Date of Award

8-3-2007

Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Jacqueline A. Rouse - Chair

Second Advisor

Ian C. Fletcher

Third Advisor

Allison Calhoun-Brown

Abstract

This dissertation explores the simultaneous rise of megachurches and Prosperity Theology within the black church. Recognizing that the megachurch and Prosperity Theology represent two separate phenomena within contemporary religion, I also acknowledge the tendency to regard them as being synonymous. My research begins with an examination of the traditional African American church and pastor, and an exploration of the recent growth of megachurches within the black community. In an attempt to better understand the Prosperity Gospel, I evaluated it in comparison to the Social Gospel, discovering the similarities and differences between the two movements. Considering that there is no consensus as to how Prosperity Theology is defined, I examine the various ways in which it has been defined by African American megachurch pastors. In particular, I assess the ways in which Prosperity Theology represents an extension of the traditions of the black church and its emphasis on economic, social, and political empowerment. This dissertation compares the ministries of Dr. Creflo Dollar, Senior Pastor of Atlanta Georgia’s World Changers Church International and Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III, Senior Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Both are regarded as proponents of Prosperity Theology, however, they advance significantly different approaches to prosperity and Prosperity Theology. An examination of the teachings of Dr. Dollar and Bishop Walker indicate that Dr. Dollar’s beliefs put him at odds with many traditionalists in the black church. In contrast, Bishop Walker’s ministry more closely resembles that of a traditional African American church. These findings are further supported by the responses of their churches’ members. The research conducted suggests that Prosperity Theology may be useful in facilitating the goals of economic, social, and political empowerment historically advocated by the black church.

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