The prosperity gospel has influenced a large number of Christians across a broad section of the Christian faith, according to Deji Ayegboyin, president and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Baptist Convention.
“It is obvious that prosperity teaching is a phenomenon that cuts across denominational barriers. Prosperity teaching can be found in varying degrees in mainstream Protestant, Pentecostal as well as charismatic churches.
“Prosperity teaching had its roots in the United States [and] is now very popular in the South Atlantic, particularly in Africa,” said Ayegboyin, who was speaking during the 8th Baptist International Conference on Theological Education (BICTE).
He said many leaders within the prosperity gospel movement have their roots in evangelical churches and traditions or were brought up under the influence of evangelical parachurch ministries.
The Nigerian Baptist leader was generally critical of the prosperity gospel movement, which he said has had widespread influence in Nigeria and other countries of western Africa, such as Ghana.
Many proponents, he said, have “moved away from key and fundamental tenets of the evangelical faith, including the authority and priority of the Bible as the Word of God, and the centrality of the cross of Christ.”
It is obvious, he said, “that the teachings of those who most vigorously promote the prosperity gospel can be spurious and unbiblical and that the impact on many churches is pastorally damaging and spiritually unhealthy.”
Ayegboyin insisted “it is unbiblical to teach that spiritual welfare can be measured only in terms of material welfare, or that wealth is always a sign of God’s blessing or that poverty or illness or early death is always a sign of God’s curse, or human curses.”
He declared it dangerous “to conclude that success in life is entirely due to our own striving or cleverness. Those elements of prosperity teaching that are virtually identical to ‘positive thinking’ and other kinds of ‘self-help’ techniques must be rejected.”
Ayegboyin bemoaned that too many persons have been duped by false expectations inherent in prosperity teaching. When such expectations are not met, they give up on God or lose their faith.
“It is rather unfortunate that in some cases prosperity teaching over-emphasizes individual wealth and success without the need for accountability.”
BICTE, planned and sponsored by Baptist World Alliance, is normally held every five years. The 8th edition was held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from June 28-30 under the theme, Perspectives on Pneumatology within the Worldwide Baptist Family.