Originally posted on our MSM blog November 26th, 2008:
If you are much younger than I am, you probably don’t even remember Jim Bakker and the PTL (Praise The Lord Club). Back in the 60s, Bakker was the first host of The 700 Club, then started his own televangelist show, The PTL Club, on Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), eventually owning the rights to the show. He used his power and influence to embezzle millions of dollars, which he was convicted of and sentenced to prison. Interestingly enough, the property that Forest Hill Church in Charlotte is on, was owned by the Bakker’s, and it was not only the studio location of The PTL Club which, on a daily average, reached the TV sets of an estimated 12 million viewers, but it was also their home (the staff at Forest Hill called that building “the mansion”), which Forest Hill now uses as office, and small group meeting space.
Now, why am I writing about Jim Bakker you ask? Well first off, let me make it clear, there is no connection whatsoever between Jim Bakker or the PTL and Forest Hill Church. Forest Hill purchased the property long after the scandal, long after Bakker was in prison. The campus is huge, there have been add-ons and renovations. One that intrigued me was in the basement, below the filming studio, where Bakker had installed a pool, with Roman-looking columns and lavish molding and architecture. Forest Hill renovated the pool to create the youth worship room by just laying down flooring over the top of it, yep, just a hollow pool just beneath rowdy 8th graders (good thing none of their parents read this website
So, back to the question, why am I writing about Jim Bakker? I couldn’t help but think about Jim Bakker and his cronies lounging around the pool or sitting in the sauna talking about the prosperity doctrine or some other skewed theology that justified his lavish spending and complete disregard for other people. Then, ironically, we had the opportunity to talk about poverty, the homeless and poor in Bakker’s old living room, and on top of his pool. Our God has a great sense of humor. Twenty years prior, in the same room, people were talking about how material prosperity, particularly financial prosperity and success in business and personal life, is to be expected as external evidence of God’s favor. Then last week we had the opportunity to share the true and simple Gospel. Classic.
Here are some scriptures we used in our presentation that I’m not sure were fully understood until Forest Hill took over the property:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (I Timothy 6:17-19)
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. (I John 3:16-19)
Whatever you have done for the least of these brothers of mine, you have done to me. (Matthew 25:40)
In all of our travels we have seen very few churches who reach out in more tangible and meaningful ways to the poor and marginalized than at Forest Hill. Thanks Forest Hill for helping debunk false doctrine.
(Additional note: In prison Bakker started to actually read the Bible. He then came out with a book called I Was Wrong where he wrote “The more I studied the Bible, however, I had to admit that the prosperity message did not line up with the tenor of Scripture. My heart was crushed to think that I led so many people astray. I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet!”)