Thirty years later I can still remember my first encounter with Robert Tilton. I had stopped by a room at the nursing home I worked at. On the TV screen was Tilton, eyes scrunched shut as he bleated a prayer for prosperity on watchers who had sent in donations.

My immediate response was, “This preacher is a fraud bilking money from the poor and hopeless.” 

Shortly after, first one and then other investigations concluded that Tilton was a charlatan.  Yet Tilton, not one to give up, has reconstituted his scam with a new church-based television program to garner an estimated $24 million per year.

Like other purveyors of the “prosperity gospel,” Tilton preaches that God does not want you the listener to be poor, stuck in a dead end job, sinking in debt, with renegade children, or other such calamities.

The solution is to make a vow. Your tithe (10%) of your income belongs to God and is what you owe in Thanksgiving for past blessings. A vow is something you promise God for future blessings. YOU CAN MAKE A VOW AND EXPECT A RETURN.” 

Tilton goes into more detail.

“Step out in faith today and make a vow to God. Vowing is one of the best ways to stretch your faith-but only when your vow goes beyond your natural resources or abilities. I don’t need much faith to vow $100 if I have $2,000 in a savings account. But, if I don’t even have a savings account and can barely pay my bills, then a $100 vow will stretch my faith indeed. For I will have to seek God and focus on Him to supply the seed to pay that vow.”   

To make a vow, call  1-866-940-0177

So the vow goes to Tilton’s organization. Even if one is poor and scarcely paying bills, somehow scrounge up $100 to give to Tilton. After all, he has a palatial estate on Miami Beach to keep up. “Gotta live somewhere, ya’ know.”

False prophets
Robert Tilton in disguise

According to reports of ex-employees, Tilton did not pray as promised over vows sent in by listeners, but took out the checks, cash, money orders, and dumped the prayer requests into garbage bags.

Below are excerpts from Wikipedia, footnoted.

ABC‘s Primetime Live on November 21, 1991, alleged that Tilton’s ministry threw away prayer requests without reading them, keeping only the accompanying money or valuables sent to the ministry by viewers, garnering his ministry an estimated US$80 million a year.

Tilton asserted that the prayer requests found in garbage bags shown on the Primetime Live investigation were stolen from the ministry and placed in the dumpster for a sensational camera shot, and that he prayed over every prayer request received, to the point that he “laid on top of those prayer requests so much that ‘the chemicals actually got into [his] bloodstream, and… [he] had two small strokes in [his] brain.”[16] Tilton remained defiant on claims regarding his use of donations to his ministry to fund various purchases, asking, “Ain’t I allowed to have nothing?” with regards to his ownership of multiple multimillion-dollar estates. Tilton also claimed that he needed plastic surgery to repair capillary damage to his lower eyelids from ink that seeped into his skin from the prayer requests.

Primetime Live’s original investigation and subsequent updates included interviews with several former Tilton employees and acquaintances. In the original investigation, one of Tilton’s former prayer hotline operators claimed the ministry cared little for desperate followers who called for prayer, saying Tilton had a computer installed in July 1989 to make sure the phone operators talked to no caller for longer than seven minutes. The former employee also revealed very specific instructions were given to them in terms of how to talk with callers and they were told to always ask for a $100 “vow” at a minimum. Also in the original report, a former friend of Tilton’s from college (who remained anonymous and was shown in silhouette) claimed both he and Tilton would attend tent revival meetings as a “sport” and would claim to be anointed and healed at the meetings. He added the two had often discussed the notion that after graduation they would set up their own roving revival ministry “and drive around the country and get rich.” In a July 1992 update to the investigation, Primetime Live interviewed Tilton’s former maid, who claimed prayer requests which were sent to Tilton’s house by the ministry were routinely ignored until he told her to move them out of the house and into the garage; according to the maid, “they stacked up and stacked up” in Tilton’s garage until he had them thrown away. In the same interview, Tilton’s former secretary came forward and claimed Tilton lifted excerpts from “get rich quick” books and used them in his sermons, and she never saw him perform normal pastoral duties such as visiting with the sick and praying with members.

And because government is partially handcuffed by the First Amendment in prosecuting fraud, Tilton continues to bilk viewers through his Success-N-Life television show.  Yet Tilton  cannot and will not bilk and hoodwink God!!!

Jesus warns of wolves dressed as sheep yet underneath are devouring wolves (Matthew 7:15). Jesus goes on to say these false ministers will be recognized by their fruits. When one knows Jesus well, he or she will see that ministers who gain vast personal wealth from the hands of lower-income people are not of Him.  Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20), and further elaborates, “Woe to you who are rich…” (Luke 6:25).

See other of my postings on this topic at and