There is one thing that needs to be corrected in this news article. To be fair, CLC under Frank Houston never preached a “prosperity doctrine” nor did he teach “heretical views about wealth”. What Frank Houston said in this article was not prosperity theology.
It was Brian Houston (with a poor reputation of theological and intellectual capacity among CLC leaders and elders), who introduced CLC to prosperity theology.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported,
Growth Rivals the loaves and Fishes
Australia’s largest church is no longer St Mary’s Cathedral. The honour probably belongs to a former warehouse in Waterloo being renovated and rebuilt as a ‘worship centre” (the preferred term) for the Sydney based Christian life Centre. The $3.5 million project is being conducted in three stages between now and 1991. When completed, the centre will comfortably hold about 5,000people.
This Pentecostal body, affiliated with the Assemblies of God, held its first service in July 1977 at a house in Double Bay. There were nine adults and five children including the minister, New Zealand born Pastor frank Houston, and his family.
The following week, at a different venue, there was a congregation of 35. By Christmas it had grown to 100. A year later, it was about 1,000. For the past seven years services have been held in a dingy former factory site in Goulburn Street – dingy in appearance but not in exuberance of worship, which is the Pentecostals’ forte’.
These premises are in the process of being vacated. As a temporary measure, services are being held in the Round House at the University of NSW. Meanwhile at Brookvale in the ‘Bible-belt’ northern peninsula, another New Zealander, Pastor Phil Pringle, of the Christian City Church, is facing similar growing pains.
Mr Pringle, 35, held his first service at Easter, 1980, in the Dee Why Surf Life Saving Club. There was a congregation of 12. Since then his flock has multiplied faster than the loaves and fishes. The church hopes soon to embark on a major building program (total value between $8 million and $10 million) on land it already owns at Oxford Falls. The 1986 Census results, reported in the Herald last week, confirm an impressive growth rate for a denomination which, until a decade ago, was considered a mere fringe cult. Between 1981 and 1986 Pentecostals have achieved a 68% increase. The movement now outnumbers several combined smaller groups (including the proselyting Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses) and has made inroads – through the widespread Charismatic renewal – in the mainstream (non-Pentecostal) Churches.
Pentecostalism, as a religious phenomenon, is difficult to define. Its main feature is a belief that the powers given to the apostles by Christ – healing, prophesying, discernment (wisdom), the ability to speak in ‘diverse tongues’ – were intended to be passed to loyal Christians throughout the ages.
Pentecostals are religious fundamentalists, but not all fundamentalists are Pentecostal. Many traditional fundamentalists regard tongues- speaking, claims to healing and similar manifestations as spurious or “of the Devil”. Frank Houston was a Salvation Army officer for 12 years before joining the Assemblies of god 30 years ago. He claims General William Booth, the Army’s founder, was “quite Pentecostal”. Pentecostals tend to regard themselves as being the elect, using the term “Christian” in a manner offensive to many in the older, mainstream Churches. They seek fellowship mainly among themselves.
Mr Houston denies his flock is inward looking or selfish, pointing to his King’s Cross Commandos, an army of young people which works among drug addicts and the dispossessed. Sociologists claim the “authoritarian” nature of Pentecostalism – the “strong” leadership exercised by its pastors – provides comfort in an uncertain world and is the key to the movement’s success.
The mainstream Churches complain that Pentecostals expound a “prosperity doctrine”, with heretical views about wealth. According to Mr Houston: “I must say I do believe that God wants Christians to prosper. When I have been to India and such places I have noticed that people really involved in true Christianity do a lot better.”
Probably the most practical of the Pentecostal’s rediscovered “gifts” is the ministry of healing. In the past week I have examined written and oral testimonies of several hundred apparent cures. Pentecostals go further than the mainstream denominations in believing Satanic powers may be involved in mental and physical illness, alcoholism, drug addiction and homosexuality.
A former cancer sufferer, who showed me a certificate attesting to her cure, said she had felt a “black presence, fighting to retain its hold over my body” as Pastor Gordon Gibbs ( a leading Sydney Pentecostal minister) prayed over her. I was present when a chronic alcoholic, who was being prayed over by another minister, began to bark like a dog and emit sounds and smells like a scene from the Exorcist. Mr Houston defends what Pentecostals call their “deliverance” ministry. “Satan is real, is powers are real. Jesus in his great commission said, “In my name thou shalt cast out devils.” They must be there to be cast out, or He wouldn’t have said it.”
Pastor Harry Westcott, of Vision Ministries, Parramatta, goes further. In the last five years Mr Westcott, formerly a uniting Church minister in Canberra, has earned mixed fame and notoriety by bringing to Australia such figures as Richard Roberts, the son of “Orrible Oral” who was drummed off these shores by an angry mob 30 years ago, and the Rev Benson Idahosa, a Nigerian evangelist who claims to have been the instrument, through God, of raising several people from the dead.
Recently, Mr Westcott had such an experience himself. As his wife, Doreen, tells the story: “It happened when we were conducting a crusade in Levuka, Fiji… Harry and I had gone for a walk in the old city… Suddenly several people came running, calling out “Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, will you come quickly, our grandmother has died.” “We followed them through the back streets into this little dark house. A large, elderly Fijian lady was lying on the bed. She looked dead, all the signs were there, certainly she wasn’t breathing. The family were all around, wailing.
‘Harry went over to her bed, put his hands on her head, grabbed her and said “Mumma, get up and make a cup of tea.” She started to stir. He just pulled her arm and said “Come on, get up”. She rose to her feet, and walked to the other room. The others were screaming. The woman just turned around and said “it’s all gone.”
Source: By Alan Gill, The Rapid Rise of Pentecostalism, The Sydney Morning Herald, Published 02/11/1987.
Mark 8:36 “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”