they give a money-grabbing church their money."

Sorry but I don't see where you are coming from with at

"Jesus paid it all on the cross, not because you're paying money to Gateway Church. I didn't know I could "buy" my way into heaven, or buy God's favor."

I am not trying to "buy" myself into heaven, You are the one that brought that up not me.

"Isn't it really true, that it is Gateway Church, that wants to decide who will or will not be "taken care of" by blocking job opportunities and saying bad things about people so they do not get hired by other businesses or religious groups? Especially if a person has the ability to point to things that would make the church look not so Godly, after all?"

You are coming from left field on that one bro, and you are not basing that on facts.

"You're all a bunch of Pharisees."

Really, I thought I left my old church because they seemed like Pharisees to me.

"It's about time you people are exposed for what you really are."

Wow I am shaking in my boots bro, it's funny since I have the guts to identify myself, maybe it would be wise for you to stop hiding behind the "anonymous" curtain and expose yourself for whom you are.

"Forgot something. William is bluffing. Gateway does accept tithes, that is true. But the tithes are not used for community outreach. "

Then explain what they are used for, and don't say for pastor robert's personal enjoyment.

"That is why the congregation is annually asked to buy Christmas gift cards, Thanksgiving groceries and little trinkets"

I am sorry but if they do it with a cheerful heart, I don't see why you are so offended by that. Who in your mind should pay for it then?

for the once-yearly trip to a homeless shelter in Dallas."

So not true bro. Lot's more than that.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about you all, but I love giving to my church and giving to my God. Life isn't all about money. Life is all about god. What does the Bible say about giving to back to God? I didn't see anybody quote scripture. Don't hate the church. Help build the church.
2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Proverbs 11:24 ESV

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

Anonymous said...

I went to Celebration for around 1 1/2 years and there is absolute merit to a church teaching what tithing is really all about. I did learn that and many other foundational teachings from that church. However, I didn't like the 6 week long series on tithing- OVERKILL!! Also, my friend who still goes there said they did the same series AGAIN this year. It's just too much!

Pastor Stovall is a very passionate and talented speaker and when he's focused on just preaching the bible it was very educational and enlightening.

Anonymous said...

I'm appalled at what I'm hearing from my brothers and sisters from the church here- especially considering the majority of you have probably never set foot in Gateway Church. First of all, don't measure a church's spirituality by the affluence or lack thereof if the community that attends. Nonsense. Also you should know that since its founding, Gateway Church has not once passed the plate to the congregation. They also only do one sermon on giving a year and it's only partly based on tithing. Robert Morris's open and honest intention is to lead his congregation to develop what he calls a "Culture of Giving," which includes giving service, time, compassion, talents (you may not like the fact they're so "contemporary," but it's the church's way of opening up the opportunity for everyone to contribute their God-given creative talents to the church-- this includes the Christmas play they do every year), and yes, it includes giving money that goes to mission outreach (about 20+ international a year), feeding the hungry in the DFW area, and allowing the pastors' families to not starve. And yet despite the apparent financial success of Gateway Church, they don't praise it as a result of their own endeavors-- absolutely everything is from God and therefore God gets the glory for it all. If this congregation had nothing, God would still get the glory because even without material luxuries or even necessities, the people know they are only and completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ alone.

Also, Calvinism? I'm sorry but, no. I've studied Calvinism at my university and they are far from it. They are nondenominational charismatics because they believe that God is still doing miracles and healings. But the congregation really doesn't prefer titles, they would rather represent Christ to a lost and broken world.

Anyway, I'm done with my rant. You all should reconsider despising a group of Christians because of someone like Watchdog's impression of them and if you want to discern, discern by the Holh Spirit like God told you to. Go to Gateway Church and see it for yourself, for the sake of love.

kirkwood said...

We grew up in the Strict order of churches Known as Independent Fundamentalists. We grew up with the "Mob Boss" God mentality. "If you don't pay your tithes, you put your money in bags with holes." We were taught that God uses: sickness to teach us, uses a car wreck to correct us" Yet the Bibles states that " The GOODNESS of God leadeth thee to repentance" lol It seams that once you are His(God's) Child all HELL breaks loose. Doesn't that seem like an internet marketer. Lure you in with sweetness then after you're mine "WHOMP" you over your head for any "SIN" you may commit. Especially the Greatest sin of "Not paying God off".
We are looking for a Church that preaches like Joseph prince,Andrew Whommack or Creflo Dollar. Here in Jacksonville, FL.

I prophesy that if any church rises in Jacksonville, that preach the true Grace of God and not all this Brow beating, guilt riding sermons. That church, will cause many of the people to leave their Backwards LAW keeping Churches.

Jesus said, Not one jot or title of the law shall fail until it be fulfilled. HE(Jesus) fulfilled it and completed it, and now the Law is done in Christ. So If (sense) we are in Christ we have Also FULFILLED THE LAW.

Pastors if you want me to help turn your church into the GRACE Preaching PEOPLE MAGNET email me.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of trying this church but the I saw they had Td Jakes and was skeptical on what they were teaching. Td Jakes is fake. If you watch video of Tyler Perry supposely blessing him in tongues and Td falling out and shaking it was bunch theatrics! Sad really