The Evangelical Dark Web reader-requested verdict on Michael Todd has gotten traffic and engagement, much of it from people who hold differing opinions and theology. One reader who is a follower of someone labeled a false teacher responded to our verdict. Rather than bury their argument against our very purpose of a site we responded to their comment in the section. You can still see it on the original post. But the length of the discussion spanning over 3900 words is worth its own post. I again want to thank Dani for responding.
Moreover, as Christians we should not be opposed to engaging in dialog with those who believe in the Prosperity Gospel. To assist in this, we have written extensively about the Prosperity Gospel here. I broke up both of our responses to maintain the context of which part of what was said I was responding to so as to make it easier to read than two consecutive essays.
I found your article on Tuesday and it’s been on me to respond. I respect all of your points but I believe in every perception, there exists an alternative. Thus, in love, I come to you hoping you would look to Pastor Mike, not as a critique but as a Christian, whether lost or found.
To start – while Pastor Mike gained newfound popularity in late-2018, it’s important to know that it was not always this way. It appears your perception maybe he’s a Popularity Pastor, but it disregards how he was handed the baton of Transformation Church. TC has not always been a “mega” church. When Pastor Mike inherited the church, there were only a few hundred members. While he’s viral now, that shouldn’t be used as a nudge against him. He’s a popular pastor, now, because that’s just the way it worked out for him when the series Relationship Goals went viral months after the sermon series was actually taught.
I first want to thank you for taking the time to respond. You put a lot of effort into it and I appreciate the willingness to do so. You deserve a response, so let me go point by point.
- You may be very correct on the retroactive success of sermons he gave before he was famous. In going these, I try to research why someone is famous, but that does not mean that someone is an overnight success. Megachurch is also consistently used on this site to describe a motif rather than the size of a congregation.
I understand you believe your purpose is to portray whether you believe a teacher is a false teacher, however, this may simply tailor to what your style of learning may be. For those of this generation, a “progressive” style is necessary. Progressive meaning adapting the method of teaching to the audience. For example, a teacher would not teach an advanced, AP, or honors in the way that they would teach a group of students who are not on that level. The current generation may not receive the Word as simply as reading KJV. While it would work for some students, when you’re teaching a wide audience, it’s important to break things down and be inclusive to the entire audience. A generation of people around the globe tune-in to TC because they see a place where they belong and can learn how to apply the Bible to our daily lives. This is an important thing that you may not know, and may not understand about TC. This is not a church that will give you a message about the bible back then. It’s not storytime. TC is a place of learning through biblical application. This is why progressive is important. The world is evolving, but God IS and always will be. God doesn’t evolve. We do. TC applies the Word to make it applicable to the daily lives of people, old and young, black, white, brown, or anything in between.
- The use of the word progressive is rightfully suspicious. In the last hundred plus years, liberal and progressive theology have infiltrated churches and denominations. The use of that word should not be assumed as accident, in the context of a ministry or church. Your definition is more benign but in any church it would be unnecessary to call not being KJV-only progressive. The terminology that would best fit your definition in this context is “seeker-friendly” which is widely used terminology in churches today. I would agree that Transformation Church is seeker-friendly.
Prosperity Gospel is “woo, just trust in the Lord and everything will be alright. always.” “Don’t worry about the money. God will bless you.” “Don’t have a car? It’s alright, God will drop one from the sky.” Pastor Mike and TC do not teach this nor give false hope. That’s the prosperity gospel. While it may appear that their quoting of scripture at face value looks like false prosperity, OF COURSE, we are not immune to anything and God is not a magician (although sometimes we wish He is). Thus, the root of TC’s teaching is to have faith in God in our daily lives, one day at a time. It’s to live a life (through the choices we make) of wholeness WITH GOD. That’s a choice and that your choice and my choice. Is true “wholeness” and immunity from diseases and problems in this life realistic? No. We all know that. There will be sufferings… Pastor Mike doesn’t teach prosperity. However, what he does teach is – there are mountains and there are valleys. The only wholeness we will ever achieve is spiritually through God the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. BUT while we are HERE, trust God and His process, Also Pastor Mike teaches that through the choices we make and even sometimes we’re born into unfortunate circumstances that were not our choice, God is always with us. And He only wants our hearts and trust in Him. He teaches, despite how it looks, don’t give up on God. Keep going and have faith through your individual relationship w/ God, as He wants us to live the life He planned for us. This may sound prosperous, but living a life that God has for us won’t always be what WE, humans, define as “good.” Our definition of Good and God’s definition of Good is different. So I’ve learned while watching TC is that each plan is different for each person on their journey and walk with God. It won’t always feel good, and it won’t always look, but trust the process.
As a person who deals with depression and anxiety, I’ve never once felt like TC has led me to believe that counseling is negligible and to just trust in God. No. That’s reckless. Instead, I’ve learned you take what you learn from each message and each story in the bible, and realize that your actions WITH the grace of God and the salvation from Christ will make you as whole as you can possibly be in this life, but “there will be sufferings.” TC gives the courage to keep on keeping on. It’s not prosperity. Everyone won’t be rich. That’s not real life. Also – to their mention of scripture for the “Physical,” it represents that through all the things Christ took up for US and to have courage to keep on going. He died for us. Even if I get sick, He STILL died for me. If I lose a leg, He STILL died for me. If I was raped, molested, taken advantage of, He STILL died for me, and you too. Who said that a person with cancer or a person who’s lost a limb or even born without one is not physically whole in God’s eyes? That’s not prosperity. That’s trusting God, no matter what. This is life. Lastly, mentioning financial, people’s butt cheeks tighten when the church talks about money. TC doesn’t preach that we will be rich. In fact, all fall, TC stated: “All you have is all you need” getting people out of the mindset of always wanting “more” in greed or in the spirit of comparison of someone who has more than them. They preach that God will meet our needs. Does He not? All of those verses mentioned literally speaks to being blessed and having enough if we trust in God and are obedient. Each verse speaks that through God with obedience, we will lack nothing. Meaning, we will have what we need. It’s easy to misconstrue the uses of these verses when you don’t know the hearts behind it and how it’s taught.
- It is flat out incorrect to say that Michael Todd does not teach the Prosperity Gospel. Your definition of the Prosperity Gospel is rather extreme, but let’s revisit Transformation Church’s statement of faith.
“WE BELIEVE THAT, AS PART OF CHRIST’S WORK OF SALVATION, IT IS THE FATHER’S WILL FOR BELIEVERS TO BECOME WHOLE, HEALTHY, AND SUCCESSFUL IN ALL AREAS OF LIFE:”
They list four area, among them are wealth and health. This is the Prosperity Gospel entrenched in their faith statement. And its language is far more aggressive than Chris Hodges’ church which also dabbles in Prosperity Gospel teaching. Because they believe that part of salvation entails wealthy and healthy, these metrics can be used as evidence for one’s salvation. For instance, orthodox Christians believe that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is evidence of someone being saved. If someone bears no fruit, it’s not unfair to question their relationship with God. Likewise, according to Transformation Church’s beliefs, if a person were to deteriorate in health (mental or physical) or wealth one could rightfully question a member’s salvation because they believe that these events go against the Father’s will as part of our salvation. This is the Prosperity Gospel and this is why it’s a heretical false gospel. On this there can be no compromise. And since Todd is the pastor at this church, it should be assumed that he falls in line with its faith statement.
To your point of mentioning their reference to their mentioning of the “APOSTLES, PROPHETS, EVANGELISTS, PASTORS, AND TEACHERS” is directly from Ephesians 4:11. Bishops were not mentioned on their site in that context, because Bishops were not mentioned in the passage of Ephesians 4. Therefore, it’s not unbiblical.
- There’s a lot of ecclesiastical debate surrounding offices of the church. For the record, bishop = pastor = overseer = elder. I never used this to conclude whether he was a false teacher.
Whew – man. You were Michael Jordan from Space Jam reaching on Relationship Goals. But I still love you as my brother in Christ. Ok – Jesus says to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. However, let’s take a step back Ray. Is it truly unbiblical to focus on this commandment and focus on the piece on loving ourselves? I’ll tell you why it may not be. Break it down. If you are responsible with the purpose of loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself, why focus on this? Because there’s people out here not loving themselves, Ray. Furthermore, there are people who SWEAR they love themselves but fail at loving their neighbor. Why? Their heart’s posture. So if our heart’s posture is poor, and we can only manage to love ourselves but not love our neighbor, do we REALLY love ourselves? This is an important teaching. As you’ve stated, you think it’s negligible to focus on the loving yourself “piece.” So as Christians, we skip over that part and say “Ok God, sure” when it comes to loving our neighbors. But the fact is, Jesus said to love our neighbors – and there are zero conditions written as to why we cannot, EXCEPT “as you love yourself.” So, as humans, this very simple and direct commandment is always broken – because as humans, maybe we subsequently actually suck at loving ourselves, truly. Maybe if we loved ourselves more, it would be easier to love others. But why do we try to love others without loving ourselves? The commandment cannot be broken up. In order to love your neighbor, “as yourself” requires that you love yourself too. Therefore, if you didn’t love you unconditionally, you couldn’t love your neighbor unconditionally. Which says, Jesus is literally requiring you to love yourself because this is the ONLY condition that loving your neighbor is dependent on.
Self-esteem and self-love are not the same as selfishness, Ray. If we loved ourselves, we wouldn’t be selfish. To love yourself would make you secure in yourself and therefore would have no reason to be selfish. If you loved yourself, you would instead be SELFLESS. Adam and Eve were selfish and therefore did not love themselves because they would’ve been secure in everything they already had. However, it was the greed and desire to be more like God that made us be where we are now. They didn’t love themselves as much as they should’ve, or else they wouldn’t have wanted to be like God.
- The Bible does not instruct believers to love themselves much less as a precondition for loving others. This message was antithetical to the Bible. The solution to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” isn’t to love yourself more, it’s to love your neighbor more. The commandment was given with the assumption of self love. Now it appears that you view self-love as more equatable to self esteem. This is not a precise definition. A better definition would be assumed self-love is psychological egoism, a philosophical concept whereby people act how best suits them. Furthermore Scripture tells us to follow Jesus, we must deny ourselves. This self-denial that Jesus calls us to is about us not acting on our own psychological egoism.
Now it’s imperative to remind you why Jesus ranks “love God” and “love your neighbor” as #1 and #2 of all the commandment. These commandments are a summation of the moral law. If we look at the 10 commandments the first four are “love God” and the last six are “love your neighbor.” None of the ten commandments necessitate loving yourself as a prerequisite. None of the Old Testament does either. To add to this point can one sin against one’s self? The answer is yes but only with sexual immorality.
Now if we as Christians, applied love yourself more to love your neighbors more, we would be encouraging selfish behavior because we would be ignoring the context of this passage and thus misapplying it to our own lives. Instead Scripture tells us to deny ourselves.
Singleness is INDEED the most important time of your life because it’s the time you can become one with God before trying to become one with someone else. He never stated that you should be single forever. However, in our time of singleness and obedience to God’s word, we learn a TRUE relationship – and that relationship is the most powerful relationship with God. How could we ever learn to love and be in a healthy relationship God’s way if we failed at having a relationship with Him if He is the most important thing of all of life? Again, Michael Jordan, Space Jam reaching Ray. There is no gap between adolescence and adulthood but in adulthood means you should just get in a relationship right away because you’re an adult? Next, the point of ridding yourself of relationships holding you down – you’re projecting Ray. He never said get rid of all negativity. You said that. He did say bad relationships may not be in God’s will for you. But that is between the person and God. As always, earlier in the series he stated just don’t get in a relationship because you feel like it, you also shouldn’t just up and quit one because you feel like it – because you feel it’s bad. That’s selfish and Pastor Mike didn’t preach that. He was preaching on being mindful of if a relationship you’re in is of God’s will. And if you’re not married, you’re not bound to staying if it’s not for you. But of course, you pray about it before making a rash decision.
- Singleness is never viewed in Scripture as the most important time in someone’s life. The ideology espoused by Todd is one that embraces the prolonged adolescence of today’s age. It’s worth noting that throughout human history, the transition from child to adult was quick. For the most part people did not “find themselves” in their 20’s like they do now. While one should have a firm relationship with God prior to marriage, Michael Todd is embracing post-modernism and its trend of glorifying singleness, which in turn has led to a more lonely generation. This point also lacked any reals Scriptural support.
- The point about relationships could easily be construed as “removing negativity” from one’s life. Furthermore there was no Scriptural backing for this claim.
Pastor Mike is not Steven Furtick nor Joel Osteen. Preaching to their congregation isn’t a bad thing because of his heart to teach those who are lost and found. Also – is Kanye unforgivable to God? Who are we to not forgive him? Do we still love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves or only sometimes? Kanye can be saved too, and his salvation is between him and God. As his song said, [Christians]’ll be the first ones to judge me.” Heart check, Ray. My friend was murdered two years ago in a known mass shooting by a gunman with an assault rifle, but I’ve found the courage to forgive and love her killer even though it hurts my heart to this day that she’s not here. This is an extreme case, but loving Kanye even through all his antics since the death of his mother is no different.
- Associating with false teachers is a sign of being a false teacher. The Bible instructs us to not associate with false teachers (Ephesians 5:11) but instead to expose them. It wasn’t a church service that I had linked Michael Todd preaching at Lakewood rather a conference. These actions were unbecoming of a man of God, as he was helping to enrich a false teacher. Now if, you want to reject the premise that Joel Osteen is a false teacher, that would be a consistent argument, on your part. But you do not do that. Furthermore, Joel Osteen is the most notorious false teacher in America present day.
- You brought up Kanye, but I believe you misconstrue my tone towards him. I do care about Kanye and his past antics are not of concerned. I do not know if he is saved. There is nothing he has done that is beyond Jesus. What I have seen is how so many false teachers rushed to grab Kanye by the hands. I have an endnote where I address this  that links to how baby Christians are vulnerable to wolves. (Matthew 24:24). Further reading on that matter.
Lastly, just to add a point – your reference to Pastor Mike as sounding like Kevin Hart because of his humor is offensive and comes off racist. Many pastors use humor in their messages. And Pastor Mike literally sounds NOTHING like Kevin Hart. With this point alone, you cracked open a door to your heart and I can see where it is. But I hope it can be changed. I truly do.
- You seem caught up on the Kevin Hart comment which I think is accurate. If you don’t, that’s fair. But it’s not racist, just because it offends you. A lot of pastors are really a mix between motivational speakers and comedians. The Relationship Goals series, for instance weren’t even real sermons. A sermon is where a pastor applies exegeses to Scripture to teach to the congregation. Michael Todd uses eisegesis where he has a topic in mind and selects bible verses to support his message. This isn’t a matter of style rather it is how you teach Scripture in context.
In summary, I’ve read all your points and I understand where you’re coming from. I hear you. I hear your concerns. But I think you have to open your heart to God reaching people in more ways than one. It may not be conventional and it may not be your style, but people are falling in love with God and getting on fire for God because of Transformation Church. I’m not embarrassed to invite my friends to tune in because I know Pastor Mike will teach the gospel in a way they will understand it AND be able to apply it. Daily Faith.
Anyways, I love you. I’ll pray for you. And I hope one day you can see that this form of critique is not of God. It’s better to address certain points and allow readers to come to their own conclusions. That – I could understand. But delivering your opinion through pure judgment doesn’t feel like I was reading something written by someone with the heart to love another. God will judge teachers so much harsher than any of us ever could – so it’s not for us to do so. It’s my hope that you will one day be able to watch Transformation Church and see it for what beauty it is. It saved me. The body. The organism. The community. It saved me from myself and helped me get back close with God and I’m closer than I’ve ever been…
“Luke 6: 37-42
Do Not Judge
(Also Read Matthew 7:1-6; Romans 14:1-12)
37Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
39Jesus also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
41Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? 42How can you say, ‘Brother,b let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while you yourself fail to see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Love + Light,
- I want to go through the rest of your response all in one final point. It appears to me that you reject the spiritual gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). This form of critique is biblical. The Bereans in Acts 17 tested Paul’s words against the Scriptures as a result of their eagerness to hear the gospel. To assert that testing a teacher’s words and actions against Scripture is not of God is to proclaim many false teachers as brothers and sisters in Christ, giving wolves a free pass to ravage the flock. Your feelings on a matter do not determine whether something is biblical or not. This is true for discernment as well as other spiritual gifts. You then apply a most common misconception of Luke 6 to support your feelings about whether discernment is biblical or not.
To address Luke 6, if you are holding people by the standard of Scripture, that measure will be applied to me, in this case. I welcome judgement on the basis of Scripture. The emphasis in verse 41-42 is about repentance. Calling out someone’s sin when you refuse to repent is feigned care for that person. The harshest words of both Jesus and Paul are in regards to false teachers. Jesus flipped tables. Paul urges excommunication. In both cases, the deferred judgement that the Father will render was not applied as the remedy for the situation at hand. Pastors are to protect the flock, from wolves. This pastoral metaphor is in regards to false teaching.
To conclude, the process of this is simple. A reader asks me to look into a teacher and I do. Often, as was the case with Michael Todd, I don’t know ahead of time who they are. So I did not target him out of some vendetta of sorts. During this process, it’s often the case that a person is not a false teacher, as was the case with Larry Osborne. Osborne wasn’t a false teacher, from the evidence compiled. He was just wrong on a few things. However in investigating Mike Todd, it was readily apparent that he was a Prosperity preacher from Transformation Church’s statement of faith. It denotes heterodoxy that undermines his credibility as a pastor. Once it became obvious that Mike Todd was heterodox and apparent that he was a rising star, it became imperative to publish this verdict.