From Nigeria to Brazil, the fast-growing churches offer prosperity theology, American-style.
The Winners’ Chapel, also known as Living Faith Church Worldwide, in Ota, Nigeria, claims Africa’s largest church auditorium, according to the New York Times. The 50,000 seat building sits on a 565-acre campus called Canaan Land. The walled compound includes a hotel, gas station, restaurants and a university.
The founder of Winners’ Chapel is David Oyedepo, bishop of the church and president of a mission-sending agency with Nigerian missionaries in 30 African nations. He claims Pentecostal preacher Kenneth Hagin of Tulsa, Okla., as his model in ministry.
Nigeria’s Vanguard reported that Oyedepo teaches a biblical belief system that “connects you to divine power for performance. It goes beyond the realm of the soul, strengthens the inner man with might; quickens the mind for supernatural mental productivity and connects you to the creative power of God.”
With his biblical belief system, he claims goals are achieved and divine protection is provided, according to Vanguard.
Prosperity theology claims God rewards generous givers with financial wealth, physical health, athletic victory and other concrete blessings. Appealing across economic classes, prosperity theology blends biblical references, practical advice and faith healing. It is sometimes referred to as “name-it-and-claim-it” or “word-faith.”
Oyedepo’s books about financial prosperity, blessings and healing are sold on the Winners’ Chapel Web site. One book promotion said, “God’s supernatural financial provisions are for you. … Tap into God’s covenant for prosperity and abundance.” Another book description said, “Divine health is for now, not in heaven. You would not need it there. It is here that it is needed and it is available now.”
Speaking in a seminar on “The Mystery of Financial Empowerment,” Oyedepo said, “the liberal soul shall be empowered for financial fatness,” according to Nigeria’s Guardian.
Pastor Mrs. Faith Oyedepo, the bishop’s wife, also emphasizes giving money to the church. “Being tight fisted is a sure way to stay in lack,” she wrote in an article on family finances on the church’s Web site. God “is entitled to your tithe and offerings (Kingdom investment, alms, etc.)”
The Times reported that Oyedepo said, “Prosperity is acknowledged worldwide as the identity of our ministry.”
Others religious leaders in Nigeria criticize prosperity theology. Anthony O. Okogie, the Catholic archbishop of Lagos, told the Times, “The quickest and easiest way to make money in Nigeria is to carry a Bible on Sunday and start preaching.”
In Brazil, the Universal Church of God’s Kingdom also stresses prosperity theology. According to the Washington Post, “The church owns Brazil’s third-most popular television network, dozens of radio stations, several newspapers, a bank and scores of other properties.”
The surprising growth of Brazil’s Pentecostal movement with its message of health and wealth has attracted critics. Ariovaldo Ramos, president of the Brazilian Evangelical Association, told the Post, “It’s the most dangerous phenomenon in Brazilian Christianity today.”
Like his mentor Hagin, Oyedepo is called “Papa” by the members of Winners’ Chapel, who give him credit for their success.
Hagin, considered the father of the Word-Faith movement, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn are leaders of the prosperity theology movement in America. Others include Paul and Jan Crouch, owners of the Trinity Broadcasting Network.