In the opinion of the Rev. Bill Winston and the five other speakers at the 2010 International Faith Conference held nightly last week at the Living Word Christian Center in Forest Park, the federal government’s stimulus package was an exercise in throwing good money after bad.
According to the conference speakers, that is because the government is trying to rehabilitate a system – an economy Winston calls the Babylonian system – that doesn’t work. Living Word’s pastor teaches that the Babylonian system is society’s way of trying to meet its needs without God. “That economy is falling,” Winston declared on Monday evening. “Cross on over to the Kingdom of God.”
Kenneth Copeland, Monday night’s featured speaker, contrasted the system called the Kingdom of God with the Babylonian system. In the Kingdom of God, you work according to God’s plan, not yours, he said. “Outside God’s kingdom,” Copeland said, “people make their plans and then ask God to bless them. In the Kingdom of God, you’re already blessed because you’re living out God’s plan for you.”
“Don’t you ever make decisions based on money,” Copeland warned. “In the world’s economy, the idea is that you have to be rich to be blessed. In the Kingdom of God, you are rich because you are blessed.” Copeland’s message, which he repeated in different ways for almost two hours, is that there’s only one question that a person needs to ask: what is God calling me to do?
When believers are obedient to God’s will, they don’t have to worry about money, Copeland said. “What is our motive?” he asked rhetorically. “We work for the Kingdom of God and to bring a blessing and to overwhelm what the devil has done. God doesn’t call believers to do a job without giving them the supplies to do it.”
When it came time for the offering, Winston compared what people were placing in the buckets being passed around to investing. The implication was that people who invested in the stock market, in the capital of capitalism, are hurting right now. In contrast, he used another metaphor to hold up the promise that when people sow seeds in the Kingdom of God, they will receive a bountiful harvest.
All of the conference speakers emphasized that this bountiful harvest promised by God is not to be understood only as the reward of heaven after believers die, but as prosperity in this life as well. “God has a supply that will not run out,” Winston proclaimed as the ushers were handing out offering envelopes, on which was printed the following:
Father, in Jesus’ Name I confess that I obey and serve You.
I will spend my days in prosperity, and my years in pleasures.
Lord be magnified, for you take pleasure in prospering me your servant.
Cynics will contend that Winston is making a pitch for a big offering to enrich himself. But that’s not how 15,000 Living Word members see it. When John Bevere, Tuesday evening’s featured speaker, told the 2,800 people in the sanctuary that he knows that what Pastor Winston preaches is true because it works, the crowd jumped to its feet with shouts of “amen” and “praise the Lord.”
Bevere continued with the previous night’s metaphor of the two kingdoms. The problem with the world’s system, he taught, is that in it human beings try to meet their needs with their own limited resources. What the Kingdom of God has, he continued, that the world’s system doesn’t have is grace. The primary function of grace, he said, is the empowerment to give believers the ability to go beyond their natural ability.
“God has empowered you to live an extraordinary life,” he said. “Grace is how you do it. We are partakers of the divine nature, to live our lives just as Jesus did. The grace of God gives us the ability to rule in life.”
The conference speakers exhibited an anti-big government bias. Bevere cited the story about Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead and then gave a contemporary spin to it by saying that in doing so, the son could again take care of his mother instead of the government having to do it. Copeland used the hot button term “socialism” several times to criticize the government for trying to replace God’s providence.
At the same time, neither Pastor Winston nor his colleagues can be accused of subscribing to a kind of Tea Party individualism. Copeland criticized proponents of the free market by accusing them of being concerned primarily with their own benefit. “Get yourself off your mind, and get your mind on the Kingdom,” Winston exhorted the assembly. “Put love on your mind, and get you off your mind.”
Living Word Christian Center is located at 7600 Roosevelt Rd. Sunday services begin at 7 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.