Typically speaking, the Pentecostal church hasn’t always paid enough attention to the reality of suffering; and has often made some bad calls about the nature of a person’s suffering. The fact that we live in a fallen world where sin and pain is a reality hasn’t made the cut for many sermons preached among charismatics – but does this mean that what we are preaching is false? Not necessarily. The “prosperity gospel” is the name given to the teaching that God wants us, and will enable us, to only be healthy, wealthy, happy, comfortable and successful in life. It’s not Biblical, and it’s not practical. Due to the desire to combat such false teaching, many churches have gone as far as lumping any teaching on wealth, health, and success from God to be “prosperity” teaching. Due to the nature of the Pentecostal church’s birth, and it’s continued focus on miracles, transformation and “life to the fullest”, a lot of people now automatically associate Pentecostal teaching with prosperity teaching.
Due to the messy/eclectic nature of the Pentecostal denomination, it’s hard to assess its stance on a subject. In Australia, the ACC (Australian Christian Churches) is the largest body of Pentecostal churches who come together under one board of leadership, so it’s assumed that the ACC statement of beliefs are a fairly accurate representation of at least most Pentecostal churches in Australia. So, what does the ACC say about prosperity? Their statement is:
We believe that God wants to heal and transform us so that we can live healthy and prosperous lives in order to help others more effectively.
There are two main things to take away from this: 1. It’s biblical, and 2. It’s not for our own happiness, but for the glory of God.
While Jesus did teach more about suffering and persecution than love and prosperity, he also led a life of healing and transformation. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and performed many miracles, as did the early church leaders. The book of John teaches us that these works testified that Jesus was the Messiah, because they were the works of God. It also teaches us that Jesus only did what the Father did/what was pleasing to the Father. So, it’s fair to believe, based on the living Word of God, that it is God’s will to heal and transform lives. Furthermore, God created the world as a place of life and peace. Before evil entered the world, there was no lack. If we, as Christians, truly believe that Jesus came to restore the world back to God’s original creation, and to eternally defeat evil, then we can believe that includes providing for our needs and healing us emotionally, physically and spiritually.
I won’t pretend to know of any passages in the New Testament off the top of my head that directly teach on material wealth as a good thing. However, in Acts 16 we meet a wealthy woman named Lydia. She is specifically mentioned, along with the hospitality she offered to Paul, and to the community. Lydia’s wealth is not painted as a negative thing or obstacle to her faith – it’s actually presented as a positive point, and as an asset to the early church in her community. If no Christian was meant to prosper, there would have been significantly less churches in the early days. There would have been no funding for missionary journeys, and the gospel would have spread much slower. This is still true today. Whether by miraculous circumstances, or simply God’s placement of you in your profession and society; wealth has continually served God’s purposes. So, presumably, God does prosper many believers (not to mention Abraham, Jacob, the Hebrews before their exodus, Israel as a nation, Daniel, etc.).
Blessed to be a blessing
As in Lydia’s case, the ACC believes that God wants to heal, transform and prosper us not so that we can live happy and comfortable lives, but so that we can bless others and show God’s love through generosity and hospitality, or to show how God has changed us, and so that through this, others may come to believe and worship Him.
The message of healing and prosperity has often been manipulated and taught in opposition to what the Bible really says. It’s not only sad, but dangerous, and shouldn’t be condoned by the church. But, Jesus did warn of false teachers. So did Peter and Paul. This is the world we live in – it is still fallen. Evil is still present. Until Jesus come again, there will always be evil people who use religion as a smoke screen for their own selfish and sinful desires. Unfortunately, Pentecostalism is often an easy denomination for “prosperity preachers” to find a way in, due our strong belief that it is God’s desire to bless His people.
This is why it is important for Pentecostal churches to come under the leadership of a denominational board; so that we can determine what we stand for, and officially condemn false teaching. We are still a new denomination and need to establish official stances and doctrinal beliefs. Though we may need to pick up the slack on teaching the reality of suffering and evil; we cannot be accused of heresy for believing that God desires to bless us.
 John 10:10
 John 10:25, 37
 John 5:19, 8:28-29