Original Photo. Alteration by me.
15 Min Read
In light of the streaming revolution, we have seen a spike in the way companies want to brand themselves as to appeal to their audience in an attempt to make their platform better or more attractive to us than their competitors.
Apple has introduced us to Apple News+ and Apple TV+. The entertainment giant Disney released its own streaming service unimaginatively dubbed, Disney+. Nike began its Bluetooth connectivity branding software ages ago through Nike+. Hey, even Google jumped on the bandwagon with Google+ but tripped on its way on and crashed onto the ground because of privacy issues and the rest, well, the rest is history.
Adding a “+” to the end of one’s brand has worked well to garnish new interest in the product or content a company offers.
But what does that have to do with the gospel? What is the Gospel+ movement?
Before we dive into this ever-expanding abyss, I would first like to remind the reader what the gospel is from a biblical perspective.
The Gospel in Seven Easy Steps
- We are all sinners and by definition, our sin not only separates us from God, it also makes us hostile to the idea of God. (Romans 3:23, Romans 8:7)
- The only punishment that God has determined suitable and justifiable for sin, independent of its magnitude or its effect is death. The soul that sins must die. First, we succumb to bodily death, and secondly, we experience a perpetual separation from God. (Ezekiel 18:4, Matthew 10:28)
- God loved us so much He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to pay for our sins. Only God is worthy of dying a death great enough to pay for the sins of His creation. He was the perfect atonement. The perfect sacrifice. (John 3:16-17, Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 10:10)
- Jesus lived a sinless life, was led to the cross, was crucified, died on the cross, was placed in a tomb, and there He lay. On the third day, He arose from that tomb. This is called the resurrection. (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 15:4)
- He overcame the ultimate power of sin, which is death. He has rebuilt the bridge on which we can be reconciled to God. He has paved the way for us to overcome death. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
- Salvation is attained by faith alone, through grace alone so that no man or woman may boast. It is a gift of God. (Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:8-9)
- And finally, Jesus has ascended to heaven, is at the right hand of the power of God, and will one day return to exact a final and total judgment on everyone who ignored the call for redemption. (2 Peter 3:1-13)
His salvation is free of charge. There is no admittance fee. Anyone who would seek forgiveness, justification, redemption, and the ability to face death without fear can attain it all by accepting Jesus into their life.
I’ve simplified sixty-six books of the bible into seven short sentences. People, please be patient with me.
So, if this is the gospel in its simplicity, what, then, is the Gospel+ movement?
It is when we add anything to the simplicity of the formula Christ has laid out for us in scripture.
Christ + faith = salvation.
Christ + faith + fill in the blank = Hell in a hand basket full of horror and shame.
Whatever one adds to the complete work of Jesus on the cross or whatever one adds to the process by which someone is saved adds a “+” to the gospel and this diminishes and discredits the simplicity of the gospel message.
Let us explore:
Works + Prosperity + Word of Faith + Hedonism + Nationalism = An Ugly Mess
1. The Works Gospel
Promoters: Fundamentalist preachers + Anti-intellectuals
Beneficiaries: Abusive men who gain control over women and children to abuse and misuse them with impunity.
Adherents: Religious traditionalists who have not understood the simplicity of the gospel, thus they’re trapped by a works-based or merit-based relationship with their immediate leaders and their flawed understanding of God.
Their God: Control
In short, this gospel thrives in communities where men in leadership can control their adherents by the way they dress, the food and liquids they’re allowed to consume, the movies, or shows they’re allowed to watch if any at all. They deride music that is not compatible with what is traditionally sung in their circles. They express disdain for scholarly work surrounding theology, history, sociology, psychology, psychotherapy, or anything involving the use of science in medicine to assist individuals who need these avenues to become competent individuals in the real world.
Their leaders do not care for correction, they hide predators behind a cloud of mystery and condemn the victims of abuse as promiscuous prostitutes and whores who deserved the abuse they were forced to endure.
They go to lengths to hide their own sins, the sins of their family members, and sins of their fellow leaders so as to gain the utmost, total, complete and unmitigated control of their adherents.
These people do not run a church. They run concentration camps with a cross out front.
You may hear certain words like repentance, freedom, forgiveness, redemption, and salvation fall from the pulpit but in practice, the preacher wants nothing to with a change of lifestyle, wants nothing more than to dominate his adherents, forgives no one who offends him. He believes he is the god of his people.
One is never saved here. In fact, anxiety and depression fester here. Because a person is never saved by their works as they attempt to please a preacher or a community by how they live outwardly but are never able to combat their fleshly desires within. Their sins go unforgiven.
They hope their good deeds ultimately outweigh their bad deeds. This is a dangerous addition to the simplicity of the gospel because instead of a person accepting the complete work of Christ they rely on the incomplete and often flawed works of men.
2. The Prosperity Gospel
Beneficiaries: Men and women who stand to profit from ministry, have no intention of informing their followers about salvific doctrine, want nothing to do with helping the poor, homeless, imprisoned, widows, or orphans. Their goals are evident by the vehicles they drive, the mansions they own, and the planes they fly in. They hoard wealth.
Adherents: Individuals who are less fortunate or stuck in the middle class who want to amass wealth and riches on earth, as they see in the life of their earthly leaders. They do not understand the gospel, they do not know how to steward their finances, and they believe that wealth on earth is equivalent to one’s good standing with God.
Their God: Money
Most of us are familiar with this gospel because we grew up watching televangelists (a portmanteau of television-evangelists) who promised watchers that if they gave a portion of their wealth to a ministry of choice they would be blessed. Financially blessed.
This gospel is no gospel at all, for it wants to rob people of their income, their salaries, their fortune, and their savings for the enrichment of the evangelist. Mind you, this evangelist does not speak of the simplicity of Jesus’ gospel, he speaks from his own gut.
To better understand this gospel look no further than Costi Hinn’s God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelmed a Life Built on Lies. Costi explains how his family, under the leadership of world-renowned televangelist Benny Hinn, used the naivete of believers, their vulnerability to financial woes, mixed with hyper-charismania to enrich themselves.
Costi Hinn talks about how they would visit churches and demand a seed offering of faith of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars from church members to further expand the gospel of God throughout the world. This seems altruistic but Costi Hinn was driving a decked-out Hummer, his family members drove Bentley’s and Ferrari’s, rode on private jets that belonged to Benny Hinn’s ministry but only Benny and his posse got to ride in it. Costi speaks of lavish vacation trips they would take where certain hotel stays would cost them, or rather, their followers upwards of twenty thousand dollars a night. Yes. You read that correctly.
This idea that one can financially invest in their own salvation or well-being by handing their money to a ministry is as old as liquor and prostitution itself. Just as bad.
Money peddlers have always sunk their claws into the vulnerable, whether that be widows, the sick, the mentally unstable, the financially pressed, all in all for the promise that their seed of $100, $1000, or $10,000 will be doubled or rewarded back to them one-hundred fold in this life, not to mention how rich they will be in the afterlife.
The idea is so preposterous compared to the simplicity of the gospel because it removes Jesus from a person’s focus and places that focus on wealth, well-being, earthly favor, and comfort at the pinnacle of one’s existence.
Instead of relying solely on the complete work of Christ for our reconciliation to God, we divert our attention to momentary success.
It’s a pyramid scheme. It’s not the gospel.
The individuals who are prey to this erroneous additive think they are serving God by financially supporting God’s evangelists and prophets but they’re entrapped by a superstitious mindset.
They believe that if they fail to send the preacher money then all sorts of evil will befall them. If they’re sick it’s because they lack faith. If they’re hungry or poor it’s because they failed to cast that seed (investment into the ministry) years ago.
Everything good that happens in life is a reward for their financial faithfulness to a ministry and everything bad in life is a punishment for failing to support one. Everything surrounds money and the money goes to those with the most faith.
This teaching wants to rob the person of their ability to think for themselves. It wants to rob the person of the freedom they have in Christ. It devours the poor only to enrich one person or one ministry. If you question where the funds go you’re questioning God and this is seen as an act of disobedience and rebellion. No one dares speak ill or poorly of the man of God, or the prosperity teacher because they’ll be cursed with poverty, sickness, fall out of God’s favor, and will be an outcast in his or her community.
It’s a meritocracy. A rewards-based gospel. A capitalist gospel. It does not save, it enslaves.
3. The Word of Faith Gospel
Promoters: Self-proclaimed apostles + prophets
Beneficiaries: A select group within the church body that gains their prominence by how much of the spiritual world they believe they can command and control.
Adherents: People who have not understood the simplicity of the gospel and believe their infirmities, diseases, deformities, illnesses, and paralytic conditions will, without question, be healed. Their faulty understanding of Jesus and why He came to earth leads them to believe that all wrongs in life will be righted this side of heaven.
Their God: Fame + Status
This gospel is fairly new and by new I mean it hitchhiked into our times on the same wagon pentecostalism came into the scene in Azusa Street Revival, Los Angeles, CA, 1906.
So what does the understanding of pentecostal revivals, the urgency for repentance, the call for spiritual awakening, and social reform have to do with the word of faith gospel?
The word of faith gospel is hyper-individualistic to its core. It’s selfish. It’s all about how an individual can dominate the spiritual world for their own benefit. They bind spirits that aren’t there. They call into existence things that do not, in fact, exist. They exercise every form and manner of verbal domination over the devil, demons, principalities, and spiritual governances but they cannot control their own lusts.
Leaders within this particular movement want nothing more than to elevate their name, their brand, their status as healers, supernatural mavericks, miracle workers, and prophets. They are unable to heal anyone and their miracles are fabricated and the situations in which hundreds, if not thousands of people are healed in crusades, these supernatural events are medically unverifiable, and the prophecies they speak, as you would have guessed it, never come true.
They’re protected by a facade of spiritual ambiguity, hidden knowledge, and a caste of complicit individuals who surround them to inflate their ego and protect their brand.
Word of faith healers will never visit a children’s oncology center where children of every age suffer from and eventually succumb to cancer. They never visit trauma centers where war veterans who are incapacitated by the horrors of war need miraculous intervention to heal their minds and body. They do not visit prisoners who suffer from mental illnesses. They rarely step outside of the comfort of their air conditioned church because they understand the gospel they claim to preach has nothing to do with the simplicity of the gospel but everything to do with the deification of the self.
There is no salvation here. Just smoke, noise, and yellow glitter sprinkled from ventilation systems.
4. The Hedonist Gospel
Promoters: Sex Crazed Leaders + Cult Leaders
Beneficiaries: People who have an uncontrolled and warped understanding of human sexuality and want to use their adherents as pleasure centers for their depraved and perverted minds.
Adherents: People who are either born into this kind of community, people who have never been taught about the simplicity of the gospel, people who were abused or continue to suffer abuse and are afraid to leave because they have been brainwashed to believe that what their leaders are teaching and doing to them is God’s work.
Their God: Pleasure & Comfort
The hedonist (pleasure and comfort = good. Pain and discomfort = bad) gospel focuses on the well-being, comfort, and sexual gratification of the individual independent of where or how he or she may acquire it, with whom, however much, whilst ignoring whatever consequence may come from this particular frivolous lifestyle.
This system serves only as a means to gratify the flesh. And as the life of a true believer does call us to suffer, at times, for the greater good, forsaking desires that serve no other purpose than to use and abuse one another, this particular environment is the opposite of that.
There is no suffering, no waiting, no endurance for the sake of virtue visible here. The God they serve is one of pleasure and comfort.
There is no salvific message here. There is only lust, sensuality, perversion, abuse, torment, and a constant battle between sexual addiction and the tenets of false sexual liberation ethics. The problem is the individual and the community that reinforces these false-freedoms are themselves enslaved by their passions, never coming to a full understanding of the redemptive, life-transforming, all-fulfilling gospel of Christ.
You remove the passions and lusts from the individual and you will find them existentially bankrupt. Outside of pleasure and comfort, they have no other hope but suicide. For when life is summed by the pleasures and comforts it may bring and the individual is seized by cancer, pain, and disease, their purpose for living is no longer attainable and the viability of their gospel of pleasure loses its attractive features, thus displaying to them that outside of it they are doomed and within it, they are trapped.
5. The Nationalist Gospel
Promoters: Supremacists + Racists
Beneficiaries: In the west today, typically, supremacists tend to be white evangelicals. Historically, they have been white, independent of their religious affiliation. This does not mean supremacists cannot be of African, Asian, or Latino ancestry. As we stand today, the race that stands to benefit most from dominating another race is made up of white American evangelicals.
Adherents: Disenfranchised white believers who are brainwashed to believe that their way of life is threatened by an invading army of immigrants or people who do not look, think, buy, sell, drive, sing, dance, read, worship, or talk like they do. These individuals do not understand the simplicity of the gospel. They have been introduced to a geo-theo-political, economic system that serves to benefit one group of society while destroying or ignoring the destruction of another.
Their God: Supremacy + Power
The prevalence of this gospel is unfortunately still present in our church communities today. In fact, it is so intertwined with certain groups that to remove a nation’s flag from a church is the same as removing Jesus from the gospels.
The message is focused primarily on the importance of those within a nation, for the benefit of those of a particular social and racial group, and whoever challenges the nationalistic tenets of this faith movement challenges God Himself.
These individuals will promote anyone to power who sounds the trumpet of God and country. They have a death grip on their bible with one hand, on a weapon with the other hand and their bodies are wrapped in a flag of their choosing. This gospel elevates a particular race, ignores the geographical and ethnical origins of the historical Jesus, and will promote, back, fund, and idolize any individual, independent of how putrid their character and conduct may be, inasmuch as they get their religion, their flag and their localized policies enacted into power.
They are consumed by power.
They are living examples of the demons and devils they see in radical, extremist Islamic terrorism. They are themselves, like the religious extremists in the middle-east, a caste of geopolitically motivated supremacists who use religious tenets to rationalize hatred, bigotry, violence, silent complicity, and a single race identity under the rulership of Jesus Christ.
They are Christian Nationalists. There is no salvation here. There is no true understanding of who God is or why He sent His Son to die on the cross. There is no love of neighbor here.
This is a self-destructive force made up of theo-political extremes that thrive under the guise of patriotism and Christian ideals and ethics.
Avoid it, at all costs.
The Gospel Does Not Need Our Help
The simpler the gospel becomes the closer we are to it. Whenever we add an idea, belief systems, a depraved ideology or rules by which to attain that which Christ has already accomplished we are lightyears away from the truth.
What Jesus endured on the cross was enough to merit us forgiveness and justification.
What Jesus overcame in the tomb was enough to merit us bodily resurrection.
What Jesus accomplished in His ascension to heaven was enough to merit us the hope that He will return for those who are His.
Anything else. Anything beyond this. Anything less than this. Anything BUT this is a “+”. An unnecessary “+” to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let’s keep the Gospel gospel. Ditch the “+” from Gospel+ and get back to the basics.
And again, the simplicity of the gospel needs nothing more, nothing less, nothing other than the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is patiently waiting for you there.
Questions to consider:
- Have you been a victim of the Gospel+ movement? Which one?
- Have you ever promoted any of the listed Gospel+ movements? Why?
- Can you tell the difference between the saving gospel and the broken one?