The New Prosperity Gospel

A Conversation With Dean Inserra, Author of Getting Over Yourself

You describe “believe-in-yourself-religion” as a kind of “new prosperity gospel.” What do you mean by that?

The new prosperity gospel takes the principles and focus of the self-help industry, and sprinkles it with Christian language. This allows one to either believe or pretend that it is Christian messaging and biblical ideas. The core of the belief is that you should do whatever it is that makes you happy. Since that clearly is a self-serving message that is at odds with the teachings of Scripture, instead one changes it to “God wants you to do whatever makes you happy.” In the self-help movement, the ultimate way to happiness is self-discovery and self-actualization. It is impossible for a Christian to find joy in Christ when the focus is on ourselves and our own personal fulfillment in the moment, yet you simply being a better you remains the primary value.

Why is a “me-centered” theology one of the greatest dangers to the church today?

The me-centered focus of the new prosperity gospel is the opposite of the call of Christ upon his disciples. “Do whatever makes you happy,” is a far swing from the words of Jesus to pick up our cross and follow him, and to think of others as more important than ourselves. It is truly anti-discipleship, disguised as the Christian life. It is also a message that would not translate to anyone experiencing persecution or those living in non-affluent countries. It is a message for a perpetually discontent people, who are trying to make Jesus a means to more, rather than the means and the ends to an abundant life in him. I worry abundant life will never be found by these believers, because they are still seeking it from the world, yet somehow doing it in Jesus’ name.

What can pastors do to effectively lead their congregations away from hollow messages of personal prosperity?

Pastors need to make sure that God’s glory and the gospel of Jesus Christ are the focus of everything that comes from the pulpit. The office of the pastor is not one of being a professional giver of Ted Talks, but one that leads people to actually believe that Jesus is the greatest blessing and treasure. I don’t ever want church members leaving on a Sunday morning believing they are enough and that the things they are looking for in life are found by “unleashing their potential.” I want our members leaving after church excited about Jesus, and the new life he has given them to live for his glory and mission. That is where joy is found and remains.

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Dean Inserra
Dean Inserra

Dean Inserra is the founding and lead pastor of CITYCHURCH in Tallahassee, Florida, where he leads the vision and preaching.