A new reality series on the Oxygen TV channel is causing quite a stir among Christians and non-Christians alike.
"Preachers of L.A.” chronicles the lives of six very wealthy pastors living in Southern California. Critics of the show say it’s a prime example of ministers using their pulpits to make excessive amounts of money and to promote their own careers while putting the teachings of the Bible second.
There are a few schools of thought among Christians when it comes to the financial wellbeing of ministers. Some believe that the image of extremely-wealthy ministry leaders supports a Christian philosophy called the "prosperity gospel" -- following the teachings of the Bible will lead you to prosperity. Others believe that when preachers have wealth, it goes against the Christian ideal that promotes building a strong relationship with God and not focusing on getting rich.
In an interview with CNN in 2012, Ben Phillips, a theology professor at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Houston, explained why some Christians have a problem with the prosperity gospel:
The prosperity gospel tends to mask the greatest need that any individual has, and that's to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ... The point is that God is the ultimate good. Knowing Him, being in a relationship with Him ... in which He is God and we are His creatures, that is where joy is found.
The pastors on "Preachers of L.A." don’t exactly try to hide their money. In one scene, mega pastor Ron Gibson rides around Southern California in a drop-top, souped-up, old-school 1958 Plymouth. In another, Rev. Clarence McClendon (best known for his televised ministry) stands alongside his all-black Bentley.
All of the pastors in the show seem to battle with the popular belief that ministry leaders should not be wealthy. Here are a few quotes from the pastors themselves on this issue:
"The Bible says that 'I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health. Even as your soul prospers.' I believe that." – Rev. Clarence McClendon.
“P Diddy, Jay-Z. They’re not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses.” –Rev. Ron Gibson.
The Bible says that those who sow among us should reap from us. That’s implying that the preachers be taken care of.” -- Rev. Jay Haizlip.
They're not alone -- famous pastors like Joel Olsteen and Creflo Dollar, have built their careers on the prosperity gospel.
We reached out on social media to see what people think about the show:
@Ketchcast I think that (for Christians, especially) the purpose of wealth is to be given away, not accumulated.
— Scott Francis (@darkuncle) October 8, 2013
I am not against them making a fair living and being comfortable. but excess is excess. Practice what you preach
— Dan Arel (@danarel) October 8, 2013
— UnrepentantGeek (@sentientbiomass) October 8, 2013
@Ketchcast why shouldn't they be? They work like everyone else. As long as the wealth is honest. God promised prosperity . Let them be great
— jae (@juci_jae_cant) October 8, 2013
@MarketplaceAPM as a former missionary¤t employee at a Christian org,it's hard to see millionaire wealthy being appropriate
— Matthew Vettel (@TheReal_NetMatt) October 8, 2013
— Impertinent Coder (@iProgram4Fun) October 8, 2013
@Ketchcast Pastors and churches should be and have the responsibility to be accountable, especially with finances
— Dolores (@doloresm) October 8, 2013
The show premieres October 9 on Oxygen.
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