Word of Faith Influences in Michael Todd’s Teaching

In my review of Michael Todd’s book Crazy Faith, I mentioned his vision of faith is essentially in line with a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. This vision of faith seems especially influenced by what is commonly known as Word of Faith theology, which inherently is in line with the prosperity gospel. In this post, I want to demonstrate where those influences show up in Todd’s writing and his understanding of the purpose of faith. Despite his good intentions, Mike Todd is compromised by a demonstrably syncretistic and heretical theological system that is indeed a prosperity gospel, and yet he does not seem to realize such implications. At one point he says, “God stands ready to heal and bless you for the sake of others, so that others can bear witness to His authority to save. Don’t get it twisted. This is not prosperity gospel. God is not a genie, and we are not magicians or sorcerers trying to say the right incantation so He’ll grant our wishes” (pg. 130). I appreciate the sentiment; however, despite his insistence that that is not what he is preaching, he trades in a theology that is all about health, wealth, and prosperity. What Todd teaches in Crazy Faith is a soft form of the prosperity gospel, drawn from the principles of Word of Faith theology.

That he preaches a form of a prosperity gospel is very plainly evidenced in the statement of faith of Transformation Church, the church where he is pastor (current as December 14, 2021):

H E A L T H   &   P R O S P E R I T Y
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:
1. Spiritual (John 3:3, 11: Romans 10:9-10, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
2. Mental & Emotional (Isaiah 26:3; 2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 12:2)
3. Physical (Isaiah 53:4,5; Matthew 8:17; 1 Peter 2:24)
4. Financial (Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 34:10, 84:11; Malachi 3:10)

Todd’s church goes beyond the questionable Pentecostal theology of including healing as one of the consequences of Christ’s atonement and applies it to the financial realm. This time of affirmation puts him squarely in the health, wealth, and prosperity tradition, and his teaching bears both implicit and explicit marks of being influenced by that tradition. 

Implicit Markers

Before looking at where Todd draws most explicitly from Word of Faith theology, I want to point out areas that are more implicit, but are still plainly related to said theology. Unfortunately, some of these influences simply come through his Pentecostal roots, which too often has become so intertwined with Word of Faith theology (which in fact derives from Pentecostalism)[1] as to be indistinguishable. The influences are noticeable because they are idiosyncratic and are only really associated with people prone to preaching the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel.

Some of his Scriptures usage is peculiar to Word of Faith theology, as when he cites Isaiah 53:5 as a promise for physical healing (pg. 151) (though this is also seen in plenty of Pentecostal theology). Most telling is how Todd quotes Habakkuk 2:2, divorcing it from its context and making it about some sort personal vision-casting/wring, which is rather common amongst prosperity preachers:

“Back when I was in middle school, I heard the scripture in  Habakkuk 2 that says, “Write the vision and make it plain” (verse 2, NKJV), so I started drawing Air Jordans.  You may think that’s silly, but even then I had the beginnings of Crazy Faith. When one shoe design finally  went from my sketch pad to my feet, I started drawing another—which eventually made it onto my feet too” (pg. 66).

Todd also shows evidence of being influenced by the kenotic heresy, that is, the idea that Jesus emptied himself so fully of his deity that he was only man, which is prevalent in Word of Faith circles. Although he does not appear to actually be promoting the kenotic heresy, he shows that he has been influenced by by it in presenting one of its implications, namely that we may perform the same deeds as Jesus (who was a man like us) provided we demonstrate enough faith:

Jesus was all human and all God. He came to earth from heaven, choosing to take on our human nature—so  Jesus walking on water is just as much a miracle as Peter walking on water. In his natural state, Jesus would  have been susceptible to drowning the same as anybody else, but He was divinely in touch with a supernatural  power that graced Him to do the impossible. That same power is available to you and me right here, right now. We just have to know how to access it (pg. 101).

The implicit relation to Word of Faith theology should be enough to give pause; it raises questions as to what sort of hermeneutic is affecting Todd’s teaching. The relation does not stop at implication; he draws upon main tenets of Word of Faith theology and applies them to his teaching upon faith.

Word of Faith

Where Todd most clearly demonstrates his Word of Faith influence is in chapter 9, which he titled “Stating Faith,” though it appears elsewhere in the book. One of the main aspects of Word of Faith theology is that words are powerful, and that you must use your words to activate your faith and to speak reality into existence. This plays out practically as positive affirmations, making confident, positive declarations, and in using Scripture as a type of tool to bolster the effectiveness of your positive words. For a comparison with other prosperity gospel purveyors, I would point you to my previous post detailing the power of words. Here, I will let his own words speak for themselves:

“Words are so powerful that they are the tool God used to create the entire universe. In Genesis, God spoke, He said, “Let there be,” and whatever He spoke happened, just like that. Stars hung in the sky, darkness transitioned to light, seas cascaded across the earth, mountains formed, vegetation sprouted from the ground, fish swam, and birds flew. Words have creative power—and God chose to give that same power to you and me.
According to Proverbs 18:21, the power of life and death lies not in your thoughts but in your tongue. And remember, faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). As you echo faith-filled words that are based on God’s Word, your own ears are the first to hear and receive them. When you speak the truth, your faith grows. The moment you start speaking the answer out loud, the worry and doubt that have tried to consume your mind begin to burn away as your faith is kindled into flame” (pg. 164).

“Now as you exercise your imagination in faith, I want you to say something positive about it, as if you are really there in the moment, watching it happen. That’s right: I want you to say actual words. (Don’t worry about the girl sitting at the coffee shop table next to you. Sure, she might think you’re a little crazy, but just hold the book up so she can see the cover; she’ll realize you’re just full of Crazy Faith.) Go ahead and get that image in your mind. Imagine that the multiple obstacles that once stood in the way of this mountain you were facing have all suddenly and miraculously been removed. Take a deep breath and receive that reality. Let it sink in. How do you feel? Say so out loud. Take all the time you need to freely express your gratitude to the God who already made it happen” (pg. 164-165).

“Too many Christians think faith-filled thoughts once in a while but don’t put their weight on it by making faith-filled declarations. Thinking about faith isn’t enough; you’ve got to speak the language of faith” (pg. 165).

“I want to get you started with some faith-filled declarations that come straight out of the Word of God. Please add to this list as you read and study so that your faith continues to strength and grow in what God says about you and in His promises to you. Start memorizing now so you can speak truth to the Enemy’s lies” (pg. 170)

“Don’t just think it. Don’t just wish it. Don’t just journal it. Don’t mumble it or whisper it. Say it. Yell it. Shout it. State your faith” (pg. 177).

In order to exhibit the type of Crazy Faith Todd wants believers to have, they need to learn to harness their words to actualize their faith. 

I also highlight one other pernicious aspect of Word of Faith theology, namely that your negative faith may actually ruin God’s plan for your life and even bring curses upon you. He is not as explicit on this point as others are, but the implication is clear enough that it may be your own faith keeping you from your blessings:

“Faith works in reverse. Culture tells us that we should be confident only in what is proven, seen, or experienced  firsthand. But the truth is, whatever you hope for is how far your confidence can expand. If you’re hoping to be  able to live from month to month, to pay your bills from paycheck to paycheck, then that’s as far as your confidence will grow… The goal is to trust that God is for you being healed, delivered, prosperous, and thriving. If you don’t believe it, you won’t expect it. If you don’t expect it, you won’t hope for it. And, ultimately, if you don’t hope for it, you will take the fuel out of faith—because, remember, faith is confidence in what we hope for.” (pg. 42)

In Todd’s teaching, our words have creative power in an analogous manner to how God created the universe, and that same power is given to us humans. Positive declarations become the secret to bringing about our own personal “visions” into reality, as they amplify faith such that God brings those imagined realities to pass. This is not a biblical way of understanding words and their interaction with faith, but a heretical teaching that is more influenced by New Thought than any faithful Christian tradition. The adoption of Word of Faith theology puts Todd on the borderline of being a false teacher; at best, it makes him a poor and inaccurate teacher.

Conclusion

Michael Todd is a young up-and-coming pastor who has struck a chord with many people and his message of having Crazy Faith. Unfortunately, beyond the basic issues of how he views faith, that message is tainted by Word of Faith theology, such that the notion of Crazy Faith becomes an extension of a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. And when faith is so fundamentally compromised, the basic message of the gospel is compromised as well. I hope and pray that Todd will become a more faithful handler of the Word, but given his current compromised position, his teachings in Crazy Faith should be viewed with suspicion and cast to the side as heterodox.


[1] As Kate Bowler has defined the prosperity gospel: “We might envision the prosperity gospel as composed of three distinct though intersecting streams: pentecostalism; New Thought…; and an American gospel of pragmatism, individualism, and upward mobility.” Kate Bowler, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 11.

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