1.1 Background to the Study
The emergence of prosperity gospel preaching dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries. It is currently a universal phenomenon that is frequently preached in urban areas especially in churches and on the electronic media. It has commanded scholarly attention, debates and literature on the subject. Historical records abound that prosperity preaching began in the United States of America (USA). This was precipitated through the formative role played by Essek William Kenyon who lived from 1867-1948, and who is said to have initially put in place the cardinal principles for prosperity gospel preaching (Young, 2005; Mumford, 2012). The principles Kenyon develop was probably cultic in origin (McConnell, 2007). However, Kenneth Erwin Hagin (1917-2003) seems to have borrowed heavily from Kenyon’s ideology and developed his own prosperity theology. It is established that Kenyon’s ideologies were also adopted, propagated and popularized by television and faith preachers in the 1950s like William Branham, Oral Roberts and Gordon Lindsay among several others (Okwori, 1995). Prosperity preaching was handed down to posterity under different nomenclatures such as “word faith” or “word of faith movement”, “positive confession”, “faith formula”, or “faith message”, “hyper-faith”, “health and wealth theology”, “name it and claim it gospel”, “blab it and grab it gospel”, “gospel of success”, and “prosperity gospel” as it advanced down through the ages (Jones, 2006; Achunike, 2007; MacArthur, 1992). For the purpose of this study, prosperity preaching, prosperity gospel or prosperity gospel preaching will be used interchangeably. McConnell (1990) informs that right from its source in the USA, prosperity gospel emphasizes the “Three “Ps”: Power, Prestige and Prosperity” (p. 170).
As a student, the televangelists significantly influenced Benson Andrew Idahosa (1938-1998), a Nigerian, at Christ for the Nations Bible Institute in the USA (Emeka, 2002). History shows that within this epoch, prosperity preaching blossomed and was transported to different parts of the globe by people who contacted the various purveyors of prosperity preaching in the USA (Okwori, 1995). At the turn of events in the 1970s, Idahosa responsively brought and planted his Nigerian version of the prosperity message somewhat slightly at variant to the USA version, giving it an African context (Emeka, 2002). Idahosa, pioneered prosperity gospel preaching in Nigeria and thus emerged its true Nigerian father (Ojo, 2013).
Prosperity gospel certainly is a global subject. It is known that right from the inception of prosperity preaching in Nigeria, many Nigerians are ever enthusiastic about it and are vigorously pursuing it in the same manner that people are captivated about religion and are deeply engrossed in its activities. This desire and search for prosperity probably cuts across all religions and all fields of human endeavour. This seems to account for the reason prosperity churches are proliferating in contemporary Nigeria. In the observation of Iheanacho (2009), the more these prosperity churches multiply in Nigeria, the more “They gradually shift emphasis from spirituality and eternal life to earthly life course, here and now” (p.106). Without doubt, prosperity as preached in Nigeria has enjoyed great patronage from the masses. Most Nigerians are probably embracing prosperity messages for its promise of wealth and health (Gwamna, 2013). Added to this is the fact that prosperity preaching is probably thriving in Nigeria gloriously because of African.