For some Americans, dropping a check into the offering plate at church is a bit like having a Discover Card.
Both offer a cash-back bonus.
About a third of Protestant churchgoers say their congregation teaches that God will bless them if they donate money.
Two-thirds say God wants them to prosper. One in 4 say they have to do something for God to receive material blessings in return.
Those are among the key findings of a new study on “prosperity gospel” beliefs from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which surveyed 1,010 Americans who attend a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month.
Researchers found more than a few churchgoers believe giving to God leads to financial rewards, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“A significant group of churches seem to teach that donations trigger a financial response from God,” said McConnell.
A controversial topic
The belief that God gives financial rewards in exchange for offerings is a central part of the so-called prosperity gospel, which offers a “direct path to the good life,” as Duke professor Kate Bowler puts it.
That belief is both controversial and fairly commonplace.
LifeWay Research found 38 percent of Protestant churchgoers agree with the statement, “My church teaches that if I give more money to my church and charities, God will bless me in return.” Fifty-seven percent disagree, including 40 percent who strongly disagree. Five percent are not sure.
Pentecostal and Assemblies of God churchgoers (53%) are most likely to agree. Churchgoers with evangelical beliefs (41%) are more likely to agree than those without evangelical beliefs (35%).
African-American (51%) and Hispanic churchgoers (43%) are more likely to agree than white churchgoers (32%).
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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Bob Smietana