Dr. Bill Winston, the pastor of Living Word Christian Center, has been successful at almost everything he has attempted in ministry. His Christian center has grown from a dozen members to more than 15,000 within 20 years. His daily television program, “Believer’s Walk of Faith” can be seen on the BET Network, Daystar Network, The Word Network and the God Channel.
He has rejuvenated the mall on Roosevelt Road, opened a 250-student elementary school, started a bank and is trying to revitalize a mall in his home town of Tuskegee, Ala.
Crains Chicago estimated the annual income of all of Winston’s ministries to be $10 million.
Now, in his first hardcover book “The Kingdom of God in You,” Winston is attempting to provide an instructional manual outlining the principles he said have led to his own success.
“Under the pressures of the world’s system, we may be struggling with rent or car notes,” Winston writes. “However, with the knowledge of the kingdom, we can get the struggle out of our lives. When we operate in God’s system there is more than enough for us? The kingdom allows us to live as though we were already in heaven.”
Hundreds of mostly Living Word members stood in line at Wal-Mart on Sept. 23 Winston’s book signing event. Many admitted to not having read the book but were there because “we love our pastor” and wanted to support him.
Kim Clay, director of marketing and communications at Living Word, said 16,000 copies have sold since the book became available in August.
Winston’s message-in his book as well as in his preaching-is fairly simple. He views the world as having two competing systems, the kingdom of God and Satan’s kingdom, and people have to choose under whose rule they want to live. Satan’s kingdom, according to Winston, is built on lies.
God’s kingdom delivers what Satan can only promise-real prosperity. What he exhorts his people to do is switch kingdoms.
“As you trust in God and His Word?the kingdom of God inside of you is designed to produce for you everything you have need of in this earth in abundance,” Winston writes. “You can literally tap into an inexhaustible supply from heaven and live like heaven on earth. All you need to do is switch from the world’s system to God’s system!”
For Winston, becoming a citizen of God’s kingdom is like becoming the owner of a house in which all of the closets contain everything you would ever need. The trick is finding the key to unlock the closet doors. The key, he teaches, is the Word of God and faith.
“Jesus gave us all authority in His name,” Winston writes. “Yes, He knows [what we need], but He is waiting for us to express our faith by praying His Word and will into the earth? He wants to bless us financially, but if we never pray His Word over our job in faith, He has nothing to work with.”
Living Word’s pastor uses his own life to illustrate his teaching.
In his book there is a story about the time he felt called to leave his job at IBM and go into ministry full-time. At first he could not respond to the call, because he was too “bound to the world’s system.” But finally, Winston said he received the revelation that he couldn’t have it both ways. He quit his job immediately and trusted God completely. That decision, according to Winston, was the key that unlocked the door to God’s abundance.
Many of the Living Word members standing in line at the book signing had similar testimonies to share. Sheila Johnson, a Living Word member for the last seven years, said since she began giving 10 percent of her income to God through the church, she has purchased a home and gained financial security. She said people never go broke when they’re living in the kingdom of God.
William Miller has been with Living Word for four years. He watched the Roosevelt Road mall die and then come back to life when Winston took over. He said putting his pastor’s principles to work in his life has helped him prosper.
“There’s definitely been an increase in my life since I’ve been under his ministry-spiritually and financially and in relationships with my family,” Miller said. “It’s working. The Word is working through him.”
When Winston exhorts his people to switch systems, he is departing from the road traveled by most churches in this country. Conservative churches tend to idealize the American way of life, saying that the founding fathers were inspired by God when they wrote the Constitution.
That is why they want to conserve the system which is already there.
Liberal churches in contrast, want to change the system to make it more just and compassionate. More radical than both conservatives and liberals, Winston wants to replace the system altogether.
“The highest worldly kingdom?is an authoritarian?type government in which one ruler rules the kingdom,” Winston writes in his new book. “The kingdom of God is a theocracy, not a democracy, because the One Lord is in charge.”
Winston’s solution to poverty and blighted neighborhoods, for example, is neither welfare nor welfare reform but putting the kingdom of God in the hearts of people who live there. God is not in the business of “financing poverty” but of destroying it, according to Winston.
Winston has acknowledged criticisms for becoming rich at the expense of his parishioners. When he preaches the necessity of sowing a seed, he is asking parishioners to give 10 percent of their income to his ministry. To his critics, Winston said that, sure, he has made a good living preaching the message of prosperity, but primarily his ministry is not about enriching himself.
When parishioners sow their seed of financial giving to their church, God multiplies what they have given back to them, Winston said. And the fact is it takes money to spread the Word of God around the world.
“I understand the vision and the concept of prosperity,” Miller said as he waited in line for his book to be signed. “We need prosperity for God’s covenant to go out throughout the whole world. My understanding of prosperity is that we are blessed to be a blessing. It’s not just for your self. There is a greater purpose than just to have the bling-bling.”