The Bible is full of jaw-dropping dreams, visions and divine visitations, but none quite like this one, shared by televangelist Kenneth Copeland during a sermon at Little Rock’s Agape Church.
“The Lord woke me up in the middle of the night,” Copeland told worshippers on Sunday. “There stood Jesus with a huge tray and the tray was heaped with cookies, and he said, ‘Kenneth, have a cookie.’”
Grabbing for one of the bedtime snacks, Copeland says he replied: “I believe I will.”
If you have enough faith to move mountains, Copeland suggested, God can give you the desires of your heart: vigorous health, limitless wealth, unending happiness and eternal life — plus new airplanes and fresh-baked goods.
You believe. You receive.
“Have faith in God,” Copeland said over and over. “That’s God’s plan. Increase. Increase. Growth all the time. Better and better and better.”
As the national unemployment rate creeps toward double digits, Copeland argued that Christians should be exempt from economic downturns. “Big brother” Jesus “bore the curse of poverty” so that the rest of us wouldn’t have to scrape together nickels and dimes, Copeland argued. “We are family — joint heirs — with the wealthiest man that exists.”
Copeland, 72, who has his own airport, knows a thing or two about material abundance. The Fort Worth-area multimillionaire flies around the world in a ministry-owned $20 million Cessna Citation X jet. He relaxes in an 18,000-square-foot lakeside parsonage. He drives luxury cars and owns a fleet of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
His family has its own Texas-sized cattle ranch and his church has its own natural gas wells.
Many of Copeland’s followers are committed “tithers” — giving at least 10 percent of their earnings to religious organizations. Some give substantially more.
For his 70th birthday, Copeland and his wife, Gloria, reportedly received personal gifts totaling more than $2 million. (The ministry, while refusing to reveal the exact dollar total, says the gift was actually less than $2 million.)
Copeland, whose lavish spending is under investigation by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, showed up roughly 15 minutes late for Agape Church’s morning worship service, entering just in time to pray for the sick and to recite the Agape Church donors’ creed.
The words, chanted in unison, echoed throughout the cavernous hall:
“The tithe guarantees financial favor.
“The tithe guarantees your covenant partnership with God.
“The tithe is proof of honor.
“The tithe is proof of obedience.
“The tithe silences the devourer in your life.
“The tithe guarantees consistent harvest on your seed.
“The tithe opens the windows of heaven …”
Agape Church pastor Happy Caldwell urged everyone — including those facing poverty and hunger — to dig deep, promising God would supernaturally reward them.
During his sermon, Copeland mentioned the economy roughly 10 times, and said the federal government had triggered an “economic mess” by “departing from God.”
But Copeland said his ministry has escaped the ravages of recession. “Our income in the ministry has been going up,” he said.
The crowd peppered Copeland’s message with shouts of “Amen” and “Hallelujah.”
As Copeland wrapped up his sermon, he led worshippers in a chant: “I’m not cursed. I’m blessed. I’m not cursed. I’m blessed.”
Instead of an altar call, the service climaxed with a final financial solicitation — this one aimed at enriching the morning speaker.
The collection “plates” — plastic buckets adorned with the Agape Church logo — made an encore appearance.
“All the offerings,” Caldwell promised, “will go to Brother Copeland.”