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Megachurch pastor talks Christians reclaiming ‘royalty’ status, church leadership and prosperity gospel

Bill Winston
Bill Winston, founder and senior pastor of Living Word Christian Center in Forest Park, Illinois. |

An Illinois megachurch pastor has released a new book in which he hopes to help Christians discover their “royalty” status in Jesus Christ and quit living what he calls the “low life.”

Pastor Bill Winston of the Living Word Christian Center in Forest Park has written a new book, titled Revelation of Royalty: Rediscovering Your Royal Identity in Christ, that was released earlier this month. 

The former fighter pilot and IBM marketing representative wrote in the book's preface that he believes “many Christians still have an image of inferiority and shortage that entered mankind when Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden.”

“Let me remind you who you are. You are a member of the royal family of God, the sovereign over all the universe,” wrote Winston in Chapter 1. "Let's embrace our original image and walk in our kingly and queenly assignments."

In an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday, Winston discussed his new book, some of the ways he sees Western values conflicting with Christianity, and his views on the controversial topic of the prosperity gospel. 

CP: What led you to write this book?

Winston: As we look at the Christian community, I think there’s an absence of teaching on the new creation — that once believers get born again, they just got born again into a royal family. The wealthiest in the universe.

I feel that a lot of the reason most of the Church is not enjoying their promised land, the inheritance, what Jesus died to provide, is because of image. And we have, by and large, seen ourselves born again, but not seemingly developed in our thinking about what the total result of that born again experience would be.

And so we live what I call the “low life.” That we live a life of mere human existence compared to life of the supernatural, the life of Christ.

CP: In Chapter 2, you wrote that Christians need to disconnect from "Western modes of thought," saying that they "invalidate the form and structure of God's government." How do you believe Western thought can "invalidate" God's government?

Winston: I think that more and more we’re influenced by technology rather than faith. I think that when I go to Africa or some other places, they can more adapt to the Word of God and believe it because they, unlike the West, don’t have all of the advantages. They don’t have the technology; they don’t have all the things that have, I think, “civilized” us out of how God intended for us to think.

If you go to the Middle East ... or [talk to] somebody who is Jewish and understands Abraham and the covenant God made with him and the promise of Abraham’s seed, they take it literally.

Here, it hasn’t been looked at as being something of value. And thus, a lot of the scriptures have been looked at the same way. It becomes a book for helping with moral behavior and so forth, something like that, but not a book of promises that will elevate you to be one of the wealthiest people wherever you go.

CP: In Chapter 3 you wrote, "Unfortunately, some born-again people observe the ways of 'successful' unsaved people, read their books, and emulate their practices." Some, among them Darvin Wallis of the Mission Church, have echoed this concern in asserting that the reason many evangelical megachurch pastors fall to scandal is because they rely on a secular corporate leadership model rather than a biblical leadership model. Do you agree with this assessment? 

Winston: Well, to some degree.

I think God’s model is flatter than the corporate model and that causes this huge, long chain of command to be broken, and that the flat model is there because everybody has Christ.

One of the privileges we have is that the same Holy Spirit that speaks to me will speak to somebody who is assisting me. And I won’t have to tell them everything to do. They can stay ahead of me in that. So therefore, we don’t have to have some of the chain of command that we have in corporate.

The other thing is that, in the megachurch environment, I think the tendency is for the leadership to be accused sometimes of not being touchable anymore. That they have now gained such status and such branding, now it is impossible for them to relate to the new believers.

I think that happens in that environment that is corporate.

The logo of IBM is seen on a computer screen in Los Angeles, California, U.S.
The logo of IBM is seen on a computer screen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. |

I came through IBM for 14 years before I did this. I have the history of IBM. I understood how T.J. Watson, who started IBM, would go down on the shop floor and talk to Joe about his mother needing dental work and so forth. And I’ve always felt that no matter how large we get, I want to remain somewhat personable, if you will, with the congregation and not think that I’ve gotten so big and even proud sometimes that I don’t have time to discuss things and give some personal advice.

I saw that in IBM, because I saw some of the chief executives come down to the branch office and how they had me, because I was doing well, to pick up the president of one of the divisions from the airport and bring him on in and chat with him and so forth.

I just saw a more personable model, even in the corporate space.

CP: In Chapter 8, you wrote, "There comes a time when you start reaping the royal inheritance that you have decreed by faith." Is it possible for a Christian to never truly make it to this point?

Winston: Yeah it is, but here’s the deal, here’s the way this works. Vision is extremely powerful. That’s why it says “without a vision, the people perish.” It’s extremely powerful. The way God functions is brought out in the Scriptures.

He starts with the end in mind. And, when you can start with the end in mind, then you can enjoy your journey. If an end becomes real enough in your vision, you can enjoy the journey. 

Abraham can only sacrifice Isaac when he saw him in a vision being raised up. I could only leave IBM when I saw 10,000 people [in my church]. And I’m saying that you may not get there, but as Martin Luther King said, “I have seen the Promised Land and because of that, I am no more afraid of dying.” So the sacrifice can take place, the joy can take place, all of that, even though you may not get there. I believe in Heaven you’ll get credit for it.

CP: In Chapter 8, you had a section titled, "Without wealth, your royalty is in question." What is your opinion of what is oftentimes called the "prosperity gospel"?  

tithe, offering, offering plate
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Winston: It’s been used sometimes, I think, almost as a scam and people have been taken advantage of, even people who can’t even afford to lose anything. It has really been that.

But the prosperity is a part of the Gospel. We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. God said that the blessing of Abraham is on the seed, that we have the blessing of Abraham. If we belong to Christ, then you're Abraham’s seed and heirs, according to the blessing. That means that the portion that Abraham had is the same portion his seed will have.

And so, Isaac had it, Jacob had it, but once Jesus came, it brought everybody into it, it brought the Gentiles into it.

Now, I said, “without the wealth, your royalty is in question” because you’ve never seen a poor king; it doesn’t exist. God never intended for His people to be poor. Why? Because they’re going to take care of the poor. They’re going to be the ones.

The government of the United States was never meant to take care of the poor. The poor were meant to be taken care of by the Church. This whole business of having telethons and raising money is not even in the Scriptures, it’s not even in the Book. Because God’s people are supposed to be so blessed ... they have all that they need. And [develop] wealth creation opportunities, like the Joseph Business School and wealth creation businesses, so that they can fund the Kingdom. That’s what they’re supposed to be doing.

And so, I'm saying that because, if somebody mentions that I am a king, but Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, king rules by decree, but lords rule by ownership. And if there is nothing there, how can you validate the fact that you’re a king, other than the fact that you can say it?

So what people have done is they’ve taken this prosperity gospel, if you will, and taken everything out of it. They’ve taken out the stewardship part — that you’re being blessed so that you can be a blessing. They’ve taken out the integrity part, and some of them get blessing outside of this whole idea of having integrity in your ministry and your messages. Pieces they have taken out and given this thing a bad name.

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