'Prosperity Gospel': Give and You Shall Receive?

"So at that time, you know, of course, but we've grown from that point and I would like to think that the human race wouldn't just limit you to that one season, that one point, that one sermon and then try to say that this represents your entire ministry," he said.

Dollar says that if he's perceived as going overboard, it's on purpose.

"Of course! [It is] because in the church, we'll put all the emphasis on peace, oh yes, we'll put the emphasis on love, yes, we'll put the emphasis on grace, yes, but now I'm trying to teach you about money and budgets and how to stay out of debt," he said.

Was Jesus Rich or Poor?

Dollar has broadened his focus to issues such as emotional, familial and physical prosperity. But he has not budged on his controversial assertion that Jesus Christ was actually a rich man.

"He had 80 staff people and more that traveled with him," Dollar said. "You'd better be able to take care of them. And I heard this comment the other day, even if Jesus was poor, the disciples were not so he could have borrowed from them. Doctors, tax collectors, fishermen."

However, many biblical scholars say the notion that the notion that Jesus was anything more than a poor carpenter, an itinerant preacher is, frankly, nonsense.

"And I feel so sorry for those guys... Because it's very clear," Dollar said. "The Bible's not a difficult book to read... If I were to take the Bible out and show you those scriptures and you read it, you'd say dear God, it's very clear. So rather than trusting what the scholars say, I say pick the Bible up and read it for yourself. And as you begin to read it, you'll go through the entire Bible and find out, that Abraham, the Bible says, was rich. Isaac and Jacob was rich. Joseph was rich. Solomon was one of the richest people in the world. These were all servants of God."

"This claim that Creflo Dollar makes that Jesus is rich is so ludicrous as to hardly bear examination," said Dr. Joseph Hough, president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York. "I mean, I could sit and quote scripture for scripture for him but the fact of the matter is that those examples just don't hold up. I mean all of the roving, the apocalyptic rabbis have followers. They obviously had to buy food, they obviously had to travel together, and somebody had to look after the money they had. They obviously didn't have very much. All the people who followed Jesus were poor people. Ninety-five percent of the people who lived in the culture Jesus was a part of were very poor people."

Critics say Dollar is misreading the gospel in order to justify a misguided theology -- one in which sacrifice is replaced by personal gain.

"It is wrong to make people believe that if they follow a certain formula, God somehow is going to transform their circumstances," Hough said. "That would be too much of a kind of reward and punishment model for the gift of the grace of God to allow me to be very enthusiastic about it."

Nobody can deny that Dollar and his church spend an enormous amount of time and money on charity.

"We do so much for our communities, so much for needy people," he said. "I personally have purchased a hundred cars for elderly and single mothers, bought houses for people... I couldn't do that if I was broke."

But wouldn't Dollar be able to help even more people if the Rolls Royce and the private jet were sold? p>

"Now, if you want good news, I sold the Rolls Royce and I put the money into our children's Rolls ministry," Dollar said. "But I want to make sure people understand I didn't sell the Royce to please everybody, because there was nothing wrong with receiving a Rolls Royce that my church gave me. Nothing wrong at all with that."

And despite all the skeptisicim directed at Creflo Dollar these days, he continues to give his followers an enormous amount of hope -- and they continue to give.

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