I just heard on
the news about the passing away of Oral Roberts. He was one of the most famous
of all American preachers. He was a fascinating fellow to read about, a real go-getter who overcame deep poverty to achieve
his goals in his chosen vocation.
When I was eight
or nine I watched a couple of Oral Roberts’ healing campaigns on TV. At
the time I hadn’t even been exposed to the basic salvation message. I’d never even heard that God was in the healing
business, I thought fixing bodies was strictly the doctor’s bailiwick when aspirin didn’t do the trick.
My first impressions
were: “This guy is a real saint. He’s someone special. He really loves that poor woman in the wheelchair. Just hear
how sweet that man sounds, the choking sob in his voice. He’s almost crying he cares about those poor sick people so
much. This man is the closest thing you’ll find to Jesus on earth.”
The Bible contains
many warnings about not putting other human beings on a pedestal. But I didn’t
know any better back then. I honestly thought a very few SPECIAL men achieved great sainthood and the rest of us were just
humdrum humans. To many people, the preacher IS God’s VIP agent on earth and the ONLY Bible they’ll ever read.
I found it hard even to understand the Bible.
It was the preacher’s job to make sense of all that mysterious King James English. Oral’s preaching style
was easy listening, not classical.
Oral did come up
with some nice songs such as “Expect a Miracle” and “God is a Good God”. We used to sing those when I was a young Christian in church many years ago.
They made us all feel good. You have to give Oral credit for bringing
the “feel good factor” into his meetings and TV shows.
a dark side to this. If you’re after the cash you won’t scare the
fish away with messages and songs that don’t tickle people’s ears (2 Tim.4:3).
Very few major televangelists open their shows by announcing they’re about to preach on the horrors of hell and
the need to RUN to Christ as Savior. Very few of them will admit that not ALL
people are healed physically in this life, and giving a big offering won’t buy favors from God. Instead, the junk mail I used to get from Richard and Oral would rehash the same old theme: the bigger
the sacrifice the greater the blessing, and sow a seed to meet your need. BECOME
A BLESSING PACT MEMBER TODAY! Where does the REAL Jesus ever pass out Blessing
Pacts in His services? Where was Christ’s Rolex, or the diamond jewelry
His disciples airbrushed out of His publicity photos?
Patti Roberts in
her book Ashes to Gold, describes how Oral, her former father-in-law, would gold-plate
his bathroom plumbing fixtures with money taken from hungry widows on Social Security.
Patti felt guilty about how they got their luxurious lifestyle and started to ask questions Oral didn’t like. She compared Oral to Johann Tetzel, a Catholic church official who got rich selling
indulgences (paper pardons for sin). The impression left on Christian’s
minds is God is some coin-operated genie Who feeds on money. That is the very
worst insult televangelists can pay a gracious God. When you blaspheme the Lord
in such a way you’re playing with deadly fire (Heb.12:28-29).
My brother Adam
kept getting junk mail from televangelists for years after his death. So many lusted after the contents of Adam’s penny
jar, I forgot who sent this one: some “prophet” said “God” revealed to him that devil had planned a horrible year for Adam if he didn’t cough up some cash and send it to God’s
servant to enable him to pray to prevent it. Give me a break! The poor guy was already in his grave and this charlatan wants to pray to protect him? What worse could satan do to Adam than kill him with cancer? Does
Adam need money in heaven?
Hank Hanegraaf in
his book Christianity in Crisis told about a similar tactic used by Oral Roberts. Oral
forecast that his faith partner’s new year of 1985 would be so awful his
followers would wish that year had never come unless they paid careful attention to his instructions (send money). God had allegedly given Oral 33 predictions concerning the new year, and that year would be full of worry
and fear for his partners unless they stopped satan dead in his tracks with a generous donation. Where do you read of Jesus charging a solitary cent to pray for anyone or deliver them from satan’s
power? When did Jesus ever say: In goes the moolah, out pops the miracle?
I recall this particular
incident. Hanegraaf also mentions Oral’s biggest money-raising stunt ever:
On January 4, 1987 Oral told his followers that unless he raised 8 million dollars by March, God was going to take his life. As the days passed, I kept wondering if God would call Oral’s bluff just so
the real truth would emerge. But some millionaire bailed Oral out at the last
minute. His donation bought Oral
almost 23 more years of time. Sounds more like Mafia ransom money to me. What Biblical apostle ever stooped to such a baldfaced lie to fill up their offering
buckets? I thought the blood of Jesus was the only ransom God demanded for our
Hanegraaf also mentions
the cruelest extortion trick of all: Oral warned his followers that if they didn’t come through with their faith pledges,
it would be tantamount to lying to the Holy Ghost and they might drop dead like Ananias and Sapphira. Let me tell you, satan has used fear of the Unpardonable Sin to torment me in times past. No other fear on earth is like it. It’s spiritual witchcraft
to deliberately to put that fear on one of God’s children. If any sin is is unforgiveable that kind of lie is!
Oral insisted that
his ministry was one of the few worth supporting because he was the only one who owned a medical center. God allegedly ordered
Oral to build it to merge the power of medicine and faith. But the costs of operating the hospital outstripped available funds.
They couldn’t afford to pay the staff. One ward after another was closed, then whole floors. Wasn’t long before it went belly up. Why would God order
Christians to sacrifice bread and butter to build a failed project like that?
I read had Oral isolating himself up in his prayer tower till God brought in enough cash to satisfy him. “God”
gave in and Oral emerged triumphant.
Doubtless Oral made
a good beginning with God. The fact he lived to age 91 is miraculous, for the
simple reason he nearly died from tuberculosis at age 17. God healed him through
the prayer of faith, and Oral felt called to the healing ministry himself. Oral helped Christians rediscover a SUPERNATURAL
God Who could do great things in the here and now, not just up in heaven. But
it’s not enough to make a good beginning. It’s how you end that counts (Matt.24:13; Heb.3:14; Rev.2:26). More and more Oral was beguiled by the
false prosperity gospel and all its carnival fund-raising trickery. The temporal satisfaction of filthy lucre was just too
enticing for a man who had grown up in terrible poverty and hunger.
Long ago the apostle
Peter warned about covetousness (chasing after material things and making an idol of them):
2 Pet.2:3: And through
covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their
damnation slumbereth not.
If anything can
be learned from Oral’s legacy it’s this: Keep your eyes on the REAL prize: life in eternity with the REAL Jesus
Who alone satisfies the real hunger of our hearts.