The Price of Success“I’ll be back” may have been a line made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger but Robert Tilton lives it; he never seems to stay away for long; he’s back again. Tilton is one of the most charismatic eccentric actors on Christian TV. He is constantly threatening to cut the rotten stinkin’ devil up, and he then goes off babbling in tongues. What amazes me is that people actually send money to this man despite the image he portrays to the public. I guess for some people, having a TV show is all that is needed for making a ministry valid.
His TV set is simple but plush. His desk, bookcase and ornaments probably cost more than a whole years wages of many of those he manipulates to give money to his ministry.
Tilton’s program is called Success in Life. And his success came by quoting a bit of Scripture and speaking intermittently in tongues. Then he would concentrate on peoples problems. He promised innumerable miracles and blessings from God. Cancer, Emphysema, headaches, maxed out credit cards, need of a car, job, alcoholism, divorce, you name it, they all can be cured through faith. But this faith required proof, this proof was a very expensive “vow,” a $1,000 vow. He would tell his givers to ‘Pledge what you don’t have, and God will provide it hundredfold. The larger the gift, the better the miracle which is in direct proportion to how much money you send in.
Tilton became famous for the $1,000 “vow of faith,” mocking someone sending in anything less. He would says Give me a break, don’t give me such a small offering I want to see a $1,000 vow, you have to plant a faith seed by making a pledge of at least $1,000 to get your miracle. Peter said it well “They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children” (2 Peter 2:14)
Tilton tells his audience to “Worship God today through your giving” which essentially means that you give to him your money. But you cannot worship God by supporting false teaching. Tilton revs up his audience, looking right into the camera he appeals to ones sense of need and says out loud as if he is praying “Father right now I believe there is 5 people that need to make a $1000 vow of faith, there is 5 people that need to make a $500 vow of faith” (6/28/04). And they vow -for the only reason of getting out of debt, but what they don’t know is that they get more into debt, to Tilton, who cashes in on thousands of people sending in the dollars, they were scammed and they don't even know it. This guy is a master manipulator.
Hundreds and thousands of people make vows to Tilton’s ministry every day in response to his TV program. Tilton's scheme is to send out a pre-fab letter with the person’s name on it (some handwritten and some typed). He calls this prefab letter an “anointed letter” and includes a dollar (seed) in the envelope to begin his pledge. He writes that it represents the entire amount he needs. He quotes the saying on the back of the dollar bill “in God we trust” (showing what Tilton actually believes). He tells the person he has been chosen for a season of abundance (quotes Acts 19:11 for a special miracle) that the seed that is planted can trigger their faith for a miracle. He is consistently persuading them in a matter of fact way what will happen. Promising the very best because they gave to his ministry (if you can call it that). He states in the letter that he sees 3 things by faith 1.Unlimited blessings 2. Unlimited miracles 3.Unlimited prosperity coming to the one who makes this vow. The person is then instructed by Tilton to take the seed dollar that was sent to him and pray a prayer to “prime the pump” as he pays the vow. He is instructed to put the dollar with $29, or $49 or $199 more. He is told not to leave this dollar bill in his home (Tilton must send thousands of these out so he has no intention of losing a single dollar), send the dollar back with his best seed gift toward his vow of faith for all this to begin.
Besides the focus on money and the grandiose promises Tilton has made some outrageous statements, he has even said “we have seen midgets grow, we don't make this stuff up.” Really?
Tilton's program carried the image of Success in Life, he lived by his word faith distortions and he had become famous for putting down those who are not blessed financially. Tilton would make statements that were put downs to audience offering his carrot ($1,000 vow) as the way out of poverty. He would constantly declare “ Being poor is a sin” (Success in Life, 12/2/90). “The only time people were poor in the Bible is when they were under a curse” (Success in Life, recorded 12/2/90). “Not only is worrying a sin, but being poor is a sin when God promises prosperity!” (Robert Tilton “ Success in Life” program 12/27/90) Not much has changed since the 90's, he uses the same rap, modified for a new audience who has no idea about his past.
There have been some classic bloopers- who can forget when Tilton said the truth stating in his classic voice-“Satan gave me this message, (oops, he then realized what he said) a lie of the devil I shouldn’t have said that...Is it a sin to be poor? Are the poor cursed? Jesus didn't think so, he said, “Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20). Luke 14:13-14: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
It has been said he is using reruns from a 1999 video with an automated phone menu for his new programs. Tilton seems to have toned down his rhetoric, instead of asking for $1,000 vows, he now also asks for $20, 50, and 100 vows for those who may have never sent in a seed to a ministry. He tells the audience that he doesn’t know why God picked him. As he quotes Job “You will make your prayer to Him, he will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you; so light will shine on your ways” (Job 22:27-28) (Oct. 24, 2003)
Along with the other word faith teachers Tilton had his share of disappointments. After Mary Turk discovered she had colon/rectal cancer, she made a vow of faith to Word Faith teacher Robert Tilton. In order not to violate her “vow,” she refused medical attention and believed that she was healed despite her symptoms. She died an agonizing death as the cancer spread throughout her entire abdominal cavity.(B-108 Kingdom of the Cults) This is not unusual for those in word faith philosophy that measures out to greed.
If you haven’t guessed already, Tilton was riding the wave of Word Faith movement. Tilton was once listed as one of the trustees of Charismatic Bible Ministries founded in 1986 by Oral Roberts, the one who invented the seed faith scheme.Like Kenneth Hagin and others, Tilton believes Man was designed or created by God to be the god of this world (Robert Tilton, God’s Laws of Success (Word of Faith Publishing, 1983), pp. 170-71).
During a “Satellite Network Seminar” dealing with the future held December 9-12, 1984 at Robert Tilton’s Word of Faith World Outreach Center in Dallas, Texas Dec 9-12 1984. Summing up the first evening’s message, Pastor Tilton said: “I sat there and I was just making my spirit man soak this up so that I won’t be blinded by my natural eyes ....I saw it just as clear as I’m looking at this congregation, and I didn’t see it during the Millennium, I saw it now . . . .We’re a powerful group, and we’re not going to go limping in [to the Kingdom] barely making it . . . .When God delivered the children of Israel they were laden down with silver and gold . . . .He’s given us power to create wealth and we’re already seeing this thing happen, and I believe that in these last days the believer is not going to be at the back of the bus taking a back seat any longer! We’re the righteousness of God! I tell you, we’re in the greatest hour the church has ever had . . . . I tell you we’re going to take this city, this nation and the world with this good news... of Jesus Christ!” (reference Seduction of Christianity Dave Hunt) You can hear the same thing mimicked by Benny Hinn and others. Well, we're still waiting. And wait we will, because this is not a promise in the Scripture. “God showed me a vision that almost took my breath away. I was sucked into the Spirit . . ., caught away . . . and I found myself standing in the very presence of Almighty God. It just echoed into my being. And he said these words to me. . . exactly these words . . ."Many of my ministers pray for my people, but I want you to pray the Prayer of Agreement with them" . . . I have never seen the presence of God so powerful. This same anointing flooded my Spirit-man . . . It's inside of me now, and I have supernatural faith to agree with you. From that day forth, as I have been faithful to that heavenly vision, I've seem every kind of miracle imaginable happen when I pray the Prayer of Agreement with God's people.” (Robert Tilton, newsletter from Robert Tilton Ministries, Word of Faith World Outreach Center, Box 819000, Dallas, TX75381.
Tilton had so many ingenious gimmicks; he would ask people to send him their prayer cloths as point of contact for a blessing by direct mail and don’t forget to send in a gift. Almost a million names were on his mailing list and the money came in from naïve and ungrounded people. You never know what you will find in his envelope with the request for money. Tilton has even enclosed is a small packet of dirt from around the “tomb” of Jesus. The problem is, as pointed out by www.discernment.org, there is NO dirt around the tomb. The Israeli government would not allow a few cubic yards of soil to be scrapped off by an American televangelist to “sell” to the needy.
Robert Tilton like other word faith teachers states “It's the force of faith” to get your blessing (Oct,28, 2003 LeSea Broadcasting). Do not say “Lord if it be thy will” (Success in Life, recorded 12/14/91).Then it becomes whose will? Tilton’s. That’s not too comforting is it? Well it seems that Tilton got his prayers answered as his will eventually caught up to him.
Tilton became one of TV journalist Diane Sawyer’s prime targets on her “Prime Time Live” expose. The Prime-Time segment focused on the estimated $80 million a year Tilton’s ministry received in donations Tilton’s were reported to have a 5,000-square-foot parsonage on a golf course in Dallas; a waterfront condo in Florida and a mansion in California, which Prime Time valued at $4.5 million.” What they found was Tilton’s multimillion dollar enterprise was maintained by mail sent to the television preacher which was from his supporters. It was processed by a banking firm, They found that the donations were deposited and the prayer requests were unread and trashed.
From the Prime Time expose Tilton had more than 10 lawsuits and assorted government investigations. The lawsuits have been dismissed, dropped, or settled out of court. Tilton laid off 70 percent of his Dallas staff because of the expose. He later divorced his wife, Marte, and sold both his waterfront mansion in Florida and his 12,000 square-foot Dallas “parsonage.” Tilton has now been married three times.
“A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him” (Prov. 28:22)
Tilton filed a lawsuit against ABC, claiming the network portrayed him in a false light. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Tilton’s case. Earlier a lower court judge had thrown out his libel case against the network ruling the televangelist had not proven the network’s charges were false.
At the peak of his popularity, Tilton’s ministry purchased 5000 hours of air-time per month, broadcast into 235 television markets and acquired over $80 million per year in contributions. Until TV preacher Robert Tilton who was discredited by scandal in 1991 by ABC-TV’s “Prime Time Live” which accused him of discarding thousands of viewer prayer requests that he claimed to pray over? Well, since then a jury found him guilty of fraud. And now the thrice-married Tilton is back to babbling in “tongues” and badgering viewers for $1,000 vows just like the old days (8/17 Dallas Morning News).
At one time about 1400 other churches across the country were connected by satellite to his church in Dallas, where they would pick up live special events, speakers, and teaching seminars. Tilton’s programs are produced by the Word of Faith Church outside Dallas, where he served as senior pastor. He is no longer pastor there. Tilton at one time was a mega-church pastor with over 8,000 member now has merely a fraction of this, his once-thriving Word of Faith Family Church Sunday attendance had dropped from some 5,000 members to an average of about 300.
Tilton credits charismatic pastors Sam and Jane Whaley with saving his life. The Whaley's practice what is called “demon blasting,” where a prayer circle is formed around a subject (usually a child) believed to be possessed by demons and they shout at the subject for hours at the top of their lungs. Tilton claims the North Carolina couple helped him in 1993 by “casting out his own demons.” We have a video of this from a TV investigation report you really have to see this to believe it. Inside Edition did a piece on Whaley's form of deliverance prayer 1995).
Tilton had adopted the same form of prayer - blasting out demons by shouting them out and railing against them with word faith “You have to speak things of yours literally out of the hands of the Devil” (Oct.28,2003 LeSea broadcasting).
What is sad is that no one who supposedly has a gift of healing on the same TV network ever came forward to privately or openly correct or rebuke this fraudulent act, so he was never really helped. Because of this, Tilton has returned to television in several major metropolitan markets, he is here in Hawaii on LeSea broadcasting (Steve Sumerall's Television network).
He now is offering a faith miracle healing kit with an anointed prayer cloth, a plaque with the scripture Isa.53 “by His stripes I am healed,” along with SPECIAL anointing oil. Tilton has covered all the bases. Tilton says “I sense the presence of God to heal here” (Success in Life, Lesea network July 18, 2005)His new programming has been shaped to give a fresher look. Tilton’s new wife, (a third) Maria sings on the program making them a husband wife prosperity team. Robert Tilton also has a new book offer to his avid fans “How to be Rich and Have Everything You Ever Wanted.” This becomes a draw for those who want more money and want to be successful like the image that Tilton presents of himself on TV. I suggest people read the Bible about what Jesus wrote on riches before they justify seeking worldliness as Tilton offers.
Solomon -Prov. 16:15-17: “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; he who keeps his way preserves his soul.”
Jesus- Mark 4:18-19 “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
Paul- 1 Tim. 6:9-10 “But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare.”
This man just won’t leave the Christian community alone. Watch out: he cries, he jumps, he falls down, he laughs, he yells, and pleads and he wants your money as a faith gift. So, be sure to show your faith is in Jesus, and keep your wallet closed.
References from TV, 1998 - PFO and other news sources