The Convenient Christ

by A. Maeve McDonald

The Convenient Christ is on the rise in our churches! He’s a lovable, Santa-esque figure who wants to make us happy and bless us abundantly. He wants us to be comfortable in the world and for the world to comfortable with him. He refrains from saying things that might offend people. After all, can’t we all just get along? The Convenient Christ loves us, so why would he ever call us into trials, sickness, or poverty? He never wants his children to suffer hardship or persecution. That wouldn’t be loving. He wants us to be successful, wealthy, and healthy! He wants us to shine as his victors!

Each Sunday, tens of thousands flock to hear Joel Osteen deliver the message of the Convenient Christ at Lakewood Church in Texas, which boasts the largest congregation in America, topping 45,000 in attendance every week. And millions more tune into his sermons, which are televised weekly on national TV. Why the popularity? As Michelle Vu of The Christian Post explains, “Joel Osteen doesn’t like to ruffle feathers; he is known for his open-arms, positive-thinking, God-wants-to-bless-you approach to Christianity, which has earned him a loyal following of millions worldwide and the largest and fastest growing church in U.S. history.”[1] Osteen does indeed present a very attractive, very convenient, version of Christianity: “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,” Osteen wrote in a 2005 letter to his flock.[2]

It is this God-wants-to-bless-you mantra that is promoted in the hugely popular prosperity gospel, or Word of Faith theology, preached by heavy-hitting Christian leaders like Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, and Kenneth Hagin. And this brand of health-and-wealth preaching has certainly garnered the world’s attention. Bravo TV’s new reality show, Thicker Than Water, for example, features prosperity Pastor Ben Tankard and his southern family, as they “integrate their strong religious conviction with their penchant for the finer things in life.” While Jesus clearly taught that it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, and urged His followers to store riches in Heaven and not on earth, the prosperity gospel turns this teaching upside down. And the world is watching…

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Faith Actually: The Convenient Christ