(The Roys Report) Facing persistently lower revenues, Willow Creek Community Church last Sunday invited Pastor Robert Morris — whom some allege is a prosperity preacher — to deliver a guest sermon on tithing which contained a singular promise: tithe for a year, and if you’re not completely satisfied, you’ll get your money back:
“Thousands and thousands” had seen their lives changed after starting to give 10% of their income regularly, Morris said. “I’ve done this with our church. I’ve told our church on multiple occasions, I’ve said to them, if you’ll try it for one year, if you are not fully satisfied at the end of that year, I’ll give you your money back. In 22 years of church no one’s ever asked for money (back).”
Morris is pastor of Gateway Church, once the largest congregation of the Association of Related Churches (ARC) in the United States….He also is one of disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll’s staunchest supporters. Morris was the first to replatform Driscoll after the Mars Hill debacle in 2014. And just last summer, Morris had Driscoll speak at an ARC preaching seminar at Gateway Church.
When asked about Morris’ money-back guarantee, Willow Creek Executive Pastor Tim Stevens said Willow is spreading the word about God’s miraculous provision — not a prosperity gospel. Stevens confirmed that Willow Creek’s average weekly giving so far this year is 20% below the church’s already reduced budget. This year’s giving budget is about half the church’s revenue in 2019, when investigators said sexual misconduct allegations against Willow Creek’s founder Bill Hybels were credible. But he said giving so far this year is on par with last year’s weekly giving average.
Stevens told The Roys Report that the church budgets the same amount of revenue for every week—about $614,000 across seven campuses. However, he noted, “the reality is that a larger percentage of our giving happens at the end of the year.”
Critics, however, say that though Morris has a softer sell, he still preaches the same health and wealth gospel of prominent prosperity preachers like Kenneth Hagin. “Hagin had no problem telling you that God wanted him to be rich,” write Paul and Susan Dunk of KW Redeemer Church in Breslau, Ontario. “But Morris softens it and prefers ‘blessed’.”
They add that Morris’ teaching on tithing is more like “pagan votive offerings” than the voluntary giving encouraged in the New Testament. “If you needed health, wealth, crops, love, wisdom etc . . . you would go to the temple and give money to the corresponding gods of those blessings,” the Dunks write.
Theology professor and Pastor David Schrock likewise called Morris’s beliefs about material blessing a “misreading of Scripture” in a critical review of Morris’s book “The Blessed Life.” “Instead of grounding God’s character and promises in the new covenant of Christ, Morris makes God a self-styled miracle-worker who promises supernatural power,” Schrock wrote.
Morris preached Sunday on “The Principle of First” as part of Willow Creek’s five-part sermon series “More Than Money.” The series coincides with a major giving campaign underway now at Willow Creek. “This series aims to help people understand that money is not a financial issue, it’s a discipleship issue and a matter of the heart,” the series summary reads in part.
Morris’s money-back promise was mentioned only in an unlisted video recording of the 9 a.m. service. It’s absent from the sermon video published on Willow Creek’s website, which was apparently drawn from the “full service” recording of the 11:15 a.m. service.
This “entrepreneurial” pastor makes this “money back guarantee” knowing full well that no one will dare take him up on the offer.
If you demanded your money back, then they will accuse you of believing in “prosperity gospel” — which they themselves insist they are not advocating.
These preachers use the same language as any stockbroker — you are looking for some sort of “return” on your “investment” with your church.
That “return” will be “blessings” in the palpable, material quality of your life — not some subjective notion that you merely “feel better” about your “prospects.”
Without this tacit “guarantee” of material “blessings,” these mega-churches simply would not exist, let alone prosper — “investing” in one of these churches is no different from pumping your money into a slot machine in Las Vegas.
These mammon-centered “Christians” are duped into giving these preachers their hard-earned money — and when their preachers buy mansions and private jets with their “tithes,” they see that material wealth as something they “created” by their “faith” — and the more lavish of lives that their preachers live, the more pride they feel — wealth by association — and the more they secretly covet it for themselves, hoping for the “trickle down” economics of this prosperity Ponzi Scheme.
No wonder Christ questioned whether He would find any faithful upon His return (Luke 18:8).