John Oliver takes on prosperity televangelists: Why does it take a non-believer to say what Christians all know?

HBO's John Oliver
Yesterday I wrote about a so-called conservative so-called pastor collecting a very large salary. No, it's not Joel Osteen. No, it's not Joyce Meyer, though those two are so-called and are definitely collecting a large salary. Who I wrote about was Billy Graham's son Franklin Graham, whose nearly a million dollar salary from combined corporations Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse was raising eyebrows even among secular CEOs.

Today then, it seems fitting to follow that up with a post about excessive money-grubbing from excessively greedy pastors. But it's really a post about how a pagan is showing us up.

John Oliver is a comedian.You will know him from Jon Stewart's Comedy Central show "The Daily Show" in past years. He's British, he's pagan, and he's finally had enough of the in-your-face money grubbing televangelists begging for money from gullible people.

A few days ago, Oliver performed a sketch on his show "Last Week Tonight" regarding how some televangelists are blatant about seeking money for money's sake from people who watch their show- AND call their organization a church. The following article is from Addicting Info. The sketch is still having its effect.

John Oliver May Have Just Forced The IRS To Consider Taxing Greedy Televangelists
It could be the end of the line for televangelists who fleece their own flocks to make themselves wealthy, and it’s all thanks to John Oliver.
Last Sunday, Oliver spent 20 minutes eviscerating prosperity gospel televangelists who advocate a sort of trickle-down policy when it comes to donations. According to preachers like Creflo Dollar, the more money people donate so that he can be wealthy and own mansions and private jets, the more likely it is that God will favor them and make them prosper in return.
“They preach something called the prosperity gospel which argues that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and donations will result in wealth coming back to you,” Oliver explained the scam. 
“That idea sometimes takes the form of seed faith – the notion that donations are seeds that you will one day get to harvest. The argument is ‘sow your money into the ground, you will reap returns multiple times over,’ except as an investment you’d be better off burying your money in the actual ground because at least that way there’s a chance your dog may dig it up and give it back to you one day.”
The scam has resulted in a transfer of millions upon millions of dollars from church-goers who are already struggling while their pastor gets to live a wealthy lifestyle completely funded by the congregation. For years, televangelists have gotten away with this by taking advantage of the tax system by declaring their operations as religious organizations. Current tax law allows churches to be tax-exempt and the IRS largely fails to investigate to make sure that churches are churches and not scams by so-called “pastors” designed to make themselves rich. But all of that could now change. According to a new report by CBS, the IRS is under a lot of pressure to tax televangelists in light of John Oliver’s exposure of the corrupt practice of prosperity gospel.

Someone was brave enough to call it what it is...what we all understand and know that it is: a scam.

Now, this behavior is certainly nothing new. Simon the Magician tried to buy the Holy Spirit for this very purpose.

Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. (Acts 8:17-21)

His heart was not right before God. Why?

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

The motivation of a false Christian is money. It is one way to tell if someone is false. Not the fact they have money, it's their love of it that is the telling indicator. Many verse speak to this.

[ Qualifications for Overseers ] The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money... (1 Timothy 3:1-3)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Since an overseer manages God's household, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. (Titus 1:7)

Paul prophesied that in the time of the end (the time between Jesus' ascension and His return) some within the church will be false and godless and because of this, times will be difficult he said to avoid these people. Some few of the behaviors these godless ones will exhibit are listed, and 'loving money' is one of the traits.

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, (2 Timothy 3:2)

So if all this is laid out in the Bible for us to see clearly, and if it is even prophesied to Christians as a certainty, why is so much of the general Christian population either so undiscerning as not to notice or so cowardly so as not to stand up?

Why does it take a pagan to point this out?

Not that many Christians haven't been doing their part to sound the alarm. Many have. Even many leaders with a platform almost as influential as Oliver's have done tremendous works in the name of Jesus to combat the dangerous doctrines and those who bring them.

But too many others don't wish to "name names", "make waves", or "play hardball." Church discipline has gone by the wayside, or else turned into something the Pharisees would have approved of. (John 9:22)

So how is the Christian to do his or her part to combat creeping prosperity Gospel into their own church? Yes, you. It is up to each individual Christian to do their part with the amount of discernment they have cultivated in and by the Spirit. Though discernment is a spiritual gift given to some, all Christians can and should cultivate a red flag alert by studying the Bible and prayer and constant confession and obedience to Jesus and His commands. Here is John MacArthur in a 2-minute clip explaining "Every Believer's Responsibility." (Though the clip looks dead, it isn't)

It isn't easy. As MacArthur ended the clip, he said to go to the pastor or leader lovingly, privately, but to do it. Sometimes, often times, as a matter of fact in my experience, the reactions are not of love returned. You might get a "reputation". You might be asked to leave the church a la Pharisee-style. you might be gossiped about. You might be ignored. You might be patronized like a little girl with a pat on the head and an admonition not to take it all so seriously. In rare, beautiful cases, you might be listened to and the pastor or leader might actually go back and check through his Bible and see that you're right. The latter case is rare.

So why go through all that if there is a good chance your message won't be listened to? For 4 reasons. This list is certainly not exhaustive.

First, your message might be listened to. You never know. The goal of correcting someone's doctrine is restoration, love, and  drawing them back into the fold. The Spirit might graciously draw that person back through your conversation, especially if you stick to the Word.

Secondly, though we do it out of love and concern for the person teaching or preaching the error, ultimately we have an audience of One. Jesus is the Head of the church and has charged us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8)  and to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). We take witnessing seriously. We take discipling seriously. We don't walk away when a disciple of Jesus Christ begins to wander, or who brings in false doctrine that makes others stumble.

Third, pointing these things out helps to uncover who is true and who is false. A true disciple of Jesus Christ will hear you out and maybe they will become angry. But afterward they will calm down and the message will begin to work in them and they will come back to you in humility to apologize, and to learn more. A false witness of Jesus Christ will perhaps ignore, become dismissive, be angry...but if there is no effect then or later it is a sign that the Spirit perhaps is not in them and it is their flesh doing the driving.

Last, we check against scripture then point out the error so a pagan doesn't have to.


Further Reading

Who Needs Church Discipline When You Can Have Church Growth Instead? -- or  -- Church growth without church purity


  1. Yes the "latter case" is rare. Got a "reputation"? Yes. Asked to leave? Yes. Ignored? Yes. Patronized? Yes. Sorry we lovingly tried to warn pastors of the problems with false teachers or aberrant doctrine? No.

    I believe if the church doesn't clean its own house (judgment begins where, folks?), the Lord will use eventually unbelievers to expose the problems.


    1. Grammar Correction: "...the Lord eventually will use unbelievers..." :)


  2. John Oliver's take on televangelists is right on.
    I found it humorus, but it also angered me. For I followed Copeland, Hagin, Dollar, Tilton and other ones for years. I understand how people can be decieved by these scammers. There are true needs people have, but also true greed to have things and the "Good Life"
    It has taken me years to recover from their teaching.
    When I first really began to see the falseness I question everything I had been taught by everyone. Who do I trust?
    I finally decided I could only trust what is written in the Bible.
    I also have found some good blogs( like this one which i appreciate very much).
    This has led me back to a fresh start and a new enjoyment of just reading the Bible which I don't think I have had before.
    I personally would like to see the IRS shut these guys down.

    Thank you for linking to this Elizabeth.


    1. I fear that the IRS is not interested in 'these guys'. They know they are corrupt but more importantly, they know they are not true Christians. I fear, like Obama used Jon Stewart as his talking-point puppet this man John Oliver may be exactly what the government needs which is a public outcry to use as a further battering ram to go into churches that are preaching the truth. Any trojan horse will do.


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